If the South China Morning Post felt the need to support an extremely unpopular public policy that clearly damages Hong Kong‘s economy and quality of life, it would do it through its easily ignored editorial column, and preferably on a holiday. That way, the editors could proudly show it to their proprietor as guaranteed to please the international brands and local landlord-conglomerates who provide so much advertising revenue, safe in the knowledge that few readers would notice. Behold yesterday’s dire ‘Let free market determine flow of tourists’.
Whoever composed this clearly didn’t have his heart in it; any half-decent writer could craft a more credible argument simply by acknowledging rather than denying undisputed facts. For example, Chief Executive CY Leung is not ‘playing down’ the idea of a 20% cut in visitor arrivals – he raised it. More to the point, free markets have nothing to do with the influx of shoppers: the suitcases full of Yakult and the huge increases in cosmetics and watch outlets is a classic and extreme example of arbitrage, a result of market inefficiencies that would self-correct in a free market.
In fact, the whole phenomenon is basically the evasion of Mainland taxes by smuggling. Certain commercial interests have seen massive increases in turnover as a result, and it is hardly surprising that their stock prices drop at the first hint that the scam might be curbed. Yet the SCMP implies that these artificially inflated share prices need protecting.
Even more egregiously, the paper has the nerve to call Hongkongers who want their city back ‘selfish’. I suppose whoever wrote that deserves pity; they can’t seriously have meant it. Little wonder that they ran the editorial on a holiday.
In the same edition, the SCMP reported the imminent closure of a popular half-century-old girls’ school in Sheung Wan because its rent has doubled since 2011. Rent rises have spread throughout Hong Kong and are directly linked to the influx of Mainland shoppers and the huge increase in retail premises serving them. This is damaging the local economy: people directly or indirectly paying more rent have less to spend on other things, and small businesses are forced out of existence, or never start. This Mainland ‘tourism’ is a poisonous weed smothering all the other plants in the garden. A rational government would make reduction of rents through cutting the influx of shoppers a priority to protect economic (not to mention our mental) health.
Contradicting itself, the SCMP vaguely acknowledges that problems exist and require a ‘response’. Specifically, ‘better research and cooperation and coordination’. Any more absurd and pathetic, and it would be satire.