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LCQ22: Preparation for the economic co-operation between cities in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Bay Area

     Following is a question by the Hon Holden Chow and a written reply by the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Raymond Tam, in the Legislative Council today (June 21):


     The Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Bay Area (Bay Area) encompasses 11 cities with a total population of over 66 million.  It has been reported that the gross domestic product (GDP) of the Bay Area in 2015 was HK$11,200 billion, which exceeded the GDP of San Francisco Bay Area in the United States by more than two times.  In the Report on the Work of the Government released in March this year, the Premier of the State Council stated that "[w]e will promote closer co-operation between the Mainland and Hong Kong and Macao.  We will draw up a plan for the development of a city cluster in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Bay Area, give full play to the distinctive strengths of Hong Kong and Macao, and elevate their positions and roles in China's economic development and opening up".  There have been comments that the Bay Area development plan is one of the important regional development plans advocated under the nation's Belt and Road Initiative, and offers a once-in-a-thousand-year opportunity for the long-term economic development of Hong Kong.  As such, the Hong Kong Government should seize the opportunity and properly carry out planning work on various aspects so as to tie in with the development of the Bay Area in future, and conduct a forward-looking study on the impacts of the Bay Area plan on the economic development of Hong Kong.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) as the authorities have indicated that they will conduct a study on Hong Kong's role in the Bay Area, whether they will, in the light of the study findings, expeditiously formulate specific policies and measures (e.g. those relating to infrastructure and post-secondary education programmes) to complement Hong Kong's giving full play to such role; if so, of the details and the timetable;

(2) given that the cities in the Bay Area are currently under three different judicial systems and three separate customs territories, and the Guangdong Province and Hong Kong are competing with each other in terms of aviation networks, container terminals, airport facilities, etc., whether the Government has plans to propose to the Central People's Government, the Guangdong Provincial Government and the Macao Special Administrative Region Government that a permanent communication mechanism be set up to solve problems arising from such situation; whether the Government has plans to propose to the Central People's Government that tax exemptions or concessions be granted to Hong Kong people who work across the boundary in other cities in the Bay Area in respect of the individual income tax payable by them in those cities; and

(3) as there are comments that the existing immigration and customs clearance arrangements between Guangdong and Hong Kong are not smooth enough, e.g. travellers need to wait for a long time (often more than an hour) at the land boundary control points (BCPs) in Hong Kong and at Mainland ports for clearance during festive holidays, and among the various existing BCPs, only the one at Lok Ma Chau operates round the clock, which causes inconvenience to people travelling frequently between Guangdong and Hong Kong, whether the Government will study ways to improve the immigration and customs clearance arrangements (e.g. providing more BCPs which operate round the clock)?


     Our overall reply to the Member's question is as follows:

     The development plan for a city cluster in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Bay Area (the Bay Area development plan) is as an important regional development plan set out in the Dedicated Chapter on Hong Kong and Macao (the Dedicated Chapter) under the "Outline of the 13th Five-Year Plan for the National Economic and Social Development of the People's Republic of China" (the 13-5 Plan).  As for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), the Bay Area development plan must reflect and carry out Hong Kong's unique functional positioning that has been clearly defined in the 13-5 Plan, which includes the support for Hong Kong in consolidating and enhancing our status as international financial, shipping and trade centres, strengthening our status as a global offshore Renminbi business hub and an international asset management centre, promoting financing services, business and commerce, logistics and professional services, etc. towards high-end and high value-added developments.  The 13-5 Plan also supports Hong Kong in developing the innovation and technology industry, nurturing emerging industries, as well as establishing itself as a centre for international legal and dispute resolution services in the Asia-Pacific region.  Moreover, the 13-5 Plan supports Hong Kong in participating in the country's two-way opening up, as well as the Belt and Road Initiative, encourages enterprises from the Mainland, Hong Kong and Macao to leverage their respective advantages and adopt various collaborative approaches to "go global" together.

     Being the most international city among the Bay Area cities, not only can the HKSAR benefit from the advantage of "one country" and the convenience of "two systems", it can also fully leverage its role as a "super-connector" in the Bay Area.  The HKSAR Government will, in accordance with the principle of "one country, two systems", join hands with the Guangdong Provincial Government and Macao Special Administrative Region Government (Macao SAR) to participate in the work of the development planning for the Bay Area led by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC).

    The HKSAR Government will continue to consult industry sectors and relevant committees on the Bay Area development plan and fully reflect the views to the NDRC so as to provide the NDRC with useful references for its drafting of the Bay Area development plan.  For instance, in late April this year, the Chief Executive (CE) led a delegation comprising members of the Executive Council (ExCo), as well as members of the Commission on Strategic Development (CSD) and the Economic Development Commission (EDC) to visit six cities in the Bay Area.  Moreover, the CE chaired a cross-sectoral consultation session on June 14 to further consult different sectors of the community on the Bay Area development plan in greater depth.  Apart from non-official members of ExCo, members of the CSD and the EDC, the attendees also included representatives from the industrial, business, financial and professional services sectors, youth bodies and think tanks, as well as members of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, Hong Kong region, Guangdong Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference Standing Committee Hong Kong Members, etc.  It was the unanimous view of the industry sectors and those attending the session that cities within the Bay Area should, on the strength of their respective functional positioning, work to achieve co-ordinated and complementary development so as to bring about mutual benefits and win-win results through establishing and leveraging an effective co-operation mechanism.  Many specific suggestions were put forth by stakeholders, particularly on how to foster the flow of people, goods, capital and information between Hong Kong and other cities in the Bay Area; and how Hong Kong could leverage its unique advantages in various co-operation areas to develop and "go global" with other cities in the Bay Area in a co-ordinated manner.  The suggestions included, amongst others, improving the tax system so as to provide greater incentives for Hong Kong people to take up employment on the Mainland and introducing measures to facilitate the entry of Hong Kong people and vehicles to the Mainland.

     The HKSAR Government will continue to consult and incorporate the views of industry sectors in the community on the Bay Area development plan and reflect their views to the NDRC.  It is understood that the NDRC will put forth a draft Bay Area development plan for consultation shortly and will formally solicit the views of the Governments of the Guangdong Province, the HKSAR and the Macao SAR.  By then, the HKSAR Government will fully consult the industry sectors and advisory committees through the relevant policy bureaux.

Ends/Wednesday, June 21, 2017
Issued at HKT 14:00