Tencent Holdings Ltd. Chairman Ma Huateng called on the Chinese government to introduce an ID system that would link multiple sets of travel documents with a mobile phone as part of a plan to boost regional trade between Hong Kong and Mainland China.

China’s second-richest man said new technology systems and laws could let Hong Kong residents make electronic payments and cross the border more easily. Ma was speaking at a press conference in Beijing, two days before the country’s legislative council convenes in the capital to set the year’s agenda.

“It’s still very complicated and we’d need to make it work with the Customs systems but from a technology point of view we can do it,” Ma said. “We have been talking to the chief executive in Hong Kong for quite some time about a number of these issues, including the electronic ID.” Tencent, whose company is best known for the social-media phenomenon WeChat, is headquartered in Shenzhen, just over the border from Hong Kong.

While championing greater technology innovation and prosperity, the plan is also a lightning rod in Hong Kong — now an autonomous self-governing city– that’s becoming increasingly wary of political meddling from Beijing.

Bay Area

Ma has advocated further integration in the Pearl River Delta region, saying Hong Kong, Macau and Guangdong province can be more like the multi-city San Francisco Bay technology hub in the U.S. if it gets easier to move around. Hong Kong and Macau have retained their own immigration policies since the British and Portuguese handovers in 1997 and 1999, respectively, and have busy border crossings with the mainland.

Ma suggested in June that Hong Kong and mainland Chinese immigration and customs officials could share locations. Critics responded by saying the idea violated the “one-country, two-systems” framework.

Ma said some Hong Kong citizens fear an excessive flood of talent from mainland China, while other difficulties include standardizing tax benefits. He said a worker swap system, where for example companies could only hire a tech worker if a local tech worker went abroad, could mitigate those concerns. He also proposes tax benefits to attract high-end talent to companies in two Pearl River Delta areas — Qianhai and Hengqin.

“It’s a little bit difficult to solve these problems for the time being,” he said through a translator. “If we were to look at tax incentives, questions would be asked: ‘Why do only Guandong people get this, why not others?’”

“And if migration from abroad increases too much, will that pressure the job market in Hong Kong? We’re thinking about these issues.”

Ma also proposed policies to enhance security for online financial services. Companies should work more closely with regulators to crack down on illegal activities, he said Saturday.

He also advocated mechanisms that would protect underage people from the harms of the Internet and use games to teach important life lessons. Tencent has been criticized by state media for encouraging gaming addictions.


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Photo Credit: The CEO of Tencent would welcome more Hong Kong residents traveling across the border to China for shopping, trade and employment. Bloomberg