Border quota push for 'dying' business sector

Hong Kong should set aside a quota of 500 for businessmen to travel to the mainland in its latest "reverse quarantine" plan, and reopen international borders to offer the dying business sector "a way out."

In making the call, Chinese Manufacturers' Association president Allen Shi Lop-tak said that "after finishing quarantine in Hong Kong, we would not be denied access to the mainland because of limited quota, which will lead to many unfair situations or even 'scalping.'"

The "reverse quarantine" received preliminary approval by the mainland last week, after Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu held an online meeting with Guangdong and Shenzhen officials.

Shi also called for the abolition of hotel quarantines for overseas arrivals in time for the International Financial Investment Summit to be held in November its replacement with a "0+7" arrangement.

As many countries have already opened their borders, Shi said, if Hong Kong maintains its current measures, its competitiveness and reputation will be undermined.

Shi said a way out for the sector is crucial, as clampdowns are taking a toll on the business environment.

And he believes that if the SAR takes the lead in reopening borders, it provides the mainland with a possible template and data for considering reopening its border with the SAR.

Travel-industry workers suggested temporary jobs be offered to them in the reverse quarantine facility - like the Lok Ma Chau isolation center - as some of them have been jobless for over 2 years.

Lam Chi-ting, executive director of Hong Kong Tourism Industry Employees' General Union, said over 20,000 workers are out of work.

Some have been hired by community vaccination centers and isolation facilities like Penny's Bay, where around 700 are on half-year contracts at HK$18,000 per month.

Lam believes skills required by reverse quarantine and vaccination centers are similar, and training holds the key for his members.

"A temporary position is better than a career change," he said, since "there may be no way to return to tourism in the future" after a switch.

Most have become guards, with some hoping to return to the industry but losing confidence in its stability.

There are currently 300 to 400 agencies organizing local tours and booking air tickets, but the number of workers are only 1,000 to 2,000.