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Travel to China Booming among Hong Kongers; Political apathy spreads after tightened government control

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Hong Kongers with suitcases shop at a large supermarket in Shenzhen, China’s Guangdong province, on February 2.

SHENZHEN, China – Traveling to and shopping in mainland China has become increasingly popular among Hong Kong residents for several reasons, especially the low prices.

It appears to be a radical change from the massive anti-government protests of 2019. The trend can be partly attributed to increased political apathy among people in Hong Kong due to increased government control.

Many Hong Kong people with large suitcases were seen shopping for daily necessities and groceries at a major US-affiliated supermarket in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen last month. “There is a nice selection of goods, and it is cheaper than Hong Kong,” said a 65-year-old man visiting with his wife.

They said they have started routinely visiting mainland China again after more than a decade.

EGL Tours, a Hong Kong-based travel agency, started offering a two-day tour package to major supermarkets and tourist spots in Guangdong province, mainland China, in January. It received 2,000 bookings in January and 3,000 in February. Ten-day tour packages to more distant areas of China are also popular.

The number of people traveling to mainland China for tourism purposes tripled last year to around 30,000 compared to pre-pandemic figures.

According to Hong Kong media, the total number of all-purpose trips from Hong Kong to mainland China reached 53 million last year, a return to pre-pandemic levels.

Tourists’ appetite for shopping is insatiable. One reason is that the Hong Kong dollar is now stronger than the Chinese Yuan than it was two years ago, allowing Hong Kong shoppers to buy goods at lower prices. In addition, shoppers are very satisfied with “the wide choice of goods and the high-quality customer service,” according to a 58-year-old man from Hong Kong.

The current tourism trend is mainly driven by middle-aged and elderly people who viewed the 2019 anti-government protests negatively. Nevertheless, younger generations have also started enjoying weekends in mainland China. A 27-year-old company employee said: “There are more places to enjoy than Hong Kong. There used to be hostility towards China, but times have changed.”

A survey conducted last summer by the Chinese University of Hong Kong found that 62.9% of respondents said they were “not interested in politics,” an increase of 7.4 percentage points from the previous year. The figures suggest Hong Kongers are becoming increasingly politically involved following the 2020 implementation of the national security law, which aimed to crack down on anti-government activities.

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s government is pushing ahead with Guangdong province’s economic integration with Hong Kong and Macau, and the mainland boom will serve as good publicity.

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