Over 1,500 tourists depart Hong Kong after Lunar New Year fireworks under extended crossing hours to prevent overcrowding
- Authorities extended opening hours at Lo Wu and Shenzhen Bay crossings to avoid repeat of scenes of stranded mainland Chinese tourists after New Year’s Eve
- Lawmaker Edward Lau praises ‘smooth and orderly’ handling of border traffic, calling for policy’s renewal for future holidays
The latest immigration statistics showed 1,258 people left Hong Kong through the Shenzhen Bay checkpoint between midnight and 7am, 794 of them being tourists, mostly people from mainland China.
At the Lo Wu crossing, 713 tourists were among the 1,487 people who left the city during the checkpoint’s extended operations between midnight and 2am.
City authorities had longer hours at some checkpoints for the festive event as part of efforts to avoid a repeat of scenes that followed December’s New Year’s Eve fireworks display, when crowds of travellers were left stranded at some crossings and stations.
In terms of inbound travellers, officials at Shenzhen Bay and Lo Wu logged 1,550 and 2,023 people, mostly Hongkongers, heading into the city during the crossings’ extended operating hours.
Hong Kong’s Immigration Department recorded 435,697 people coming into the city through 13 checkpoints during the second day of the Lunar New Year on Sunday, while 530,168 headed out.
The total number of individual trips that day, 965,865, fell below pre-Covid levels of more than 1 million.
Immigration figures up to Monday afternoon showed that mainlanders and overseas visitors made 601,176 trips to the city since Lunar New Year’s Eve last Friday. People from the mainland made up 85 per cent of the total, while 1.34 million outbound trips were made by local residents during the same period.
As of 4pm, the Immigration Department had recorded 259,798 arrivals, with most made by mainland visitors, and 376,747 departures, with the majority being Hong Kong residents, throughout the day.
Lawmaker Edward Lau Kwok-fan, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, on Monday praised the “smooth and orderly” handling of border traffic during the extended operating hours.
“Overall, as the time that the border checkpoints are operating are now longer, tourists and residents will not need to rush there at a certain period of time, so they can arrange their own time relatively better,” he told a radio programme.
Under the policy, the Shenzhen Bay checkpoint has remained open round the clock from last Friday until Tuesday, while the Lo Wo crossing’s extended operations wrapped up on Sunday.
Both crossings typically close at midnight under the regular arrangement, with only Shenzhen Bay being open 24 hours a day for freight vehicles.
On Sunday, the Post observed hundreds of travellers heading to the mainland through the Lo Wu checkpoint after gathering to watch the city’s Lunar New Year fireworks.
Lau, who represents the New Territories North constituency, said the arrangement was a good start and hoped it would be used for future holidays celebrated in Hong Kong and on the mainland.
The legislator also suggested extending standard opening hours at checkpoints, noting the Lok Ma Chau spur line typically closed at 10.30pm each day and could be changed to midnight.
The change would bring the crossing in line with arrangements at the Lo Wu control point, which is connected by the East Rail line, he added.
“The amount of people at the Lok Ma Chau spur line is basically the same as Lo Wu, and once you cross to the opposite Futian control point, you have buses, taxis and most importantly railways,” Lau said.
He also brushed aside concerns that more convenient crossing arrangements for mainland tourists would discourage overnight stays in the city and fail to benefit the local economy.
The problem was a “chicken and egg” situation, with more tourists likely to capitalise on extended crossing hours if a large number of businesses were willing to stay open for longer, the lawmaker added.
“If the arrangements can be done better overall, I think Hong Kong businesses will naturally open their stores later to accommodate the flow of people when they see it,” he said.
The city’s Transport Department warned of heavy traffic on the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge at about 2pm on Monday, with crowds of tourists waiting to board shuttle buses to take them across.
The warning came ahead of a Lunar New Year parade and a fireworks display on Monday evening in the casino hub.