[HONG KONG] Hong Kong should welcome mainland Chinese shoppers as turning them away will damage its retail industry and may lead to job losses, according to Ronnie Chan, chairman of Hang Lung Properties Ltd.
Mr Chan's comments come as Hong Kong residents demand controls on traders who cross the border to buy necessities to resell in China, driving up local costs of living. There were rallies in Hong Kong last month against the so-called parallel traders and scuffles broke out between police and protesters.
Total visitors to Hong Kong, including those from China, fell 12.4 per cent during the April 3 to 7 Ching Ming and Easter holidays, the government said, with Chief Executive Leung Chun- ying describing the decline as a "wake up call" and listing anti-parallel trading protests among reasons for the drop.
"How foolish that is to bite the hand that feeds you," Mr Chan, whose company develops shopping malls and homes in Hong Kong, said in an interview in New York on April 10.
"That money once it is gone, it'll be gone forever." An influx of Chinese visitors has prompted the city's government to consider curbs on tourist arrivals. Instead of rich Chinese flying in, the city is seeing an increasing number of visitors with big pieces of luggage hoarding up space in its subways, on its buses and on the pavements as they buy milk powder, shampoo, groceries and medicine.
The Chinese city of Shenzhen will limit permanent residents with multiple-entry permits to one weekly visit to Hong Kong, the South China Morning Post reported, citing unidentified people familiar with the plan.
Currency Strength Hong Kong could see a decline in retail sales and commercial property rents and contraction in the jobs market if it discourages mainland visitors, said Chan who was attending a conference in New York.
"If they don't buy this product in Hong Kong, they can buy it in Taipei, Seoul or Singapore," he said. Hong Kong people should "behave in a more rational way." Hong Kong's dollar strength is also one of the reasons why Chinese tourists are turning away from the city, Mr Leung told reporters on April 8.
The Hong Kong dollar has advanced against 27 out of the world's 31 major currencies this year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The city's monetary authority stepped in last week to prevent the currency from rising against the US dollar amid money inflows for Hong Kong equities.