A series of measures aiming to make Hong Kong people's lives on the Chinese mainland more convenient, including providing equal rights for them to buy properties in the nine mainland cities of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, were announced on Nov 6.
After the third plenary meeting of the leading group for the development of the Greater Bay Area held in Beijing, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor announced 16 policies that will make it easier for the people of the Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions to live, work, study and start businesses on the mainland, especially in the Greater Bay Area.
The SAR government welcomed the measures aimed at benefiting people from different sectors of Hong Kong society, Lam said.
One of the most noticeable policies is that Hong Kong residents will be treated as local residents when they buy properties in the nine Guangdong cities of the Bay Area. Currently, they have to provide proof of their duration of residence, study or employment, or pay a set amount of individual income tax and social insurance.
Meanwhile, children of Hong Kong and Macao residents will have access to the same pre-primary education and will be able to participate in the same high school entrance exams as their mainland peers.
In addition, it will be easier for Hong Kong residents to use mobile electronic payment services on the mainland.
They will also have access to cross-boundary wealth management services and be able to open mainland bank accounts.
Facing prohibitive housing prices — among the world's highest — many young people in Hong Kong have to wait decades to buy a property of their own. Angus Ng Hokming, executive president of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area Youth Association, said he believes that relaxing purchase restrictions provides a way to ease the plight of Hong Kong youth forced to rent apartments.
Fielding Chen Shiyuan, Hong Kong-based senior vice-president and economist at China Construction Bank (Asia), said the initiative may make more Hong Kong homebuyers consider the mainland market.
Chen said that in recent years, a growing number of Hong Kong residents have bought properties in first-tier cities such as Guangdong's Shenzhen.
He said the whole package of initiatives looks to eliminate barriers to better foster regional collaboration and integration in South China.
Such broad, fundamental changes to the systems covering major areas of Hong Kong people on the mainland will give them a sense of belonging and a place of settlement, he added.
Professionals to benefit
There are also six groups of policies and measures to support Hong Kong-based professionals, in such sectors as legal, construction and insurance, to practice on the mainland or to develop their businesses.
For the city's construction and engineering sector, the most noticeable measure is enabling qualified professionals to provide services across the mainland. Currently, they can only do so in Guangdong and Fujian provinces, as well as the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.
Lawmaker Lo Wai-kwok, who represents the city's engineering sector, said the new measures have opened a huge new market for Hong Kong professionals. In addition to first-tier cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, Lo said many smaller mainland cities have also generated huge demand for construction services amid the rapid urbanization of the mainland.
Another highlight of the new measures is relaxing the limitation on exporting human genetic material from the mainland to Hong Kong and Macao, which will definitely boost the development of Hong Kong's biotech sector, said Stanley Sy Ming-yiu, chief executive of Hong Kong biotech startup Sanomics.
Along with the rapid development of the emerging technology, there is a growing demand for overseas human genetic material among local institutions, especially those from the mainland, considering the virtually limitless samples and relatively low transportation costs, Sy said.
Yet to safeguard public health, the mainland has strict regulations on overseas organizations' use of biological material such as blood, saliva or stem cells. They are fundamental to life science studies and related research, he added.
By opening up the mainland's genetic materials to Hong Kong, he believes the city's research in this area will attain a higher level with more accurate and comprehensive studies.
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