Greater Bay Area visit offers a chance to build trust
While visits to mainland China are a politically sensitive issue for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy lawmakers, a planned cross-border trip is an opportunity to improve mutual understanding on both sides
Visits to mainland China remain a politically sensitive issue for pro-democracy lawmakers in Hong Kong. Despite a recent step by Beijing to lift a long-standing entry ban on some figures, individual members are still wary of crossing the border. While the divide is unlikely to be bridged in the near future, both sides need to at least establish a healthy working relationship.
The upcoming trip by lawmakers to the Greater Bay Area provides a good opportunity for that purpose. The details of the itinerary have yet to be worked out. But lawmakers should make use of the occasion to see for themselves the rapid economic and social changes in the region and work closely with the government to speed up economic integration.
The national development blueprint aims to integrate nine Guangdong cities as well as Hong Kong and Macau into a mega economic and business hub. The area stretches over 56,600 sq km with a combined economy of US$1.36 trillion and a total population of 66.71 million. Given its importance in the state development strategy, Hong Kong stands to benefit by actively engaging in the process.
As in the past, the visit has been greeted with scepticism by individual lawmakers. Even when the nature of the visit is essentially non-political, members may have their own political consideration when deciding whether to join. But they risk alienating themselves further by saying no to a good occasion that helps them familiarise themselves with a crucial state development policy.
It is good that some pan-democrats are prepared to join. Even though they do not agree with Beijing on every issue, it does not mean they should snub the chance for dialogue, which hopefully will improve mutual understanding.
In what is seen as a small but positive step towards building a more constructive cross-border working relation, members of a Legislative Council panel led an expedition last April to examine the city’s water supply from Guangdong. The Greater Bay Area visit is set to be the biggest visit by local lawmakers since the political reform impasse in 2014. It is in the interest of the mainland and Hong Kong to seize the occasion to build better trust and cooperation.