Beijing to set out Hong Kong’s role in China’s global trade strategy during Carrie Lam visit

Hong Kong leader heads to China’s capital on Wednesday for meeting with President Xi Jinping, where she will sign agreement on city’s participation in country’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative to open up global trade

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 09 December, 2017, 9:33pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 10 December, 2017, 10:52am

Beijing will set out Hong Kong’s role in Chinese President Xi Jinping’s “belt and road” global trade strategy in an agreement to be signed this week between the country’s “super ministry” and the city’s leader, it was revealed on Saturday.

The office of Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said she would be bringing home new tasks handed down by China’s National Development and Reform Commission after her maiden duty visit to the capital from Wednesday to Friday.

Political observers however were focused on one aspect of the visit left unaddressed on Saturday – whether Lam would get a one-on-one meeting with Li Zhanshu, who was in October appointed the Communist Party’s No 3 official. His job has for the past five years come with the biggest say on Hong Kong affairs, second only to Xi.

Lam’s office only said she would be meeting “state leaders” and briefing them on “the latest economic, social and political situations in Hong Kong”. She was expected to meet Xi and Premier Li Keqiang, as Hong Kong leaders in the past have done.

She will also sign an agreement with the ministerial-level National Development and Reform Commission on advancing the city’s “full participation in and contribution to” the Belt and Road Initiative, China’s grand strategy to revive trade with more than 60 countries along the ancient Silk Road.

The NDRC is considered a “super ministry” in Chinese politics and has the job of mapping out the mainland’s overall ­economic direction, including annual and five-year plans.

The arrangement to be entered into between the commission and Hong Kong is likely to focus on six areas, including finance and investment, infrastructure and shipping, and trade cooperation.

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Dispute resolution, the development of the so-called “Greater Bay Area” in Guangdong province, as well as people-to-people exchanges will also be highlighted, according to comments last month by Hong Kong Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau Tang-wah.

That corresponded with a speech made in June last year by Zhang Dejiang, the outgoing chief of China’s national legislature, who highlighted the city’s role in the trade initiative after the country formally conferred it a place in Xi’s brainchild.

Since Zhang stepped down from the Politburo Standing Committee in October and was succeeded by Li, all eyes have been on whether Lam will meet Li one on one.

“It is still unclear whether they will meet individually. Li may join her meeting with Xi as he’s the president’s most trusted aide,” said Lau Siu-kai, vice-chairman of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, a semi-official think tank.

If a meeting takes place, it would be the clearest sign yet that Li has formally taken over Zhang’s party role of overseeing Hong Kong and Macau affairs.

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In the past presidents and premiers have held meetings with Hong Kong chief executives in their capacity as state – not party – leaders. The encounters have usually been open to the media for the first few minutes as the two figures highlighted their key messages for Hongkongers.

The chief executives customarily meet behind closed doors with the official in charge of the Communist Party’s working group on Hong Kong and Macau affairs.

Former chief executive Leung Chun-ying, for instance, met Zhang in the Great Hall of the People.