HONG KONG – Hong Kong will reopen its borders with mainland China by mid-January, city Chief Executive John Lee said on Saturday, as Beijing accelerates the unwinding of stringent Covid-19 rules that have battered economic growth.
Lee, speaking at a press event at the airport in Hong Kong as he returned from a trip to Beijing, said the goal in “gradually, orderly, and fully” reopening the city will be to return the border to its state before the virus outbreak.
“Our goal is to quickly come to a consensus with the central government, submit our plan to the central government for review and execute on the plan before mid-January,” said Lee.
Hong Kong authorities will work with the governments of neighbouring Shenzhen city and Guangdong province to manage the flow of people crossing the border, Lee said.
Restrictions on travel across the border were imposed in early 2020. The reopening was postponed several times due to outbreaks in Hong Kong or the mainland. Hong Kong and China have lagged most of the world in easing stringent Covid rules.
People in the Chinese special administrative region of Hong Kong have been able to access the mainland only through the city’s airport or two checkpoints – Shenzhen Bay or the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge.
Preparations for reopening are underway, including deploying thousands of officers from the city’s customs, immigration and police services, local media say.
Hong Kong’s government said on Dec 12 that mainland authorities had allowed cross-border truck drivers to collect and deliver goods directly to their destinations without using designated checkpoints.
International passengers arriving in Hong Kong since mid-month are no longer subject to Covid-related movement controls or barred from certain venues.
Arriving travellers may also continue directly to mainland China or Macau as long as they meet the required criteria, the city government said. Previously they had to wait three days in the city before continuing to the mainland.