Hong Kong has made special arrangements with authorities in mainland China to help Hong Kong students travel across the border for higher education while Covid-related restrictions are in place, the Education Bureau said on Tuesday.

Secretary for Education Choi Yuk-lin said students wishing to enter Guangdong province via Shenzhen or Zhuhai could take advantage of “compassionate quotas,” which would increase their chances of entering the mainland. At present, there are limits placed on the number of inbound travellers to the mainland from Hong Kong at each land port.

Secretary for Education Choi Yuk-lin and Deputy Secretary for Educatino Esmond Lee at a press conference on August 23, 2022. Photo: GovHK.

Speaking during a press conference on Tuesday, Choi said the number of flights from Hong Kong to different mainland cities would also be increased, and priority would be given to Hong Kong students enrolled in mainland schools.

Deputy Secretary for Education Esmond Lee said there were around 18,000 Hong Kong students set to study in mainland China in the new academic year beginning in September, of whom 3,000 are freshmen.

Electronic application form

Students are required to submit an electronic application form, which is only available in Chinese, by Friday so that the government can liaise with mainland authorities to verify their status as enrolled students and so arrangements can be made. Students must submit personal information and relevant documents.

Once their identity and status has been verified, the government will notify each student via email. They will be instructed to log in through a special website to obtain their quota to cross the border via land boundary control points and to book quarantine hotel, or to book their flight tickets.

Choi said students may receive notification from the government as little as one day before they have to leave Hong Kong, so they should be prepared and ready to depart at short notice.

Charter flights

When asked whether the government would consider arranging chartered flights for the students, Choi said it was not the most suitable arrangement as students would be located across the country.

Secretary for Education Choi Yuk-lin. Photo: GovHK.

She said according to government data, around 50 per cent of students enrolled in mainland schools were in Guangdong province, around 20 per cent were in Fujian province and the rest were scattered around.

Choi said that the best way they could help was to “allocate more flights” and “to offer priority for the students to have a flight seat.”

Photo: GovHK.

Choi said that increasing the number of flights to mainland cities would depend on how many applications they received and where students were going.

‘Special arrangement’

The education chief said it was not likely the measures would become a regular policy.

“This [measure] is introduced under a very unique [set of] circumstances, fought by various parties with numerous efforts, hoping to bring convenience to our students. It is a very special arrangement. We don’t foresee turning it into a regular measure,” Choi said.

“We urge and encourage students, if they choose to study on the mainland, maybe utilise their spare time to explore the mainland more and to conduct more in-depth studies about the mainland.”

Despite setting a deadline of August 26, the platform will stay open for at least a week or two to accommodate late applications. Those applications, however, will be treated with lower priority, the officials said.

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Almond Li

Almond Li is a Hong Kong-based journalist who previously worked for Reuters and Happs TV as a freelancer, and as a reporter at Hong Kong International Business Channel, Citizen News and Commercial Radio Hong Kong. She earned her Masters in Journalism at the University of Southern California. She has an interest in LGBT+, mental health and environmental issues.