The departure of Guangdong party secretary Zhang Dejiang , who is tipped to take over from Vice-Premier Wu Yi in March, would have little impact on growing Hong Kong-Guangdong relations, political analysts from the two economic centres agreed yesterday.
Chongqing party secretary Wang Yang , a reputed liberal credited with the metamorphosis of the nation's youngest municipality, is widely expected to become Mr Zhang's successor in Guangdong.
Most analysts believe the change of top leader in Guangdong will not affect the growing integration between the province and the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau. Most believe Mr Zhang's successor will continue the policy of facilitating close co-operation with Hong Kong.
Despite seeing room for further improvement in areas such as transport, finance and environmental protection, the vice-president of the China Development Institute (Shenzhen), Guo Wanda , said: 'In the past five years, Guangdong and Hong Kong's co-operation has improved substantially in quality.'
Mr Guo was reluctant to speculate about who would be the province's new leader but said a recent visit by Chongqing officials left a positive impression. 'They were full of stamina, just like Shenzhen back [when it was opening up],' he said.
A Shenzhen resident said it only mattered that the new leader was pragmatic. 'Guangdong people are a pragmatic bunch,' he said.
Mr Zhang, a controversial leader since taking over the reins of Guangdong in 2002, has been applauded for spearheading integration of the Pan Pearl River Delta but has come under attack for his uncompromising stand on press freedom and social protests.
Nevertheless, there seems to be consensus on his contribution to fostering greater integration between the two neighbours, and the belief that relations will continue to strengthen after he leaves. One reason is that he will continue to wield power over policies in the region.
Ong Yew-kim, of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said: 'Wang Yang is not very familiar with Guangdong and Hong Kong affairs - this will be his disadvantage.
'On the other hand, he may bring new ideas and breathe new life into the cross-border co-operation.
'The direction of Guangdong-Hong Kong relations will not change much.'
The chairman of the Democratic Party in Hong Kong, Albert Ho Chun-yan, agreed. 'The relationship between Guangdong and Hong Kong is not determined solely by Guangdong's leadership. The central leadership matters as well.'