Tencent Holdings Ltd. is working with the Chinese government to create an electronic pass system that smooths travel between Hong Kong, Macau and the southern province of Guangdong.

The unusual proposal would see multiple travel documents linked to Tencent’s WeChat app to streamline border crossings, the Shenzhen, Guangdong-based company said in a statement. With the ‘E-card’ ID system, users some day might be able to check into hotels and set up bank accounts if regulators approve, the company said.

Travelers between mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau are required to have special permits, similar to visas, even though they are part of the same country. Founder Ma Huateng has been a champion for developing Tencent’s home province and the former colonies into the so-called “Greater Bay Area” that could rival the region around San Francisco.

The E-card program will use a feature of WeChat known as “mini program” to allow users to link their Chinese ID card to their travel permits. WeChat has more than 1 billion active users and Tencent also runs news portals, a Hollywood-like movie production and distribution network, online book stores and games including Clash of Clans.

The proposal is a follow up on ideas Ma first put forward last year during an annual legislative meeting in Beijing. While details were vague, his suggestion was written into China’s government work report, and broached the idea of twinning Hong Kong’s capital and financial muscle with the manufacturing prowess of Shenzhen and the Pearl River Delta region. Ma said that it could help “the long-term stability and prosperity of Hong Kong and Macau.”

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Ma’s plans for the region compete with at least 120 so-called tech zones now getting drawn up around the country as provinces and cities seek to forge China’s equivalent of Silicon Valley. All are vying for talent and capital.


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