A local delegate to the National People’s Congress has said that mainland authorities could upgrade home return permits used by Hong Kong residents in order to make them into identity cards. Ip Kwok-him, also a member of the Hong Kong government’s Executive Council, told an RTHK radio programme that this would provide easier access to public services.

Ip said he did not know when the changes will take place but he believed that – if the mainland is willing to study the matter – it is “very likely” that the upgrade will take place.

The current home return permit cannot be used to buy train tickets, open bank accounts, or access concessions at travel attractions, Ip said. He added that he has been urging the National People’s Congress to look into upgrading the card over the past two years.

Ip Kwok-him. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

Ip said it was his understanding that, if the upgrade rolls out, it will be up to the public whether to get the new card: “It will be within your right not to take it.”

An upgrade would enhance identity recognition for Hong Kong people, he said, since many public services in the mainland rely on electronic platforms: “Such a type of integration is part of the trend.”

Vehicle permits

According to Ip, mainland authorities are also studying a plan whereby Hong Kong-registered vehicles – without mainland licence plates – can apply for a permit online so they can cross the border at a designated time and border control point.

A Home Return Permit sample. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Asked if the measures were intended to target the pro-independence movement in Hong Kong, Ip said that he believed they were not related. He said the potential measures were to help Hong Kong people understand the country fully through closer contact.

Last week, the State Council announced a new kind of Chinese residence permit for Hong Kong people living on the mainland.

Ip also said that Beijing was becoming more and more concerned about when the Hong Kong government will enact the national security law under Article 23 of the Basic Law. He said the current Hong Kong government must achieve something to create the right conditions for passing the legislation.

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.