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Eighteenth Plenary of Hong Kong/Guangdong Co-operation Joint Conference held in Hong Kong

     The Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), Mr C Y Leung, and the Governor of Guangdong Province, Mr Zhu Xiaodan, leading the delegations of the HKSAR and Guangdong Province respectively, co-chaired the 18th Plenary of the Hong Kong/Guangdong Co-operation Joint Conference in Hong Kong today (September 9).

     The Chief Executive said, "At the 18th Plenary of the Hong Kong/Guangdong Co-operation Joint Conference, the Governor of Guangdong Province, Mr Zhu Xiaodan, and I reviewed the progress of Hong Kong-Guangdong co-operation over the past year and set the directions for co-operation for the next year. Both sides considered that the implementation of the co-operation items under the 2015 Work Plan has made good progress. Mr Zhu and I also had in-depth discussion and exchanges on two important topics, the 'One Belt, One Road' initiatives and the development of the Guangdong Free Trade Zone, at the Plenary. The two sides considered that Guangdong and Hong Kong should strengthen liaison and co-operation in the future, and seize the immense opportunities brought about by the 'One Belt, One Road' initiatives and the Free Trade Zone, so as to contribute to our nation."

     In respect of individual areas of co-operation, the progress made and the directions for future co-operation are set out below:

Liberalisation of trade in services

     The Agreement between the Mainland and Hong Kong on Achieving Basic Liberalization of Trade in Services in Guangdong (Guangdong Agreement) was signed under the framework of the Mainland and Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) last December and was implemented on March 1 this year. Looking ahead, the two sides will deepen the understanding of the Guangdong and Hong Kong business sectors towards the preferential measures and detailed implementation arrangements on the Mainland so as to enable them to make good use of the liberalisation measures of trade in services under the Agreement.

Financial co-operation

     Over the past year, co-operation in financial development has made significant progress. On cross-border Renminbi (RMB) business, following the launch of the cross-border RMB lending pilot scheme in Qianhai in 2013, the pilot scheme was extended to Nansha and Hengqin in July this year with Hong Kong financial institutions participating in the business. In the coming year, both sides will strive to seek approval from the Central Authorities for introducing pilot schemes in Guangdong Province to open up more aspects of financial services to Hong Kong financial institutions and service providers, including expanding the cross-border RMB financing and investment businesses between the two places, pushing for the development of the Qualified Domestic Individual Investor initiative, lowering the entry threshold for Hong Kong securities and insurance companies to the Mainland market, increasing the shareholding percentage of Hong Kong partners in joint venture companies and expanding their business scope gradually.

Professional services

     On legal services, law firms in the two places have been allowed to operate in partnership associations in Nansha, Qianhai and Hengqin on a pilot basis since last year. As at July this year, a total of six law firms operating in the form of partnership association had been given approval to run their business in the pilot areas, with four in Qianhai, one in Nansha and one in Hengqin. The HKSAR Government will work with the Department of Justice of Guangdong Province to seek the extension of pilot areas to cover all areas in Guangdong. As for construction and related engineering services, both sides will continue to strive for the early implementation of pilot projects in major regional co-operation districts (such as Qianhai), adoption of project management systems for Hong Kong construction projects and employment of Hong Kong professionals in construction and related engineering services as service providers, with a view to deepening Hong Kong-Guangdong co-operation in professional services.

Innovation and technology

     Guangdong and Hong Kong implemented the Guangdong-Hong Kong Technology Co-operation Funding Scheme in 2004 to support co-operation on advanced technology and technological transfer between the two places. In 2014, 12 projects have been funded jointly by Hong Kong and Guangdong, with a total of $25 million funded by the HKSAR Government. A new round of application under the Funding Scheme was opened for application in August.

     In respect of strengthening exchange on smart city development between Hong Kong and Guangdong, the 2015 Hong Kong/Guangdong Exchange Forum on Smart City and Cross-boundary e-Commerce was held in Hong Kong in July this year. The forum offered an opportunity for the industry in the two places to share and exchange experience in the development of smart city initiatives and cross-boundary e-commerce, as well as to explore opportunities for co-operation.

Environmental protection

     On environmental protection, the HKSAR Government has extended the Cleaner Production Partnership Programme for five years to 2020 with a provision of $150 million to encourage and assist Hong Kong-owned factories in Guangdong to adopt cleaner production technologies and practices. Funding applications under the new phase of the Programme have been invited since June this year. Since the launch of the Programme in April 2008, over 2 400 funding projects have been approved and some 390 awareness and technology promotion activities were organised.

     The Co-operation Agreement on Regional Air Pollution Control and Prevention among Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao was signed by the three sides in September last year to foster air pollution control and prevention and enhance regional air quality. In the coming year, Hong Kong and Guangdong will conduct a mid-term review on the emission reduction results for 2015 and finalise the emission reduction targets for 2020. In addition, the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Joint Regional PM2.5 Study will proceed as planned.

