Please support the smothering of your city because it makes me rich

I don’t read South China Morning Post editorials enough to be sure, but this morning’s must be the least convincing in quite a while, assuming they’re not getting into satire. After describing the many ways in which mass Mainland tourism is making life unbearable for ordinary Hong Kong residents, it begs us to grin and bear it…

Some people will see the extra deluge of tourists as a heightened inconvenience and intrusion, a cause for frowns, scowls and perhaps anger. Given the benefits of tourism to our city, though, we should instead be smiling and offering a friendly hand of welcome.

Those benefits may not come readily to mind as we negotiate crowded shopping streets and jostle for space on public transport in the weeks on either side of Hong Kong’s official four-day break. Shelves empty of favourite products and reports of baby milk powder shortages and parallel traders cause annoyance. The closure of yet another long-standing restaurant, the victim of rent rises in districts being transformed by luxury goods stores, prompts fears that culture and heritage are being lost. Those with a chauvinistic attitude speak of the cross-border visitors in terms of hygiene and politeness.

Further down the column, it attempts to justify the plea to lie back and enjoy being raped…

Tourists spent HK$305 billion in 2011 and the economic sector accounted for more than 17 per cent of GDP. About 6.2 per cent of the workforce – more than 218,000 people – owed their jobs to foreign travellers. The retail and hospitality sectors benefit most, but the ripple effects extend throughout our economy

No-one has done a proper cost-benefit analysis of tourism in Hong Kong, but we can safely say that between 2000 and 2012 median household income has barely budged from HK$18,000 a month while tourism arrival figures have gone from 14 million a year to 46 million a year. (Hastily Googled sources here, here, here and here – give or take a year and the deflation/inflation over the period.) We don’t know how many jobs have been destroyed as the influx of shoppers and luxury retailers drove small local businesses out of existence. We can assume that most of the HK$305 billion goes straight from the cash tills into the coffers of Italian junk merchants and Hong Kong landlords. That’s why ‘these benefits may not come readily to mind’.

The oh-so important tourism industry is part of the larger parasitical real-estate cartel scam. The rest of us suffer so a small handful of families effortlessly make more billions. But the swamping of Hong Kong with Mainland visitors leads, as the SCMP delightfully puts it, to ‘heightened inconvenience and intrusion … and perhaps anger’. It seems the landlords are nervous. James Tien, born and bred to defend their interests, never stops bleating about how much we need a heavier and heavier crush of tourists. And in today’s Standard, Allan Zeman warns that limits on visits would lead Hong Kong to unspecified ‘trouble’. Both men occupy public-sector tourism-promotion positions; both personally profit from rising rents and belong to the tycoon-bureaucrat establishment that ran Hong Kong under the last Chief Executive, Donald Tsang.

It looks like a simple conflict between the tycoons and the people of Hong Kong. But does it also represent a clash between the tycoons’ interests and Beijing’s? The anti-locust sentiment in Hong Kong is surely a concern for Chinese authorities; it is the complete opposite of what is supposed to be happening 15 years after the handover. Indeed, in a sure sign of the seriousness of the ‘contradiction’, some Mainland observers claim to see evil foreign forces at work behind colonial flag-waving and opinion polls showing Hongkongers to see themselves as less Chinese.

For Beijing to allow curbs on the flow of Mainlanders into Hong Kong would be a loss of face and awkward to sell to the public up there. But if it were the lesser of two evils – if the alternative were growing alienation and hostility among Hong Kong people – the Central People’s Government would surely approve it. And if you were a Hong Kong landlord, and you thought that might happen, you would lean on tycoon-owned newspapers to carry gibberish about how we must welcome more and more tourists with open arms.  

Meanwhile, over at the new Legislative Council building at Tamar, late Monday morning…




A shiny red object lurks in the undergrowth.




Could it be a car – one of those ugly Audis, perhaps?




Parked right on the sidewalk?




Yes it could.




No Legco badge, so presumably not an honourable member’s.


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22 Responses to Please support the smothering of your city because it makes me rich

  1. Old Timer says:

    “Those with a chauvinistic attitude speak of the cross-border visitors in terms of hygiene and politeness.”

    As, indeed, do those without a chauvinistic attitude.

  2. Bela Beelzebub says:

    You’re right. The SCMP used to lead the world in self-censorship. Now it leads the world in self-satire.

    When Semen has to rattle his can in public, you know he is desperate. That’s a good sign. We ought to be glad.

