Hmm... sometimes good ideas don't turn out so well.
Around 12,000 visitors from the mainland swept into Tuen Mun within three hours on Sunday, taking advantage of free bus rides offered by three big shopping centres.
The free Citybus tickets to the Shenzhen Bay checkpoint were first made available around two years ago to non-locals who buy goods between HK$500 and HK$1,500 at tmtplaza, V City and K-Point. The fare is normally HK$11.
The shopping centres might have done a roaring trade, but not everyone as pleased.
As the number of visitors from across the border has grown in the last six months, Tuen Mun residents complain about disruption to their daily lives, Roy Tam Hoi-pong, convenor of pressure body the Population Policy Concern Group, said.
There are similar complaints in other New Territories towns such as Sheung Shui, which have seen a boom in mainland visitors.
Residents had been enduring bus queues as long as 400 metres during weekends as non-locals swamped bus stops after their shopping, Tam said.
"The shopping centres are making profits at the expense of the interests of Tuen Mun residents," he said, demanding that the malls stop offering the free fares to mainland shoppers.
According to the group's observations, between 2pm and 5pm on Sunday about 100 buses on four routes that connected Tuen Mun with the border arrived at the town's bus terminal.
Since all the buses were packed, that meant 12,000 visited the centre, based on the estimate that each double-decker was filled to its 120 capacity.
In response, Citybus admitted it had increased the frequency of one route to every 10 minutes instead of every 15 minutes.
Tam said the higher frequency to the border had crowded out buses on other routes from the terminal, thus making residents wait longer in the queues. He also cited regulations which barred bus passengers from carrying on board articles exceeding 5kg and 0.1 cubic metres.
"The bus company has long failed to enforce the regulations strictly, which makes us wonder if it has made a deal with the shopping centres," he said.
Citybus said its drivers had the right to bar commuters who were overloaded with luggage. A spokesman said the company had set up separate queues for people with larger bags and had also placed a cap on the number of such passengers on each bus.
Tuen Mun district councillor Josephine Chan Shu-ying said: "We have long demanded the bus company limit the number of buses to malls, but its response has been to open a new route to V City recently."
The concern group said it would launch a petition on Saturday titled "mainlanders buy mainland goods" in protest at cross-border shopping for goods and food in Hong Kong.
The Sino Group and Sun Hung Kai Properties, which manage the malls, did not respond to requests for comment yesterday.