Sichuan earthquake, 10 years on

Hong Kong signs deal for projects with Sichuan ahead of quake anniversary

Carrie Lam leads delegation to Chengdu, agreeing with provincial officials to work together on technology, innovation, education, tourism and transport

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 May, 2018, 8:02pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 May, 2018, 12:42pm

Hong Kong moved to deepen ties with Sichuan through a raft of new cooperative projects ahead of the 10th anniversary of a devastating earthquake that struck the southwestern province.

Officials from both sides signed an agreement for 29 projects across fields such as technology innovation, education, tourism and transport after a high-level delegation from Hong Kong, led by Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, travelled to provincial capital Chengdu on Friday.

The deal would build on a relationship that has expanded over the past decade after Hong Kong provided HK$10 billion (US$1.27 billion) to Sichuan for 190 reconstruction projects in the wake of the magnitude-8 quake. The massive earthquake hit Wenchuan county on May 12, 2008, killing more than 87,000 people and injuring another 370,000, and requiring vast resources for rebuilding work.

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“The deep emotional connection we’ve built after the Wenchuan earthquake will bring the relationship between Hong Kong and Sichuan to a new level, expanding the scope of our cooperation and playing an important role in our respective development,” Peng Qinghua, Communist Party chief of Sichuan and former director of Hong Kong’s liaison office, said.

The fresh cooperation framework between the two sides, agreed in Hong Kong in August, also aims to promote Beijing’s “Belt and Road Initiative”, a sprawling infrastructure development plan.

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“Hong Kong’s various advantages make it the ideal platform for Sichuan businesses to enter the world market, helping everyone take advantage of opportunities from the [Belt and Road] Initiative as well as the Greater Bay Area,” Lam said, referring to Beijing’s scheme to link Hong Kong with major southern cities on the mainland including Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Zhuhai.

Projects in the agreement include a memorandum of understanding between Hong Kong’s MTR Corporation and the Chengdu Rail Transit Group to cooperate on subway management and development, and a strategic partnership between the Hong Kong Federation of Design Associations and the Tianfu New Area for international commerce and innovation in Chengdu.

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Other areas of cooperation will include Sichuan airline staff travelling to Hong Kong for training, and other exchange and internship programmes that will see more than 600 young Hongkongers travel to Sichuan this year.

Officials also encouraged Sichuan companies to take advantage of Hong Kong’s status as a world financial hub – including with stronger intellectual property protections – to access the global marketplace. The Hong Kong stock exchange amended its listing rules in late April to encourage more technology and biotech companies to apply, which Lam said would attract more Sichuan start-ups.

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After the agreement was signed, Lam was given a tour of an exhibition showcasing the results of Hong Kong-funded reconstruction projects in Sichuan at the Chengdu International Exhibition and Convention Centre. She will also visit the Institute for Disaster Management and Reconstruction, which was jointly set up by Sichuan University and Hong Kong Polytechnic University after the Wenchuan earthquake.