HONG KONG (CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - A series of new policies will make it more convenient for Hong Kongers to live in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area, including equal rights to buy property in the nine Guangdong cities in the region, Hong Kong's top leader said on Wednesday (Nov 6).
After the third plenary meeting of the leading group for the development of the Bay Area held in Beijing, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced 16 policies that will make it easier for the people of Hong Kong and Macau to live, work, study and start businesses across the 11-city cluster.
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government welcomed the series of policy measures, which can benefit people from different sectors of Hong Kong society, Mrs Lam said.
One of the most noticeable policies is that Hong Kong and Macau residents will be treated as local residents when they buy properties in the nine Guangdong cities. Currently, they have to provide proof of their duration of residence, study or employment, or pay a certain amount of individual income tax and social insurance.
Meanwhile, the children of Hong Kong and Macau residents will share the same pre-primary education services, and participate in the same entrance examination for senior high school admittance as their mainland peers.
In addition, it will be easier for Hong Kong residents to use the mobile electronic payment services on the mainland, as well as cross-boundary wealth management and open mainland bank accounts. These measures could also further promote financial cooperation between the two places, Mrs Lam said.
Local young people will be the first to benefit. Mr Angus Ng, executive president of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area Youth Association, said he believes that relaxing the purchase restriction provides a way to ease the plight of young Hong Kongers caused by the city's staggering housing prices.
Mr Ng also said that effective control measures should be taken to avoid a sharp rise in mainland housing prices, which would adversely affect local mainland residents' property purchases.
There are five policies and measures to support professional services, including legal, construction and insurance professionals, to practice in the mainland or to develop their businesses.
These policies, as well as the visa policies, reflect the determination of the Bay Area to pool top talents around the globe and create an international science and innovation hub, Mr Ng said.
The Shenzhen-Hong Kong Innovation and Technology Cooperation Zone at the Lok Ma Chau Loop will help attract more innovation and technology talents from both the mainland and overseas.
He hopes that Hong Kong's entrepreneurs and technology practitioners can find the right position and maximise their advantages in the Bay Area.
"We need to fully understand the policies not only in Hong Kong, but also in Guangdong province, and make full use of the policy support for the flow of talents, capital, goods, information, and so forth," Mr Ng said.
In addition, foreigners holding Hong Kong Permanent Identity Cards will be able to apply to mainland authorities for a visa or permission for residence with a validity of up to two to five years.
The measure will enhance the synergy effect of gathering talents in various cities of the Bay Area, strengthen Hong Kong's role as a talent hub for the region, and attract talents from around the world, said Mrs Lam.
"It's certainly positive that a policy like this targets specifically foreign permanent residents in Hong Kong," said Mr Tobias Zuser, an Austrian university lecturer in Hong Kong who plans to get his Hong Kong Permanent ID next week. "At the moment, there are some areas where they seem to be a forgotten community, which has hindered further integration."
Mr Zuser is a frequent traveller between Hong Kong and the mainland, as he had to do some fieldwork across the boundary. However, he can apply only for one-year visas.
Foreigners in Hong Kong face inconveniences as well, he said. "For instance, when it comes to using a cross-boundary online payment systems or booking and retrieving train tickets," Mr Zuser said.
If these barriers can be gradually lifted, it certainly will contribute to increased mobility of both Chinese and non-Chinese talents across the Bay Area, he added.
However, if the government hopes to attract more talents, they have to do more, he stressed. The new programme is limited to foreign permanent residents, so it may not have a big impact on attracting new talents, as they would first have to live in Hong Kong for a minimum of seven years, he said.
"Maybe in the long term it could be considered to expand the scheme to include temporary residents as well," Mr Zuser said.