Guides seek clarity on ‘coerced shopping’ law
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.