Early bird applications filed for new ID card giving Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan residents in mainland China wide access to public services
Stations across the country open on first day of move to allow such residents almost same level of access as their mainland counterparts in areas such as employment and medical care
Applications went live on Saturday for a new identity card granting citizens of Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan access to a wide range of public services while living on the Chinese mainland, but the scheme was immediately branded a “political ploy” by Taiwanese authorities and fuelled concerns about double taxation.
Many applicants braved heavy rain in the region to submit their documents at designated centres, with Chinese state media saying Guangdong had received 1,061 applications by noon.
Beijing announced last month that people from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan who had been living, working or studying on the mainland for at least six months would be able to apply for the new smart cards. The cards will give holders almost the same rights as mainlanders in accessing 18 types of schemes and services.
The move has been hailed as a “breakthrough” by Hong Kong’s leader, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.
But Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council on Saturday branded the scheme a “political ploy” to belittle the self-ruled island. It warned Taiwanese that being registered under the mainland’s household management system would bring privacy concerns regarding the personal data on their applications.
The council said there was a need to avoid “duplicated resources” among the successful Taiwanese applicants, and threatened to review their social, unemployment and medical policies in Taiwan.
There were also concerns raised about the possibility of double taxation. Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions lawmaker Wong Kwok-kin said the attractiveness of the ID card had been undermined by the central government’s decision on Friday to tighten a tax rule. The amendment will require Hong Kong residents who stay or earn their main income on the mainland for more than 183 days a year to pay tax on any other earnings around the world. Previously only earnings on the mainland were taxed.
However, Hong Kong’s political advisers to Beijing say there is a five-year window to lobby for an exemption.
Wong, who helped nine Hongkongers in Guangzhou apply for the smart card on Saturday, said: “The application aims to help build Hongkongers’ national identity ... but the new scheme is far more attractive to Taiwanese.”
Hongkonger Patrick Ho, 22, who studies at Sun Yat-sen University’s campus in Zhuhai, and a Taiwanese retiree who only wanted to be identified as Zheng, were among the early birds submitting their applications at Tangjia police station. Both men finished their registrations within 10 minutes.
“It will make my life much more convenient,” Ho said.
He exited the police station with a certificate saying the new card would take 20 working days to process.
Life in China has increasingly become reliant on digital platforms, most of which require an 18-digit ID to access. The old home return permit held by Hongkongers only has an eight-digit code.
Wong said the card would be more attractive to Taiwanese university graduates, who had relatively low earning potential on the island as fresh recruits.
“So 5,000 to 6,000 yuan [US$730 to US$880] to them is quite something. But it may not sound that attractive to Hong Kong graduates who may be getting about HK$10,000 [US$1,270],” he said.
Tangjia police station is one of 386 locations across Guangdong province handling applications. Another 4,314 public security stations across 22 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions also began taking applications on Saturday, as well as 1,217 service counters in Fujian province.
Two police stations in Beijing reportedly could not process applications as their computer systems were not ready.
The new cards grant access to services that include those relating to employment, social insurance and housing fund schemes, as well as basic medical care.
Zheng, who has lived in Zhuhai for two years, said his application required a home rental certificate, travel document and his photograph.
“I wanted to apply on the first day because I have been waiting for this for a long time,” said Zheng, who travels frequently between the mainland city and Taiwan.
“I don’t mind giving my fingerprints and other personal data to the mainland authorities – it is quite common in other jurisdictions.”
He said he now considered Zhuhai his home, and had bought residential and commercial properties there. The first thing he would do after obtaining the ID would be to apply for a credit card, he said.
About 520,000 Hongkongers live in Guangdong, and more than 15,000 Hong Kong students are studying at universities on the mainland.
Meanwhile there are about 500,000 Taiwanese working or living on the mainland and about 17,000 students studying there.
Wong said Friday’s tax rule change would deter a “sizeable” portion of Hongkongers from seeking the new permits until mainland authorities clarified the law.
“Some Hongkongers may be worried that once they file for a permit, mainland authorities will easily trace their whereabouts and have them pay a higher tax rate,” Wong said.
Yung Wei-peng, a casino worker in Macau, said he did not want to apply for the ID card.
“I mainly work in Macau,” he said. “If I need to pay 20 per cent tax after getting this new card, that’s not acceptable.”
Jane Zhang is reporting from Zhuhai