Promote the benefits of integration with mainland
- Far too many of Hong Kong’s young people have a negative impression of the mainland, an issue that the authorities must tackle with a sense of urgency
Despite the city’s reunification with China more than two decades ago, cross-border integration is still resisted by many young Hongkongers. In a recent opinion poll, 52.6 per cent of the 1,071 respondents aged between 15 and 24 said they did not agree with the idea of integration, 5.2 percentage points more than those who agreed. Given the drive to develop the “Greater Bay Area” will only intensify, it would do well for the authorities to reflect on the obstacles and address the underlying concerns of the people.
The negative sentiments were reflected in the survey by Chu Hai College of Higher Education. While more than a third of the respondents acknowledged the economic development on the mainland, as many as 46 and 50 per cent respectively highly disagreed that mainland society and its legal system were improving. Only 23.4 per cent were keen to seek opportunities across the border, compared to 44.4 per cent who were not. Just one in four highly agreed that they were Chinese nationals. The percentage for “I am a Greater Bay Area citizen” was even lower. Similar sentiments were reflected in another survey last month, with most Hongkongers saying there were not interested in leaving for mainland cities in the Greater Bay Area.
Admittedly, some concerns stem from the differences between the mainland and Hong Kong systems. This is not helped when political rows arise from time to time, fuelling negative perceptions of the city’s freedoms and autonomy being eroded.
The authorities should therefore work harder to address people’s worries. Some of the concerns were indeed due to a lack of understanding of the development on the mainland. For instance, 54 per cent said they had not set foot in a bay area city over the past year. Similarly, more than 60 per cent of the youngsters admitted that they did not pay much attention to integration issues, although respondents in another poll said they were deterred by food safety, law and order and transport across the border. There are also worries that relocating to the bay area would result in the loss of welfare benefits here. All these must be addressed through proper measures and publicity.
The recent granting of mainland social benefits to Hongkongers living across the border and the opening of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge and high-speed rail line to Guangzhou have set the stage for further economic and social integration. But it is not just about tapping benefits and opportunities. As part of the country, Hong Kong has the responsibility to promote national development. The key is to keep our edge, seize the development opportunities and contribute to the country.