BEIJING (Reuters) - The Chinese government will "refresh" its policy on granting entry permits to its citizens wishing to visit the separately administered territory of Hong Kong, a state-run paper said on Thursday, amid mounting anger at hordes of mainland shoppers.
"We are talking with the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region's government about refreshing the policies covering visits," Zhou Bo, deputy head of China's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, told the official China Daily.
Zhou did not say when the talks would end, only that "it will not take a long time", the newspaper added.
Hong Kong people fume that mainland tourists crowd them out of malls and buy up all available supplies of daily necessities such as diapers and milk powder. Police have used pepper spray to break up confrontations as locals have cursed mainlanders, shouting at them to go back to China.
Zhou said that mainland visitors had been a great boost to the former British colony's economy, as well as for Macau, but that they had also become a heavy burden.
"Any city would be unable to host such a dramatically increased number of tourists," he said.
Tensions between Hong Kong residents and mainland Chinese have escalated in recent months due to an influx of cross-border visitors and perceptions over Beijing's increasing grip on the city.
More than 40 million mainland Chinese tourists visited Hong Kong last year, vastly outnumbering the city's population of 7.2 million.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has promised to raise concerns about Chinese tourists with central government authorities while he is in Beijing for the annual session of parliament.
A special administrative region of China, Hong Kong was returned to Chinese Communist Party rule in 1997 under a "one country, two systems" formula that gives it separate laws and an independent judiciary but leaves Beijing with ultimate authority.
Student-led pro-democracy protests shut down parts of the city for two and a half months last year as activists called for open nominations in the city's next chief executive election in 2017.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)