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Saturday, Apr 13, 2024

Communication key for Hong Kong, city leader says, as he wraps up Beijing trip

Communication key for Hong Kong, city leader says, as he wraps up Beijing trip

Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee says officials will ‘spare no effort in solving problems together with their mainland counterparts’.

Hong Kong’s leader has said more effective communication with mainland Chinese authorities will help the city, as he wrapped up a week-long visit to Beijing that analysts described as a useful trust-building exercise to secure better cooperation and collaboration with the central government.

Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu’s remarks on Saturday came at the end of an unprecedented trip to the capital, where he met representatives from 11 ministries, including finance, education, foreign affairs and science and technology, and central institutions.

Noting it was the first time he had led a delegation of eight bureau chiefs on an official visit to Beijing, Lee said the support and attention of the central government was “a strong impetus for Hong Kong’s development”.

He added: “Secretaries of bureaus and directors of departments will spare no effort in solving problems together with their mainland counterparts.”

Chief Executive John Lee during his visit to Beijing.

His last engagement before returning to Hong Kong was a closed-door meeting on Saturday with justice minister He Rong.

The chief executive was told the ministry looked forward to exchanges with his administration on legal services and ways to safeguard the rule of law in the Greater Bay Area, the central government’s ambitious plan to link Hong Kong, Macau and nine mainland cities into an economic powerhouse.

Lee pledged to consolidate Hong Kong’s position as an international centre for legal and dispute resolution services in the Asia-Pacific region under the national 14th five-year plan.

He also told the justice minister his administration would fully support and cooperate with the International Organization for Mediation Preparatory Office, which was set up in Hong Kong last month “to support the country in developing international mediation and nurturing talent in the practice of foreign-related legal affairs, to integrate into the overall national development”.

Political analysts said the Beijing visit would bring communications to a higher level and highlighted a big difference between Lee’s administration and that of his predecessor’s on Hong Kong-mainland cooperation.

Professor Lau Siu-kai, a consultant at semi-official think tank the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, said Lee was “much more willing” to remain in step with the central government and “more responsive” to its requirements. Former leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s administration adopted a “desultory” manner on dealing with cooperation, he said.

“Lee knows well that Beijing’s support is what the city needs most to advance its economy and enhance people’s livelihoods against the backdrop of increasing geopolitical tension,” Lau said.

He pointed to the visit Lee paid to the Ministry of Science and Technology, which reflected his devotion to diversifying Hong Kong’s economy, as well as to his answering Beijing’s call on transforming the city into an international innovation hub.

Lau also noted Hong Kong’s importance in national development had grown further, a fact reflected in the reception Lee received from the central authorities, and said he believed they had witnessed how determined and sincere Lee’s administration was, which would help build trust and cooperation.

“In return, they will be more willing to address hurdles that emerge when conducting such cooperation,” Lau said.

Veteran political commentator Sonny Lo Shiu-hing said Lee’s visit to Beijing had been a “must” for Hong Kong to align itself with national development goals.

Lo said the trip would also help to maintain stability and prosperity in Hong Kong, which would eventually be a role model in Beijing’s strategy for resolving the Taiwan question, given the island would have a presidential election in early 2024.

Separately, the foreign ministry has invited city business representatives to join a delegation visiting Eastern European countries, including Greece, Hungary and Romania, in June to forge close ties with partners of the Belt and Road Initiative, according to Judith Yu, chairwoman of the Hong Kong Chamber of Commerce in China.

Yu, a Hong Kong member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, told the Post that the trip was a symbolic diplomatic move as these countries were expected to play an increasingly pivotal role in China’s foreign policy considerations amid tensions with the United States.

She said Lee had told her during a meeting in Beijing earlier in the week mainland affairs chief Erick Tsang Kwok-wai planned to steer a new task force to ramp up support to Hong Kong businesses operating across the border.

As CEO of HKI China Land, which runs real estate projects on the mainland, Yu said the manpower crunch was still the biggest hurdle to growing their businesses despite the country’s opening up after the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Many workers, from property management personnel to hotel workers, left Beijing in the past three years and shifted to jobs in their hometowns,” she said. “We need policy pushes to propel the return of the workforce.”


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