A plan to halve the daily flow of Hong Kong’s 10,000 cross-border trucks into mainland China has been put on hold following warnings from the industry that it would strangle the city’s economic recovery and heap fresh misery on workers.
Shenzhen authorities had proposed the restrictions to prevent Covid-19’s spread, but reportedly agreed to a reprieve after meeting Hong Kong transport officials and representatives from the city’s trucking industry on Tuesday.
Despite the resolution, truckers feared the plan would soon resurface if the coronavirus threat in Guangdong province worsened, with the Shenzhen City Port Office said to have only committed to carrying out further studies of the scheme.
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Stanley Chiang Chi-wai, chairman of the Hong Kong Land Transport Council, said: “We all opposed this plan. We think this is not fair to Hong Kong’s cross-border truckers and this is unacceptable.
“After listening to our views, the Shenzhen authorities decided to put it on hold for the moment for further study.”
The Shenzhen authorities originally proposed halving the daily flow of the city’s 10,000 cross-border trucks to contain the spread of the pandemic.
Under the plan, those with even number plates could only operate on days of the month that were also even, with the reverse applying for odd numbers. About 600 to 700 trucks carrying fresh produce would be exempt.
It was raised after a 60-year-old cross-border trucker from Hong Kong was found in Shenzhen to be infected with the coronavirus, resulting in the evacuation of the building where he lived in Lo Wu, and the compulsory testing of about 2,900 residents in the district.
At present, the city’s cross-border truckers must submit a health certificate confirming they had tested negative for the coronavirus in the previous 72 hours. Upon entering they are required to take a Covid-19 test at the mainland’s border port.
Over the past year, the city’s cross-border truckers had taken more than 800,000 Covid-19 tests, yielding just one confirmed case, Chiang said.
“The cross-border truckers have already been subjected to very stringent anti-epidemic measures and so far there is only one infection,” he said.
“We think that there’s no sign of any upwards trend of infections from cross-border truckers so the Shenzhen authorities have no justification in imposing this measure.”
Chiang warned of the severe blow to the livelihoods of more than 10,000 cross-border truckers and many sectors in Hong Kong, while the supply of non-essential goods would be seriously affected should the Shenzhen authorities eventually go ahead with the plan.
“The truckers will see their income greatly reduced by half and many may lose their jobs,” he said.
“Many sectors also rely on cross-border truckers to transport goods for their business operation such as construction and delivery sectors. This proposal would greatly undermine Hong Kong’s economy as a whole.”
According to the Census and Statistics Department, the mainland is Hong Kong’s largest supplier of goods and the city’s biggest export market, with land the second most popular transport mode after air.
In 2019, 37 per cent of the city’s HK$4.41 trillion imports and 43 per cent of HK$3.98 trillion exports were transported by land.
However, Chan Dik-sau, chairman of the Container Transportation Employees General Union, expressed concern that the Shenzhen authorities might restore the plan if the number of imported cases in Guangdong increased.
“I don’t rule out this possibility. Since late March the Guangdong authorities have been tightening anti-epidemic measures on cross-border truckers and we’ve been feeling suffocated by these measures,” he said.
He pointed out that due to Covid-19 control measures, about 2,000, or 20 per cent, of cross-border truckers had quit their jobs, leaving about 10,000 in the industry.
Chan also warned many transport firms would close down and the prices of goods would shoot up if the plan was restored.
He also called on Hong Kong authorities to list cross-border truckers as a priority group for Covid-19 vaccination when it is available in the city, to support the safe operation of their work and the reopening of borders.
The Post has contacted the Transport and Housing Bureau for comments.
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