Increasing integration with the mainland could boost Hong Kong's economy and help solve the city's social problems, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said yesterday in a speech marking the National Day holiday.
Leung, who has been battling governance issues and public concerns over the influx of mainlanders since taking office in July, said such integration was inevitable. "We must realise it is inevitable and essential for Hong Kong to develop alongside the mainland. We must embrace every opportunity that the development of our country brings to Hong Kong," he told the 4,000 guests celebrating the 63rd anniversary of the People's Republic of China at the Convention and Exhibition Centre.
"After more than 30 years of hard work, Hong Kong has established an unprecedentedly large external economy in Guangdong. It has contributed to the fostering of Guangdong's development. More importantly, it has sustained Hong Kong's economic growth and created employment for Hong Kong people.
"These are all facts that we must realise."
But he added: "We will also address new issues which arise as Hong Kong continues to develop alongside the mainland, including the problem of capacity, in order to sustain the constructive synergy between the two places to achieve a win-win situation."
His remarks came as the government stepped up efforts to crack down on parallel goods traders and block pregnant mainland women without bookings at local hospitals from entering the city. At Hong Kong's request mainland authorities also suspended an earlier plan to relax visa application procedures which would have allowed non-residents in six key cities easier access to Hong Kong.
With many locals complaining about high home prices and a widening income gap, Leung said: "The HKSAR government cares about people's livelihood. At the same time, Hong Kong must achieve a higher and sustainable economic growth rate in order to address various long-standing problems including housing, poverty, an ageing population and pollution."
Leung was joined on the stage by his predecessors Tung Chee-hwa and Donald Tsang Yam-kuen.
Defeated chief executive candidate Henry Tang Ying-yen was also invited to the reception but was nowhere to be seen. Few pan-democrats, apart from Democrats Law Chi-kwong and Andrew Chiu Ka-yin, accepted the invitation to attend.
After the ceremony, Executive Council convenor Lam Woon-kwong told the Post: "It is inevitable that conflicts will arise in the integration process. We should sort them out using a positive attitude, but we should not dodge the problem."