A plan to allow millions more mainland Chinese to visit Hong Kong was delayed Friday as the southern city said it needed to consult with Beijing over its ability to cope with the influx.
Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying said his government would hold talks with the mainland authorities to discuss the "capacity of Hong Kong to receive these additional visitors".
"I have reflected the Hong Kong people's concerns to the central government and the central government views these concerns seriously," he said.
The plan to loosen visa requirements for millions of people in mainland cities, including neighbouring Shenzhen, was supposed to take effect from Saturday but had been delayed by three weeks to allow for consultation, he said.
"We will use the coming three weeks to liaise with the central government," Leung told a press conference.
More than four million non-permanent residents of Shenzhen could be allowed to enter Hong Kong with multiple-entry visas for the first time under the plan.
Some reports said the total number of people affected by the looser rules could number up to 10 million, posing a logistical headache for the already crowded city of seven million people.
Hong Kong received 28.1 million mainland visitors last year, a 23.9 percent rise over the year before and almost 70 percent of total arrivals.
The influx is good news for retailers and restaurants but many residents of the former British colony complain it puts too great a strain on public services including hospitals and transport.
Security Minister Lai Tung-kwok said the three-week delay would allow mainland authorities to "properly respond to the Hong Kong situation", adding that visitors needed to "come here according to our handling capacity".
Hong Kong is a favourite shopping destination for visitors eager to stock up on Western luxury brands, and as a semi-autonomous region it also attracts those wanting a taste of freedoms not available on the mainland.