Qianhai beckons HK, Macau residents

Shenzhen’s special zone of Qianhai has rolled out a series of inventives and special measures aimed at attracting residents from Hong Kong and Macau. They cover a wide range of activities, such as home-buying, education, professional qualifications, and science and technology development.

Most attractive is that residents of Hong Kong and Macau will be treated the same as locals in buying apartments in Qianhai. A married couple will be able to buy up to two apartments with no restrictions, while a single person will be able to buy one.

The rest of the 12 initiatives are related to equalizing living and working conditions in the special zone, essentially making it no different than living and working in Hong Kong and Macau. For instance, children will have equal access to local schools and can sit the Gaokao exams for entering higher levels of educational institutions, while medical facilities will be fully open and residents will be able to use drugs and equipment approved for use in Hong Kong and Macau. 

This is not only for those of Chinese origin. Permanent residents of Hong Kong and Macau who hold foreign passports will also be eligible.

The measures are clearly intended to go beyond only incentives, as they are targeted at cross-border economic activity as well. This includes measures to support at least 16 fintech companies, such as those that have already established businesses serving Hong Kong and Macau residents: AliPay HK, WeChat Pay HK, Apple Pay and Samsung Pay being just the best-known. It includes those eight operators recently granted virtual banking licenses in Hong Kong, which are being encouraged to expand their operations into Qianhai.

Moreover, the measures hint at broader initiatives to come, in order to “further benefit and facilitate the wealth management needs of residents of the three regions.” This includes “facilitating the use of funds of Hong Kong residents at home and abroad; strengthening communication with the People’s Bank of China, and supporting the pilot exploration of a cross-border financial connection mechanism in Qianhai.

There are benefits for Hong Kong and Macau lawyers as well, similar to those announced recently by the chief executives of the two SARs, such as mutual recognition of qualifications and easier approvals for joint ventures with local law firms. The insurance and construction industries also get some benefits along the same lines. 

It wouldn’t be Shenzhen if there weren’t something in the measures about science and technology, of course. R&D-focused institutions are to be given incentives to set up in Qianhai, especially in the area of advanced biotechnology.

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