Several CGCC office bearers serve as NPC Deputies or CPPCC National Committee Members. At the “Two Sessions” held last month, they offered their views and advice on the country’s and Hong Kong’s issues such as economic development and people’s livelihood, actively participating in the discussion of national affairs.
Jonathan Choi: Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area creates good opportunities for Hong Kong’s development
In this year’s Government Work Report, Premier Li Keqiang for the first time mentioned the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area. This is another economic cooperation plan put forward by the Central Government for Hong Kong, following the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) and the Pan-PRD Regional Co-operation. Chairman Jonathan Choi (Deputy Director of the Committee of Education, Science, Culture, Health and Sports of the CPPCC National Committee and CPPCC National Committee Member) was excited as this means that the development plan for the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area, which has been talked about for many years, is finally included in the country’s economic development strategy. Having proposed to the CPPCC National Committee to speed up construction of the Greater Bay Area for three years in a row, he is glad that the proposal is finally adopted.
Choi pointed out that the development of the super-city cluster in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area is the key to overcoming Hong Kong’s, Macau’s and Guangdong’s economic development bottlenecks. This area not only is well-positioned to be a strategic hub for the “Belt and Road” Initiative to rival other bay areas such as those around San Francisco, New York and Tokyo, but also can be the most important pilot area in the country’s next step towards social and economic development and act as a locomotive fostering development of the country and surrounding regions. The Greater Bay Area will help rejuvenate the Chinese nation and realize the China Dream.
In addition, Choi believed that mention of prevention and correction of miscarriages of justice in the work reports of the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate this year reflects a deepening of the rule of law to uphold fairness and justice and shows the determination and courage of the Mainland judiciary authorities to acknowledge and correct mistakes. Choi also very much concurred with Premier Li’s strong requirements for Chinese creation, Chinese quality and Chinese brands in his work report. He believed this indicates that the era of simply pursuing growth rate is over. What the Chinese people are now pursuing is craftsmanship, which is in line with the trends of sustainable human development.
Lam Shu-chit: Ease the burden on manufacturing SMEs
Summing up his experience at the “Two Sessions”, Vice-Chairman Lam Shu-chit (CPPCC National Standing Committee Member) said that this past year of 2016 was not only the first year of the “13th Five-Year Plan”, but also a crucial year to promote structural reforms. Business operations in various trades and industries face enormous pressure and challenges as supply-side reforms deepen. Hence, cutting taxes and costs has become a government priority this year. “In the Government Work Report, Premier Li stated that one of the government priorities is to reduce the corporate tax burden, and it will ensure that the tax burden will only decrease and not increase for all industries. This fully demonstrates that the Central Government perfectly understands the difficulties in the business environment and is determined to step up support and help the healthy development of enterprises. It also reminds us to properly prepare for a tough battle ahead of us.”
Citing an old saying, “Earning a meager income though reaping a moderately good harvest, citizens getting a tax break already experience a little relief”, Lam stated outright that the manufacturing sector currently faces the most challenging situation among the enterprises in the real economy. He mentioned that rising labour costs and harsh market competition are the underlying reasons, and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the manufacturing industry face the greatest difficulties. Lam, who has more than 35 years of experience investing and operating factories in the Mainland, said that he has deep appreciation of their plights. Hence, he submitted proposals to the CPPCC National Committee this year on reducing the burden and removing the shackles on manufacturing SMEs in order to revitalise them. He suggested that in addition to directly reducing corporate income tax, relevant authorities should consider reducing enterprises’ contribution ratios for the five types of social insurance (pension, medical, unemployment, work injury and maternity), as well as changing those existing policies that have failed to keep up with the latest situation, such as exempting staff quarters for employees from taxation (land use tax and property tax) to ease operating pressure on enterprises. Lam also proposed that the Central Government consider amending the Labour Contract Law to remove the shackles that are holding enterprises back by providing a greater space for self-negotiation between them and workers.
Looking into Hong Kong’s future, Lam sincerely hopes that all communities of society would focus on better development by seeking common ground and putting aside differences to maintain social stability in order to capitalize on Hong Kong’s unique strengths and integrate with the Mainland’s development to progress towards a direction that is more conducive to Hong Kong’s future.
