PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 October, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 October, 2001, 12:00am

'Global Hong Kong' must declare war on its split-personality - the insular, change-resistant 'Fortress Hong Kong', according to the chairman of the Trade Development Council.

Peter Woo Kwong-ching (above) said yesterday that Fortress Hong Kong advocates refused to become more competitive and claimed change would threaten domestic stability. 'But there is going to be paralysis soon,' he said.

Fortress Hong Kong emerged because it was once easy to 'stay here and do nothing and wait for capital appreciation' as 20 years' economic growth steadily pushed up assets and salaries.

Now government spending was nearing 25 per cent of gross domestic product because Fortress Hong Kong had socialist expectations of free housing, medical care and education, Mr Woo said.

However the fiercely capitalist personality of Global Hong Kong generated trade worth HK$3.23 trillion last calendar year.

Mr Woo said it was of 'life and death' importance that land, sea and rail links with the Pearl River Delta - as well as streamlined customs and immigration procedures - were increased to move larger volumes of cargo and people between China and Hong Kong.

The extra transport linkages announced in the recent Policy Address were 'nowhere close' to what was required, he said.

Multinational corporations with many plants in China often had a small office presence in Hong Kong because its free flow of information made it an ideal networking hub, he said.

China's 40 million small and medium-sized enterprises would come to regard Hong Kong 'almost like a Switzerland' because of the quality of its trade services.

Mr Woo said the SAR would be the first Asian economy to recover when the US turned around.