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Greater Bay Area

‘Innovation’ needed to capitalise on Greater Bay Area, Hong Kong official says

Comments come as Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and Guangdong governor Ma Xingrui host annual joint conference

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 18 November, 2017, 8:59pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 18 November, 2017, 10:50pm

“Innovation” and “breakthroughs” are needed to enable the flow of people, logistics, capital and information brought about by the development of the Greater Bay Area, a top Hong Kong official said following the latest round of talks between the city and Guangdong province.

A draft blueprint for the Greater Bay Area development initiative, which covers nine Guangdong cities plus Hong Kong and Macau, could be finalised by early next year, providing a glimpse of what remains largely a conceptual plan.

On Saturday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and Guangdong governor Ma Xingrui hosted the annual joint conference on strengthening cooperation between the two sides.

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The talks, now in their 20th year, have been held since Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997, and cover topics ranging from trade to cultural exchange and environmental protection.

Seven agreements were signed this year. The highlight is an arrangement fostering exchange on innovation and technology, which fits into the Greater Bay Area plan of creating a world-class technology hub in the region.

In the press conference, Lam laid down the prerequisites for a capable technology hub: the free flow of people, logistics, capital and information.

To achieve this, Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Patrick Nip Tak-kuen said there must be “innovation and breakthrough” when formulating policies.

“This is because despite being in one country, Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau belong to two systems, three customs territories,” he explained.

Once colonies to Britain and Portugal, Hong Kong and Macau have since returned to Chinese rule but are allowed to retain a certain degree of autonomy – a model called “one country, two systems”.

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An example, Nip suggested, is that research capital can enter the mainland from Hong Kong but not the other way around, so policy adjustments will be needed to facilitate exchange between both sides.

Meanwhile, the draft blueprint for the Greater Bay Area could be released as soon as early 2018, Lam hoped.

Doubts have long been raised that the integration plan, although officially endorsed by Premier Li Keqiang during his annual work report in March, remains largely conceptual with little concrete detail.

In a bid to convince lawmakers, and possibly the public, Lam said she has relayed to Ma the wishes of some members of the Legislative Council to embark on a tour of the area.

She said the Guangdong governor welcomed the proposal and has pledged to facilitate the arrangements.