The standing committee of China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) approved on Saturday a suggestion that Macau should have jurisdiction over portions of the boundary checkpoint facilities on Hengqin island, a place that is part of mainland China territory.
The new arrangement regarding the Macau-Hengqin boundary is also said to involve a simplified customs check at the Hengqin checkpoint.
The main checkpoint is there to regulate the movement of people and goods between Hengqin (pictured) – in Guangdong province’s Zhuhai prefecture – and Macau’s Cotai district, via the Lotus Bridge checkpoint.
A large amount of non-gaming tourism facilities is being developed on Hengqin, with China expressing a public policy aim that Macau and Hengqin can be complementary in terms of serving tourists. There has also been talk – so far no more than that – about the possibility of a visa-free regime for foreigners wishing to visit Hengqin.
It is not clear from available public statements whether Macau will have full financial responsibility for the relocation and operation of the Hengqin facilities. The plan also includes the shutdown of the current Macau checkpoint at the Lotus Bridge crossing.
The arrangement will involve Macau taking responsibility also for a bridge connecting the University of Macau’s Hengqin campus to the Hengqin checkpoint; and an area reserved for a future spur line of the Cotai section of Macau’s Light Rapid Transit (LRT) system that will provide an interchange with China’s high-speed rail network.
The LRT that will serve Taipa and Cotai could see work completed by next month, according to comments in late September by the city’s Secretary for Transport and Public Works. A date is still to be confirmed regarding when the LRT will open to the public.
The Macau Government Spokesperson Office confirmed in its Saturday commentary that Macau would lease a designated Hengqin checkpoint area from the mainland Chinese authorities for a period running from the time of the upgraded facility’s opening, until December 19, 2049. There would be an option to renew the lease after that date. China’s State Council will announce later the start date of the lease.
The simplified customs check system for the Hengqin checkpoint is likely to be in place before the 20th anniversary, in December, of Macau’s handover from Portuguese administration to that of China. That is according to several Chinese-language media reports over the weekend. Expansion and relocation work for the immigration portion of the checkpoint facilities are said currently to be under way on the Hengqin side.
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