Following the annual Two Sessions meetings in Beijing, the Chamber hosted a webinar on 29 March to hear from a panel of experts who had attended the event. As Chamber CEO George Leung pointed out in his introduction, major policies – including those that affect Hong Kong – are often announced and discussed at the Two Sessions. So being aware of the developments is important for Hong Kong businesses.
Anthony Wu, member of the Standing Committee of the CPPCC National Committee, said that the Mainland’s economic recovery was evident in the day-to-day life of residents, with busy restaurants and full domestic flights.
“The forecast for 2021 is 6%, and I expect that it could be higher, given the recovery we have seen in the last eight or nine months,” he said.
Looking to the future, Wu said that according to the 14th Five-Year Plan, the Mainland would continue to open up and reform, to keep growing its economy and improve people’s lives. He added that Premier Li Keqiang’s Work Report was well worth reading, as it contains a lot of information relevant to businesses.
Jeffrey Lam, member of the CPPCC National Committee and the Chamber’s LegCo representative, noted that many of the policies in the latest Five-Year Plan actually go beyond five years, and the plans include important targets to reduce pollution. He said that Beijing recognizes Hong Kong’s unique role in supporting the nation’s development.
“I am confident that the 14th Five-Year Plan will continue to support Hong Kong and enhance its standing as an international financial and trade centre,” he said.
Lam noted the Mainland’s success in lifting millions of people out of poverty, and said that this is an issue that Hong Kong also needs to address. “The wealth gap in Hong Kong is very serious now,” he said. “So resolving the housing and land problem should be at the top of the agenda for the Hong Kong Government.”
David Lie, CPPCC National Committee member, also noted that the Two Sessions had provided a longer term vision of China as a whole, including the Greater Bay Area development.
“The question for us now is, how do we understand Hong Kong people’s needs and help them to see the opportunities that are available in the Greater Bay Area.”
The domestic economy is particularly important at the current time, Lie added, given that many major economies are struggling due to the Covid crisis. So reopening the border with the Mainland will be a crucial step in Hong Kong’s recovery.
Nick Chan remarked that this had been his second time attending the Two Sessions as Hong Kong Deputy to the National People’s Congress. He reported that, from a business angle, some of the highlights included reducing red tape, tax cuts and plans to relax restrictions on foreign businesses.
“Going forward, we are also looking at building a scientific base. The country is planning to increase R&D spending by 7% year-on-year,” he said. Noting China’s achievements such as the Chang’e 5 spacecraft, he urged Hong Kong businesses to actively participate.
“I would suggest we in Hong Kong think about how we can contribute to scientific developments,” he said. “Hong Kong is a hub for I&T, and we should work with our peers in the GBA. We don’t need to wait for more specific directions, as we have already been given the framework.”
Stanley Hui, CPPCC National Committee member, agreed that the GBA is a “very important policy area” and that Hong Kong businesses should take the initiative to play a part in the development of the GBA, and the rest of Mainland China.
The possibility of trade tensions with foreign governments mean that the Mainland economy is all the more important to Hong Kong businesses, Hui added. The city therefore has the opportunity to participate in the Mainland’s development while continuing to serve as a hub for international trade and finance.
This is a new version of what Hong Kong has been doing for many decades, he added. “But now, we have a lot of policy support from the Central Government and the Guangdong Government, as well as the HKSAR Government, to help us to access the opportunities.”
On the issue of “patriots administering Hong Kong,” the speakers were in agreement that stability and security are crucial for the city to continue to grow and prosper. Chan, who is also Vice-Chairman of the Chamber’s Legal Committee, explained that the changes proposed were within the law, and that they would improve the city’s electoral system by removing loopholes.
“They will reduce the filibustering we have seen in LegCo, which has slowed down the progress on important legislation affecting people’s livelihoods such as housing,” Chan explained.
Vaccination was an issue where the panelists were in strong agreement. All of the speakers urged members to get vaccinated as soon as possible, to safeguard the community and to enable us to end the quarantine requirement and reopen the borders.
As Lei pointed out, hundreds of millions of people around the world have already been vaccinated, so we can see how safe it is, and how effective it has been in stopping the spread of Covid-19. The sooner Hong Kong people get vaccinated, the sooner businesses and society can return to normal.