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Greater Bay Area: Hong Kong, Shenzhen begin cross-border credit checks in pilot trial for data transfer

Hong Kong and Shenzhen have begun to test cross-border information verification between the two cities, as they take early steps in enabling the exchange of business data across the Greater Bay Area (GBA), starting with the financial industry.

The first phase of the pilot trial will focus on the cross-border verification of credit reports by credit reference agencies and commercial banks, according to a statement published on Monday by WeBank, the Shenzhen-based virtual lender providing the technology underpinning the data-flow platform.

As China moves to build a legal and regulatory mechanism to screen data entering and leaving the mainland border, observers have warned that stringent requirements, including security assessments, could hurt Hong Kong’s role as a base for foreign investors to manage their mainland operations.

The new data-verification platform will test Beijing’s plan to keep watch on cross-border data flows without disrupting normal business operations.

The Bank of East Asia is one of the pilot scheme’s participants. Photo: SCMP / May Tse

As part of the trial, Shenzhen Credit Services and Nova Credit in Hong Kong will use the platform to verify corporate credit reports. Shenzhen-based Baihang Credit Services and Fusion Bank in Hong Kong will use it to verify credit information. Hong Kong’s Bank of East Asia will use the platform to conduct credit checks of customers at its mainland and Hong Kong branches.

Credit verification is an important step for banks and financial institutions to assess clients, but the process has been interrupted by restrictions on cross-border data transfers between the mainland and Hong Kong.

The pilot programme, which aims to build the infrastructure needed to support cross-border digital services, will make life and work more convenient for residents, as well as companies looking to expand their businesses, according to the announcement.

The platform marks another step forward in strengthening data cooperation across the GBA, which is the Chinese government’s scheme to link Hong Kong, Macau and nine cities in southern Guangdong province into an integrated economic and business hub.

Built on distributed data-transfer protocols and the mainland blockchain platform FISCO BCOS, the data-verification platform will conduct verifications using hash values, which are unique digital fingerprints assigned to data. The platform does not transfer or store cross-border data, according to WeBank.

The programme is expected to cover more sectors in the future, including cross-border healthcare and daily-life services, the bank said.


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