Donald Tsang

Medvedev makes landmark visit

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 April, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 April, 2011, 12:00am

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is due to meet Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen at Government House today as part of the first visit to Hong Kong by a major foreign head of state in more than a decade.

Medvedev arrived last night after being hosted by President Hu Jintao during the BRIC nations' summit at the Boao Forum for Asia on Hainan Island .

BRIC includes Brazil, Russia, India and China.

Growing bilateral investment and trade as well as possible crime and corruption co-operation are expected to be on the agenda in talks and lunch with Medvedev and his delegation, which includes Russian businessmen. He is due to depart mid-afternoon.

Medvedev's aides spoke ahead of the visit of considerable room for growth in the China-Russia relationship, with the Interfax news agency quoting Sergei Prikhodko describing 'an atmosphere of close partnership between Moscow and Beijing' and 'Hong Kong's growing attention to the possibility of a mutually beneficial partnership with Russia'. Hong Kong's rich experience in fighting crime and corruption would also be of interest to Russia, he said.

Hong Kong officials have been quietly expanding ties with eastern European nations generally, highlighted by Tsang's visit to Moscow last August, when he formally invited the Russian President to the SAR. Moscow, meanwhile, has been eyeing Hong Kong as part of a broader commercial and diplomatic push underscoring its ambitions as an East Asian power. They also want to lift Moscow's status as a major financial centre.

The visit 'will be a big boost to our bilateral relationship', Tsang said.

Hong Kong government figures show that since 2006, annual bilateral trade has grown by an average 25 per cent. Last year, it surged by more than 60 per cent compared to 2009, reaching US$2.5 billion. Russian tourists have been granted visa-free access to Hong Kong since mid 2009.

Last year, 87,000 Russian visitors came to Hong Kong, doubling the figure of 2009.

The course of that growth has not always been smooth, however.

Russian aluminium giant Rusal became the first Russian firm to list here in January last year, but only after several postponements.

Hong Kong regulators were wary of allowing Rusal, weighed down by massive debts as it marketed its IPO, to sell shares to retail investors. Other listings linked to controversial Rusal tycoon Oleg Deripaska have been shelved or cancelled amid lacklustre investor interest and turmoil in the Middle East.