Visa-free access to border zone proposed

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 March, 2008, 12:00am

Executive councillor Leung Chun-ying has suggested giving mainland residents visa-free access to the proposed border development zone between Hong Kong and Shenzhen, where he said they should also be allowed to study and work.

He was speaking during a radio programme in Hong Kong yesterday.

There were several areas in the zone with potential for development, according to a Planning Department paper released two years ago, such as Heung Yuen Wai, Kong Nga Po and Lok Ma Chau Loop.

Mr Leung, who has put much effort into promoting closer Hong Kong-mainland ties, said an area of 20 sq km could be developed and another border checkpoint created at its southern end, but green belts should be retained. Exhibition and convention businesses, schools, medical services and high-end technology industries could also be developed in the zone, where mainland residents could enjoy services of the standard enjoyed in Hong Kong.

'Mainland residents could enjoy Hong Kong medical services with no visa barrier,' Mr Leung said, adding that the development zone should be managed under Hong Kong law and mainland residents could work and study there under certain restrictions.

They would be allowed to work in certain industries and study at certain schools, but he gave no further details.

Several proposals for the development of the area have been made in the past, and the Bauhinia Foundation, a think-tank with close ties to the administration, delivered a comprehensive proposal last year.

The foundation suggested that a 'special region within special regions' be established within the Lok Ma Chau Loop as a part of the Hong Kong-Shenzhen metropolis plan.

The proposal would allow for the free flow of people into and out of the area to facilitate business activities.

The think-tank even suggested setting up an authority to manage the zone, with 50 per cent of officials from Hong Kong and 50 per cent from Shenzhen.