Mainland-HK border to reopen; 'normal days are back' as Chinese show enthusiasm for outbound travel
Published: Jan 05, 2023 09:57 PM
Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Lee Ka-chiu (3rd right) attends a press conference in Hong Kong on January 5, 2023. With the mainland borders set to reopen on January 8, a daily quota of Hong Kong travelers heading to the mainland will be set at 60,000, Lee said at the press conference. Photo: VCG

Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Lee Ka-chiu (3rd right) attends a press conference in Hong Kong on January 5, 2023. With the borders between Chinese mainland and Hong Kong set to reopen on January 8, a daily quota of Hong Kong travelers heading to the mainland will be set at 60,000, Lee said at the press conference. Photo: VCG

Ahead of the policy of gradually resuming international travel taking effect on January 8, the State Council's Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism issued a notice on Thursday to reopen the borders between the Chinese mainland and the Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions (SARs) on January 8. 

Global Times reporters visited one of Beijing's entry-exit reception halls on Thursday where local residents apply for visas and tourist permits. The reporters saw a long queue for people applying for international travel documents. Normal days are back, some people said, with palpable enthusiasm for reopening to the world.

Previously bustling border crossings between Hong Kong and the mainland had been closed since early 2020, and the latest notice became major exciting news, paving the way for the restoration of economic and social relations and helping to boost the city's economic recovery. 

Mass on-site nucleic acid testing will no longer be implemented for all personnel entering the mainland through Hong Kong and those who have a normal health declaration without symptoms at customs can enter the community, the notice said.

Mainland authorities will also resume taking permit applications for mainland residents traveling to Hong Kong for tourism and business purposes, in addition to reopening land ports and waterways between the mainland, Hong Kong and Macao in an orderly and phased manner, providing greater convenience to travelers.

Searches for travel to Hong Kong surged 379 percent immediately after the announcement, while searches for air tickets between the mainland and Hong Kong increased 287 percent. Searches for Hong Kong hotels rose 163 percent, data from online travel agency showed.

By 9 am, the reception hall was crowded with people who came to consult and handle visa-related business in the entry-exit reception hall located in Chaoyang's Pingleyuan area, and a queue had formed outside the hall despite the cold winter.

In front of the information desk and in front of the self-service machine, people wearing masks asked questions while others were sitting in the waiting areas with their families. 

A man surnamed Liu, a Beijing resident who was waiting for the passport renewal, told the Global Times that the passport application and renewal services appeared to return to normal. 

"The procedure was like that before the COVID outbreak, and the online reservation system releases sufficient waiting numbers every day and there are more people than expected coming to apply for visa and travel permits," he said. 

Some business insiders from the cross-border travel industry believed that at present, the policy adjustment is mainly convenient for visiting relatives, business travel and studying abroad, and those people with "long-term demand" will travel abroad first while random cross-border travel, such as tourism, will take some time to gradually recover. 

"I think overseas tourism will gradually restore," Li Mengran, a PR manager of travel agency UTour Group Co, told the Global Times. After three years of "silence," many have a relatively conservative attitude toward tourism overseas. 

According to the epidemic situation in Hong Kong and Macao and the service guarantee capabilities in all aspects, travel for mainland residents to Hong Kong and Macao will be fully resumed in an orderly manner, according to a notice from the Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism of the State Council. 

Hong Kong and Macao have always been popular travel destinations for mainland residents, and the resumption of permit applications will allow Hong Kong to welcome its first wave of tourists during the upcoming Spring Festival, according to

A resident surnamed Wu who came to the entry-exit reception hall told the Global Times that he plans to visit Macao before the Spring Festival after he finished applying for a travel permit. In 2023, he plans to travel to countries such as Japan and South Korea.

"In the past three years, I haven't traveled abroad. In fact, I was not afraid of being infected but I was worried about passing on the virus to my family. The previous quarantine time was quite long, which was inconvenient," Wu said. "I'm glad to see such an adjustment, and I'm hoping to travel around more often this year." 

Liu, the resident who came to the entry-exit reception hall for visa renewals, told the Global Times that he plans to visit his sister, who he hasn't seen for three years. "Because of my work, I had to travel abroad once or twice a year before the outbreak, but I haven't gone abroad for the past three years, because the quarantine time was too long," he said. "Also, the pandemic over the past three years was severe, and China was the safest place as the chance of getting infected abroad was much higher." 

Li, the PR manager from UTour, said overseas travel will gradually resume, especially when the first and second batches of Chinese tourists return from aboard. The public may get the feedback of "safe and sound" and the whole industry will slowly recover. 

"The resumption of cross-border travel will not come until the Labor Day holiday or summer vacation," she said, and travel to Japan and South Korea, Southeast Asia, Singapore and other countries should be the first to resume.

Liu said he would also consider traveling to Japan this year. However, Japan just imposed some new restrictions on travelers from China, and he hopes that by then, it will relax the travel curbs.

In response to the latest travel restrictions targeting travelers from China, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that countries should not take discriminatory measures against China and advised Chinese citizens to fully understand entry requirements of their destinations before departure.