As Director for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs (Special Duties) in the Hong Kong SAR Government, Tommy Yuen is responsible for policies and initiatives relating to the Greater Bay Area (GBA).
So it was no surprise that there was a full house at the Chamber on 18 March to hear him speak about the just-released Outline Development Plan for the GBA.
Yuen shared his insights into the reasoning behind the Development Plan, Hong Kong’s role in the GBA development to date, and the priorities for the city going forward.
“The GBA is a very vibrant area,” Yuen said. For example, not only is it huge in terms of size and population, but it also has the most intense cluster of ports and airports in the world.
He explained that the plan is not just important for Hong Kong and the other GBA cities, but also for the whole nation’s development.
“With the Development Plan, the Mainland is breaking new ground in the country’s opening up. It is also a concrete step showing the rest of the world how ‘one country, two systems’ will work.”
Yuen explained that Hong Kong has a very important role to play in the development. The GBA symposium in February was held in Hong Kong, for example. And the Hong Kong Government was consulted on the draft of the Development Plan. “Most of our comments and suggestions were taken up and reflected in the plan,” he said.
He pointed out that ‘one country, two systems’ was unique to Hong Kong and Macao, and that this policy remained crucial. “The top leaders have emphasised that the principle of ‘one country, two systems’ will be strictly adhered to.”
Shortly after the release of the Outline Development Plan, eight further policy measures were released by the Central Government. Yuen said that more Hong Kong-specific measures would be released in the year ahead.
The GBA is providing new horizons for Hong Kong to diversify its economy and for people to develop their careers, Yuen added.
“It is up to us in Hong Kong to grasp the opportunities.”
Catherine Tsang from PwC said that she has had meetings recently with government representatives from countries including Japan and South Korea, and they have all expressed interest in the GBA. Specifically, they are asking: “What are the opportunities and how can we grasp them?”
She noted that it is difficult to give a short answer to these questions, but said that the GBA is an ecosystem and “we have to collaborate to make it work.” For example, Hong Kong has top universities, while Shenzhen has the space for major projects to be developed.
But she noted that Hong Kong’s current manpower challenge could restrict our ability to make the most of the opportunities that are emerging.
“We definitely need more talent from overseas and the Mainland to upgrade our technologies in Hong Kong,” she said.
Tsang explained that it is not just scientists and technology experts that Hong Kong needs. We will also require skilled professionals in marketing and customer services, for example, if a successful tech industry is to flourish. Hong Kong should also improve its healthcare and housing provisions to attract more overseas professionals.
In terms of physical infrastructure, Tsang remarked that the opening of the Express Rail Link means that she can easily travel from Hong Kong to Guangzhou, Shenzhen and back again in one day. This has made a huge difference to her working life, and demonstrates how the GBA is already facilitating business growth in the region.
“We see the opportunities,” she said. “We hope you can also feel that Hong Kong will not just be an observer; Hong Kong can play a key role in the GBA.”