Hong Kongers who have been residing in China for months may now get a residency status that allows them to gain access to public services, living a life like other mainland citizens.
The Chinese central government promulgated a new policy to give residents from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan an “identity card”. Starting from September 1, residents from these places who have lived in China for over six months can apply for a residence permit.
To be eligible, they should have a stable job or a fixed address, or have studied for six months in a row.
Walk like a mainlander
Currently, Hong Kong citizens travel to China with the Home Return Permit, which is only a travel document. The new resident permit will serve as the Chinese identity card that can be scanned for using different services.
The “identity card” will arrive in 20 days once an application is filed with the local police.
Authorities said coming along with the resident permit are “three rights, six basic public services and nine conveniences.”
Holders of this permit can work in China, take part in social insurance, and deposit, withdraw and use the housing provident fund.
They can also gain access to compulsory education, public employment service, public healthcare, leisure facilities, public legal assistance and services, and more.
Furthermore, they can open bank accounts, stay at hotels normally reserved exclusively for mainland Chinese, register their vehicles and get a driving license, along with other measures that make living, studying and working in China easier.
“This new arrangement is a breakthrough and is comprehensive,” said Hong Kong’s chief executive Ms Carrie Lam.
“The policy will benefit the 520,000 Hong Kongers in Guangdong province, and over 15,000 Hong Kong students across China,” she added.
But talk like a Taiwanese
Mr Long Ming Bao, Vice Minister of Taiwan Affairs Office of China State Council, also added that Taiwanese applicants will not need to denounce their Taiwanese citizenship.
More to come
Other than the new arrangement on resident permits, mainland authorities are also mulling other measures to foster the integration between Hong Kong and China.
After returning from the first meeting on developing the Greater Bay Area held in Beijing, Ms Lam said on Wednesday that policies are taking shape to reduce mobile roaming charges among the bay area cities, allow residents from Hong Kong and Macau to open Chinese bank accounts, and allow Hong Kong-based mobile payment apps to be used in China.
On August 3, the State Council also abolished the permit for residents from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan to work in China.
The Greater Bay Area initiative is an effort to link eleven cities in Guangdong’s Pearl River Delta, including Hong Kong, Macau, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, together to become one single market and a regional powerhouse.
But hurdles arise as the bay area covers three separate legal jurisdictions. There have been calls for clearer and supportive policies to facilitate the flow of capital and people. And some just prefer their home jurisdiction services.
Mr Jack Shum, a Hong Konger working in Shenzhen, said while the resident permit certainly will make life easier for him, he would still prefer the public healthcare service in Hong Kong.
“It will be more convenient to use online services in China for sure, but I would still keep my healthcare insurance in Hong Kong and use the medical services there,” he said.
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