Travel to China Booming among Hong Kongers; Political Apathy Spreads Following Tightened Government Control

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

SHENZHEN, China – Traveling to and shopping in mainland China has become increasingly popular among Hong Kong residents for a variety of reasons — especially the cheap prices.

It seems a radical change from the mass anti-government protests in 2019. The trend can partly be attributed to increased political apathy among people in Hong Kong following tightened government control.

Many people from Hong Kong carrying large suitcases were seen shopping for daily necessities and groceries at a large U.S.-affiliated supermarket in a southern Chinese city of Shenzhen last month. “There’s a nice selection of goods, and it’s cheaper than Hong Kong,” said a man, 65, visiting with his wife.

They said they have started routinely visiting mainland China again after more than 10 years.

EGL Tours, a travel agency in Hong Kong, started offering a 2-day tour package to large supermarkets and tourist spots in Guangdong Province, mainland China, in January. It received 2000 bookings in January and 3000 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 to about 30,000 last year compared with pre-pandemic numbers.

According to Hong Kong media, the total number of trips for all purposes from Hong Kong to mainland China last year was 53 million, a return to the pre-pandemic level.

The tourists’ appetite for shopping is insatiable. One reason is that the Hong Kong dollar is stronger than the Chinese Yuan now than it was 2 years ago, enabling Hong Kong shoppers to buy goods at lower prices. In addition, the shoppers are very satisfied with “the wide selection of goods and quality customer service,” according to a 58-year-old-man from Hong Kong.

The current tourism trend is driven mainly by middle-aged and older 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 in Hong Kong. There used to be this hostility toward China, but times have changed.”

A poll conducted last summer by the Chinese University of Hong Kong showed that 62.9% of respondents said they were “not interested in politics,” 7.4 percentage points up from the previous year. The numbers suggest that Hong Kongers are becoming increasingly politically disengaged following the 2020 implementation of the national security law, which aimed at cracking down on anti-government activities.

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s administration is proceeding with the economic integration of Guangdong Province with Hong Kong and Macau, and the mainland-bound boom will serve as good publicity.