Vice-president tells visiting tycoons the economic opportunities are enormous The mainland will look first to Hong Kong and Macau when seeking foreign capital, talent and technological know-how, Vice-President Zeng Qinghong told a group of tycoons yesterday. Speaking to about 70 prominent businessmen from Hong Kong and Macau at Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, Mr Zeng said forging closer economic ties with the mainland would bring mutual benefits and a 'promising future'. Pointing out that Hong Kong capital accounted for 44.5 per cent of the foreign direct investment in the mainland by the end of last year, Mr Zeng told the delegation: 'The party and government will never forget the historic contribution of business and professional sectors in Hong Kong and Macau to the reform and economic development on the mainland. 'All of you must have faith that fostering economic co-operation will bring enormous opportunities and a promising future.' The vice-president, the mainland's top official in charge of Hong Kong affairs, said the people of the two special administrative regions should treasure and seize the opportunity to boost their economies. 'Economic development is not only the top priority of the nation, but also the urgent task and eternal theme for Hong Kong and Macau,' he said. 'We will still have to bring in a great deal of talent, managerial skills and technological know-how ... the top priority will of course go to the Hong Kong and Macau region.' The vice-president's message was seen as another move by the central government to play the economic card in an attempt to cool the political heat in Hong Kong. Mr Zeng stressed the cities' long-term prosperity and stability hinged on their economic development. The 115-strong delegation, including the tycoons and some family members, arrived in Beijing yesterday to begin an eight-day trip to inspect investment possibilities in the northeasters provinces. The delegation includes Trade Development Council chairman Peter Woo Kwong-ching, Sun Hung Kai Group vice-chairman Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong, PCCW chairman Richard Li Tzar-kai and Airport Authority chairman Victor Fung Kwok-king, New World Development managing director Henry Cheng Kar-shun Sino Land chairman Robert Ng Chee Siong, Shui On Group chairman Vincent Lo Hon-sui and Bank of East Asia chairman David Li Kwok-po. It is led by Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference vice-chairman Liao Hui and Financial Secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen. Macau gaming mogul Stanley Ho Hung-sun said he was interested in property, tourism and entertainment industries in Harbin , saying he would invest no less than $1 billion there. Other tycoons also said they would invest if good opportunities arose. The tycoons will go to Dalian , the port city of Liaoning province , today and will visit Shenyang , the provincial capital, tomorrow. The delegation will also visit Changchun , capital of Jilin province , and Harbin, capital of Heilongjiang . The trip is due to end on Sunday. It is the second investment delegation of Hong Kong businessmen to visit regions whose economies Beijing is striving to boost. In May 2001, more than 200 businessmen and senior officials were invited by the central government to join the Go-West tour to the western provinces. The financial secretary said Hong Kong companies accounted for the largest share in foreign direct investment in Liaoning, Jilin and Heilongjiang.