Border development zone 'will bring Hongkongers jobs' says think tank

Think tank insists commercial zone will attract mainlanders to shop, boosting local employment

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 August, 2012, 3:20am

Encouraging commercial developments in border areas will offer job opportunities for Hongkongers and reduce shop rents for business start-ups, according to Executive Council member Cheung Chi-kong.

Cheung, who is also executive director of the One Country Two Systems Research Institute, was defending the think tank's proposal to allow mainlanders into the 2,400-hectare border zone, which is being opened to the public after 60 years, on a visa-on-arrival basis. He said the plan had been "misinterpreted" by some as a visa-free arrangement.

The institute and its two-year-old proposal have come under attack after reports, since denied, that visa-on-arrival admission would also cover three controversial new towns being planned for the northern New Territories. That led to claims that the new towns, opposed by many because they would take up much of the city's remaining farmland, would become economic centres for mainlanders rather than being used to solve Hong Kong's housing problems.

On a radio programme yesterday, Cheung said the visa-on-arrival plan would only apply to commercial developments inside the border zone, covering just a few square kilometres.

"It is just an idea suggested by a non-governmental organisation," he said.

Chan Kim-ching, a member of a concern group opposed to the new towns, said the proposal would create a new "shopping economy" for mainlanders in border areas, similar to those that are creating problems in urban areas popular with shoppers from the mainland.

But Cheung said the border commercial zone would provide local jobs, attracting people from crowded urban space to move into a better living environment in the New Territories. It would also mean shops could enjoy lower rents, providing opportunities for new businesses.