Guides seek clar­ity on ‘co­erced shop­ping’ law

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - TOP NEWS - By WILLA WU in Hong Kong willa@chi­nadai­lyhk.com

Hong Kong’s tourist guides on Thurs­day urged the govern­ment to clar­ify the le­gal re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of dif­fer­ent stake­hold­ers for mal­prac­tices un­der a re­cently pro­posed law de­signed to im­prove reg­u­la­tion on the tourism in­dus­try.

They said the pro­posed Travel In­dus­try Bill has am­bigu­ous def­i­ni­tions of co­erced shop­ping and tourist pro­tec­tion, which might lead to trou­ble for front­line tour guides.

In the bill sub­mit­ted to the leg­is­la­ture on Dec 13, the govern­ment pro­posed im­pos­ing harsher penal­ties, in­clud­ing up to one year’s im­pris­on­ment for tour guides and travel agents in­volved in co­erc­ing tourists into shop­ping. The cur­rent penal­ties for such mis­con­duct are fines and li­cense sus­pen­sions.

The Hong Kong Tour Guides Gen­eral Union (TGGU) or­ga­nized a con­sul­ta­tion among 192 lo­cal tour guides on the bill on Dec 20. They found that the am­bigu­ous def­i­ni­tion of “co­erced shop­ping” was the tour guides’ ma­jor con­cern.

Meet­ing re­porters on Thurs­day, Chair­man of the TGGU Wong Ka-ngai said tour guides of­ten fol­low the itin­er­ary com­piled by the travel agents and have no right to change the agenda. How­ever, be­cause tour guides — rather than travel agent bosses — have di­rect con­tact with tourists, more than 90 per­cent of tourists’ com­plaints are about their guides, Wong added.

Tour guide Chui Yuk said they were also con­cerned about which com­ments or be­hav­ior might be con­sid­ered as “co­erced shop­ping”. This is be­cause the bill has no guide­lines on this.

Solic­i­tor Phyl­lis Kwong Ka-yin agreed that there was am­bi­gu­ity. She told China Daily that any law should be pre­cise and clear in set­ting out what be­hav­ior could lead to le­gal li­a­bil­ity. She sug­gested the govern­ment list guide­lines to de­fine “co­erced shop­ping”.

Joseph Tung Yiu-chung, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Travel In­dus­try Coun­cil of Hong Kong, the tourism in­dus­try’s au­tho­rized self-reg­u­la­tory body, wel­comed the bill.

Tung said the coun­cil would en­cour­age tour guides to re­port any un­fair treat­ments from travel agents. Tung noted that pre­vi­ously the coun­cil had urged tour guides to do so but had re­ceived few re­ports.

Mean­while, the bill re­quires that “a tourist guide must take all rea­son­able steps to safeguard the safety and in­ter­est” of any tourists.

But Wong Ka-ngai con­tended that the scope of “all rea­son­able steps” was too wide. Solic­i­tor Kwong agreed that “all rea­son­able steps” should be clar­i­fied and iden­ti­fied.

The image of Hong Kong’s tourism in­dus­try has been se­ri­ously dam­aged due to ear­lier mal­prac­tices and scan­dals, such as tour guides forc­ing tourists to shop and also un­der-the-ta­ble deals with some sou­venir stores. Last year, a man died af­ter clash­ing with a tour guide in a dis­pute over forced shop­ping out­side a jew­elry shop in Hung Hom.

on av­er­age await or­gan trans­plants each year in China.

The cum­ber­some reg­is­tra­tion is a ma­jor hur­dle, the study sug­gested. Un­til now, those wish­ing to sign up had to lo­cate the of­fice to reg­is­ter, then fill out as many as 14 pieces of per­sonal in­for­ma­tion.

By com­bin­ing vol­un­tary reg­is­tra­tion with in­ter­net ser­vices, the col­lab­o­ra­tion is likely to ex­ert a po­ten­tially pro­found ef­fect on so­cial mo­bi­liza­tion, Huang noted.

Oth­ers ex­pressed con­cern. Safety should never be com­pro­mised to con­ve­nience in the dona­tion process, said Gao Min, an or­gan dona­tion co­or­di­na­tor with the Shen­zhen branch of the Red Cross So­ci­ety of China.

“Here, we have strict pro­ce­dures and su­per­vi­sion of our med­i­cal staff to make sure the donor is able to reg­is­ter prop­erly. It cer­tainly takes longer than 10 sec­onds, and it should, when some­one has to col­lect so much im­por­tant in­for­ma­tion,” she said.

“Ten sec­onds seems like an ex­ag­ger­a­tion,” said An­drea Foo, a stu­dent at Shang­hai Amer­i­can School. “I am not sure if I would trust it, though. Let­ting a com­pany han­dle my med­i­cal in­for­ma­tion is not some­thing that’s 100 per­cent safe.”

China stopped us­ing or­gans from ex­e­cuted pris­on­ers on Jan 1, 2015, mak­ing vol­un­tary do­na­tions the only le­gal source for trans­plants.

Shan Juan and An­gela Ma con­trib­uted to this story.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

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