Published: 12:01, August 24, 2022 | Updated: 14:19, August 25, 2022
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Additional quarantine hotels, flights available for HK students
By Chen Shuman in Hong Kong

SAR, mainland authorities join hands to solve problems under travel restrictions

Hong Kong students who study at Chinese mainland universities will have easier access to quarantine hotels and flights, allowing them to return to their respective campuses in time for the new semester, the city’s Secretary for Education Choi Yuk-lin said on Tuesday.

The arrangement followed complaints from thousands of local students who are struggling to secure places at quarantine hotels in Shenzhen, Guangdong province to enter the mainland. The places were handed out through a lottery system that allowed only 2,000 places a day.

Starting Tuesday, these students will be included in the additional compassionate quotas for Hong Kong residents to cross the border, which were originally for certain groups of people such as senior residents aged over 70 and pregnant women, Choi said.

Flights from Hong Kong to mainland cities will also be increased. Students returning to their campuses will have priority in booking tickets.

Students in need can fill in an electronic form online and submit it on or before Friday. The application will require students to provide personal information, such as their enrollment certificates and student ID cards.

For students who can’t make it in time, Choi said mainland universities have agreed to keep their places and make online learning arrangements, thanks to the coordination of the nation’s Ministry of Education.

In addition, the Hong Kong SAR government is in discussion with Macao about allowing Hong Kong students to undergo quarantine in Macao before going to the mainland via Gongbei port or Macao International Airport.

In a bid to resolve the issue in a timely manner, the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council will set up a task force, together with the Ministry of Education and other central authorities and local authorities, to take charge of implementing the facilitation measures.

Choi thanked the central government and relevant local authorities for proactively lending a helping hand.

Deputy Secretary for Education Esmond Lee Chung-sin said the SAR government will sort out the students’ information as soon as possible and send it to the relevant mainland authorities for identity verification and facilitation arrangements. He called on students to prepare in advance as they may receive notice as late as one day before their departure.

About 18,000 Hong Kong students will be enrolled in higher education institutions on the mainland in the 2022-23 academic year, including 3,000 undergraduates, according to Lee.

Lawmaker Stanley Li Sai-wing urged the Education Bureau to process students’ applications in a timely manner. He cautioned that students may not receive nucleic acid test results in time even if they take the test immediately.

Currently, visitors to the mainland from Hong Kong are required to hold a valid nucleic acid test result before departure, and undergo seven days of quarantine in a hotel and a three-day health observation at home.

Lawmaker Scott Leung Man-kwong said the SAR government should coordinate and communicate with the Zhuhai authorities and the Hong Kong Zhuhai Macao Bridge Shuttle Bus Company to avoid a sudden burden on the checkpoint.

According to Shenzhen authorities, since mid-August, the Shenzhen Bay Port has recorded more than 4,000 outbound passengers on average per day — an increase of 52.42 percent compared with July — with the majority being students who study in Hong Kong.