South China’s Guangdong raises status of its Hong Kong affairs

Elevation of portfolio to governor level indicative of province’s desire for greater ties with the city

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 August, 2017, 1:48pm
UPDATED : Friday, 18 August, 2017, 11:22pm

The southern Chinese province of Guangdong has elevated the status of its Hong Kong affairs portfolio by placing it under the direct control of its governor.

According to a government announcement on Thursday, responsibility for Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan affairs has been passed to governor Ma Xingrui. It is a move that underlines the increased importance the southern economic powerhouse attaches to the city as it pushes for greater economic integration in the region.

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For the past three administrations, the portfolio came under the remit of the province’s deputy governor. Before Ma, it was managed by He Zhongyou, until his promotion in May to head of the provincial party political and legal affairs committee.

Guangdong is keen to push ahead with plans to develop a Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area. Though first proposed in 2011, the concept – to improve integration between Hong Kong, Macau and the mainland through closer economic and infrastructure ties – has floundered in recent years, with little real progress made.

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The ambitious plan was given a fillip in March, however, when Premier Li Keqiang put his weight behind it as part of his annual work report to the national legislature.

The proposed bay area development would encompass 11 cities, almost 67 million residents, and a combined GDP of US$1.36 trillion, based on last year’s figures.

Guangdong has been pushing for greater integration with Hong Kong for two decades but has achieved only limited success, over issues such as the city not wanting to lose its high degree of autonomy, and differences in planning and public consultation processes.