Hong Kong’s leader receives ‘positive feedback’ from mainland Chinese authorities on possible resumption of multiple-entry permit scheme

Hong Kong’s leader receives ‘positive feedback’ from mainland Chinese authorities on possible resumption of multiple-entry permit scheme

Hong Kong’s leader has said he has received “positive feedback” from mainland Chinese authorities during talks on resuming a multiple-entry permit scheme for Shenzhen residents and the possibility of allowing visitors from additional cities across the border to visit on individual trips.

Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu on Tuesday also brushed aside concerns that allowing Shenzhen residents to head south as many times as they wanted within a year could lead to a rebound in parallel trading activities in border towns, saying “things have changed” while pointing to visitors’ new spending habits.

“I’m receiving positive feedback from the departments we have been talking to, but of course, some details need to be ironed out and I hope to be able to get some decisions made [as soon as possible] so that we can tell everybody,” Lee told reporters before the weekly meeting of the Executive Council, the government’s key decision-making body.

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Tourists in Sheung Shui in February last year. The multiple-entry scheme for Shenzhen residents could be brought back before the coming Lunar New Year, according to a government source. Photo: Edmond So

He added that city authorities would have to take into account the considerations and ideas of the relevant mainland authorities, which he said also shared the view that “people-to-people exchanges work best for both sides”.

Lee did not provide a specific timeline on when a decision would be made and revealed to the public, but a government source previously suggested that the goal was to bring back the multiple-entry scheme for Shenzhen residents before the Lunar New Year holiday.

Introduced in 2009, the scheme was replaced by once-a-week permits in 2015 as concerns mounted over parallel trading activities, which involves travellers buying goods tax-free in Hong Kong to resell on the mainland at a profit, and the city’s capacity to handle surges in single-day visitors.

‘Modest gains for Hong Kong if multiple-entry visas for Shenzhen residents restart’

The chief executive assured that the authorities would examine “all potential threats and risks” and put into place mitigation measures, but also pointed out new trends had emerged over the past eight years relating to spending patterns and market conditions on the mainland, such as the growing popularity of online shopping and more products being available.

“We used to have a problem with parallel trading but things have changed,” Lee said. “I think the right attitude to take is not to be averse to all these challenges. We have to find ways to address and control them.”

The proposal to bring back multiple-entry permits for Shenzhen residents was first submitted by a group of Hong Kong delegates to the National People’s Congress, including Starry Lee Wai-king, the city’s sole representative in the national legislature’s Standing Committee.

Hong Kong officials ‘learn lesson’ after new year transport chaos at border

The chief executive also said there had been “smooth progress” in talks with mainland authorities over extending the operation hours of some land-based crossings with Shenzhen and adding more round-the-clock border checkpoints.

Out of Hong Kong’s 14 border checkpoints with the mainland, visitors can only cross the border between Shenzhen and Hong Kong through the Lok Ma Chau crossing after midnight, which is connected to Huanggang on the Shenzhen side. The checkpoint was overwhelmed with tourists heading north after midnight on New Year’s Day after watching the fireworks display in the city.

Additional reporting by Harvey Kong

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