Reopening Hong Kong-mainland travel top of Carrie Lam’s wish list as city leader heads to Beijing for talks

Natalie Wong
·3-min read

A resumption of cross-border travel between Hong Kong and the mainland will be the “most important” issue on the city leader’s wish list as she travels to Beijing on Tuesday for talks with Chinese ministry officials over measures aimed at reviving the city’s economy.

But Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor refused to disclose if she would meet any higher-ranking state leaders, such as Vice-Premier Han Zheng, during her trip to the capital. However, a source said she was expected to meet Han on Friday.

After Beijing, Lam and Hong Kong’s ministers for health, technology, transport, financial services and mainland affairs will travel to Guangzhou on Friday, where they will hold separate talks with leaders from the provincial capital and Shenzhen the following day.

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Chief Executive Carrie Lam is travelling to Beijing with five of her ministers to push for policies that will aid Hong Kong’s economic recovery. Photo: Nora Tam
Chief Executive Carrie Lam is travelling to Beijing with five of her ministers to push for policies that will aid Hong Kong’s economic recovery. Photo: Nora Tam

Speaking at her weekly media briefing on Tuesday morning, Lam said she regarded the reopening of the city’s border, which would allow Hong Kong residents living on the mainland to return to the city without undergoing a 14-day mandatory quarantine, as “the most important” of various policy proposals on the table for an economy battered by Covid-19.

“I have heard of many disturbances to the local business sector. Ordinary citizens also hope to return to visit their families, or need to come to Hong Kong to settle things. I can assure you this issue will be included in our talks in Beijing,” she said.

It would be quite challenging to have cases dropping to [and staying at] zero for days, but we still have to demonstrate we can control the situation

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam

Analysts noted that while Hong Kong and mainland authorities had been in touch for months about relaunching cross-border travel, a consensus had yet to be reached.

Lam said it would be crucial for the city government to show Beijing the epidemic situation in Hong Kong was under control.

“It would be quite challenging to have cases dropping to [and staying at] zero for days, but we still have to demonstrate we can control the situation,” she said.

Lam also used the press briefing to announce that social-distancing measures, including the four-person limit for public gatherings, would be extended for another week. The city reported nine new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, six of which were imported.

The chief executive added that in addition to officials from four to six ministries related to Hong Kong’s economic recovery, she would also meet the National Health Commission.

But Lam declined to disclose if she would meet any state leaders.

“In general, if there are meetings with more senior officials, it’s not convenient to reveal at this moment,” she said.

Sources previously told the Post that apart from the health commission, the chief executive would also be visiting the National Development and Reform Commission, the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, and the Civil Aviation Administration of China.

Carrie Lam to begin five-day mainland trip with economic recovery talks in Beijing

Lam said the talks would focus largely on how Hong Kong would integrate with the mainland under China’s 14th five-year plan, which had yet to be finalised, and the Greater Bay Area plan.

The latter seeks to turn Hong Kong, Macau, Shenzhen and eight other Guangdong cities into a finance and technology hub.

Issues to be discussed included enhancing market connectivity between Hong Kong and Shenzhen, as well as how to retain the city’s role as an international aviation hub, and better integrate with the Chinese medicine industry, she said.

Lam added the outcome of the trip would be announced during her annual policy address, originally slated for October 14, but now postponed until November 25.

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