Solid policy gains expected in financial services, technology for HK, with Lam flanked by relevant ministers at Beijing talks

21-Oct-2020 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Hong Kong’s leader will be flanked by her ministers in charge of financial services and technology in Beijing next week following a high-level meeting of China’s leadership, the Post has learned, signalling the prospect of material policy gains for the city in those areas.

Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor last week abruptly postponed her annual policy address until the end of November, citing the need to attend ministerial meetings in the capital and secure more opportunities for Hong Kong’s post-pandemic recovery.

Carrie Lam is due to head to Beijing after suddenly delaying her most important policy speech of the year. Photo: AP

Carrie Lam is due to head to Beijing after suddenly delaying her most important policy speech of the year. Photo: AP

She said the discussions with state officials would cover her policy proposals in matters such as aviation and the Greater Bay Area, Beijing’s ambitious scheme to integrate Hong Kong, Macau, Shenzhen and eight other southern Chinese cities into an economic and technological powerhouse.

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Hong Kong’s pro-establishment politicians said on Monday that Lam needed to make good use of the trip to bring about the swift introduction of long-awaited financial and cross-border initiatives.

They also hoped that the delegation would have the opportunity to meet vice-Premier Han Zheng, the state leader in charge of Hong Kong affairs, as well as the bay area project.

Analysts speculated last week that Lam pushed back her policy speech because Beijing wanted her to wait for the conclusion of the 19th Communist Party Congress’ fifth plenum.

The high-level meeting, from October 26 to 29, is held to chart China’s economic and political direction for the next five years and decide how Beijing responds to increasing Western pressure over its role in global affairs.

Sources confirmed on Monday that the ministerial meetings between city and national officials were unlikely to be staged before next Thursday. “My understanding is that the meetings won’t be held before, or during the fifth plenum,” one of the sources said.

The source also said Secretary for Innovation and Technology Alfred Sit Wing-hang, and Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Erick Tsang Kwok-wai were likely to join Lam in Beijing, adding: “That is because the meetings will surely touch on the Greater Bay Area.”

Another insider said Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Christopher Hui Ching-yu was set to go with Lam, while Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po would stay in Hong Kong.

The expected decision to take those ministers indicated that the meetings could confirm policies connected with their portfolios, which could then be implemented in the city.

Brave Chan Yung, a Hong Kong deputy to China’s legislature, the National People’s Congress, believed that Lam was likely to meet Han.

“She will surely be meeting officials from the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, and the National Development and Reform Commission. But Han is in charge of the bay area plan and the decision maker on cross-border policies,” he said.

“I hope they will be visiting health authorities, and will discuss details about the ‘health code’ as well.”

Hong Kong’s health minister, Professor Sophia Chan Siu-chee, said on Saturday that preparatory work had been completed on a so-called health code necessary for restoring the flow of people between the city, mainland China and Macau during the coronavirus crisis, opening the door to discussing “a timeline and conditions for allowing cross-border travel”.

But another NPC deputy, Witman Hung Wai-man, said Han might not feature at the meetings.

“Lam will be mainly meeting ministerial officials. I hope that she will be meeting those from the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission, and the People’s Bank of China, so policies such as the Wealth Management Connect scheme can be launched soon,” Hung said.

Beijing unveiled the scheme in June though a launch date is yet to be confirmed to allow bay area residents to buy investment products via banks in Hong Kong, while Hong Kong residents can also buy mainland investment products sold by institutions in Macau and the mainland.

Wong Kwok-kin, an adviser on Lam’s de facto cabinet, the Executive Council, said the arrangements in place showed that the Beijing meetings would be formal working meetings for Hong Kong and mainland ministers to discuss policy implementation.

Lam’s visit to Beijing will come hot on the heels of President Xi Jinping’s trip to Shenzhen last week, marking the Guangdong city’s 40th anniversary as a special economic zone.

At a ceremony for the celebrations, Xi urged more young Hongkongers to work, study and live on the mainland, and hailed Shenzhen’s role as an “important engine” of the bay area scheme.

Observers said Hong Kong must align its policies with Shenzhen to retain a key role in driving the project forward, after the central government unveiled on Sunday fresh measures to give the mainland city more autonomy.

Meanwhile, former Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing accused Lam of failing to credit those contributing ideas to her previous policy addresses.

Writing in his column for a local newspaper, Tsang said Lam was more concerned about presenting the proposals as her own, as he raised fears that doing so could discourage people from submitting recommendations.



Category: Hong Kong

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