A Democratic party lawmaker has said that the restrictions on the number of times Shenzhen residents can visit Hong Kong can be easily evaded.
Following protests against parallel trading activities in the North District in 2015, mainland authorities announced that Shenzhen residents could only apply for visas to enter Hong Kong once a week.
Lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting said on Thursday that he had received complaints from frontline immigration officers earlier this year that the control mechanism can be skirted. The officers told him that Shenzhen residents could simply apply for a new visa using a machine at border control points.
Lam’s party sent staff members to Shenzhen to observe the use of the machines. A new visa could be issued within three minutes and the lowest cost was RMB15 (HK$17), they observed.
Lam said immigration officers told him that they have seen Shenzhen residents coming to Hong Kong three times a day.
“Once their visa has expired, they can apply for a new one immediately and come to Hong Kong again,” Lam said. “The so-called ‘once per week’ system is effectively dead.”
Lam said Security Bureau officials verbally told him that the bureau had tried to ask mainland public security authorities if there was any limit on Shenzhen residents applying for new visas, but the mainland authorities had not replied.
Protesters are calling for a “reclaim Sheung Shui” rally on Saturday targeting parallel traders in the area.
The North District Parallel Imports Concern Group, who helped organise the demonstration, said that – as of January – there were 462 shops in the Sheung Shui area which were mostly serving mainland tourists. It represents a sharp increase compared with 142 in 2013, with some residents concerned that it reduces the number of choices available to locals shopping for daily needs.
The group said they will start their rally at the basketball court of the North District Sports Ground at 3:30pm on Saturday.
Lam said he believed the marchers will be peaceful in raising concerns over parallel trading activities.