Chief Executive Carrie Lam

Hong Kong will emerge stronger as a result of two important decisions made by the National People’s Congress over the past year to safeguard implementation of the “one country, two systems” principle in Hong Kong, namely the enactment of the National Security Law and its promulgation for implementation in Hong Kong last June and amendments to Annex I and Annex II of the Basic Law on Hong Kong’s electoral arrangements. Both decisions are constitutional, legitimate, necessary and timely.

 

Not surprisingly, these decisive acts of the central government have drawn a plethora of defamatory remarks and malicious attacks from some foreign governments, politicians and the western media. Adopting their usual tactics, they have demonised the acts of safeguarding national security as a clamp-down on individuals’ rights and freedoms and improvements to the electoral system as a retrogression in democracy. In so doing, I am afraid they are turning a blind eye to the chaos, vandalism and personal danger suffered by Hong Kong people for almost one full year since June 2019; they have glorified violence and extremism as “fighting for democracy” and they have ignored the political radicalisation that had paralysed the Hong Kong legislature, and in turn undermined the Hong Kong’s governance.

 

Implementation of the National Security Law has halted chaos and restored order in Hong Kong – Hong Kong people can once again enjoy their rights and freedoms. The Hong Kong Police is enforcing the law and the courts of Hong Kong, including the Court of Final Appeal, are adjudicating national security cases without any interference. With Legislative Council’s approval of the necessary local legislation last month, preparation is in hand for conducting the coming public elections in accordance with the law to put into practice the principle of “patriots administering Hong Kong”. Important constituents in Hong Kong’s political system will be served by people who will uphold the principle of “one country, two systems” and through its broad representation and balanced participation, have Hong Kong’s overall interest at heart. I have no doubt that the 9,000 overseas and Mainland enterprises based in Hong Kong, with 44% using Hong Kong as their regional headquarters or regional offices, are attracted by the framework of “one country, two systems” including the high degree of autonomy. In this regard, this bedrock of faith and confidence in Hong Kong is now much strengthened.

 

Secondly, Hong Kong’s past success and future also lies in our city’s uniqueness and strengths, many of which are guaranteed under the Basic Law. They include the rule of law, the independent judiciary, the free flow of capital, the freely convertible currency, the fundamental rights of the residents, the free flow of information and proximity to the world’s second largest economy and strategic geographical location in a fast-growing Asia. With these competitive advantages which have not been tainted, Hong Kong’s economy will do well, particularly when we strive for greater integration into the Mainland economy, seizing the many opportunities in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area and beyond.

 

Thirdly, in the Nation’s 14th Five-Year Plan promulgated in March this year, the central government’s support for Hong Kong has gone far beyond those traditional economic areas. Apart from reinforcing support for Hong Kong as an international financial, trade and transportation centre and a centre for international legal and dispute resolution services in the Asia-Pacific region, the country will support Hong Kong to develop an international innovation and technology (I&T) hub, an international aviation hub, an East-meets-West hub for international arts and cultural exchanges and a regional intellectual property trading hub. These, what I call the “4+4” diversified economic landscape, will create abundant opportunities for growth. I am pleased to note from the programme of today’s Greater Bay Area Summit that the British Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong has covered some of these areas and several of my colleagues will speak on their respective subjects.

 

Let me now share with you how Hong Kong will benefit from the bay area, one of the fastest-growing regional economies in China and in the world. With a total population of 72 million and a combined gross domestic product of around US$1.7 trillion, the bay area will bring abundant development opportunities to different sectors of the community. Hong Kong is well-positioned to play a key role and progress has been made since the approval of the Greater Bay Area Outline Development Plan in February 2019. Peter has just underlined the importance attached to Hong Kong in the bay area by inviting Hong Kong to host the launching of the outline development plan in February 2019. I should add that if you notice almost on every occasion when the Greater Bay Area Leading Group chaired by Vice Premier Han Zheng held its meeting, the Chief Executive of Hong Kong was the one asked to come out and speak to the media.

