A series of new policies will make it easier for Hong Kongers to buy a home and send their children to local schools in the nine Guangdong cities included in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, Hong Kong’s top leader said Wednesday.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, speaking in Beijing after a meeting of the leading group for the development of the Greater Bay Area, said the leading group agreed to roll out 16 policies that will make it easier for Hong Kong and Macao people to live, work, study and start businesses across the 11-city cluster.
An important measure to benefit ordinary residents was the easing of restrictions on Hong Kong people buying homes in Guangdong.
“Many of these nine cities have purchase restrictions, specifying that Hong Kong people can only buy flats after living, working or studying there for a certain time, and paying tax,” she said.
“Some of these requirements will be waived, and Hong Kong people will enjoy the same treatment as residents of the mainland cities.”
Another key measure for Hong Kongers working in the nine cities is that they will be able to enroll their children in local schools if they prefer not to send them to international ones and their children can participate in the same entrance examination for senior high school admittance as their mainland peers.
“We will ensure their children enjoy the same education as mainland children,” Lam pledged.
Authorities will explore the establishment of a cross-border wealth management connect scheme, an initiative welcomed by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority.
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, Lam said.
To provide job opportunities across the border, mainland authorities will work on recognizing the professional qualifications of more Hong Kong lawyers and architects, as well as relaxing regulatory requirements for the city’s insurers.
On scientific research, mainland authorities pledged to support the plan to set up an innovation and technology park in the Lok Ma Chau Loop border area, and to make it easier to transfer biotechnological and medical samples from Hong Kong.
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 Greater Bay Area, strengthen Hong Kong’s role as a talent hub for the region and attract talents from around the world, said Lam.
Shih Wing-ching, co-founder of Centaline Property Agency, said the lifting of restrictions on home ownership would boost investment opportunities for Hong Kong people.
Finance sector lawmaker Ronick Chan Chun-ying also said the measure on homes would open up options for Hong Kong people. Taking Zhongshan City as an example, he said Hong Kongers were not allowed to buy new homes there under current restrictions.
National People’s Congress deputy Stanley Ng Chau-pei said the initiative on education was good news for Hong Kongers working on the mainland.
“Most of them have to bear high costs and send their children to private schools,” he said. “With the quality of education improving on the mainland, more parents would not mind sending their children to local schools if they could.”
“Lifting the restriction is quite significant, meaning a door to more choice for Hong Kong residents,” he said, adding that more people were considering buying properties in the bay area given its rosy prospects.
Chan said that although the initiative could do little to ease the strong local demand for homes in the short-run, it would encourage more elderly people to consider retiring in Guangdong in the coming decade – a time when a flood of retirees was expected in the ageing city.