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Jack Ma

Alibaba’s Jack Ma wants role in helping Hong Kong become ‘fashionable’, cashless society

Boss of China’s e-commerce giant tells of ambition in meeting with Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 August, 2017, 8:03am
UPDATED : Friday, 25 August, 2017, 10:59am

Alibaba founder Jack Ma Yun has offered to play a bigger role in helping Hong Kong develop into a “more fashionable”, cashless society.

The boss of China’s e-commerce giant expressed the group’s ambition during a meeting with visiting Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor on Wednesday at the company’s headquarters in Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang province.

Lam’s stopover was a key item on her itinerary during a two-day trip to Shanghai and Hangzhou to call on political and business leaders in order to foster closer economic cooperation.

Ma told Lam that Alibaba hoped to help Hong Kong transform into a cashless society by taking advantage of its growing data clouding and e-payment systems.

“Such a society would make Hong Kong more fashionable, modern, and efficient,” he said.

According to the Alibaba Group, one in three people in Hong Kong uses its platforms Tmall or Taobao. Alibaba is also one of the largest public cloud service providers in Hong Kong, operating two data centres in the city.

“In the future, we [Alibaba] will get more involved in the technological and financial development in Hong Kong. We also hope to improve our data centres in the city,” Ma told Lam.

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“One of the biggest advantages in Hong Kong is its young generation. They are highly educated, harbouring a broad spectrum of knowledge and global horizons.”

Earlier this month Alibaba Group signed an agreement with Macau to help the former Portuguese enclave transform into a “smart city” by using its big data processing capabilities to enhance the quality of public services and traffic management.

Alibaba, owner of the South China Morning Post, kicked off its smart city programme last year, launching the Hangzhou City Brain, which is based on artificial intelligence and deep learning to help improve traffic management.

Besides cooperation in technology, Ma said the company hoped to engage more young people from Hong Kong and help small and medium-sized enterprises boost exports to the mainland.

Ma said Hong Kong was a global city benefiting from the “one country, two systems” principle, which allowed it to enjoy the benefits of both the capitalist system and policy support from mainland China.

“Who knows what Alibaba could become if Hangzhou had ‘one country, two systems’,” he said.

He added that the company had entered the Hong Kong market a long time ago. Alibaba hosted its first press conference in the city in 1999.

“It’s a pity that we lost the opportunity to be listed in Hong Kong, but we cannot lose future opportunities there,” he said.

In her chief executive election manifesto, Lam pledged to make Hong Kong a smart city and promote technological innovation, saying: “We should strategically attract internationally well-known and recognised leading companies to set up in Hong Kong.”

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She said her government would act as “facilitator” and “promoter” to help Hong Kong catch up and keep abreast of international trends in innovation and technology.

During a visit to Singapore earlier this month she praised the development of innovation and technology in the Lion City.

Before going to Hangzhou, Lam earlier on Wednesday called on Shanghai Communist Party secretary Han Zheng and mayor Ying Yong. During the meeting, she noted the close relations between the two cities and hoped her visit could lift cooperation between them to a “higher platform”.

On Tuesday, Lam met Hong Kong people living in Shanghai and attended a banquet to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to Chinese sovereignty.

Lam had planned to return to Hong Kong on Wednesday night but had to stay in Hangzhou one more night because of flight disruptions caused by Typhoon Hato.

Additional reporting by Ng Kang-chung