Youth co-operation

     Hong Kong and Guangdong organised, for the first time, the Guangdong-Hong Kong Internship Programme in June this year whereby internship places in areas covering information technology, marketing, personnel management, engineering, accounting and law were offered by enterprises and departments in Guangdong Province to youths in Hong Kong. Over 530 young people have taken up internships in Guangdong under this Programme. Continuous efforts will be made by the two places to improve arrangements for next year's Programme to provide a wider diversity of internship places to the youths in Hong Kong. On voluntary services, over 350 tertiary students from Hong Kong and Guangdong took part in a seven-day voluntary service programme on a matching basis in four Guangdong municipalities in July this year to provide services in areas including teaching assistance, cultural promotion, agricultural science and technology, environmental science and medical care.

     In July this year, the HKSAR Government gained support from the Legislative Council Panel on Home Affairs which agreed that no geographic restriction on the scope of operation should be imposed in respect of the start-up businesses of youths funded under the Youth Development Fund (i.e. the business locations could include Guangdong Province). Once funding approval is given by the Legislative Council to set up the Youth Development Fund, it is expected that applications from non-governmental organisations will be invited by mid-2016.

Cultural exchange

     At the 16th Greater Pearl River Delta Cultural Co-operation Meeting held in Hong Kong in June this year, key achievements of co-operation among the three places were announced. They include the development of the Regional Museum Pass for Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao to encourage pass holders to visit the museums in the three places; the development of a mobile application for the map of cultural information in the Greater Pearl River Delta, which expands the mobile functions of the Greater Pearl River Delta Cultural Information Net to enable users to browse cultural information of Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau with ease. The 7th Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Youth Cultural Exchange was held in July 2015 and attracted a total of 123 youths from the three places.

Co-operation in education

     As at the 2014/15 school year, a total of 155 Guangdong teachers and some 80 Hong Kong English teachers have taken part in the Mainland-Hong Kong Teachers Exchange and Collaboration Programme and the Scheme on Hong Kong Teachers' Exchange Activities to the Mainland respectively. In addition, over 40 000 Hong Kong teachers and students visited Guangdong through participating in the Mainland exchange programmes in the 2014/15 school year. In the coming year, Guangdong and Hong Kong will continue to further take forward various co-operation initiatives to support exchanges for teachers and students, and it is planned that the number of subsidised places for students to participate in exchange programmes held in Guangdong will be increased to more than 50 000 in the 2015/16 school year.

     In respect of collaboration between sister schools, as at the 2014/15 school year, there were 291 pairs of Guangdong-Hong Kong sister schools, accounting for about two-thirds of all the Hong Kong-Mainland sister schools. It is expected that at least 60 more pairs of Guangdong-Hong Kong sister schools will be formed in the coming three years. The Education Bureau also plans to implement in the 2015/16 school year a three-year pilot scheme to provide an annual grant of $120,000 and professional support to public sector and Direct Subsidy Scheme primary and secondary schools (including special schools) having formed sister school(s) with the Mainland to facilitate the multifaceted development of sister school activities.

Other areas

     Apart from the above, Hong Kong and Guangdong have also made steady progress in other areas of co-operation, such as tourism, cross-boundary infrastructure, food safety, medical services, intellectual property rights and social welfare.

Co-operation agreement signing ceremony

     Five co-operation agreements were signed after the meeting:

* Agreement on Exchanges and Co-operation in Food Safety for Hong Kong/Guangdong;

* Co-operation Agreement between Guangdong-Hong Kong Sister Schools;

* Agreement on Guangdong/Hong Kong Co-operation on Intellectual Property Protection (2015-16);

* Co-operation Arrangement among Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Search and Rescue (SAR) Authorities for Mutual Recognition of "Plans for Co-operation between Search and Rescue Services and Passenger Ships"; and

* Co-operation Agreement on Enhancing Cross-Boundary E-commerce.

The 18th Plenary

     The 18th Plenary was co-chaired by the Chief Executive, Mr C Y Leung, and the Governor of Guangdong Province, Mr Zhu Xiaodan. Officials of the HKSAR Government attending the meeting included the Chief Secretary for Administration, Mrs Carrie Lam; the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung; the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung; the Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury, Professor K C Chan; the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Gregory So; the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Raymond Tam; the Secretary for Security, Mr Lai Tung-kwok; the Secretary for Education, Mr Eddie Ng Hak-kim; the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr Ko Wing-man; the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Wong Kam-sing; the Secretary for Development, Mr Paul Chan; the Secretary for Home Affairs, Mr Lau Kong-wah; the Director of the Chief Executive's Office, Mr Edward Yau; the Permanent Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Ms Chang King-yiu; and other relevant officials. At the meeting, Mrs Lam and the Vice-Governor of Guangdong Province, Ms Zhao Yufang, together with other officials of the two sides, reported the progress and achievements made since the 17th Plenary Meeting of the Hong Kong/Guangdong Co-operation Joint Conference.

     The Deputy Director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, Mr Zhou Bo, and the Deputy Director of the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the HKSAR, Mr Yang Jianping, also attended the meeting as special guests.

Ends/Wednesday, September 9, 2015
Issued at HKT 18:59