Hong Kong authorities will step up the amount of help offered to local young people looking to take up internships or set up businesses in mainland China, the city’s deputy leader has said, noting that local youth have certain comparative advantages over their counterparts over the border.
Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, writing on his official blog on Sunday, also dismissed suggestions Hong Kong would be marginalised or “mainlandised” by its Chinese neighbours, such as the tech hub Shenzhen, which was recently described by President Xi Jinping as “an important engine” in the Greater Bay Area plan. The project seeks to integrate Hong Kong, Macau and nine mainland cities into an economic powerhouse.
Cheung argued that Hong Kong continued to have an important role to play and could complement its mainland neighbours in the national development blueprint.
“Hong Kong has always been Shenzhen’s biggest source of foreign investment, with some 80 per cent of Shenzhen’s foreign investment coming through Hong Kong,” he wrote.
“The economic cooperation of the two places will be an important driving force for prosperity … Hong Kong and Shenzhen should aim at achieving a win-win cooperation, deepening their cooperation and making Hong Kong and Shenzhen a dual engine for growth in the Greater Bay Area.”
Cheung said he also believed the bay area project could become a springboard for young Hongkongers’ careers.
“Hong Kong young people grew up in this internationalised metropolis; they know different languages and cultures, and have a broad international vision,” he wrote.
“We will further help young Hong Kong entrepreneurs to discover the opportunities offered by the Greater Bay Area … The [project] is a new runway, as well as a new option, for the young.”
The Hong Kong government had been encouraging exchanges of young people between the city and the mainland, Cheung noted, pointing out an average of more than 60,000 local young people were granted opportunities every year to gain experience on the mainland through various internship and exchange programmes.
Hong Kong’s future and its continued prominence were thrown into doubt earlier this month when Xi appeared to favour Shenzhen as the linchpin of the bay area in an address at a ceremony marking the 40th anniversary of the establishment of its special economic zone.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor – who delayed her annual policy address to attend the ceremony and said she would later fly to Beijing – caught flak after suggesting in an interview with a mainland broadcaster that she “didn’t mind”Shenzhen’s economy eclipsing Hong Kong’s.
Sources say that Lam’s trip has since been postponed until after the 19th Communist Party Congress’ fifth plenum concludes on October 29.
However, Tam Yiu-chung, Hong Kong’s sole delegate on the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, dismissed suggestions on Sunday that the postponement showed that Beijing officials attached little importance to meeting Lam.
Tam told reporters local officials should also pay attention to messages emerging from the plenum, and make adjustments to their future development plans.
The former pro-Beijing lawmaker also echoed Cheung’s view that Hong Kong still had an “irreplaceable” edge in its financial industry. Instead of replacing the city, Shenzhen and Hong Kong would prosper together.
Tam was also asked to comment on the University of Hong Kong's plan to appoint Tsinghua University professors Max Shen Zuojun and Gong Peng as vice-presidents.
Opposition lawmakers and student leaders have urged the university to clarify whether Shen was still serving as a party member.
Tam dismissed suggestions the university’s academic freedom would be under threat if a party member were appointed to take up a leading management role. He said it would be good to have academics from the mainland’s top university working in Hong Kong.
The HKU student union launched a petition on Sunday urging the university’s governing council to delay a scheduled meeting on Tuesday, in which it is expected to endorse the appointments.
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