Mister positive

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 June, 2012, 12:00am


Former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa is adamant that Hong Kong will not be marginalised by the mainland's rapid economic development.

In fact, he says Hong Kong has unique advantage, such as the 'one country, two systems' concept and the strength of its service industries, and that it is up to Hongkongers themselves to seize opportunities arising from development across the border.

Tung, who took up the post of vice-chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference after stepping down as chief executive in 2005, told the South China Morning Post: 'If you think about what China will be like in 20 years' time, then think about how we need to be part of it.'

He said that over the next 20 years the mainland's economy would move from one driven by exports to one driven by domestic consumption that emphasised value-added service industries.

'What is the role for Hong Kong to play [in this process]? In 20 years' time, China will become the largest economy in the world. Hong Kong is geographically in the right place along the southern coast of China,' Tung said.

'Hong Kong has had tremendous success in its service industries such as legal services and logistics. Are we going to be marginalised? No, Hong Kong is not going to be marginalised. It's up to us to take up the opportunities.

'There are lots of opportunities there. If you want it, you can get it. I don't think Hong Kong will be marginalised because there are people like me who want to make sure it's not going to be.

'Every city, every country, everyone is facing huge challenges. Hong Kong is also facing huge challenges. But look at the advantage we have. The 'one country, two systems' concept gives us a competitive advantage which no one else has. We also have China backing us.'

Lu Ping, former director of the State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, who oversaw Hong Kong affairs in the run-up to the handover, told the South China Morning Post in 2009 that the city needed to develop a 'sense of crisis' and warned that Hong Kong had already been marginalised.

But Tung said the city should consider the mainland's needs in science and technology and get more involved in those areas.

'We have good universities here. We have unique opportunities to attract some of the best to come and live here and engage in research in science and technology,' he said.

In the aftermath of the Asian financial crisis Tung set aside funds to develop Hong Kong as a research and development hub and mapped out strategies to expand Chinese medicine industries. But these efforts bore little fruit.

Asked about the impact of the global economic crisis on Hong Kong, he said the US economy was slowly recovering, although the euro-zone countries were heading into recession.

'But the most serious impact of the global financial crisis may probably be behind us already,' Tung said. 'More importantly, China's economy is growing at 8 per cent despite the difficulties around the world.'

Tung said the mainland authorities had plenty of resources for stimulating the economy and would be able to achieve a soft landing.

'Hong Kong is the most fortunate place in the world. We have plenty of fiscal reserves. I'm sure C.Y. [incoming chief executive Leung Chun-ying] and his colleagues will do what is necessary,' Tung said.