Passengers from mainland China will be allowed to travel through Hong Kong International Airport from Saturday, according to new rules.
Hong Kong airport announced on Thursday that passengers from mainland China will soon be able to transfer or transit through Hong Kong to other destinations from Aug. 15 until Oct. 15.
However, transit in the other direction, inbound to mainland China, will remain banned as China’s aviation regulator continues to severely limit the number of international flights citing concerns over the spread of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) virus.
Dr. Ho Pak-leung of the University of Hong Kong told local broadcaster RTHK that he was concerned by the government’s decision to allow transit or transfer passengers from China given that places like Xinjiang and Liaoning were still reporting clusters of infections. Many Hongkongers also do not trust the CCP’s official infection and death data.
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Hong Kong airline Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. will be a beneficiary of the new policy, enabling Chinese students to resume studies at overseas universities, given rival Hong Kong Airlines fly only regionally in Asia, the South China Morning Post reported.
Students from China are expected to be able to fly to countries in the European Union after China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian indicated on Aug. 10 that Beijing would reciprocate the European Council’s June 30 proposal to lift travel restrictions. The EU said it would open up travel to China if Beijing reciprocated the gesture.
“China is relaxing in an orderly and gradual manner visa restrictions for foreigners entering China to resume economic activities and for other essential purposes,” Zhao said. Over the following two days, Chinese embassies across Europe all posted that eligible foreign nationals with residence permits could now apply for new Chinese visas in 36 European countries.
This is the first significant action taken by China to reverse its late March travel ban, except for its agreement with the United States mid-June to allow four flights a week between the two countries.
Hong Kong airport had started allowing transit passengers not from mainland China through the airport on June 1 for a maximum of eight hours.
The Thursday announcement has extended the layover time to within 24 hours. “Passengers should also confirm in advance that they are able to enter the final destination,” the airport said in a press release.
The airport authority told The Epoch Times in an email that it “has implemented a host of enhanced health measures at Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) to prepare for the gradual resumption of transfer/transit services.”
Ticket prices for flights into China continue to be extremely expensive “because of the CAAC’s [Civil Aviation Administration of China] policy” of limiting international flights, Wang Guanran, who organizes charter flights for Chinese wanting to return home, told The South China Morning Post.
“This issue is exacerbated by brokers and airline insiders selling tickets at a mark-up.”
Hong Kong reported 69 new CCP virus cases on Thursday, of which 4 were from returning international travelers. This was slightly down from early-August when cases were closer to 100.
Authorities cautioned the global financial hub still faced a critical period to control the virus, which has seen a resurgence since early July.
Reuters contributed to this report.