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Hong Kong rejects proposal to impose entry tax for visitors

Hong Kong's Chief Executive Leung Chun-Ying has rejected a proposal to impose an arrival or entry tax into the territory for non-residents arriving by land.

HONG KONG: Hong Kong's Chief Executive Leung Chun-Ying has rejected a proposal to impose an arrival or entry tax into the territory for non-residents arriving by land.

Two democratic parties had proposed a US$13 levy to help curb the influx of mainland tourists into the city.

There is concern Hong Kong won't be able to cope with the rise in mainland tourists into the territory.

Its Commerce Secretary estimates that tourist numbers would surge 30 per cent to 70 million visitors annually in three years' time, and 100 million in 10 years' time.

Albert Chan of the fringe People Power Party was one of two lawmakers who came up with the proposed tax, to be included in the wish-list for Hong Kong's budget speech out later this month.

Mr Chan said: "I believe that Hong Kong cannot handle such drastic increase of tourists coming to Hong Kong... the policy itself for all tourists coming through land, it is not just for mainland Chinese. If you hold an American passport, if you hold a Canadian passport, if you're coming through China, you will be subject to the same levy. So it is not discrimination directly against mainland Chinese, but the policy objective is quite clear. We don't want that many tourists coming into Hong Kong."

He believes the tax would cut the number of mainland day-visitors by 10 million a year.

Mr Leung has criticised the idea as "unilateral" and not feasible, and warned that the Shenzhen authorities could impose a similar tax on Hong Kong visitors.

Both Hong Kong's Tourism Board and its Travel Industry Council have rejected the proposal, saying this would damage the city's reputation.

Mr Allan Zeman, chairman of Ocean Park, the city's top tourist attraction, also said that this would discourage tourists as they are free to go elsewhere in Asia.

But locals have long complained about overcrowding on trains and busy shopping districts, and longer queues in stores and restaurants.

"The spending power of mainland tourists is high, which is boosting the retail sector. But of course, it's unavoidable that the increased number of tourist brings inconvenience to the people of Hong Kong. The way I see it, there are pros and cons, you can't have trade-off one with the other," said a Hong Kong resident.

Mainland Chinese visitors mainly shop, buying cosmetics, electronics, gold and milk powder - and that has also altered the face of retail space in the territory. 

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