Mainland Chinese authorities and Hong Kong business leaders have teamed up to launch a new social and commercial services centre in Guangdong province.
Sixteen local business, professional and policy research groups will station representatives at the centre, which is designed to help city residents who want to work, study or live on the mainland, as well as NGOs interested in operating across the border.
The groups behind the new centre include the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce, the Federation of Hong Kong Industries, the Hong Kong Coalition of Professional Services and the One Country Two Systems Research Institute.
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At the centre’s launch on Monday, former Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying, one of its key proponents, described the project as the first of its kind.
“This is the first time that a large number of [business groups] have come together to create an environment [of cross-border collaboration] under the same roof with their Guangdong counterparts,” he said.
“Our goal is to foster the budding of a Hong Kong community. Through policy studies in Guangdong, and explaining proposals to the province and Hong Kong, we will resolve problems that are currently unknown. We don’t have to move Hong Kong’s economic and trade activities to Nansha, but we can supplement each other with our strengths, and create new industries with our chemistry.”
While the Hong Kong government and local trade unions have previously set up offices on the mainland, academics and the local business owners they are intended to serve have long complained of inadequate support, calling for more direct channels of dialogue with mainland experts and bureaucrats.
The Guangzhou government responded by establishing the Consultative Committee on Guangdong-Hong Kong Cooperation in Nansha in April. The committee, which oversees the centre, is a government-to-business body with 16 Hong Kong and 11 mainland members.
It is chaired by Yue Yi, a former vice-chairman and chief executive of Bank of China (Hong Kong), and its vice-chairmen are former senior officials Xu Ze and Greg So Kam-leung, Hong Kong’s commerce chief from 2011 to 2017.
The central government last month issued new plans encouraging cross-border collaboration in two other Guangzhou economic zones: Qianhai and Hengqin.
Asked if similar centres might be set up in those two zones or other mainland cities, Leung said it was a possibility.
“We need to improve cross-border cooperation, and foster mutual understanding through more policy studies, research and interaction with each other,” he said.
“Now we are focusing our energy on Nansha. But if this proves to be effective … I am willing to push this forward in other places in mainland China.”
The more than 10,000 sq ft service centre is located in a new business park that has pledged to provide Hong Kong and Macau companies a rent-free period of six months to a year, with the municipal government offering newcomers further subsidies on leases, housing and commercial insurance.
Timetable, a co-working-style business platform aimed at young professionals from Hong Kong and Macau, has set up shop in the same building as the service centre. Operations manager Andy Leung said he hoped the new centre would help to attract more young people to Guangzhou.
“The presence of the committee in this community will drive many young, innovative companies and small and medium-sized enterprises in Hong Kong to move here from those old industrial buildings in Hong Kong,” he said.
Hong Kong-based public health expert Dr Chiang Chun-yuan, founder of the tech company IHDpay Group, has been promoting digital authenticity verification on the mainland to help international buyers tell authentic medical products from counterfeit ones. He also welcomed the establishment of the consultative committee and the service centre.
“The committee can be conducive to making use of Hong Kong talent’s international experience and international networking,” he said.
Chiang said he also hoped the committee and the centre would help draw more Hong Kong professionals and small businesses to the mainland.
They could even help Hongkongers go a step further and visit more mainland cities and rural counties, he said. That kind of outreach, he added, would help Hong Kong people better understand how their international experience could be valuable to the mainland.