Shenzhen port will not replace Hong Kong as a shipping centre despite rapid development there, according to a mainland official. Hu Hanxiang, director-general of the Department of Water Transportation of the Ministry of Communications, said the mainland and Hong Kong were dependent on each other in developing their economies. He was speaking at the 1999 Seatrade Hong Kong Conference. He said both sides should strengthen co-operation to achieve common prosperity. The mainland would improve highways, railways and waterways to provide greater support to Hong Kong in becoming a sea-trade hub and to maintain its position as an international shipping centre. More than 70 per cent of containers transported to Hong Kong were from the mainland, he said. Mr Hu said the liberalisation of the mainland shipping market would give impetus to the development of international shipping business but the country needed time to reinforce shipping legislation and to learn ship management from developed countries. 'China in its reform and opening drive will not only actively participate in this global liberalisation process, but will also share the benefits,' he said. Mr Hu said the central government supported SAR policy and Hong Kong's status as a free port would remain unchanged.