Expanded scheme will open mainland border to more cars

Mainland authorities will let more private cars travel between Hong Kong and China as they strive to promote freer movement within the Greater Bay Area.

The Transport Department said this month that the Guangdong Provincial Public Security Department will introduce new management measures on the quota system for Guangdong-Hong Kong cross-boundary private cars. Applications will be easier starting from April 15.

The Guangdong authorities are now relaxing the investment, tax and donation requirements and expanding the scope of eligibility. The Transport Department said the move aims “to foster the economic and social development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area.”

For years, there was a quota system for licence plates given to private cars that allow them to travel between Hong Kong and China. Applicants need to meet certain criteria to get a quota place.

“The new measure can promote greater movement of people and goods, but the quota system should be kept to prevent Hong Kong’s traffic from overcapacity,” said Yuan Zhimin, vice president of the Guangdong Federation of Industry and Commerce.

Investment threshold, mountain issues, gone

Under the new measure, applicants will not need to face the investment threshold. The taxation threshold in mountainous and non-mountainous areas will also be aligned.

Companies that paid at least CNY150,000 in taxes in Guangdong Province in the past year can apply for one quota place.

In the past, applicants had to show investments of US$1 million in a business entity in urban Guangdong and pay annual taxes of at least CNY300,000 or have invested US$400,000 in a business entity in rural Guangdong and pay annual taxes of CNY150,000.

The new measure also means that individuals who donate CNY3 million in total as well as social organisations with charitable contributions amounting to CNY10 million will be eligible to apply for one quota place.

Ph.D. drivers

More people are also covered in the quota management system and will be eligible to apply for one quota place. They include academicians of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Academy of Engineering who are currently working in Hong Kong, current vice-chancellors of the universities in Hong Kong, as well as Hong Kong, Taiwanese or foreign holders of A Superior Talent Cards.

The Guangdong authorities will also strengthen quota management to combat speculation and illegal use of quota places.

Black drivers

Demand for the scarce dual licence plates has been great. A black market has emerged with a single plate selling for between CNY700,000 and CNY1.1 million, or rented for CNY10,000 per month.

Under the new measure, licence plates granted under the investment category will be valid for one year, while those granted under the categories of talents and qualified office holders will be valid for five years.

Holders of licence plates granted under the investment category cannot change vehicles within three years or drivers within one year.

And those who use their cross-boundary private cars for illegal immigration, illegal car hiring or smuggling activities, who are involved in transferring, selling or hiring quota places, or who obtain quota places by deception or bribery will have their dual licence plates revoked.

The mainland authorities have been rolling out new policies to promote integration within the Greater Bay Area.

Last month, a new round of tax incentives was introduced to lure talent from Hong Kong and abroad to work in the GBA. Special subsidies will be allowed to offset individual income tax differentials between China and Hong Kong. The move aims to keep income tax as low as what employees would pay in Hong Kong, which is capped at 17 percent.

Those eligible for the subsidies include talent and professionals that are in short supply in the bay area. The subsidies will be exempted from paying individual income tax as well.