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Greater Bay Area

Hong Kong rule of law, diverse economy keys to ‘Greater Bay Area’ success, lawmakers say

Largest delegation of city legislators to visit mainland since 2014 offers insights during tour of cities in Guangdong province as Beijing plan gets under way

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 April, 2018, 7:08pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 April, 2018, 11:26pm

Hong Kong must uphold its rule of law and diversify its economy to make Beijing’s “Greater Bay Area” project a success, according to local lawmakers on a five-city tour of mainland China.

They were referring to the central government’s plan to forge an integrated business powerhouse across Hong Kong, Macau and nine cities in Guangdong province.

The bay area stretches over 56,600 square kilometres, covers 11 economies that were worth US$1.36 trillion in 2016, and has an estimated population of 66.7 million.

The group, comprising 23 pro-establishment and nine pan-democratic lawmakers, is the largest delegation of city legislators to visit the mainland since 2014.

Accompanied by four Hong Kong ministers, they began a three-day tour on Friday to learn more about Beijing’s plan.

On Saturday, they visited the state-owned lab called China Spallation Neutron Source centre in the city of Dongguan. The facility, which cost US$300 million to build, focuses on microscopic technology research that helps scientists examine structures ranging from DNA to aeronautic materials.

It has been described as the first of its kind in the country and is only the fourth such centre in the world. The other three are in Japan, the US and Britain.

Next they travelled to the city of Zhongshan for a lunch meeting with its deputy mayor, Lei Yuelong, and Liao Jingshan, head of Guangdong province’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office.

Hong Kong’s financial industry enjoys an advantage ... But we must not rely on one industry
Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung, lawmaker

Business sector lawmaker Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung, who sits on Hong Kong’s Executive Council, said Lei agreed the two cities could further cooperate in areas such as health care, tourism and finance.

“Hong Kong’s financial industry enjoys an advantage as foreigner investors are drawn to the city’s tax policy and common law system. But we must not rely on one industry,” Lam explained. “We must maintain the advantage and develop in a balanced way.” He added that innovation and technology could be a new driver of the city’s growth.

Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai said the visits reaffirmed to him the importance of safeguarding Hong Kong’s strengths amid regional competition.

“All cities are seeking to attract talent to make themselves innovative,” Wu said. “But the municipal officials agreed that Hong Kong’s strengths [lie in its level] of internationalisation, rule of law, and free flow of information.”

“Hong Kong officials and society must cherish these things so that we can be the best choice in the bay area for international talent.”

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Lam and accountancy sector lawmaker Kenneth Leung said they had told Guangdong official Liao that to make the project successful, Hong Kong businessmen should be exempted from paying the mainland’s salary tax even if they had spent more than 183 days in a year in any of the nine mainland cities included in the project.

The delegation also on Saturday visited the landing site of the Shenzhen-Zhongshan link, a bridge and tunnel structure under construction. Members further toured the Qingsheng high-speed railway station in the city of Guangzhou – which is eventually to connect to Hong Kong – as well as the Lingnan Tiandi cultural heritage conservation zone in the city of Foshan.

The group was expected to conclude on Saturday with a dinner with Foshan officials. They are slated to return to Hong Kong on Sunday.