Reports of the relaxation of Covid-19 travel restrictions between Hong Kong and mainland China after the upcoming Chinese Communist Party conference were “not coming out of thin air,” a pro-Beijing figure has said.

The 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party will be held in Beijing from October 16, with reports saying that China might relax some restrictions after the meetings.

Lo Man-tuen. Photo: Chinese General Chamber of Commerce.

Lo Man-tuen, vice-chair of the All-China Federation of Returned Overseas Chinese, wrote in a Ming Pao op-ed published on Wednesday that Hong Kong and mainland China could soon relax cross-border travel restrictions.

“In recent days there have been reports saying that there might be a chance to loosen cross-border policies between Hong Kong and the mainland after the 20th National Congress,” wrote Lo. “This of course is not coming out of thin air.”

Lo’s comments came after Tam Yiu-chung, a Hong Kong delegate to the National People’s Congress, cited his “friends in the mainland” who said that travel restrictions between Hong Kong and the mainland could be loosened after the party conference.

Quarantine-free travel between mainland China and Hong Kong has been suspended for more than two years since the Covid-19 pandemic broke out.

While travellers from China do not have to undergo quarantine when they visit Hong Kong, residents from the city still have to undergo seven days of mandatory insolation, followed by three days of medical surveillance period when they cross the border into the mainland.

Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge. File Photo: GovHK.

China is one of the last countries in the world to maintain strict Covid-19 social distancing and quarantine policies. Apart from compulsory quarantine for incoming travellers, residents also face lockdowns if a small number of infections are detected in their area.

Following intense criticism from the business sector and lawmakers, Hong Kong relaxed its Covid-19 travel restrictions in September. Incoming visitors no longer have to quarantine, but they still have to undergo three days of medical surveillance during which they are not allowed to visit certain premises, such as restaurants, under the vaccine pass.

Lo, in the article published on Wednesday, said that the Hong Kong government had “direct, smooth, and good communication” with the central government on the matter, refuting reports that the city’s move to relax international travel restrictions would hamper the resumption of quarantine-free travel with mainland China.

“The central government’s support for Hong Kong to relax travel restrictions is not only tolerance towards Hong Kong and respect towards the “two systems,” it also reflected that the central government highly values Hong Kong’s international status,” Lo wrote.

Lo also said that he expected that the central government would take “powerful measures” to promote Hong Kong, as Hong Kong was being slandered by “some politicians and media in the west.”

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Candice Chau

Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.