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Rethink visas scheme, urges Ip

Beatrice Siu

Monday, February 04, 2013

The mainland's Individual Visit Scheme to Hong Kong should be reviewed as it has overstretched the SAR's capacity, Executive Council member and former secretary for security Regina Ip Lau Suk- yee said.

The comments from Ip, who is also a New People's Party legislator, came amid mounting calls for the government to cut the multi-entry visit permits given to Shenzhen residents, which started in 2009, and the Individual Visit Scheme started in 2003.

Ip told ATV's Newsline program there are "real risks for Hong Kong if we overstretch our capacity" when accepting increasing numbers of mainland tourists. "The conflict, the friction between Hongkongers and mainlanders could escalate because we are fighting for resources," she said.

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Hong Kong-mainland economic integration has led to two problems: a scramble for resources and its effects on Hong Kong's long-term competitiveness.

Earlier at RTHK's City Forum, Ip said: "As it has been in place for 10 years, the [individual visit] policy needs to be reviewed but it should not be stopped in one go."

Ip's view was echoed by Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun and North District councillor Edward Lau Kwok-fun of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong.

To said it is time to review the scheme to attract visitors who will accelerate the positive effects to Hong Kong, adding that giving one permit to tourists each day is "more negative than positive."

"Since there is frequent trading between Hong Kong and China, we may start with giving two or three permits each day to a tourist, then evaluate Hong Kong's capability of reception under the new measure."

Tourism Board chairman and Liberal Party lawmaker James Tien Pei-chun said individual travelers may not necessarily be parallel traders. As many traders are from Shenzhen, Tien suggested restricting to travelers to one trip each day.

Lau blamed the government for not having a review, adding that North District has been affected in resources and primary school places.

"But we can't fully oppose the Individual Visit Scheme for its economic effectiveness, so we hope the government will review the scheme completely," Lau said.


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