HONG KONG — A male tourist in Hong Kong was killed following a scuffle outside a store in Kowloon on Monday, prompting concerns that the incident might serve as yet another blow to the city’s reputation as a shopping mecca for Mainland Chinese tourists.
“At about 10:57 a.m. yesterday, police received a report that two women were fighting in a shop on Man Lok Street in Hung Hom. Police sped to the scene and located a 54-year-old man lying unconsciously outside the shop,” Hong Kong police said. “Initial investigations revealed that while two women aged 32 and 53 were fighting over shopping affairs, the man stepped in to mediate and was attacked by others.”
Authorities said they arrested four people, two women and two men, for their alleged roles in the incident. The injured man died Tuesday morning, police confirmed.
According to local press reports, the incident occurred outside a jewelry store and the altercation came about because the tourists were on a “forced shopping tour.” Such tours, in which operators offer extremely cheap trips for Mainland Chinese tourists but shuttle them between shops for the majority of the time in exchange for commission, were made illegal by Mainland China in 2013.
On Thursday, Hong Kong’s chief executive Leung Chun-ying commented that the government was seriously concerned about the incident.
“We must, must protect the reputation of Hong Kong as a welcoming place to tourists….whether it is this incident or as everyone knows the protests that happen frequently in the New Territories.”
The New Territories district of Hong Kong borders Mainland China and has been the site of frequent protests from groups who say that Mainland Chinese tourists are overburdening the city’s infrastructure.
Leung added that while a regulatory bureau can step up its scrutiny of the sector, “the damage Hong Kong’s image has already been done.”
Forrest Chan, director of consumer research at China Construction Bank International, said although the incident is concerning, it is unlikely to seriously affect the already beleaguered sector.
“Initially, there has been some negative response in China in terms of the general public’s perception but all this, in my view, is this is a single event and I don’t think it’s going to be a long-term impact,” Chan said. “We have seen some statements made by Mainland Chinese government bureaus so we also have to see if they are taking any action to restrict the number of group tours to Hong Kong but I don’t think it’s likely going to implement any kind of new policy.”
On Tuesday, China’s National Tourism Administration said it was “seriously concerned” about the case and urged Hong Kong authorities to protect the rights of Mainland Chinese tourists.
CCBI’s Chan said that structural factors such as the strong U.S. dollar, which the Hong Kong dollar is pegged to, and competition from other tourist destinations were much more critical.
Aside from the dropping Mainland Chinese tourist spending in the city, he forecast local spending to be depressed in the upcoming months.
“Quite a large population is employed by the retail industry and the retail industry is weak,” Chan said. “Combined with the negative wealth effect from the volatility in equity markets as well as the slowdown in the property market, I think domestic [Hong Kong] consumers are going to show some weakness.
“If you look at the Hang Seng Index, the volatility we have seen has been quite negative for domestic consumption. A lot of people have lost money in the stock market and the property market has peaked and is starting to go down,” he added.