【明報專訊】IN the October 1 Golden Week this year a travel law came into effect on the mainland that bans "zero-fee" and "low-fee" tours. However, preliminary figures show visitor arrivals from the mainland in Hong Kong in the period went up instead of coming down.
The surge in visitor arrivals from the mainland has indeed brought about all sorts of business opportunities here. Businesses are flourishing, but its effects on Hong Kong people's lives are becoming apparent. Some citizens are complaining that, in shopping districts like Causeway Bay and Mong Kok, there are now only outlets of big chains selling gold ornaments, jewels, electrical appliances or pharmaceuticals, which mainland visitors want very much to buy. In those districts, "jewellers outnumber convenience stores", small shops have fallen by the wayside, rents have rocketed, and streets are thronged with people. Some have declared they no longer want to set foot in Causeway Bay on holidays. Others suspect more mainland visitors now come to the SAR than it can take and suggest the Individual Visit Scheme should be scaled down.
However, the Individual Visit Scheme is what Hong Kong once clutched at as a life-saving straw. It did not come down from the sky or come from a tree. It has come of a policy human beings made. Hong Kong people must not forget where what they now enjoy comes from. Hong Kong, whose economy has rebounded, did turn to the mainland for help. If Hong Kong people shut the door on mainland visitors, they may be regarded on the mainland to be as ungrateful as a man who turns his back on his benefactor. If they are, conflicts may arise between Hongkongers and mainlanders. Furthermore, it is a factor Hong Kong people cannot but consider how the central and local authorities of the mainland look at the SAR.
True, some mainland visitors' rude behaviour is beyond endurance. However, in the final analysis, it takes time to learn to behave properly and educate people to do so. Did some Hong Kong people not behave rudely when they visited other places? Were they not looked upon with disdain? As the mainland authorities have kept educating mainlanders, incivility is expected to lessen gradually among mainland visitors.
Hong Kong must not turn visitors away. Nevertheless, it is a fact that, when visitors throng all parts of the SAR, Hong Kong people's lives are seriously affected. What they feel is real. Mainland-Hong Kong conflicts have indeed come about, which the government must face rather than avoid dealing with.
Hong Kong people would not be repelled by visitors for no reason. They are glad that mainland visitors can get hold of expensive watches and gold ornaments here. The main reason why mainland-Hong Kong conflicts have arisen is that things citizens cannot manage without may become out of stock. The SAR government must do what it can to make sure that daily necessities are in ample supply despite a huge influx of mainland visitors. The "zero neither is" policy (which prevents a baby neither of whose parents is a permanent resident of Hong Kong from being born here) gives local expecting mothers priority in maternity beds. The infant formula quota gives local babies priority in milk powder. The "Hong Kong property for Hong Kong residents" policy gives local people priority in flats. The government moved in the right direction when it implemented those policies. It must act decisively once a visitor influx affects the supply of goods and services citizens need and thus severely impacts on their lives.