Following the reopening of mainland borders, Hong Kong is witnessing a surge of enthusiastic travellers eager to visit. While desperate retailers are expecting a boost in their revenue, some “unscrupulous businessmen” have also spotted the business opportunity to hop on a gravy train.
The problem of “mainland beggars” is in the limelight again as netizens were alerted to a surge in begging activities on streets after the borders reopened. Netizens have complained on social media platforms, saying that the number of beggars on the streets has drastically increased recently, with most of these beggars suspected to be mainlanders as they speak Mandarin.
Multiple media outlets have followed up on the issue, and a local investigative reporting program, “Scoop,” revealed that some Mandarin-speaking beggars might belong to an organised conglomerate, which hires disabled mainlanders to beg for alms in Hong Kong. These beggars with miserable experiences or disabilities even traveled across the city to beg for money.
Begging activities are especially rampant in a couple of hotspots, including Sheung Shui, Mong Kok, and Tsim Sha Tsui. These locations are popular among beggars because of the high pedestrian flow. Residents living near these areas have expressed their grievances and discontent toward the situation, noting that more beggars are back in business after such activities died down during the pandemic.
I am seeing a lot more beggars on the streets after our borders with the mainland reopened. It’s very disturbing to see begging activities resurface – honestly speaking, I don’t even like the idea of reopening our borders with the mainland. These two-way permit holders just earn a living by pretending to be disabled. Can’t they just find a proper job?
– Mrs. Cheung, A resident living in Mong Kok
[Donating] will put a premium on such begging activities, so I won’t be paying them a single buck. Why can’t they beg for alms on the mainland? They are exploiting locals’ compassion, while I highly doubt if they’re in need.
– Yi Chai, A resident living in the Yau Tsim Mong District
To address the issue, the police have stepped up patrols and enforcement actions with the Immigration Department at various begging black spots. Additionally, the force is also in contact with its mainland counterpart to step up the interception of entry of any individuals suspected of coming to Hong Kong to engage in illegal activities. The situation will be monitored closely, and needy cases will be referred to the Social Welfare Department for follow-up actions.
According to the police force, as of Feb. 26, a total of nine people have been arrested for allegedly begging on the streets of Hong Kong, of which seven of them are holders of two-way permits (travel documents issued to mainlanders to enter Hong Kong). During our inspection of a couple of begging activities’ black spots in the week of Feb. 27, we did not spot any beggars, which could be explained by the officials’ increased effort in tackling the problem.
The issue dates back to 2004 and was brought up for discussion at the Legislative Council again in 2016. Speaking to reporters in February, Commissioner of Police Raymond Siu said officers have been keeping watch on the black spots and would “take resolute action to enforce the law” when they spot any illegal begging activities.
Under the Summary Offences Ordinance, any person who places themselves in any public place, street, or waterway to beg or gather alms can face a fine of HK$500 and up to 12 months imprisonment.
(Featured Image Credit: Celine Chan)