Iden­tity mis­match leaves HK res­i­dents out in cold

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT -

The Chi­nese main­land is so big that gen­er­al­iza­tions tend to turn out to be false. Some­times we learn this the hard way. When Hong Kong peo­ple travel to first-tier cities, ev­ery­thing is smooth. These cities have the ex­po­sure and re­sources to han­dle the Hong Kong vis­i­tors. Things are quite dif­fer­ent in smaller cities.

Even in the more af­flu­ent sec­ond-tier cities, busi­nesses and gov­ern­ment in­sti­tu­tions are not equipped to deal with Hong Kong peo­ple. Ac­com­mo­da­tion is one of the best ex­am­ples, be­cause it is the in­ter­face be­tween the city and trav­el­ers.

In first-tier cities, more ho­tels are au­tho­rized to han­dle “for­eign guests” or waibin. In smaller cities, only the best and most ex­pen­sive have au­tho­riza­tion, oth­ers can only host “lo­cal guests” or neibin.

In­ter­est­ingly and un­for­tu­nately, Hong Kong peo­ple are con­sid­ered “for­eign guests”. That means they have only lim­ited choices when they stay in the small cities. They are doomed to pa­tron­ize the most ex­pen­sive ho­tels. This hand­i­cap is es­pe­cially hard on younger Hong Kong peo­ple on a tight bud­get — back­pack­ers, in­terns or those try­ing to land en­try-level jobs. So much for help­ing young Hong Kong peo­ple to as­sim­i­late into the main­land.

To add in­sult to in­jury, Hong Kong res­i­dents are of­ten re­quired to in­form the ho­tels, that is the ones host­ing them as “for­eign guests”, where and when they en­tered the main­land. These are stan­dard ques­tions asked at im­mi­gra­tion con­trol points. It is not at all clear why they are asked again at ho­tels. Clearly the ho­tels al­ready ex­change data with rel­e­vant au­thor­i­ties. All you have to do is sync them.

The prob­lem is, Hong Kong peo­ple do not en­ter the main­land the same way other for­eign­ers do. They never have to fill in a form telling the au­thor­i­ties which flight they took and how long they in­tended to stay. Would that be the rea­son why they must fill in the miss­ing pieces at the ho­tel?

Many SAR peo­ple would find it dif­fi­cult to pro­vide the ho­tels with the in­for­ma­tion. They may be liv­ing and work­ing on the main­land for an ex­tended pe­riod, and are just trav­el­ing from one main­land city to an­other for busi­ness. They do not fit the “for­eign guest” model.

If Hong Kong peo­ple tell ho­tel staff they live on the main­land and can­not re­mem­ber when they en­tered or through which port, and that they are Chi­nese, ho­tel staff will shake their heads. If the blanks were not filled, the sys­tem just would not is­sue the room card.

This is one ex­am­ple of the cri­sis of na­tional iden­tity in ac­tion.

Re­cently, it was re­ported main­land au­thor­i­ties will start to is­sue a sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion Main­land Travel Per­mit for Tai­wan Res­i­dents. The first- The au­thor is a vet­eran cur­rent af­fairs com­men­ta­tor.

Many SAR peo­ple would find it dif­fi­cult to pro­vide the ho­tels with the in­for­ma­tion. They may be liv­ing and work­ing on the main­land for an ex­tended pe­riod, and are just trav­el­ing from one main­land city to an­other for busi­ness. They do not fit the “for­eign guest” model.

gen­er­a­tion per­mit has only eight dig­its, but the new one has 18, the same as the main­land iden­tity card. This align­ment will make sys­tem in­te­gra­tion much eas­ier. It is also re­ported that hold­ers of these sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion per­mits can use them as high-speed rail tick­ets, just as main­land cit­i­zens can.

This is all very good news, for the Tai­wan res­i­dents. Hong Kong peo­ple who travel by high­speed rail know how frus­trat­ing it is – Hong Kong cit­i­zens can only buy tick­ets or col­lect tick­ets bought on­line through manned ser­vice coun­ters. It is strange that 20 years af­ter the han­dover, we are be­hind Tai­wan in this im­por­tant re­gard.

Things are also look­ing good for gen­uine for­eign­ers. Up­graded ver­sions of per­ma­nent res­i­dence ID cards — the Chi­nese green cards — are now be­ing made avail­able to of­fer bet­ter ser­vices to for­eign­ers liv­ing and work­ing in the coun­try. The new version came into op­er­a­tion on June 16, in mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties and prov­inces such as Bei­jing, Shang­hai, Guang­dong and Zhe­jiang.

It is re­ported that for­eign “hold­ers can now en­joy the same ben­e­fits as Chi­nese cit­i­zens”, which sounds fan­tas­tic al­though we are not sure what ex­actly these en­tail. The rail­way au­thor­i­ties have also an­nounced they will soon up­grade ticket fa­cil­i­ties at rail­way ter­mi­nals to of­fer ac­cess to the cards.

Let’s hope Hong Kong res­i­dents can have these good­ies too.

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