You ask, Beijing delivers: curbs on Mainland smugglers


SCMP-VisitorLimitThe tone of the South China Morning Post’s headline reflects the mood of Hong Kong’s bureaucrat/landlord establishment today: sour grapes, big huff, ‘visitor limit will not work’, sniff. For several years our leaders have been insisting that the city should and must welcome an unmanageable flood of Mainland shoppers, even as ordinary citizens protest at the overcrowding and rising costs. Cutting the numbers was not an option, they maintained. Now the Central People’s Government has essentially come down on the side of ordinary Hong Kong residents and agreed to curb the numbers.

For the local officials who see serving property interests as their primary duty, it is a loss of face. For the patriots who adore integration with the glorious motherland, it is a ‘contradiction’: a concession to evil Hong Kong separatists delivered by none other than almighty Beijing. For the landlords, it is a reduction in rental incomes bloated by policy-led market distortions – easy easy easy money suddenly vanishing – a blow to the spirit comparable in human terms perhaps to a death in the family times 10.

The limit of one trip a week for Shenzhen residents will apply to future annual permits, so the decline in numbers will be gradual. No-one knows what the impact will be. The SCMP quotes someone as saying that with profit margins of HK$200 a day, Hong Kong residents will fill the gap left by Mainland smugglers. Another report claims that higher fees for cross-border carriers of goods will make that HK$600. (A good look at the economics of this trade appears here.) Hopes that the parasitical tourism industry will shrivel up and die a horrible death may be premature, but at least the measure is upsetting all the right people.

The real story is not about suitcases on wheels crammed with Ferrero Rocher chocolates. It’s about Hong Kong people protesting and winning. The recent months’ anti-smuggler rallies in Sheung Shui, Shatin and elsewhere were messy and occasionally got a bit nasty, and some would argue they pandered to xenophobia and descended to bullying. But symbolically, the separatist/anti-Mainland action set huge alarm bells off up in Beijing. There is a lesson here about the Communist Party’s vulnerabilities. They won’t grant you full democracy. But pitch it right, push the right buttons, and you can conjure up their worst nightmares and fears in front of them, and they will scurry to attend to your smaller-scale wishes. Something like that. Our legions of trendy activists and revolutionary theorists can ponder how to apply this weapon to overcome other injustices against the people – the luxury goods stores that have wrecked Causeway Bay and Tsimshatsui, the tycoons’ duopolies and cartels, Chief Executive CY Leung’s holding of public office, or (on a personal note) the Korean office ladies infesting my neighbourhood for no apparent reason. China Daily meanwhile continues the anti-independence mouth-froth.

Speaking of Tsimshatsui, I passed through over the weekend and spotted a few glimmers of hope that a few square feet of rentable space are still dedicated to serving (mostly) local needs. In Ashley Road: Hong Kong’s first (I think) branch of Hotel Saravana Bhavan. Imagine if Maxims had cheerful (Indian and Filipino) staff, served up Indian (mostly southern) vegetarian fast-food and had been founded by a murderer, and you’ve pretty much got it. Dosas and chutneys, basically. If Woodlands in Mody Road seems too far to go, this is the place…


And on the distant top floor of Ocean Terminal, a stone’s throw from all the pestilential watch and handbag places, a sprawl of outlets with an offbeat youthful/toy theme. Mostly for teens/kids, but hey – local ones. Includes a whole store dedicated to Studio Ghibli paraphernalia: the foreign splittist/subversive-sounding Hong Kong Donguri Republic


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11 Responses to You ask, Beijing delivers: curbs on Mainland smugglers

  1. Stephen says:

    That this will p*** off all the right people and for that reason – rejoice ! Does this mean that Shipping Container Mega Mall may now not open ?

    However Pan-Dems do not think Beijing will yield so easily on political reform this is a red line they are not yet ready to cross. Absolutely right to veto it as, at least, it should herald the beginning of the end of both CY Leung & Carrie Lam’s careers in Government and may possibly signal the start of some proper horse trading over the composition of the nominating committee. If it passes (in what we believe to be its current form) then that really is the end of political reform in Hong Kong.

  2. Herr Torquewrench says:

    But Mr. Rajagopal what about your dhosas?

  3. NIMBY says:

    How nice that this restriction came on line about the same time China is having to re-examine (devalue) the RMB vis the USD, is going after Chinese officials and/or their family living in the USA (with the cooperation of the US government), the colapse of China junkets into Macao, and is now re-examining the “opening up” policy of Jiang Zhi Min.

  4. Scotty Dotty says:

    Very doubtful this will reduce the flow.

    It only applies to Shenzhen-based locusts. And that suitcase brigade are very adaptable. Most will just send Granny then Uncle Tong then Ah Ho from down the street. Plus, there will now be a market of Shenzhen-ers selling their quota of 52 trips per year.

    But, as Hemlock says, the fact Beijing is even pretending to try is noteworthy.

  5. Nic says:

    Thanks for the Woodlands alternative, telling the taxi driver to go to ‘arsey lay do’ always feels weird though.

  6. Cassowary says:

    Notice how CY had to slip in a face-saving “We would have done this earlier if not for those pesky protesters.” It’s almost comical. The tourist hordes were declining anyway due to the corruption crackdown and the slowing Chinese economy. Maybe the powers that be realized that there was no longer any point in backing a losing horse.

  7. dopey says:

    Years of reading this (mostly amazing blog) have finally paid off. Dosa, Dosa, Dosa!!!

  8. Cassowary says:

    There’s also Brantos up on the first floor in Lock road, which has the advantage of not being owned by a murderer. As far as anybody knows.

  9. Joe Blow says:

    When I think about TST of the seventies I almost get sentimental….

    Stone The Crows
    Bottoms Up (titties)
    Club Kismet (more titties)
    White Stag
    Paprika Bar (1/f, Ocean Centre)
    Beer Keller (2/f, Ocean Centre)
    Gun Bar
    Red Lips

  10. Chinese Netizen says:

    If I were a locust with cash to burn, I’d give HK a pass, too, these days.
    Money grubbing, Canto spewing louts with little or no education (think of that douchebag arguing with the 80-plus yr old granny) and no culture in an overcrowded, concrete jungle with wind tunnels and horrendous traffic… OR… well behaved, civilised, polite people in an environment where prices are cheap (comparatively), the culture is new and pleasing as well as being the home of a favourite source of popular porn?
    YES, I’ll take Japan any day, thanks (despite the fact that they’re the unapologetic, evil buggars that slaughtered so many of the ancestors – but damn they make cool stuff)!

  11. NIMBY says:

    Damn, we can’t afford to lose those jobs.

    “… high skill workers have moved down the ladder and have begun to perform jobs traditionally performed by low skill workers.”

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