Hong Kong in Talks With China to Open Border, Report Says
(Bloomberg) -- Hong Kong is in advanced discussions with Chinese officials about potentially reopening their shared border, according to local media reports, as the former British colony pushes to overcome the mainland’s hesitancy to revive travel crucial to the city’s economy.
Experts from both sides are expected to soon hold a second meeting with a final decision on the resumption of travel imminent, the Sing Tao newspaper reported on Wednesday, citing unidentified people. It gave no details on a potential timeframe for reopening.
Discussions are now focused on whether Hong Kong could adopt a mainland-style health code system that would classify people green, yellow or red. Only those with a green pass would be cleared to travel to the mainland, according to the paper. A quota for quarantine-free travel could be initially imposed, the paper said, adding officials were also considering a “circuit-breaker” to immediately suspend the system in an emergency.
Limited border travel could resume as soon as the end of the year or in the first quarter of 2022, said Michael Tien, a pro-government politician in the city’s Legislative Council and a Hong Kong deputy to China’s National People’s Congress. Travel may first be limited to within neighboring Guangdong province with a daily quota of perhaps a few hundred people, he said in an interview on Wednesday.
Even the partial resumption of cross-border travel would be a major economic boost for Hong Kong, which has sought to kickstart cross-border travel for months with little success as Beijing pursued a so-called “Covid Zero” strategy that prioritized containment over opening up.
While the mainland is still seeing some virus outbreaks, Hong Kong has basically eliminated local transmission by imposing some of the world’s strictest Covid-19 travel restrictions. Incoming residents face mandatory hotel quarantines as long as 21 days even if vaccinated.
The city’s leaders have for months prioritized reopening the border with the mainland over resuming international travel, prompting frustration among many business groups. At the same time, Hong Kong authorities have said it’s not clear what metrics would convince mainland officials to allow freer travel to China.
Bernard Chan, an advisor to Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, told Bloomberg in late September that the city’s “hands are tied” when it comes to travel policies and that there was no clear set of steps the finance hub can take or goals it can achieve to convince China to reopen the border.
On Tuesday, Lam told a group of executives that “business needs will take precedence over individual tourists,” once travel ties resume, according to the South China Morning Post. She added that there will be quotas and conditions once travel does restart, the paper reported.
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.