Ricky Tsang: Hong Kong can be a bridge in cross-strait relations
Vice-Chairman Ricky Tsang (CPPCC National Committee Member) believes that as Hong Kong and Taiwan have become closer in terms of contacts between people, economic cooperation and cultural exchanges since Hong Kong’s return to the Motherland, Hong Kong can play the role as a bridge in cross-strait relations. Hong Kong and Taiwan are currently the fourth largest trading partner of each other. In 2014, trade between the two places totalled as much as USD49 billion, more than double the USD23 billion in 2008. Three exchange and cooperation mechanisms have been set up between the two places, including the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office, the Taipei-Hong Kong City-to-City Forum, and the commonly known “Mini Two Sessions” that comprises the Hong Kong–Taiwan Economic and Cultural Co-operation and Promotion Council and the Taiwan-Hong Kong Economic and Cultural Cooperation Council. All these demonstrate the close relationship between Hong Kong and Taiwan under the “One China” principle.
Tsang suggested maintaining the existing three communication channels between Hong Kong and Taiwan to promote information exchange and strive for Taiwan’s public consensus in order to build up energy for a breakthrough in the cross-strait relations. At the same time, he hopes that the country will continue to support Hong Kong communities that love the country and Hong Kong to actively interact with all sectors of Taiwan in order to seek transformation. Looking ahead, he said that both sides of the Straits should maintain the necessary pattern of economic cooperation. While promoting the “Belt and Road” initiative, the country could encourage entrepreneurs from both Hong Kong and Taiwan to set up joint ventures to capitalize on their respective strengths. Youth exchanges are also the key to icebreaking going forward. Tsang suggested that more youth exchanges among the Mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan should be organized through Hong Kong so that Taiwan youths can better understand cross-strait relations and the situations in the Mainland and Hong Kong in order to achieve mutual understanding.
Wong Kwok-keung: Shenzhen and Hong Kong can co-develop innovation and technology
In the “13th Five-Year Plan”, the statement “Support Hong Kong’s development of innovation and technology and nurturing of new industries” is clearly mentioned in the chapter dedicated to Hong Kong and Macau. In recent years, Hong Kong has committed to the development of innovation and technology industries, while the country’s development of research industries is flourishing. In particular, the innovation and technology industries in Shenzhen have made remarkable achievements, which give the city a reputation as “the city most similar to Silicon Valley”. Vice-Chairman Wong Kwok-keung (Deputy Director of Committee for Learning and Cultural Historical Data of the CPPCC National Committee and CPPCC National Committee Member) believes that Shenzhen and Hong Kong’s cooperation can help overcome the inadequacies of each other and the Hong Kong-Shenzhen InnoTech Park (HKSZITP) in the Lok Ma Chau Loop Area can also be used as a carrier to promote the development of the two places.
Wong pointed out that whether the HKSZITP can achieve results hinges on talents. He believes that for nurturing of local talents, the education departments of Hong Kong and Shenzhen should tie in with the development of the Loop Area in curriculum planning and resource allocation by substantially increasing degree courses and resources related to innovation and technology, stepping up cooperation between institutions of higher learning of both places, considering to offer courses co-organized by both places, and establishing an university research centre in the area. As it is also necessary to attract foreign talents, Wong suggested that the Loop Area can formulate preferential policies to provide facilitation measures in tax, immigration, visa, education and living facilities for Mainland staff working in the park and to attract more international talents.
At present, Shenzhen and Hong Kong have different systems, which undoubtedly hinder the co-development of innovation and technology. Wong pointed out that they can regularly invite academics and industry representatives to participate in forums to explore ways to overcome the various administrative constraints so that cooperation between businesses of both places can progress more smoothly. In addition, in order to help young people realize their dreams, Wong believes that some areas in the park can be allocated as a “start-up park” for young people to set up start-ups, and the governments of both places can set up a venture capital fund to provide financial and technical support for their young people.
Connie Wong: Ministries, provinces and Hong Kong should cooperate to help youth employment
To promote the upward mobility of young people in Hong Kong, Vice-Chairman Connie Wong (CPPCC National Committee Member) suggested that Mainland and Hong Kong should provide better support services for young people to work in the Mainland through different levels of cooperation. Hong Kong can establish a cooperation mechanism with the various provincial ministries and commissions to encourage cooperation among the young people of the two places. Also, the governments can provide support at the policy level, thus forming a co-entrepreneurship and mutually beneficial pattern. In addition, given that Mainland youths may apply for government jobs after settling in Hong Kong while there is still no channel for Hong Kong youths to apply for positions in the Mainland government, she proposed setting up preferential policies for Hong Kong youths to apply for positions to work as civil servants in the central state organs and provincial authorities in the future. This will broaden the direction of employment and promote exchanges between the two places.
