Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying urged Hong Kong business leaders to boost co-operation with the mainland and Taiwan at a financial forum on Thursday.
He acknowledged worries among the business community that Hong Kong might lose cross-strait trade following a trade pact between Beijing and Taipei, but he said the city could benefit as well.
The Economic Co-operation Framework Agreement, implemented in 2010, reduces import tariffs between the mainland and Taiwan.
If the city could think out of the box, further open up and boost co-operation, Leung said, it could make better use of development opportunities.
Echoing Leung’s remarks, a Beijing official said Hong Kong was losing its competitive edge and that its people should be self-reliant.
“Some of Hong Kong’s advantages are weakening. Our neighbouring countries and places, particularly in the Pearl River Delta, are quickly catching up,” said Zhou Bo, deputy director of the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office.
Officiating at the event in Wan Chai, Zhou warned that the city would face increasing pressure to compete.
“Hong Kong is like a boat sailing against the current. It will go backwards if it does not move forwards. Development opportunities could be gone soon after they arise, so Hong Kong should move ahead with speed,” he said.
Zhou also applauded Leung’s mission to seek change while maintaining stability, develop the economy and improve people’s livelihoods. The platform showed “vigilance in peace time” and “the mainstream opinion of society”, Zhou said.
Despite his warnings, Zhou made sure to acknowledge a “Hong Kong miracle”.
“Hong Kong has grasped one opportunity after another ... establishing itself as an international icon, making historical contributions to mainland reform, and opening cross-strait development,” he said.