Hong Kong’s leader and five of her senior ministers will travel to Beijing next week to try and secure central government support for policies designed to accelerate the city’s economic recovery.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor is also expected to visit Guangzhou and Shenzhen to push forward the city’s collaboration with its neighbours under the Greater Bay Area scheme, which aims to turn Hong Kong, Macau and nine Guangdong cities into a finance and technology hub.
Laying out details for a mainland China trip to last up to five days, Lam on Tuesday said the Beijing talks would focus entirely on the economic situation, which she described as “very serious in Hong Kong”.
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“We need more support measures from the mainland of China, especially in light of the overall direction that Hong Kong should move to better integrate with the mainland, especially in the Greater Bay Area,” Lam told a weekly press briefing.
A week ago, the Post reported that her Beijing trip, originally slated for this month, would be postponed until after Thursday’s conclusion of the 19th Communist Party Congress’ fifth plenum, a high-level meeting to chart China’s economic and political direction for the next five years.
Lam also confirmed that the city’s technology, financial services and mainland affairs ministers would be going with her to meet senior central government officials.
Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan Fan, who oversees the city’s aviation policies, and Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee will also be part of the official delegation.
Lam previously said the talks with state officials would cover her policy proposals in areas such as aviation, while local politicians expected them to discuss restoring the flow of people between the city and the mainland under a health code system.
Transport sector lawmaker Yick Chi-ming said he hoped Beijing would have a plan to help protect Hong Kong’s role as a global aviation hub after Cathay Pacific Airways axed thousands of jobs and closing its regional sister airline Cathay Dragon.
Along with her ministers, Lam is scheduled to take a Covid-19 test in Shenzhen on Tuesday, then fly the next day to Beijing, where she will spend three days. She will then return to southern China to visit Guangzhou and Shenzhen.
Lam’s planned Shenzhen visit comes hot on the heels of President Xi Jinping’s recent trip to the Guangdong metropolis, which he described as an “important engine” of the bay area project.
Hong Kong’s economy has been struggling amid the coronavirus pandemic and US-China tensions, with the latest gross domestic product figures showing a 9 per cent contraction in the second quarter from the same period a year ago.
Lam on Tuesday said the expected policy gains from next week’s trip, due to last four to five days, would be delivered in her annual address, now due to be given at the end of November.
Originally slated for October 14, Lam abruptly postponed the annual policy address, citing the need to attend ministerial meetings in the capital, and instead joined President Xi at a ceremony in Shenzhen, marking the city’s 40th anniversary as a special economic zone.
At the press briefing, Lam was also asked to comment on a Post report, quoting sources that her government planned to unveil proposals to extend voting for Hongkongers on the mainland, without public consultation and before she delivers her annual speech.
Lam said the mainland voting idea was not “entirely novel” and was often discussed in the city. “It’s extremely difficult to get a consensus on such matters. The government is now revisiting this issue,” she added.
On the ongoing tussle over Hong Kong murder suspect Chan Tong-kai’s surrender to Taiwan, Lam said: “There is one thing we need at the moment – a visa to Taiwan.
“As soon as Chan Tong-kai has a Taiwan visa, we will be more than happy to deal with the facilitating work needed.”
Chan is wanted in Taiwan for the 2018 killing in Taipei of his 19-year-old pregnant girlfriend, Poon Hiu-wing.
The case last year sparked the extradition bill crisis and the months of anti-government protests that followed.
Political deadlock has got in the way of his promised surrender to Taiwan, even though the young Hongkonger has publicly declared his willingness to hand himself over to authorities on the self-ruled island.
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