Top Beijing leader will take charge of China’s ambitious bay area integration plan
Vice-Premier Han Zheng, ranked No 7 in party hierarchy, is lined up for key role, sources say
A top Beijing leader will take charge of China’s ambitious Greater Bay Area project, with an aim to foster social and economic integration between Hong Kong, Macau and cities in the Pearl River Delta, it was revealed on Tuesday.
Yang Jianping, a deputy director of the central government’s liaison office in Hong Kong, said it was “likely” that a member of the Politburo Standing Committee – the nation’s highest decision-making body – would lead the drive to forge an economic powerhouse across Hong Kong, Macau and nine mainland Chinese cities.
According to Susie Chiang Su-hui, honorary chairwoman of the Taiwan Business Association in Hong Kong, Yang did not mention names while addressing a gathering of Taiwan groups, but he told them the project had been elevated to a national strategy and was designed to help Hong Kong and Macau better fit into China’s overall development.
This came as Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor announced on Tuesday that she would visit three Guangdong cities included in the project – Shenzhen, Zhongshan and Zhuhai – from Thursday to Friday.
Sources told the Post that Vice-Premier Han Zheng, ranked number seven in the Communist Party hierarchy, would be the man in charge of the bay area project.
Han, 63, was also likely to be Beijing’s point man in the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee to oversee Hong Kong and Macau, one source said.
But it remains unclear whether Han will head the central coordination group for Hong Kong and Macau affairs, replacing former National People’s Congress chairman Zhang Dejiang, who retired earlier this month.
Han, a former Shanghai party chief, joined the Politburo Standing Committee at last October’s party congress, and became the highest ranked of four vice-premiers earlier this month.
“Han has garnered rich experience in running a regional economy during his time in Shanghai. That experience will be useful in developing the greater bay area,” a source told the Post.
Another source said Han was the logical choice as his vice-premier’s portfolio included coordinating China’s regional economic development.
Two Shanghai government sources also said Han was likely to take charge of the mega project because he was the most ideal candidate among China’s top leaders to oversee infrastructure development and urban planning.
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During his tenure as a vice-mayor of Shanghai between 1998 and 2003, Han was in charge of the financial hub’s transportation and urban planning before he became the mayor.
“Take a look at Shanghai’s roads, metro lines and ports, they are the good examples of Han’s knowledge and expertise in dealing with mega infrastructure works,” said a former official with the city’s transport authority who had worked under Han.
Under his leadership, Shanghai hosted the extravagant World Expo 2010 with a total investment of US$95 billion on expo-related infrastructure – the scale and pace of development had never been seen in any other city worldwide.
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In his role as vice-premier, Han is expected to oversee environmental protection as well as the international trade and infrastructure development plan known as the “Belt and Road Initiative”.
Lau Siu-kai, vice-chairman of semi-official think tank the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, said Han was one of the most suitable and likely candidates to take charge of the Greater Bay Area plan.
“He worked for a long time in Shanghai, which is on the frontline of China’s reform and opening up. The Greater Bay Area is also an integral part of the Belt and Road Initiative … and closely related to the nation’s opening-up policies,” he said.