Beijing implies support for Hong Kong’s plan to build schools, hospitals and elderly care centres in Greater Bay Area
The city’s leader proposed this to Beijing and asked for its support during her maiden duty visit, says the central government’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office
While the city’s leader recently obtained several new benefits for Hongkongers from the central government during her maiden duty visit, she also asked for support to build hospitals, schools and elderly centres within the Greater Bay Area that spans nine mainland cities, Macau and Hong Kong.
Beijing’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office revealed Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s request in an article published on its website on Tuesday.
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Zhang Xiaoming, the head of the office, was also quoted in the article as underscoring the national and strategic importance of the Greater Bay Area initiative, which aims to link the cities so they can cooperate in innovation, technology and infrastructure to be an economic powerhouse.
Lam, who met President Xi Jinping and other state officials to report on developments in Hong Kong earlier this month, said after her three-day trip that she had sought Beijing’s support to enhance “the flow of people, goods, capital and information” within the Greater Bay Area.
She also declared a slew of goodies for Hongkongers, including new access to jobs, school places and housing funds on the mainland.
Analysts say that one benefit of economic integration for Hong Kong would be labour mobility in both directions, so that the city could hire workers for specific industries while its young graduates could access more opportunities close to home.
In the article, Zhang, Beijing’s point man on Hong Kong affairs said his office would endeavour to implement the integration plan effectively.
At the same time, it would also include the requests of Hong Kong and Macau’s leaders, who had asked for the central government’s support to start “schools, hospitals, health and elderly centres” in the area and for policies that would promote cooperation among the cities, given that the mega bridge connecting Hong Kong, Macau and Zhuhai on the mainland is set to open next year.
Hong Kong’s No 2 official Matthew Cheung Kin-chung last week said that the three governments had been trying to complete construction of the mega sea-crossing by the end of the year and were continuing to “work out the border control arrangements”.
Earlier this month, Hong Kong’s mainland affairs office told the Legislative Council that the city had completed work on a development plan for the Greater Bay Area, with Guangdong and Macau authorities and China’s top economic planning agency, the National Development and Reform Commission.
The plan would be announced in the first quarter of next year, Under Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Andy Chan Shui-fu said.
Lawmaker and trade unionist Wong Kwok-kin on Wednesday said Zhang’s remarks in the article signalled Beijing’s support for Lam’s request.
Wong, a member of Lam’s policy advisory body, the Executive Council, said he agreed with the suggestion and added: “The plan would help education and medical industries of Hong Kong, and attract professionals and youngsters working in the Greater Bay Area.”
The issue was just when these developments would take place, he said. The city’s government would need to work with authorities in the Greater Bay Area cities to roll out relevant policies and the administrators of Hong Kong schools and hospitals would have to complete other procedures before setting up in those cities.
Pro-Beijing lawmaker Ben Chan Han-pan agreed, adding that Hongkongers running businesses on the mainland were worried about their children’s education and some had sent them back to the city to be part of the local education system.
“Schools run by Hongkongers operated under our local system would help the children to adapt, and ensure the quality of teachers,” he said, adding that it would encourage more talented Hongkongers to work in areas on the mainland where they could access such schools.