    Yet…the crisis of capitalism is a wondrous thing to behold…

    …unbreathable air, unaffordable accommodation, inflated prices, the lack of public space, anxiety, shortages, rationed essentials such as baby milk, the concentration of power and wealth in the hands of corrupt absentee helicopter-flying landlords…

    …the most of everything but the best of nothing…

    …the uniformity and dullness and predictability of everyday experience despite the endless and accelerating consumption…

    .. the dissatisfaction and rancour of people who have everything but the essential.

    Sometimes I wish CY would just stop interfering so we can really see what the Capitalist Endgame is like.

    Apocalypse Now please!

    If you die in the Apocalypse, you are in the velvet rope section of Eternity. Now that’s a goal worth striving for.

  3. arm bears says:

    You missed the sign at that (mainland-made, of course) Audi’s parking spot…
    “Puppermaster parking only”

  4. oblivia says:

    “No-one has done a proper cost-benefit analysis of tourism in Hong Kong”

    Yeah! Isn’t it terrible that China is so full of Chinese people? Where do they get the nerve, waltzing around as if they owned the place…

    And what a rag that SCMP is, asking folk to be tolerant of “foreign” tourists. A proper newspaper would be rousing rabbles and encouraging vigilantes to beat those foreign dogs. Jeez. What’s the world coming to?

  5. Mary Hinge says:

    Ripple effects? What ripple effects?

  6. Property Developer says:

    Rarely have I seen such a badly written article as the SCMP leader, headed “Insight”. I enjoy many parts of the paper, but the editorials are invariably vomit-inducing.

    This one has all the marks of a committee: a Jacky Chan interview, noted on the back of an envelope, then translated, then put into a bullet list, then some poor hack asked to join it all up.

    Even mouth-frother Lau Nai-keung’s person to think and write shows some thought, some originality, some lucidity, some coherence. Couldn’t they just use a computer and ask him/her to revise?

  7. Sojourner says:

    oblivia, your silly attempts at sarcasm evade the point of Hemmer’s thrust.

  8. Failed Alchemist says:

    Friends (young ppl) tell me that they return home very late, just to bath & sleep. Up early, then head to work. Reason: A 400-500 sq ft home shared with at least 5 others. So the streets and spending time with friends suffice from lack of a decent home space. Tough luck, better to take shelter with the 5 others than be in the midst of a place like Causeway Bay or Shatin New Town Center.

    Spotted, a couple sitting right at the end of the old KCR station (good old days) having a spat. Better than doing it at home in front of family. Sorry to say, you can’t find a quiet spot on the platform anymore. Better off at Lion Rock to have a spat.

    Mainlander complains to me that she can’t find any rooms in Chungking Mansion or Mirador Mansion less than $300. Now we know we are doomed.

  9. Quality of Life says:

    Not to sound ungrateful, but how about sending a cop to ticket the tour bus operator who stops his mammoth vehicle in lane on Electric Road at 2100 hours nightly, blocking all traffic as he disgorges his cargo of mainland tourists across the street from the Newton Hotel.

  10. And remember the Tourism Board has been adamant about counting arrivals rather than stays, so that way the day traders can boost the numbers Tien and friends get to brag about.

    And I know it’s nice to push this specifically on to Bowtie, but…

    :::Ten years ago, I was sent by the then Chief Executive, Mr C H Tung, to Beijing. We wanted to explore with the Central Authorities the possibility of allowing residents in the more affluent cities in the Mainland to come to Hong Kong as tourists without having to join tour groups. Some commentators were again sceptical. They somehow believed that these tourists would not have the spending power, that they would pose a risk to law and order, and might even become illegal immigrants. But again we ploughed on.

    The rest is history. Today, the Mainland is the biggest market for our professionals and the biggest source of tourism income. The sceptics were wrong on all counts. These two sectors of our economy have seized on the opportunities and confronted the many challenges by working with the Government. Both sectors have benefited from CEPA. :::

    So right from the horse’s mouth (or if you prefer, the wolf’s mouth) CEPA and the individual visit scheme is Tung and CY. Further on in that speech and in the questions to his shoe-shining Chambers of Commerce buddies, CY also brags about reversing Bowtie’s reduction on plot ratios, which was put in to place to reduce the wall-effect pollution problems. So while Andy Xie suggested increasing the size and reducing the cost of homes, CY’s solution is maintain price per sq. ft., reduce the size of apartments to increase “affordability” and boost the plot ratio to maximise the environmental negative impact upon the residents of these tiny boxes and the profits of CY’s colleagues in the property development biz.

