LCQ17: Remit RMB to the Mainland
The following is a question by the Hon Leung Mei-fun and a written reply by the Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury, Xu Zhengyu, in the Legislative Council meeting today (June 16):
In recent months, many Hong Kong residents who bought properties in inland cities in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (Greater Bay Area) have asked me for help. They had planned to pay the house price through their mainland bank accounts under their name, so they entrusted money changers to remit RMB to these accounts. Afterwards, the mainland law enforcement agencies froze the relevant accounts based on the illegal activities involved in the investigation. Some accounts have been frozen for more than one year. They have sought help from the Hong Kong Customs (Customs) and the Consumer Council (Consumer Council) but failed. In this regard, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) In the past three years, how many complaints against money changers have been received by the Customs and the Consumer Council, and how many of them involved mainland bank accounts that were involved in illegal activities and were frozen; and
(2) In view of the increasing popularity of Hong Kong people living and buying properties in mainland cities (especially in the Greater Bay Area) in recent years, what new measures does the government have to strengthen Hong Kong people’s awareness of the risks of paying house prices through money changers, and (ii) ) Will it seek more measures to facilitate Hong Kong people to buy properties in the Mainland from the Mainland authorities (for example, the introduction of supporting remittance arrangements and an increase in the daily limit for Hong Kong people to remit RMB to the Mainland)?
After consulting the Hong Kong Customs (Customs), the Consumer Council (Consumer Council) and the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau, my specific reply to each part of the question is as follows:
(1) Between 2018 and May 21st, the Customs and Excise Department received 262 and 121 complaints about the unscrupulous business practices of money service operators. It is understood that 64 of them and the Consumer Council 18 cases involved the freezing of remittance accounts in the Mainland.
(2) Regarding the risks involved in cross-border remittances, the Customs has always paid great attention to the citizens’ rights to use money service operators to provide cross-border remittance services, and actively promote compliance to the industry, as well as publicity and education, such as holding seminars and foreign exchanges. The promotion plan reminds the industry to protect the rights and interests of consumers in the course of doing business, and to ensure that the industry handles customer payments and completes related transactions in an appropriate manner.
Regarding measures to facilitate Hong Kong people’s home ownership in the Mainland, after the meeting of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area Construction Leading Group (Leading Group) in November 2019, the central government announced 16 policy measures, one of which was to facilitate Hong Kong residents in Guangdong Purchase houses in mainland cities in Hong Kong, Macau, Greater Bay Area (Greater Bay Area). At present, Hong Kong residents buying houses in cities in the Greater Bay Area are exempted from proof of residence, study or working years in the local area, as well as payment of personal income tax and social security conditions, so that Hong Kong residents can enjoy the same treatment as local residents. This measure is conducive to Hong Kong residents studying in the Mainland, finding employment, and living in the Mainland after retirement.
Since the announcement of measures to facilitate the purchase of houses by Hong Kong residents in cities in the Greater Bay Area, the SAR government has been in close communication with the mainland authorities to strive to provide clearer and more convenient supporting arrangements for cross-border mortgages and remittances. The SAR Government and the Guangdong Provincial Government will jointly promote the simplification of the process for Hong Kong residents to purchase houses in cities in the Greater Bay Area and the improvement of the housing loan policy for Hong Kong residents.
The Department of Natural Resources of Guangdong Province promulgated the "Notice of the Department of Natural Resources of Guangdong Province on Clarifying the Matters Related to the Registration of Real Estate Mortgage by Hong Kong and Macau Banks in the nine prefectures of the Greater Bay Area" in August 2020, clearly allowing Hong Kong and Macau banks to provide cross-border mortgage services , The division of the nine cities in the Greater Bay Area to handle the registration of real estate mortgages with overseas banks provides a policy basis for Hong Kong banks to carry out cross-border mortgage services. The SAR government will continue to follow up with the mainland authorities to provide convenient and supporting arrangements for Hong Kong people to purchase properties in cities in the Greater Bay Area.
In terms of cross-border remittance arrangements for Hong Kong residents, the current renminbi remittance arrangement (ie 80,000 yuan per person per day) has been in use since 2005 and is mainly aimed at facilitating Hong Kong residents’ living and consumption activities in the Mainland. Since remittance arrangements involve cross-border capital flows, whether they can be relaxed or adjusted depends on the consideration of the mainland authorities. The SAR government will continue to contact the mainland authorities on measures to improve the flow and use of cross-border RMB funds in accordance with actual conditions and needs.
June 16, 2021 (Wednesday)
Issued at HKT 12:15