>>1409634>is getting a visa to mainland China locally in Hong Kong a straightforward, safe, reliable method?
Yes, more or less.>What is the best method, using a Visa agency or going to the consulate or something else?
Define "best"...risk-free? A travel agent. Cheap, go in person and DIY The travel agents are expensive by western standards though, they barely charge more than the actual application fee anyway.>What do I need to bring when applying for the Visa, aside from my passport?
Allegedly, the consulate in HK doesn't ask for flights but YMMV. You do need a daily itinerary and hotel bookings, possibly a booked flight out of China too.
If you use a travel agent, you just need a passport and photos, they'll probably take the photos if you don't have some, or send you around the corner to a photo shop they use. You may as well pay for the rush service, no reason not to and probably less chance of them really looking at anything.>Do they want passport photocopies, receipts for hotel stays, my flight home, things like that?
If you DIY, a passport, a few photos, hotel bookings, flight home. That's usually it, maybe a bank statement with money in it but I don't think that's usually necessary.ctrip.com
will let you book hotels without paying anything (pay on arrival) and then cancel for free, you'll never need to give them credit card details. The travel agent should handle that shit though, they'll just pretend you're on a package tour or something.