  11. Mongkok Mzungu says:

    The root of the problem is a combination of the appreciating RMB (vs HKD), rising disposable (illegitimate) income on the mainland, lack of consumer trust in goods sold in the PRC and the relatively high price of foreign (luxury) goods on the mainland due to import duties (>5%), VAT (17%) and consumption tax (variable but 30% on cosmetics, at least 36% on cigarettes etc).

    And then there is the Chinese irrational and unconditional infatuation with French and Italian brands.

    From that last thing they could be cured very easily: require all luxury brands to staff their retail outlets only with personnel from the brand’s country of origin. I predict an immediate resurgence of interest in brands from countries that do have a workable concept of customer service.

    Realistically speaking, we are not going to be able to turn around any of the other causes. We can only hope to dampen things somewhat while simultaneously collect more tax revenue off these lovely visitors.

    We already have a HKD 120 per person departure tax at the airport (yes, it is in your ticket price). It can’t be that hard to implement it at all other entry/exit ports as well. Exempt HKID card holders if you wish. I can imagine it for example as being presented as a charge for non-E-channel users to contribute to the costs of all those immigration counters and litres of stamp ink.

    There were 14.2 million one-day-only visitors (of some 40m in total tourists) to Hong Kong in 2011 alone. I suspect very few of those daytrippers were air passengers, for whom the departure tax at the airport is waived anyway. 14m times HKD 120 is HKD 1.7 billion in new annual tax revenue.

    Imagine how many more traffic wardens we could employ with that.

  12. Alex says:

    I’ve parked there before.

  13. Failed Alchemist says:

    @Tom, thanks for input but need to differ on views. Not all new arrivals or “tourist” are well heeled. Just visit Tuen Mun or Yuen Long… They sit in MacDonalds waiting for their children to finish school… but outward appearance, malaise to the locals, accent is a give away. On TV being interviewed unlike a local HKer who says life is difficult but just plod on…. new arrivals have a long list of demands on what the gomen should be doing for them – to be treated “fairly”

    CEPA is the biggest joke of the century. Its a one way street. Try entering certain sectors in SZ like education (pre-school or otherwise) and compare it with a Mainlander going to the HK business registrar office. A Mainlander just has to wait a few hours and the BR is out, then head off to HSBC or BOC… wham bam, the account can be used in hours to funnel ahem…

    In China, an ordinary HKer can’t even figure where to start… only to be told by China friends that one needs approval from not more than 5-8 depts or “guangxi.” Unless you are opening Park & Shop or Coral DeCafe… tough luck buddy. Many sectors are no, no’s for ordinary HKers like retail, education, distribution of goods.

    Instead of stupid tourism offices on the Mainland, we need trade centers runned by the govt to help HK ppl get all the paperwork done – the one stop center instead of trying to blindly measure the size of the elephant in the room.

  14. Bela Beelzebub says:


    Fine evocative vignettes!

    I really do think the Apocalypse will start in Chungking Mansion.

    Either there or the top of Garden Road, the towers and villas and black DarthVaderMobiles sliding into the harbour…

    Tseung Kwan O will just fester and bubble and then sink…not so dramatic.

  15. The Regulator says:

    Mr. Xi,
    We want your money spent here in HK on anything except our property.

  16. Failed Alchemist says:

    Bela Mela, sad confession, its “failed” alchemist but anyhow, is there a “sucessful” one? Thus, all is vanity and doomed for failure. Hahahaha…

    Hemlock’s graciousness gives one a moment of sanity by letting us steam the Lychee once in a while unless driven to the final solution – to take a sip of that cup called hemlock. Thanks Hemmers, makes living here a bit more livable.

  17. Anti Illegal Parking Man says:


    PLEASE do not get me going on this issue


    Ruthelessly !

  18. Aghast says:

    Rarely has there been such a conglomeration of sad whinging gweilos.

    Failed Alchemist, Jeff, Bela… Do it! Jump!!

  19. Chopped Onions says:

    After you Aghast, show us how its done !!

  20. Regislea says:

    Jake van der Kamp occasionally does an analysis of the tourism sector as part of one of his periodic rants about the HKTB.

    I can’t remember the figures but what he does is to take into account the import costs of the goods that the tourists buy – since almost none will have been made in Hong Kong, and that the profit in hotels generally disappears overseas and the $300 billion shrinks away pretty fast, etc.

    Of course, there is a value to tourism into Hong Kong – but it’s nothing like $305bn.

  21. Bela Beelzebub says:

    Aghast, sweedie

    People impervious to irony are always the first to jump.

    Just Do It!

  22. Mjrelje says:

    Alchemist: excellence. CEPA is a joke or its foundations would at least include visa free access to the mainland for all HK PRs — the only way to have that is with an APEC card.

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