Hongkongers should take advantage of the opportunities offered by the city's bond with the mainland, rather than "imprison" their vision to the confines of Victoria Harbour, the chief executive said yesterday.
But while stressing the benefits of national harmony, Leung Chun-ying emphasised that residents' needs would be his administration's first concern.
"Hong Kong's high level of autonomy does not mean we have to imprison ourselves to [the area around] Victoria Harbour," Leung said in a speech at the spring reception of the pro-establishment Friends of Hong Kong Association.
The city's residents and the administration should take steps to make full use of the "one country, two systems" principle, he said, adding that a harmonious relationship with mainland provinces was vital for the city's long-term development.
His comments came a day after the central government's liaison office chief Zhang Xiaoming said friction between the city and the mainland did not reflect the two sides' developing relationship.
"We must take Hong Kong people's views into account," Leung said. "[Integration] can be mutually beneficial only if we can avoid [negative] impact on Hongkongers' lives."
The administration was deeply concerned about any ill-will arising among Hongkongers as a result of tighter union with the mainland, he said.
The government's priority remained resident's needs, especially if a household item or resource faced pressure, such as with milk powder, housing or primary school places, Leung said. Issues such as parallel-goods traders and mainlanders giving birth in the city have strained ties.