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Greater Bay Area

Cross-border tech and taxes: the big Hong Kong debates at Boao’s Greater Bay Area brainstorming session

Carrie Lam says city has a lot to gain but support needed from Beijing to realise integration plans

PUBLISHED : Monday, 09 April, 2018, 9:39pm
UPDATED : Monday, 09 April, 2018, 11:39pm

Hong Kong’s finance and research industries have much to gain from deeper integration with mainland China’s economy and there is no need for the city to compete with manufacturing hubs like Dongguan and Shenzhen.

That was the assessment of Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor during a “brainstorming” panel discussion on plans for the Greater Bay Area – an economic development plan to meld the city with Guangdong and Macau – at the Boao Forum for Asia on the southern Chinese island of Hainan on Monday.

The plan’s area encompasses 65 million people and the scheme likened to the San Francisco Bay Area and the New York metropolitan area. It is designed to foster Hong Kong’s integration with the mainland.

Lam said she hoped the plan would be launched soon and Beijing would support good ideas to bring it to fruition.

“In fact, if we really want to push the Greater Bay Area ahead, and if we want to see a breakthrough, we definitely need big support from the central government,” she said.

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Guangdong governor Ma Xingrui and former Hong Kong financial secretary Antony Leung Kam-chung were also on the panel.

Leung suggested that border checkpoints use facial recognition technology to reduce queues and that Hong Kong residents who stayed on the mainland for more than 183 days in a year be given the option of paying income tax in the city, where tax rates are much lower.

Integration between Hong Kong and the mainland has proved complex on the ground because each side has its own legal, monetary, tax and administrative systems.

Debate has also been intense over big infrastructure projects like the Hong Kong high-speed rail link with the mainland and the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge.

Ma said Guangdong was happy to adapt its rules to make it easier for Hong Kong people, especially young people, to live and work on the mainland.

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“For example, graduates from Hong Kong and Macau universities previously had to obtain an employment certificate to work in Guangdong ... That was a very simple problem and we just cancelled the requirement,” Ma said.

Ma said Guangdong’s roads could also be opened to all vehicles from Hong Kong.

“Even if all vehicles from Hong Kong and Macau were visiting Guangdong, we could manage,” he said.

Leung, who is now chairman of property giant Nan Fung Group, also said the mainland should set up “trial international health care zones” for Hong Kong residents so they could access Hong Kong doctors and medicines.

Ma interrupted immediately, saying the Guangdong authorities had already discussed the idea and it was very likely to become a reality.