Carrie Lam

Hong Kong chief Carrie Lam pledges to strengthen ties with Shenzhen amid China’s ‘Greater Bay Area’ push

Leader meets mayor, entrepreneurs and a robot panda during one-day trip to city’s closest neighbour

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 July, 2018, 11:07pm
UPDATED : Friday, 20 July, 2018, 11:30pm

Hong Kong’s leader pledged on Friday to enhance the city’s ties with near neighbour Shenzhen, as China marks the 40th anniversary of economic reform and opening up.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, wrapping up a one-day visit to the Guangdong city on Friday, said she would lead a delegation of 200 Hongkongers across the border later in the year, to discuss Shenzhen’s achievements and review how both cities had worked together over the years.

Shenzhen was a small town before China’s reform and opening up – the period of economic liberalisation and modernisation – started 40 years ago. It is now the country’s leader in innovation and technology.

Lam also invited the mainland Chinese city’s leaders to attend the opening ceremony of the cross-border high-speed rail link which will connect the two cities, as well as Guangzhou, and was scheduled to start running in September.

“I hope to further raise our close relationship to a new stage upon the foundation of decades,” Lam said.

It was her second trip to Shenzhen this year and on Friday, flanked by Hong Kong’s technology, health, welfare and mainland affairs ministers, she began her visit at the office of Ping An Technology, a subsidiary of China’s second-largest life insurance company.

Hong Kong's leader in charm offensive over English language use

The Hong Kong officials then met Shenzhen’s mayor Chen Rugui and party chief Wang Weizhong, as well as some Hong Kong entrepreneurs in Shenzhen.

Chen praised Hong Kong for becoming “more orderly, energetic and prosperous” since Lam took office in July last year.

Of the nine mainland cities involved in the “Greater Bay Area” with Hong Kong and Macau – Beijing’s plan to create an integrated innovation and financial hub rivalling America’s Silicon Valley – Lam said the city had the closest relationship with Shenzhen.

She also toured an innovation hub and co-working space, meeting 10 Hongkongers setting up businesses there. Later, at Chinese University’s Robot Institute, she hugged a robot panda developed there. The PanBot, meant to provide therapy to dementia patients, can perform different gestures on command.

“It can understand Cantonese?” the chief executive asked, before hugging it.

Yet, Lam did not look too excited. “I hugged a real one [before],” she said, probably referring to a trip to Wolong, Sichuan province, two years ago, when she visited a panda park funded by the Hong Kong government.

Accompanied by Hong Kong property tycoon and Shimao Group chairman Hui Wing-mau, Lam and the government officials also visited the construction site of the commercial-residential Shenzhen-Hong Kong International Centre.

The project will include a 700-metre office tower, a young people’s entrepreneurial and start-up centre and an international school. It is expected to cost between 40 billion and 50 billion yuan (HK$46 billion to HK$58 billion).

When completed, in 2024 at the earliest, its tower is expected to be China’s tallest building, surpassing the 632-metre Shanghai Tower, which is second in the world to the 830-metre Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

The chief executive did not have a briefing with journalists at the end of the trip and did not respond to media questions about the proposal to ban the Hong Kong National Party.