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BEIJING: A senior Chinese government official yesterday rebuffed growing complaints from Hong Kong that a flood of visitors from mainland China was overwhelming the tiny territory, saying it was natural for people to want to visit a part of their country.
Last year, more than 30 million mainland Chinese visited Hong Kong, almost four times the city’s population, stoking concern about the ability of the city’s infrastructure to cope.
Hong Kong residents blame Chinese visitors for pushing up prices and congestion, and the issue has fed unhappiness with the city’s leader, Beijing-backed Leung Chun-ying. Tens of thousands protested against him on New Year’s Day.
But Lu Xinhua, spokesman for the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, a body that advises the government but does not have any legislative powers, said it was natural mainland Chinese would want to visit.
“After the 2008 financial crisis, Hong Kong experienced some difficulties, and hoped that mainland compatriots would continue to go to Hong Kong to increase tourist revenue,” Lu said, ahead of Sunday’s start of the advisory body’s annual session.
“Due to inadequate facilities or infrastructure, Hong Kong could not cope with that many mainland tourists, which created a series of problems, and many mainland tourists complained too,” he said. “What I want to stress here is that Hong Kong is China’s territory. It was a British colony for more than 160 years, but now has returned to the motherland,” he added.
Despite the public pressure on Leung, Beijing has so far publicly endorsed his administration. He has also tried to address the anger by, for example, seeking to limit mainland Chinese from buying property in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong was guaranteed a degree of autonomy when it returned to China under a deal that ended British rule in 1997.