Mainland, SARs resume full normal travel
Thousands of excited travelers made an early morning dash for various checkpoints as the Chinese mainland fully resumed normal travel with the Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions on Monday.
The hustle and bustle returned to the borders as people visited their hometowns for family reunions, students went back to schools and travelers set out to explore Hong Kong, Macao, and the world.
The full resumption of normal travel saw all cross-boundary control points operational, with the four at Lo Wu, Huanggang, Liantang and Sha Tau Kok between Hong Kong and the mainland reopening. Travelers no longer had to make a reservation or obtain a negative nucleic acid test result for COVID-19. Also, mainland travel agencies were allowed to organize group tours to Hong Kong and Macao from Monday.
On Jan 8, the mainland and the Hong Kong SAR started the initial stage of quarantine-free travel. Yet, a quota was set and travelers had to make reservations in the booking system to be able to cross the boundary.
The 24-hour Lok Ma Chau/Huanggang Control Point was the first to open on Monday. By 11 pm on Sunday, a large number of Hong Kong residents had lined up at the cross-boundary bus station in Mong Kok to head for the port. Monday's first bus arrived at the port around 1 am, and all 45 seats were occupied.
After a rather agonizing three-year wait, a travel enthusiast from mainland Yang Pei could finally set off to explore the world again with her family and friends. Through the Lo Wu checkpoint, she arrived in Hong Kong on Monday and said she is heading to Thailand with seven family members and friends. They will stay and shop in Hong Kong for two days on their return journey, she added.
The Heung Yuen Wai/Liantang Control Point, which became operational in August 2020 but offered only freight clearance service due to the pandemic, started passenger services for the first time on Monday.
It set up fast channels for residents, students and officials from the mainland, Hong Kong and Macao to facilitate cross-boundary travel. About 300 students entered Hong Kong via the port as of Monday morning. A ceremony was held at Heung Yuen Wai to mark the full resumption of Hong Kong-mainland travel.
At the three checkpoints, Hong Kong Tourism Board staff greeted visitors with gifts as part of "Hello Hong Kong", a large-scale publicity campaign launched by the Hong Kong government to promote the city and attract tourists.
The full resumption of normal travel also facilitated business exchanges between the mainland and Hong Kong.
On Monday, Leung Chun-ying, vice-chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, led an 80-member delegation from Hong Kong to visit the Nansha New Area in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, by high-speed train.
More than 100 mainland residents in four tourist groups left Guangzhou for sightseeing in Hong Kong and Macao. These were the first mainland tour groups traveling to the two SARs in three years.
Also on Monday, the Shenzhen government announced that its residents can renew their travel visas for Hong Kong on self-service machines instead of at manual counters. A long line formed at these machines in Shenzhen's Futian district in the morning.
As of 8 pm on Monday, about 128,000 people had entered the mainland via all ports and 114,000 arrived in Hong Kong. About 54,000 people used Lo Wu port and nearly 47,000 chose Futian. Hong Kong International Airport recorded 40,000 inbound and outbound passengers.
Zheng Caixiong and Li Wenfang in Guangzhou, William Xu in Shenzhen contributed to this story.