China has announced it is cutting telephone rates to Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan by 30 per cent - the second major reduction in mainland long-distance charges in less than a year. The new rates will apply from July 1 - the day of the handover. The cost of calling the three areas from Beijing will fall to about 8.10 yuan (about HK$7.52) a minute from about 11.60 yuan, according to officials. In November last year, China lowered the cost of international telephone calls by an average 30 per cent while raising domestic charges to balance revenues. Putting the two rate reductions together means the cost of a Beijing-Hong Kong call will have fallen by about 45 per cent in less than a year. The Hong Kong-China route is one of the busiest in the world. Hongkong Telecom's international monopoly means all this traffic has to pass through its gateway, meaning it is likely to be one of the main beneficiaries of the price cuts. Traffic from China is estimated by analysts to be the largest proportion of the long-distance incoming call market. Hongkong Telecom and China Telecom (the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications' operational arm) yesterday launched a series of commemorative handover telephone cards for use on the mainland and Hong Kong.