The central government's top authority for Hong Kong and Macao affairs announced on Monday a new series of policies that grant residents of the two special administrative regions equal access to subsidies for home purchases, school scholarship and financial support for social science research on the mainland.
The announcement was widely acclaimed in Hong Kong, with stakeholders in the labor and education sectors saying such policies would greatly contribute to a closer connection with the mainland.
According to the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, people from the SARs who work on the Chinese mainland are entitled to receive public funds for housing through a financing channel used by the central government to assist workers through their companies.
The funds are for the exclusive use of workers in the purchase, construction or renovation of homes. Monthly contributions from both the employer and employee are required to be made to the employees' accounts.
When workers retire or leave their positions, they are entitled to withdraw all the money saved in their account.
The office announced on its web page that the Housing Accumulation Fund Administration Centers in each city would develop funding plans for Hong Kong and Macao workers on the mainland, and would detail the contributions to be made by employers and employees, along with other standard procedures.
Stanley Ng Chau-pei, a deputy to the National People's Congress, said the housing fund policy was "encouraging" to Hong Kong people and would certainly attract more people to work on the mainland.
Ng, who is also chairman of the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, added that Hong Kong people would benefit greatly as they participate in the country's overall development - especially by having their residential problems addressed.
Meanwhile, another policy is centered on scholarships for students from Hong Kong and Macao who study at mainland educational institutions. The value of scholarships and the number of recipients will be increased.
In addition, the office announced that the National Social Science Fund of China - a fund that supports social science projects - will be open to researchers from Hong Kong and Macao who are employed by mainland institutions or research centers.
Ho Hon-kuen, chairman of the Education Convergence - one of Hong Kong's leading groups for educators, said the policy on education would bring positive interaction between students from Hong Kong and the mainland.