Hong Kong residents to get equal rights in key areas on the mainland, report states

Report coincides with call by President Xi Jinping to make it easier for locals to study and work over border

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 August, 2017, 11:53pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 August, 2017, 11:59pm

Beijing is planning to offer Hongkongers the same privileges as their mainland counterparts when studying, working or living across the border, starting with education, finding jobs, and some social benefits.

The announcement, in a report issued by the official ­Xinhua news agency on Wednesday, coincided with calls by President Xi Jinping to make it “more ­convenient” for Hongkongers to “study, work and live on the mainland” so that the city could take advantage of national development opportunities.

It also came as Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor wrapped up her four-day visit to the capital focusing on forging closer ties.

The Xinhua report said students from the city could get free education as well as more help in securing jobs, but those working or living on the mainland would have to wait longer for other ­benefits such as medical care.

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In provinces and cities with a substantial population of Hongkongers, the education ministry would support local authorities to roll out measures and regulations to “create conditions” that would allow students to receive free ­education, Xinhua said, citing an unnamed official from the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office.

Macau residents would also be entitled to all the same privileges in provinces such as Guangdong, Fujian and Zhejiang, as well as Shanghai and Beijing. But the report did not specify when or how the measures would be ­implemented.

Hongkongers are currently not entitled to free education on the mainland because of resi­dency rules, but in April, neighbouring Shenzhen relaxed the regulations to allow students from Hong Kong or Macau to apply to study in government-funded schools. The aim was to ease the pressure on Hong Kong schools near the border swamped with Hong Kong-born children of mainland parents.

Last year, the education ministry also instructed higher education institutes on the mainland to offer more assistance to Hong Kong students looking for jobs or seeking medical services.

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In June, tertiary institutions were asked to offer more guidelines to help Hong Kong graduates navigate red tape in securing jobs on the mainland.

The Xinhua report also said policies would be worked out to make it more convenient for Hongkongers to work in mainland companies.

It quoted the official as saying measures were also in the pipeline for Hong Kong residents to live on the mainland or travel there. That would include the ­installation of new card readers at train stations for Hongkongers to use their home-return permits to purchase train tickets via ­automatic machines.

This year, 2,500 Hong Kong students applied for places at mainland universities. The number of Hong Kong residents working on the mainland grew from 122,300 in 1995 to 175,100 in 2011. An estimated 200,000 Hong­kongers currently work there.