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Greater Bay Area

Transport subsidies and an end to roaming costs needed to encourage Hongkongers to work in mainland China, former city minister tells Beijing

Raymond Tam, Hong Kong’s former constitutional and mainland affairs chief, says more can be done to take advantage of the Greater Bay Area economic integration plan

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 June, 2018, 6:54pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 June, 2018, 10:40pm

A former Hong Kong minister has proposed providing a transport subsidy and eliminating phone roaming charges to encourage Hongkongers to travel across the border to work in mainland China.

Raymond Tam Chi-yuen, who became a deputy to the National People’s Congress after stepping down as the city’s constitutional and mainland affairs chief last year, also renewed his call for a high-speed rail pass for Hong Kong young people to take unlimited rides around China.

Speaking in an interview with the RTHK on Sunday, Tam said Beijing’s “Greater Bay Area” plan, which aims at fostering social and economic integration between Hong Kong, Macau and nine neighbouring cities in Guangdong, would open up new job opportunities for all.

“If Hongkongers like to live in Hong Kong, and start their own businesses or work in the mainland at the same time … transportation could be expensive,” he said. “So we proposed to mainland officials that the government should offer … a large amount of discount and subsidy.”

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Currently, it costs at least HK$24 to travel from northern Hong Kong to Shenzhen on the MTR, and a bus journey between the two cities costs at least HK$40. It is more expensive to travel farther, as a ferry or coach journey from Hong Kong to Zhuhai costs HK$220 or HK$130, respectively.

Hong Kong university students should be allowed unlimited rides during the summer holiday … for just a few hundred Hong Kong dollars
Raymond Tam

When the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-­Hong Kong Express Rail Link starts operating in September this year, travellers going from Hong Kong to Guangzhou would have to pay HK$260 per trip. Fares to Futian in Shenzhen, Shenzhen North and Humen in Dongguan city were set at HK$80, HK$90, and HK$210, respectively.

The central government is expected to roll out its detailed plan for the Greater Bay Area later this year.

Tam believes that under the plan, there will be relatively cheaper flats in cities such as Zhuhai for young people from Hong Kong and Macau to rent. But he added that such flats would only be helpful if mainland companies, such as the tech giants, are hiring young people there, and if medical and telecommunication services are more reliable.

“If [young people] are travelling to the mainland, they are either unable able to connect with friends using Facebook or Instagram, or have to pay more than HK$100 in roaming charges per day,” he said. Beijing has blocked access to many overseas websites as part of what is commonly referred to as the “Great Firewall”.

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“So we also proposed that certain apps should be opened to Hongkongers in the bay area … that the roaming [charges] should be eliminated.”

In an interview with the Post in March, Tam said he intended to propose to Beijing ways to get more youngsters to cross the border, such as launching a high-speed rail pass for them to take unlimited rides within a fixed period for less than HK$1,000.

Tam said on Sunday that he has already submitted his proposal.

“Hong Kong university students should be allowed unlimited rides during the summer holiday … for just a few hundred [Hong Kong] dollars,” he said.