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Regional plan holds HK key

By China Daily | China Daily Global | Updated: 2019-09-04 10:08

The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge plays an important role in the development of the Greater Bay Area. [Photo by Wang Shanglin/For China Daily]

Greater Bay Area strategy offers ample opportunities, UK business leader says

China's Greater Bay Area strategy reflects "the greatest respect and greatest admiration" the Chinese government has shown to Hong Kong and the people of Hong Kong, and is the solution to social unrest in the special administrative region, said Stephen Perry, chairman of the 48 Group Club, a Britain-based business networking organization.

"Here is Hong Kong, standing at the beginning of one of the greatest opportunities they probably will ever have," Perry said. "But they are fighting in the streets. It doesn't make sense.

"They need to be focused on the Greater Bay Area. They need to be working with the other 10 cities, including especially Shenzhen, to form a clear idea of how to develop a Greater Bay Area which is probably unparalleled in the world," he added.

The Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area consists of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the Macao Special Administrative Region and nine cities in Guangdong province - Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Foshan, Huizhou, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Jiangmen and Zhaoqing. It covers a total area of 56,000 square kilometers and had a combined population of about 70 million at the end of 2017.

The Greater Bay Area development plan says the region will be turned into a vibrant, world-class city cluster, a globally influential international innovation and technology hub, an important support pillar for the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative, a showcase for in-depth cooperation between the mainland and Hong Kong and Macao, and a quality living circle for living, working and traveling.

Perry said this area reminds him of the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone, which transformed a small village into one of the world's leading cities today. He said the fact that companies such as Alibaba, Tencent and Huawei have built and developed their capability for national as well as international development in Shenzhen, known as China's Silicon Valley, is "not an accident".

According to the Greater Bay Area development plan issued in February, the region will initially form an international first-class bay area and world-class city cluster that is vibrant and highly innovative, with an optimized industrial structure and a pleasant ecological environment, by 2022, and will be fully developed by 2035.

"Hong Kong and Shenzhen can have a wonderful opportunity to lead the Greater Bay Area," he said, with both areas showing huge growth potential.

Last year, Hong Kong's GDP grew 3 percent to HK$2.845 trillion ($362.8 billion), equivalent to 2.4 trillion yuan based on the average annual exchange rate, according to the government's Census and Statistics Department. Shenzhen, meanwhile, surpassed Hong Kong for the first time by about 22 billion yuan to lead the Greater Bay Area.

"The problem now is, of course, demonstrations and violence are occurring in Hong Kong," said Perry, referring to the protests that began in early June. The protests initially targeted the now-suspended extradition law amendment bill, but have since grown increasingly violent. Protesters have stormed the Legislative Council Complex, attacked the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government and assaulted police officers with weapons including gasoline bombs, slingshots and sharpened metal poles.

Such radical behavior has been described as "neo-extremism" by Liu Xiaoming, China's ambassador to the United Kingdom, who said radicals in Hong Kong are posing a severe challenge to law and order, threatening the safety of life and property of the Hong Kong people, and undermining the city's prosperity and stability.

Perry said, "The violence will not lead to a successful outcome.

"Now it's the time to participate actively and not create a bad impression in the fellow citizens and cities of the Greater Bay Area," he emphasized. "The opportunities will be there. But it may be that the Greater Bay Area will have moved faster than Hong Kong moves."

Perry said his great worry is that Hong Kong leaders and demonstrators alike are focusing on the present rather than the future. "And Hong Kong may suffer as a consequence," he said.

He said that, just like no one knew how fast Shenzhen would progress, "who knows how fast the Greater Bay Area will move?"

In 1953, Perry's father, Jack Perry, organized the first Western trade mission to the People's Republic of China. The 48 Group Club, which was founded by his father, has played an important role in fostering ties between China and the United Kingdom and enhancing the understanding of China in the West.

"There's been comments made in the international media by various people, which are consistent with a difficulty in understanding the right of the single-party state to exist," he said.

"And if you look at the great success of China, compared to other countries in the last 40, 50 years," he added, "you begin to understand why people are concerned about the single-party state - because it's so successful.

"Hong Kong is part of China. It's going to stay part of China. Hong Kong and China both have their clear positions on the government and the way that the government of Hong Kong and the government of China will operate," said Perry. And that way, he said, "is one country, two systems".

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