Following is a question by Dr the Hon Lam Tai-fai and a written reply by the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Raymond Tam, in the Legislative Council today (April 25):
A number of small and medium-sized enterprises in Hong Kong have relayed to me that, with the rapid development of the Chinese economy, the mainland market has profound potential for development, and quite a number of Hong Kong enterprises hope to seize the business opportunities brought by the "Outline of the Twelfth Five-Year Plan for the National Economic and Social Development of the People's Republic of China" (the 12th Five-Year Plan) and expand domestic sales on the Mainland. However, due to inadequate support from the offices of the Hong Kong SAR Government on the Mainland (Offices on the Mainland), they lack understanding of the actual situation of the mainland market and the channels to access the market. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) of the total number of requests for assistance from Hong Kong enterprises in developing businesses on the Mainland received by various Offices on the Mainland in each of the past five years, and the number of such cases in which assistance had been provided;
(b) of the total number of Hong Kong enterprises which had received support services for business development from various Offices on the Mainland in each of the past five years, with a breakdown by type of service;
(c) of the general procedure and practices of the Offices on the Mainland for handling requests for assistance made by Hong Kong enterprises when developing businesses on the Mainland;
(d) whether it plans to increase the number of Offices on the Mainland and expand their functions in response to the huge market on the Mainland and rising demand for support from Hong Kong enterprises; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(e) whether the Offices on the Mainland will conduct regular surveys on the market conditions in various mainland provinces and cities, and provide Hong Kong enterprises with the relevant and detailed information; if they will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(f) whether the Offices on the Mainland will assist Hong Kong enterprises which intend to develop their businesses on the Mainland in liaising and acquainting with the appropriate government departments and relevant regulatory authorities on the Mainland, and inform them of the channels to access the market; if they will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(g) whether the Offices on the Mainland will consider providing legal and taxation services to the Hong Kong enterprises developing businesses on the Mainland; if they will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(h) of the specific plans put in place by the Offices on the Mainland to further assist Hong Kong enterprises in expanding domestic sales in the mainland market and seizing the business opportunities brought by the 12th Five-Year Plan;
(i) given the reply of the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development to my question on February 29 this year that should individual Hong Kong enterprises encounter problems in accessing the mainland market, they can provide the specific details to the Offices on the Mainland, which will relay the cases with reference to their contents to the relevant mainland authorities and then pursue follow-up action, of the total number of cases received by various Offices on the Mainland and referred to the mainland government departments in each of the past five years, and among such cases, the number of those which had been settled; and
(j) whether comparison has been made on the difference between the work of various Offices on the Mainland and that of the overseas offices of the SAR Government in helping Hong Kong enterprises develop their businesses; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
Our reply to the various items relating to Hong Kong enterprises developing their businesses in the Mainland, and the support work of the Mainland Offices is set out as follows:
(a), (c) and (i) The Beijing Office and the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Offices (ETOs) in Guangdong, Shanghai and Chengdu (the Mainland Offices) have been providing practical assistance to Hong Kong enterprises and residents in the Mainland as necessary. Upon receipt of the requests for assistance, the Mainland Offices will study the cases and liaise with the assistance seekers to gather more information about the cases as necessary. They will follow the "One Country, Two System" principle and provide appropriate assistance having regard to the specific circumstances of the cases concerned and the wish of the assistance seekers, including referring the cases to the concerned Mainland authorities.
The Mainland Offices compile statistics on the assistance cases under four categories, namely "business and trade disputes", "complaints relating to real estate in the Mainland", "complaints against administrative, law enforcement and judicial agencies in the Mainland" and "others". Save for the category of "complaints relating to real estate in the Mainland", the other three categories may cover cases relating to "Hong Kong enterprises intending to develop their businesses in the Mainland". The Mainland Offices do not maintain separate statistics on this type of cases. The number of assistance cases handled by the Mainland Offices since 2007 is set out in Table A at Annex (not including the cases relating to immigration and personal safety matters).
Owing to the varied nature and ways of handling the assistance cases, the Mainland Offices do not maintain statistics on the number of cases successfully assisted.
