Chief Executive Carrie Lam visited the Chamber on 3 June to speak to members about the 14th Five-Year Plan and its impact on Hong Kong. She explained that the plan, approved in March, is not only a crucial blueprint for the nation’s development over the next five years, but also contains important longer range objectives.
This is the third Five-Year Plan to include a dedicated section on Hong Kong and Macao. The Chief Executive said that the Hong Kong SAR Government had taken a proactive role in contributing research papers and proposals to the commission drafting the Plan.
“The Central Authorities have taken on board most, if not all, of our comments,” she said. “This proves you need not believe any rumours that the Central Government is not supporting or not interested in Hong Kong.”
In fact, she added, since the restoration of stability in the city, the Central ministries have shown greater trust in Hong Kong.
Going into the details of the plan, the Chief Executive explained that the Central Government would continue to issue policies to support Hong Kong’s four pillar industries – finance, trade, transport and legal services.
But the 14th Five-Year Plan also adds four new industries where Hong Kong will receive focused support. The first of these is the aviation sector.
“We requested that Hong Kong have dedicated recognition as an international aviation hub,” she said. “This is because of our aspirations for the Hong Kong International Airport.”
Besides building the Third Runway, the airport upgrades include modern logistics facilities, and entertainment and shopping zones. HKIA will also develop its connections with Zhuhai Airport to link domestic and international flights.
The other three new sectors in the Plan are innovation and technology, intellectual property and culture, which were added after the Central Government recognised the work that Hong Kong had already done to encourage these areas.
“These four sectors are all growing, and there are huge opportunities to work with the Mainland and within Hong Kong to develop them further.”
More generally, the Central Government will continue to roll out more policies to help Hong Kong people find opportunities on the Mainland – for business, studying and travel. In return, we will have to develop a stronger sense of national identity, alongside our Hong Kong identity, the Chief Executive said.
She added that the Central Government is very supportive of Hong Kong continuing its role as a global city with a deep international network.
“There are already people spreading rumours that Hong Kong will become another Mainland city. The country does not want that – the leaders want us to be an international city and a cosmopolitan city.”
In fact, Hong Kong’s international network and market-led economy are very important for the Mainland, and we will continue to encourage more international companies to set up here, and to sign free trade agreements, once the Covid situation stabilizes.
Turning to the Greater Bay Area (GBA), Lam noted that policies to encourage more cooperation included favourable tax concessions for Hong Kong residents working across the border. She also acknowledged that hurdles to people flow are a concern for many Hong Kong businesses, and said her Government was working on this issue.
“I have put forward a strong request for Hong Kong to better integrate into the Greater Bay Area,” she said. “We do need to facilitate our foreign businesspeople, scientists and academics – not just Hong Kong permanent residents – to be able to travel more conveniently across the border.”
In the Q&A session, the Chief Executive answered questions from members on a wide range of topics including Hong Kong’s role as a gateway into the Mainland, the future of inbound tourism, cross-border financial infrastructure, and the city’s sports sector.
Many members asked whether the Government had a timetable for removing the current quarantine requirements, to enable the return of travel. Unfortunately, the Chief Executive said, she had no good news on this subject, as the number of vaccinated people in the city was still too low to safely reopen the borders.
But going forward, she said that Hong Kong would seek reciprocal arrangements with other places with low Covid cases, similar to our travel bubble with Singapore.
“We will consider more bubbles or green paths based on vaccination,” she said. “Vaccination is the only way out.”
The Chief Executive also thanked HKGCC for our efforts to encourage vaccination to protect Hong Kong people, enable the return of business operations, and ultimately help the city return to normality.