Hong Kong-China border: Scan WeChat to cross

The system would make the app one of the most powerful apps of our time. Source: Shutterstock.

CHINA-OWNED tech giant Tencent Holdings is reportedly working with the country’s authorities for its popular WeChat app to replace travel documents.

This means travelers will simply need to a code on their WeChat app on their smartphones at the Hong Kong-China border.

According to government data, the border between Hong Kong and China is one of the world’s busiest, with more than 230 million travelers crossing land checkpoints in 2016.

Although China, Hong Kong, and Macau are part of the same country, travelers are required to have special permits, similar to visas. Currently, Chinese citizens cross the border with passports and chip-embedded travel cards.

“The vision of the scheme is … allowing people to move freely between Guangdong, Hong Kong, and Macau with just a mobile phone in the future,” Tencent vice president Jim Lai said.

Using WeChat Pay on a smartphone to make a payment in a restaurant or any other establishment in China is not uncommon. Source: Shutterstock.

For the uninitiated, WeChat is a popular mobile messaging, social media and payments platform. The app currently has 963 million monthly active users, closing in on one billion users, most of them in mainland China.

Should the system, which has been approved by China’s Ministry of Public Security, be greenlit, it would make the app even more powerful.

It sounds simple to implement and do but the state of affairs is more complicated than that.

Hong Kong was never an independent country despite having its own system. Source: Shutterstock.

Hong Kong is a former British colony that was returned to China in 1997, but until today, it’s not entirely under Chinese rule.

The territory has a “one country, two systems” that gives it freedom and sets it apart from China. This includes independent judicial power and law enforcement.

Hong Kong has not immediately responded to Tencent’s proposal, but its Chief Executive Carrie Lam was present during the WeChat scanner demonstration at the border checkpoint.

If the “Scan-WeChat-to-cross-border” system is implemented, WeChat would be one of the most powerful apps of our time. Source: Shutterstock.

There’s also the question of privacy concerns, considering that the scheme required citizens to link their identification documents to their WeChat app.

Tencent CEO Ma Huateng is hopeful that Guangdong, Hong Kong, and Macau would consider the solution.

However, he didn’t say how far its talks with the Chinese authorities had progressed.

This is not the first time that Tencent is attempting to streamline traditional identification documents into WeChat.

In January 2018, China’s Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, backed by Tencent, announced that WeChat will replace traditional state-issued social security cards with digital version tied to users’ accounts, allowing government tasks to be performed in the app.

The programme was rolled out in 26 cities, including the southern coastal city of Shenzhen and Xi’an in the country’s northwest