Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam urges city’s neighbours not to fight over economic benefits of Greater Bay Area development

Hong Kong’s leader has called for the city’s neighbours to cooperate not compete over the financial benefits expected to come from the development of the “Greater Bay Area”.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor announced on Tuesday that a national level blueprint for developing an economic body in southern China, involving Hong Kong and 10 neighbouring cities, will be published within days.

And she said fierce competition between the cities involved was something to be “avoided as far as possible”.

“We are all very committed to building a bay area economy, which is open, international, which will consist of an international innovation and technology hub, which has the personal support of President Xi Jinping,” Lam said.

Beijing’s plan aims to integrate Hong Kong, Macau, and nine Guangdong cities into an innovation hub that rivals Silicon Valley in the United States.

“The nine cities in Guangdong province, and Hong Kong and Macau should … leverage on our strengths and advantages, in order to create a much bigger economy,” Lam said.

The bay area stretches over 56,500 sq km, covers 11 economies valued at US$1.58 trillion in 2017, and has an estimated population of 68 million.

In 2016, the 11 cities accounted for 12.5 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product.

More details of the blueprint will surface during a symposium held in Hong Kong next Thursday, which will involve top officials from China’s National Development and Reform Commission, as well as leaders of Guangdong and Macau, Lam said.

Here’s how Hong Kong property would benefit from Greater Bay Area

The Post earlier reported that vice-premier Han Zheng – Beijing’s top man on Hong Kong and Macau affairs – approved the blueprint last month and it would be unveiled on February 21.

Speaking before meeting her advisers in the Executive Council, Lam said the development of the Greater Bay Area should place an emphasis on cooperation.

“Anything that is just fierce competition should be avoided as far as possible,” she said.

Lam also said the document, described as an outline development plan, will contain broad initiatives for the three governments to carry out.

“This is an outline development plan, so it will not be like the policy address, which has hundreds of policies that can be implemented immediately,” Lam said.

Since the bay area initiative was announced, critics have questioned whether Hong Kong’s further integration with China will undermine the “one country, two systems” principle, or the city’s unique advantages as an international finance hub.

On Tuesday, Lam said that would not be the case.

“This is because one of the key factors to the bay area’s success is one country, two systems, and the involvement of the two special administrative regions,” Lam said.

She also noted both Premier Li Keqiang and Han had said Hong Kong’s involvement in the bay area development would not divert from the one country, two systems principle.

The blueprint comes almost four years after the initiative was first written into an official document in March 2015.

In 2017, officials from Hong Kong, Macau and Guangdong signed a framework agreement on developing the bay area.

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