(b) The Mainland Offices are devoted to providing support to Hong Kong enterprises in the Mainland. The work in this area includes:
(i) Handling general enquiries from Hong Kong enterprises and residents in the Mainland, which can be broadly grouped into the categories of "trade and business-related enquiries", "enquiries seeking information on the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) or organisation in Hong Kong", "enquiries seeking information on the Mainland", "miscellaneous enquiries or expression of views" and "initial enquiries relating to request for assistance". According to the existing categorisation, the Mainland Offices do not maintain separate statistics on enquiry cases of "Hong Kong enterprise developing businesses in the Mainland". The number of enquiry cases since 2007 is set out in Table B at Annex.
(ii) Assisting Hong Kong enterprises in obtaining information on operating businesses in the Mainland, including those relating to new laws, regulations and policies, economic and trade development, and various economic and trade activities. Individual Mainland Offices publish such information through newsletters and websites, publications, seminars and exhibitions, etc. The Mainland Offices also organise activities such as seminars and study missions to facilitate the trade to have a better understanding of the local business environment and policies.
(iii) The Mainland Offices are committed to maintaining close contact and relations with Hong Kong enterprises in the Mainland, and will assist in reflecting issues of common concern to the relevant Mainland authorities through appropriate channels.
(d) Currently there are four offices of the HKSAR Government in the Mainland, namely the Beijing Office, Guangdong ETO, Shanghai ETO and Chengdu ETO. There are also three liaison units established in Shenzhen, Fujian and Chongqing (the first two are under the Guangdong ETO, the third one is under the Chengdu ETO). At the moment, the Government does not have any plan to establish new ETOs in the Mainland.
(e) The Hong Kong Trade Development Council conducts research on the business and trade policies, laws and regulations, business environment and major domestic markets in the Mainland, and publish the related information with a view to assisting Hong Kong enterprise in exploring business opportunities. The Mainland Offices also conduct studies on specific topics.
(f) If Hong Kong enterprises encounter difficulties in developing their businesses in the Mainland, the Mainland Offices will have regard to the specific requests of the concerned enterprises and the circumstances of the cases and endeavour to provide information and facilitation in liaising and communicating with the concerned local authorities under the "One Country, Two Systems" principle and in accordance with their scope of duties and responsibilities.
(g) Hong Kong enterprises conducting businesses in the Mainland are required to comply with the relevant Mainland laws and regulations and pay the required taxes. The Mainland Offices provide relevant information to the trade through their websites and bulletins etc. Regarding legal advisory support, since early 2009, the Guangdong ETO has, through an open tender process, commissioned the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions as the service provider to launch the "Free Legal Advisory Service" and to arrange professional Mainland legal practitioners as advisors to take shifts in the three counseling centres of the association in Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Dongguan to answer questions of Hong Kong enterprises and Hong Kong residents on Mainland-related legal matters through interviews or telephone.
(h) The HKSAR Government has been assisting Hong Kong enterprises in promoting sales in the Mainland domestic market and in capturing the massive opportunities arising from the 12th National Five Year Plan to explore and develop the Mainland market through multiple channels. The concerned bureaux and departments have maintained close liaison with the trade and the relevant Mainland authorities and reflect to the latter the views and concerns of Hong Kong enterprises and discuss with them measures to support the trade. The Government also provides support to the trade, especially the small and medium enterprises, under various funding schemes and through various organisations such as the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, the Hong Kong Productivity Council and trade associations to provide them with business information in the Mainland and support services on brand and market development as well as to organise relevant promotion activities.
In 2012-13, the Mainland Offices will collaborate with trade associations in Hong Kong or other organisations to organise activities such as study missions, seminars, exhibitions or "Hong Kong Week", with a view to promoting Hong Kong brands and products, and assisting Hong Kong enterprises in building up image and promoting awareness of their brands in the Mainland market.
To provide further support for Hong Kong enterprises in increasing their competitiveness in the Mainland market, the Chief Executive announced in the 2011-12 Policy Address the proposal to set up a $1 billion dedicated fund to assist Hong Kong enterprises in exploring and developing the Mainland market through developing brands, upgrading and restructuring operations and promoting domestic sales in the Mainland. The Government proposes that the dedicated fund should comprise two parts: provide funding support to individual enterprises and to the non-profit-distributing organisations. The concerned bureau has consulted the Legislative Council Panel on Commerce and Industry and plans to submit the funding application to the Finance Committee in May 2012, with a view to launching the fund by mid 2012.
(j) Save individual overseas ETOs with dedicated roles and functions (such as the Geneva ETO), generally speaking, the work of the Mainland Offices and overseas ETOs in assisting Hong Kong enterprises in developing businesses in the local area is similar.
Ends/Wednesday, April 25, 2012