Throngs of cross-border travelers were trapped in large crowds last weekend while waiting to pass through buffer zones between Shenzhen and Hong Kong at local checkpoints, signaling the beginning of the hectic Spring Festival travel season.
Many outbound travelers spent more than an hour waiting in local buffer zones because of huge numbers of travelers and what some local media called slow entry inspections by Hong Kong border officials, Shenzhen Evening News reported yesterday.
Many travelers complained about a lack of efficient directions from Hong Kong immigration officers.
"Hong Kong doesn't separate ordinary travelers subject to manual inspections from travelers who are qualified to use e-channels," said a traveler surnamed Dong at Futian Checkpoint, who is qualified to use e-channels at the border. "All travelers were huddled together in the buffer zone. It took us half an hour to move less than 10 meters."
Hong Kong residents ideally should wait less than 15 minutes before reaching cross-border inspections and other travelers should wait less than 30 minutes, the Evening News reported, citing a service promise Hong Kong's immigration department made in 2011.
Officers at Hong Kong's Lok Ma Chau Spur Line Control Point, which connects with Futian Checkpoint, said they didn't expect last weekend's huge flood of travelers and weren't adequately prepared.
Shenzhen's border inspection department recorded 218 million cross-border travelers last year, an average of 599,000 per day.
Hong Kong's immigration department opened e-channels to mainland travelers last January, initially receiving praise for the service but later drawing criticism from travelers who said the number of e-channels was too small.
Hong Kong officials pledged at a government meeting last month to open more e-channels to mainland travelers this year.