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China limits visits to Hong Kong to ease tension

Hong Kong authorities have confirmed that China will limit the number of its residents visiting the city with immediate effect. The influx of visitors from the Shenzhen city has been a cause of tension in Hong Kong.

Residents of China's southern border city Shenzhen can now only make one visit a week to Hong Kong compared to an unlimited number of daily trips previously, Chinese state news agency Xinhua said Monday. Their trips will be controlled by the Ministry of Public Security's Exit-Entry Administration, it added.

Millions of people from mainland China visit the semi-autonomous Chinese city every day, which has caused congestion on public transport and pushed up prices.

Hong Kong's residents have held rallies in the past to protest against the influx.

The new policy would affect 4.6 million travelers, which makes up nearly 10 percent of the annual 47 million visitors from China.

Hong Kong's Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying confirmed the decision on Monday, saying "anything that increased tension between Hong Kong and mainland society is not tolerated."

Illegal trading

Leung said the restrictions were proposed by his government, which were then adopted by Beijing. The decision was not easy to make, added the chief executive of the former British colony.

The move is also aimed at curbing "parallel trading" in which the visitors buy valuable items in Hong Kong and sell them in China. Leung, however, admitted that the travel restriction would not completely end the practice, but his government would continue to crack down on illegal activities.

Hong Kong's leader also warned against targeting mainland visitors and further protests, describing them as "counter-productive."

Some Chinese citizens have criticized the travel restrictions as unjust.

Hong Kong was returned to China by Great Britain in 1997 under a so-called "one country, two systems" agreement that envisaged a high degree of autonomy for the global financial hub.

Last year, the city was hit hard by a

pro-democracy movement

that demands reforms in the electoral system for the city's chief executive post.

shs/jil (AFP, Reuters)

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