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Change, integration will make HK better off: Leung

Updated: 2012-06-29 11:49

HONG KONG - Hong Kong will mark the 15th anniversary of its return to the motherland, and greet a new government led by 58-year-old Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying on July 1, when he will be officially sworn in.

Change, integration will make HK better off: Leung

Newly appointed principal officials in the administration pose at a news conference in Hong Kong June 28, 2012. [Photo/Xinhua]

In a recent interview with Xinhua, Leung said he is optimistic about Hong Kong's future, and will be a down-to-earth doer committed to working with the locals to seek changes for a better Hong Kong while maintaining stability during his tenure.

Peopel's livelihood top priority

Social issues were highlighted in Leung's election manifesto and victory speech, which he admitted demand attention and solution.

Housing, identified as the most pressing issue related to the livelihood of Hong Kong residents amid high property prices and widening wealth gap, will take the center stage. As almost half of the people now live in public housing estates, the government needs to revive the subsidized housing scheme to ease the people's financial burden, he said.

According to a government report published on May 30, Hong Kong 's population is aging rapidly. Those aged 65 and above are expected to surge from about 900,000 at present to 2.1 million by 2030, accounting for a quarter of overall population.

"The income of the elderly, their post-retirement life and medical services, among others, are all priorities," Leung emphasized.

A self-made millionaire with a humble origin, Leung also attaches great importance to the growth of young people.

"It is my experience that as long as young people have access to training and opportunity, they could make it. So what I concern myself about in particular is whether they could have the opportunity to move up in society and how we can create more opportunities for them," Leung said.

To this end, a series of measures will be rolled out under his administration to promote the government-industry-academia collaboration, and to provide better services for Hong Kong people to go to the mainland for further development.

"The more Hong Kong people now working in a middle or high post go to seek their better future in the mainland, the more opportunities will become realistic for young Hong Kongers," he added.

Change key to success

Talking about his governing principle of seeking changes while maintaining stability, Leung explained that as Hong Kong faces some problems that have hampered its progress, the locals have been calling for changes, he said, adding that as the internal and external environment changes rapidly, the government also has to keep with the changing situation in order not to be left behind.

As for Hong Kong's economic policy of "positive non- interventionism" in the past, Leung believed it's time to change. The experience of tackling the Asian financial crisis and global financial turmoil has demonstrated the government should not follow the laissez-faire approach; instead, it should intervene if needed.

The new Hong Kong government will formulate different industrial policies to "consolidate and lift Hong Kong's status of an international financial, trade and shipping center," he said.

In terms of financial prowess, Leung said it is not the case that Hong Kong is on a parallel with New York and London as the coined term "Nylonkong" suggests.

"Compared with the other two cities, the scale of the financial industry here is smaller. Hong Kong should use all advantages, including the opportunities brought by the mainland's development, to cement and lift its status as a global financial center," he added.

For that purpose, he suggested a semi-official financial development council be set up to serve as a platform for the government, the financial community and relevant experts to exchange ideas for Hong Kong's development.

Hong Kong also has huge potential in the shipping sector. China has become a shipping and ship-building power, and a global shipping center like London is needed. If Hong Kong could learn from London in developing the shipping industry comprehensively, it will not only benefit the country, but also boost the development of the local economy, he said.

"I'm optimistic about Hong Kong's economic development. We know where to go and what to do to expand the economic base of the city, " Leung said.

Hong Kong-Mainland integration a win-win situation

When it comes to Hong Kong-Mainland relations, Leung has a lot to say.

As a young property professional, he volunteered to give lectures to mainland officials and planners for several years since 1979, months after the mainland embarked on a historic path of reform and opening up.

Over the past decades, Hong Kong and the mainland have forged close, interdependent and mutually beneficial ties. Hong Kong companies invested heavily in the mainland, while the mainland has proved to be a bonanza for Hong Kong's economic prosperity.

Since its return to the motherland in 1997, Hong Kong and the mainland have been engaged in all-round exchanges, including in the areas of trade and economic cooperation, investment, tourism, culture and education. Many mainland students came here for further study, and many Hong Kong students went to the mainland universities. "It should be encouraged," Leung said.

The chief executive-elect also based his confidence in Hong Kong's future on a slew of supportive measures the Central Government unveiled for Hong Kong, which include the Mainland and Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) signed in 2003, the independent chapter of Hong Kong/Macao affairs listed for the first time in the central government's five-year development blueprint plan last year, and the 36 policy measures of the central government to support Hong Kong's development, announced by Vice Premier Li Keqiang during his visit to the territory last August.

To Leung, opening to the outside world with the strong support of the motherland is one of Hong Kong's major advantages, which implies enormous opportunities.

With the mainland's support, Hong Kong can play a special role in the internationalization of the Chinese currency yuan, or Renminbi (RMB), he said.

Hong Kong is well-positioned to turn itself into a RMB offshore center for trading RMB. "RMB-related business will be one of the pillars of the future of Hong Kong as a financial center," Leung said, adding that through the financial industry of Hong Kong, the mainland could boost the process to turn RMB into a convertible currency step by step.

Looking ahead, Leung said he hopes Hong Kong can achieve a higher level of economic and social development, faster growth and better coordination with the mainland in socio-economic development in the next five years, the length of the tenure of a chief executive.

It will be a tough job, but Leung is confident. He said he is ready to face the challenge.

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