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Guangdong-Macao checkpoint opens

By CHAI HUA/LI WENFANG | China Daily | Updated: 2020-08-19 09:16
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People from Macao pass through automatic machines in the new Hengqin Port in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, on Tuesday. QIAN WENPAN/FOR CHINA DAILY

New Hengqin facility to ease customs clearance for passengers

The new Hengqin checkpoint wedged between Zhuhai, Guangdong province, and the Macao Special Administrative Region officially opened to the public on Tuesday, marking a new chapter of the integration of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area.

Operating 24 hours a day, its maximum capacity is up to 220,000 people a day and 80 million a year. The project, dubbed a "super passage", covers 345,000 square meters, including an inspection zone and transportation and commercial service facilities, and Macao has jurisdiction over its side of the checkpoint.

Meanwhile, an extension railway for an intercity train between Guangzhou and Zhuhai was also put into use on Tuesday, and Hengqin is one of its stops. In the future, the Macao Light Rapid Transit system is also expected to connect with the Hengqin Port.

The checkpoint has experienced four major upgrades in its 20-year history, and the number of its annual passengers who cleared customs has risen 45-fold, an indication of the enlarging network across the border.

The new checkpoint has adopted an innovative customs system known as "joint inspection and one-time release". The checking machines of Macao and Zhuhai are connected, so travelers can identify themselves through the same inspection channel, cutting clearance time to about 30 seconds.

Previously, it took about 30 minutes to pass through two inspections at the Lotus checkpoint in Macao and Zhuhai's old Hengqin checkpoint, and passengers needed to take shuttle buses over the Lotus Bridge. With the opening of the new checkpoint, passenger clearance services at the previous two checkpoints, as well as Macaobound vehicle clearance services, have all been relocated to the new port.

Permanent clearance channels for Zhuhai-bound vehicles are expected to be completed during the second phase of construction in two years, which will include a link between the University of Macau campus and the Hengqin checkpoint.

Considering the coronavirus epidemic, Macao and Zhuhai have agreed to set up temperature detection equipment in the departure zones on both sides and have also established a "cross-border handover room" for suspected cases.

Ma Xingrui, governor of Guangdong, said at the opening ceremony of the new Hengqin Port that its official opening will facilitate the exchange and communication between Guangdong and Macao and pave the way for the development of the Bay Area.

The opening came a week after the announcement of the gradual resumption of mainland residents' individual travel visas, which is expected to bring travelers back to the popular tourist destination.

Macao Chief Executive Ho Iatseng described the construction and management of the new port as an unprecedented model of cross-border collaboration, referring to overcoming difficulties of two legal systems and regulations as well as the ordeal of the coronavirus and staff from both sides working in the same building in the long-term.

He highlighted that the cooperative model further enriches the connotations of the "one country, two systems" principle and serves as another example of the flourishing relationship between the mainland and the SARs.

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