Hong Kongers Protest New Driving Plan

Several hundred Hong Kongers marched through the city to protest a new policy that would allow mainland drivers into the territory, the latest in a series of issues that have fueled tensions between the people of Hong Kong and mainland China. From Shanghaiist:

Critics of the proposal argue that the new plan would not only exacerbate pollution and congestion in the city, but also prove to be a safety hazard.

Earlier, Secretary for Transport and Housing Eva Cheng cited statistics to show that mainland cars were no safety menace.

Hong Kong-registered right-hand drive cars were five times as likely to be involved in an accident than left-hand drive cars from the mainland, she said, pointing to statistics collected by the transport authority over the last five years.

CNBC contributor Shaun Rein, who founded the China Market Research Group, writes that the anger currently directed towards the mainland may deter wealthy Chinese tourists from visiting Hong Kong and spending their cash:

The damage to Hong Kong’s reputation as a place that welcomes mainland Chinese is serious. Losing mainland money could spell trouble for Hong Kong’s retail and real estate sectors, which over the past five years have become increasingly reliant on it.

Wealthy mainland Chinese, like billionaire Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba [1688-HK 9.25 — UNCH (0) ], who have bought homes there, propped up Hong Kong luxury home prices during the financial crisis. Retailers like Omega and Cartier have seen sales soar there because of mainlanders seeking to shop without the high value added tax and tariffs on the mainland. My firm estimates that more than 50 percent of luxury products sold in Hong Kong are to mainlanders.

It is highly unlikely that the tide of mainland tourists to Hong Kong will drop greatly – cheaper prices, short flights, and general fun outweigh the nastiness, but it is clear more mainlanders, especially the ultra wealthy, will travel elsewhere instead of Hong Kong.

February 20, 2012 8:12 PM
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Categories: Hong Kong, Society