英文

Editorial : Reopening of border to benefit people of two regions

【明報專訊】For more than a year the COVID-19 pandemic has wrought havoc on the world, and the border between Hong Kong and mainland China has been closed for 475 days. This has seriously disrupted Hong Kong's economy and interactions between residents of the two regions. The SAR government has repeatedly proposed the reopening of the border to no avail. Now Hong Kong has not registered a major case of unknown sources for 27 consecutive days. It is on the road to a zero-case situation. The SAR government should discuss the reopening of the border again with the mainland government as soon as possible. Given the fact that there are still uncertainties concerning the pandemic, the reopening should be conducted in a gradual and orderly manner, so that things will gradually return to their former state ultimately.

COVID-19 has brought about the most serious global pandemic to modern society. It has also caused the greatest inconvenience to travel between the mainland and Hong Kong unseen in decades. The XRL trains and ferries between the mainland and Hong Kong have been suspended, while the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge is being used by only a handful of vehicles. Only a small number of people go through the customs every day. In normal times, tens of thousands of mainland tourists come to Hong Kong to travel, visit their relatives and go shopping. That is not the case anymore. This has seriously affected the tourism, hotel, retail and catering industries, dealing a heavy blow to Hong Kong's economy.

There might have been even greater invisible impacts. Businesspeople who have factories on the mainland cannot manage their factories in person. Accountants cannot travel to the mainland to audit accounts. Investors cannot go to the mainland for business negotiations. Employees who live in Shenzhen cannot travel to Hong Kong for work every day as before. Students living across the border cannot go to school. Tours of the Pearl River Delta, which used to be organised every day, can no longer be arranged. Many Hong Kong citizens who have returned to the mainland to live their retirement lives could not regularly travel back to Hong Kong for follow-up medical consultations and medicines. The closure of the border has been an inexhaustible source of inconvenience.

The border between Hong Kong and the mainland began to be closed on January 30, 2020. Back then, the pandemic was severe on the mainland, but it was mild in Hong Kong. Then, in April and May, the pandemic on the mainland was brought under control gradually. In contrast, Hong Kong witnessed waves of intensifying outbreaks. Since last year, the tourism industry in mainland China has almost performed as well as before the pandemic in every major festival. However, as the pandemic continued in Hong Kong, its request for a reopening of the border has not been answered by the central government. Hong Kong can only stand in awe of the enormous spending power of mainlanders without being able to capitalise on it. Hong Kong residents stranded on the mainland can no longer communicate with their relatives and friends in Hong Kong in person.

For Hong Kong's recovery, all sectors in Hong Kong need mainland tourists. But we should not be overly hopeful that a reopening of the border will turn things around immediately. After all, there are many factors that affect the willingness of mainland residents to come to Hong Kong. The volatility of the pandemic, for example, makes some people unwilling to travel anywhere. It takes time and concrete incidents to restore confidence gradually. We can only wait for things to run their course. That said, the relevant departments should be proactive. They should step up efforts to publicise Hong Kong's anti-pandemic measures on the mainland and offer free consumption coupons as part of the promotion activities. It is also necessary for all sectors to co-operate with the government in order to boost the confidence of different levels of mainland authorities in the reopening of the border.

明報社評2021.05.21:適時商議逐步通關 造福兩地經濟居民

疫情橫掃全球一年多,香港與內地封關也達到475天,嚴重影響香港經濟以及居民往來。特區政府曾多番提出通關無果,現在香港已經連續27天沒有關鍵源頭不明個案,「清零」在望,特區政府應該盡快再次跟內地政府商議通關,由於疫情還存在不確定因素,應該採取循序漸進方式,逐步恢復到疫情前狀態。

這次疫情是現代社會最嚴重的一次全球病毒大流行,內地與香港也正在經歷幾十年來前所未有的出行不方便,高鐵停運,來往內地與香港的渡輪停駛,港珠澳大橋車輛屈指可數,關口進出人數寥寥無幾。平時每天數萬名來港旅遊、探親、購物的內地旅客不再,嚴重影響旅遊、酒店、零售以至餐飲行業,香港經濟受到嚴重打擊。

無形的打擊可能更甚,內地設廠的商人無法直接管理,會計師無法到內地審核帳目,投資者無法到內地洽談業務,平時住在深圳每天往來香港打工的職員無以為繼,跨境學童無法正常上課,疫前每天都舉辦的珠三角旅遊團也無法成行,很多回到內地過退休生活的香港市民,無法定時往來香港覆診取藥,各種不方便真的是「罄竹難書」。

香港與內地在2020年1月30日開始封關,當時是內地疫情嚴重,香港疫情輕微,及後到四五月份,內地疫情逐步得到控制,反而是香港疫情一波接一波的加劇,去年至今各個重大節日,內地旅遊業已經幾乎回復到疫情前的水平,由於香港疫情仍然不斷,即使香港向中央政府提出通關安排,但希望一直石沉大海,只能對龐大的內地旅客消費力望洋興嘆,而滯留內地的香港居民,也只能跟香港親友魚雁相通。

香港各行各業需要內地旅客來港帶動復蘇,但也不能過分寄望於通關能有起死回生的功效,畢竟有很多因素影響內地居民來港的意願,起碼疫情的不確定性也會令一部分人哪裏都不想去,而且信心是需要時間和實例逐步恢復的,只能順其自然,即使如此,有關部門也不能望天打卦,在內地加強宣傳香港的防疫措施,以及免費發放消費券等等推廣活動,也是必須,各行各業跟政府配合,才能增強內地各級政府對通關的信心。

■Glossary

生字

to/of no avail : without getting the effect you wanted or intended

road : the way to achieving sth

audit : when an accountant audits an organisation's accounts, he or she examines the accounts officially in order to make sure that they have been done correctly

上 / 下一篇新聞