China is restricting visits by residents of the city of Shenzhen to neighboring Hong Kong, reports Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency. The move, NPR's Frank Langfitt tells our Newscast unit, is "designed to assuage Hong Kongers angry with mainlanders who buy up goods."
Under the new rules, Shenzhen residents will be allowed one trip per week to Hong Kong. Xinhua quoted an official as saying the move "reflects the central government's consideration for people's livelihood in Hong Kong."
Frank recounts a familiar scene in Hong Kong:
"A mainlander loads tin after tin of milk powder into a shopping bag, until staff reminds him or her that the shop has a quota — and orders some tins returned to the shelf. The new travel limits are designed to leave more products for Hong Kongers who bitterly complain mainland mass buying drives shortages for medicine, cosmetics and other items which are cheaper than those on the mainland. Anger over shortages fueled street protests in Hong Kong in recent months. That said, Hong Kong's economy relies on mainland tourism. So, observers say, even travel limits can only go so far."
"This policy targets the career parallel traders," Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said, according to Bloomberg. "Hong Kong is still a city for tourists from all around the world including those from the mainland."
Parallel traders are those who buy goods from Hong Kong and resell them on the mainland.
Leung said that of the nearly 4.6 million people who traveled to Hong Kong more than once a week last year, 30 percent were permanent residents from Shenzhen with multiple entry permits. Reuters adds that about 47 million mainland Chinese visitors entered Hong Kong last year — more than six times the population of the former British colony.
Hong Kongers have long protested against shoppers from the mainland, whom they accuse of "hogging resources" and driving up prices of everything from "milk powder to real estate," in the words of the blog Shanghaiist.