Beijing’s “Greater Bay Area” project to integrate Hong Kong with 10 neighbouring cities is the only way the former British colony can resolve its long-standing problems and deep-rooted conflicts, the central government’s top official on Hong Kong affairs said on Wednesday.
Giving his take on Premier Li Keqiang’s latest work report, Beijing’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office director Zhang Xiaoming also praised Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and her government for banning the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party (HKNP).
“In the past year, Lam has led her government in being courageous, responsible, and proactive. In accordance with the law, it banned the HKNP, and stopped pro-independence activists from standing in Legislative Council … by-elections,” he said in an article published on his office’s website on Wednesday.
Li pledged in his work report on Tuesday that Beijing would uphold its “one country, two systems” governing principle in Hong Kong and Macau and fully support the two cities’ leaders and governments. Li also said Hong Kong and Macau would develop and thrive with the mainland as they grasp the opportunities under the belt and road international trade strategy and the Greater Bay Area plan, which aims at turning 11 city economies into a financial and technology hub to rival Silicon Valley by 2035.
Zhang said the bay area plan had two major objectives.
“On the one hand, it is to pave the way for the country’s full opening-up … and to create a new engine for high-quality growth. On the other hand, it is also for … creating new space and injecting new momentum in Hong Kong and Macau’s development,” he said.
“The two cities can effectively resolve some long-standing problems and deep-rooted conflicts only when they grasp this opportunity, and work with the nine mainland cities in complementing each other with their strengths, and develop in a coordinated and integrated way.”
Zhang did not elaborate on what the problems and conflicts were, but Beijing officials have previously urged the Hong Kong government to diversify its economy and tackle issues such as the housing shortage.
Regarding Li’s support for Hong Kong’s leader, Zhang also praised Lam for being proactive on both socio-economic and political fronts.
“[Lam and her government] actively participated in the Greater Bay Area plan and Belt and Road Initiative. They also made an effort to create conditions for young people’s growth and development and won acclaim for it,” he said.
The State Council issued a public letter on February 26 to endorse the Hong Kong government’s banning of the HKNP, and asked Lam to submit a report on the matter.
Zhang said: “It was a show of recognition and support for the government’s previous work.”
With regard to Li’s vow to implement one country, two systems comprehensively and accurately, Zhang explained that it meant the relationship between “one country” and “two systems” had to be correctly understood.
“We have to insist on the principle of ‘one country’ while respecting the differences between the two systems,” he said.
Zhang said Beijing was confident that Hong Kong would thrive with the mainland because of the positive trends in China’s development. It was also due to its faith in the wisdom and capability of compatriots in Hong Kong and Macau in governing their cities, he added.