 

As we all know, the bay area is conceived, planned and propelled by President Xi Jinping himself. Overseen by a leading group led by Vice Premier Han Zheng, of which I am a member, all relevant ministries and commissions are represented at a senior level to ensure that decisions are made and implemented effectively. Our leaders have repeatedly stressed that the bay area, with the two special administrative regions, is aimed at enriching the implementation of “one country, two systems”, utilising the systemic strengths of Hong Kong and Macau, and building a new system of an open economy. In my experience in the past two years, we are never inhibited from coming up with innovative ideas on how to achieve these objectives, particularly in terms of facilitating the flow of people, goods, capital and information between Hong Kong, Macau and the nine bay area Mainland cities. Measures that have been introduced include tax concessions, support for young entrepreneurs, cross-boundary remittance of state and provincial research and development (R&D) funding, increased market access for legal and construction services, and more recently, allowing Hong Kong-registered drugs and common medical devices to be used in designated, Hong Kong-owned healthcare institutions in the Mainland cities of the bay area.

 

In pursuing high-quality development in the bay area, the 14th Five-Year Plan singles out the expansion of mutual access between the financial markets of Hong Kong and the Mainland, the strengthening of co-operation between Hong Kong and the Mainland in commerce and trade, in innovation and technology and in other key sectors. The plan also adds the Shenzhen-Hong Kong Loop as one of the major co-operation platforms in the bay area, along with Guangzhou Nansha, Shenzhen Qianhai and Zhuhai Hengqin.

 

In the near future, we can look forward to the launching of Wealth Management Connect, which will allow residents in Hong Kong, Macau and the nine Mainland cities of the bay area to make cross-border investment in wealth-management products. We are as well looking forward to the early implementation of the Southbound Bond Connect, which will allow Mainland investors to access the international bond market via Hong Kong. As for insurance, we are working to establish after-sales service centres in the Mainland cities of the bay area. These would offer comprehensive support to Hong Kong and Macau, and the Mainland residents holding Hong Kong policies.

 

Innovation and technology will drive the bay area’s success, and Hong Kong is well-positioned to play a central role in the region’s rise as an I&T hub. Hong Kong is much blessed with strong basic research in our world-class universities, five of which are amongst the world’s top 100, and the Government’s unprecedented investment of HK$110 billion in I&T during my term is beginning to bear fruit. Coupled with our market-oriented economy, intellectual property rights protection, a listing regime for the new economy companies, and a business-friendly environment for startups, Hong Kong will provide a perfect match to Shenzhen’s technology ecosystem and achieve the effect of “1+1 is bigger than 2”. Indeed, we are about to sign on a new partnership with Shenzhen on the basis of “one zone, two parks” in the Shenzhen-Hong Kong I&T Co-operation Zone. Under this initiative, our own Hong Kong Science Park will lease and manage select areas of the Shenzhen I&T Zone, and attract talents and companies from the Mainland and overseas to this Zone.

 

The bay area also offers far-reaching promise for legal services. The Greater Bay Area Legal Professional Examination, for example, will allow Hong Kong and Macau legal practitioners to obtain Mainland qualifications, practising as lawyers in the bay area. The initial exam had drawn some 650 registered applicants and was scheduled to be held in January this year. Unfortunately, it was postponed because of the pandemic, but will hopefully be resurrected in the near future. The pilot measure to allow wholly-owned Hong Kong companies to adopt Hong Kong laws has been implemented in Shenzhen Qianhai. It allows the Hong Kong companies registered in the Qianhai co-operation zone to use Hong Kong law when entering into civil and commercial contracts. And we are in discussions to extend this initiative to Shenzhen and beyond. The goal is to create a law-based, internationalised business environment for the entire bay area.

 

As we expect more and more businesses to establish their presence in the bay area, the Hong Kong Trade Development Council has very recently launched the “GoGBA” platform. The platform, which can be accessed through the Internet or WeChat mini programme, features the region’s latest economic and trade policies and measures, as well as market information, trade-event details and…



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