Wednesday, September 25, 2013

No Alternative?

Those with limited imaginations - a category which sadly includes most members of the Hong Kong government - invariably see only one solution to any problem and are blind to other ways of looking at the situation. Former Canadian Gregory So, Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, speaking on TVB news a few days ago about the negative impact of mass tourism from the mainland, said: "The solution must [my emphasis] lie in the fact that we need to expand our capacity so that we can take in the visitors".

Why must it?  If a highly-regarded restaurant is so popular that one needs to book a table weeks in advance, the owner's first response is not usually to rush out and expand his capacity.  Given that mass tourism benefits only a few in Hong Kong and reduces the quality of life for everyone else through overcrowding, higher prices, and the disappearance of popular shops and restaurants in favour of more profitable luxury goods outlets targeted at tourists, why should we encourage more visitors to come?  Perhaps we should decide, as Bhutan for example has done, that the benefits of mass tourism are not worth the cost, and limit the numbers allowed in - possibly through a quota system or a tourist tax.  Furthermore, those who do arrive will have a more enjoyable experience.

Another group unable to see an obvious solution to a problem are those who demonstrated recently demanding that mainland mothers of Hong Kong-born children whose fathers have died or abandoned the family - they claim there are 7,000 of these - should be given accelerated entry to Hong Kong to care for their offspring.  Again, why?  The one-way permit system is supposedly intended mainly to allow mainland residents to be reunited with their Hong Kong spouses (which doesn't explain why a man already deported from Hong Kong after serving a sentence for homicide here was allowed back to settle in the territory, but that's another question that needs asking).  If there is no husband here for the wife to be reunited with, wouldn't it be more natural to send the child back to live with its mother?

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