Hong Kong is one of the world’s three major financial centres. Wong believes that as integrating finance and technology is now a general trend, Hong Kong needs to strengthen development in this area. She suggested that the development of financial technology, also known as FinTech, should have a clear division of labour, with banks or securities firms addressing financial related issues and technology companies dealing with technical issues, but the two needs to step up integration. For further development in the future, she believes that Hong Kong can learn from the Mainland’s experience in developing a unified online payment clearing platform to take better care of user needs through cooperation between financial institutions and technology giants. This will create an environment in which the platform can be a big success at its launch.
In recent years, emerging online payment methods such as WeChat Pay have become a part of the daily lives of Mainland residents, but they are still in their infancy in Hong Kong. Last year, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority granted a batch of stored value facility licenses. Wong thinks that Hong Kong can learn from the Mainland’s experience and improves its existing payment environment by promoting and increasing the variety of online payment methods to gradually develop users’ habits of using them, and encourages third-party payment enterprises to strengthen business innovation and launch more new types of financial services for the convenience of Hong Kong residents. In addition, in view of the fact that online payment methods in the Mainland and Hong Kong have not yet been fully interoperable, she suggested further optimising the payment environment in both places to facilitate cross-border consumption.
Ian Fok: Greater Bay Area set to be new engine for Guangdong-Hong Kong cooperation
NPC Chairman Zhang Dejiang fully affirmed Hong Kong’s achievements when in discussion with the Hong Kong delegation. Premier Li Keqiang also for the first time integrated development of Hong Kong and Macau into the country’s unified plans for its cities. Life Honorary Chairman Ian Fok (NPC Deputy) expected Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau cooperation to move to a higher level from now on. Following the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area’s upgrade to the national strategic level, Hong Kong is set to receive more national policy support.
Fok pointed out that the Chamber will continue the excellent tradition of promoting Guangdong-Hong Kong cooperation. It will call on and guide members and Hong Kong’s communities to actively participate in the construction of the city cluster of the Greater Bay Area and help Hong Kong better integrate into the country’s economic, cultural and social systems in order to expand Hong Kong’s space for development and employment. The Chamber will also help the governments of Guangdong and Hong Kong to reach a consensus on specific matters as soon as possible so as to create the right conditions for free flow of technology, economic activities, finance, logistics and talents in the Greater Bay area.
In his proposal on “co-building and co-sharing by young people to help the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area takeoff” this year, he suggested the three places transform the Greater Bay Area into a platform co-developed by young people with shared responsibilities and benefits as well as efficient integration of resources based on conceptual innovation and mechanism innovation so that the young people of Hong Kong and Macau can improve their support and recognition of the Mainland through practical interaction. By capturing the opportunities arising from Guangdong and Hong Kong’s joint development of the Lok Ma Chau Loop Area and the Nansha free trade zone in Guangzhou, we can build an innovation and technology platform for Hong Kong’s enterprises and talents, create a base for Guangdong-Hong Kong technology and service trade cooperation, construct an industry base for youth entrepreneurship and innovation, and set up a high-quality Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau living hub, fully making use of Hong Kong’s leading role in the modern service industry, advanced manufacturing industry and technological innovation for the Greater Bay area, as well as exploring a new cooperation model for co-development and mutual benefits between Guangdong and Hong Kong. He stressed that we are lucky to be present at this precious occasion and should not forget our original intentions to work together for Hong Kong’s economic prosperity.
Charles Yeung: Broaden horizons to promote civilised behaviour
As the saying goes, “education is a prerequisite for the rise of a big country”, education and culture were still hot topics among delegates in the year of deepening reform. Life Honorary Chairman Charles Yeung (CPPCC National Committee Member) submitted proposals on education at this year’s sessions.
Yeung believed that the Central Government’s policy to allow Hong Kong students to enroll in the Mainland’s 63 universities without having to sit for any additional examination is well received and showing significant results since 2012. Therefore he suggested expanding the policy to allow Hong Kong’s young people to start their study in the Mainland and strengthen mutual understanding as soon as possible. In his view, this would help nurture the national identity of cross-boundary students and speed up the integration of Hong Kong’s children who live in the Mainland with the Motherland. At the same time, if Hong Kong’s students can start their study in the Mainland earlier, they will be able to expand their horizons and improve their understanding of the nation’s current state. Yueng is convinced that if the scheme is implemented, over time we will have a group of people with considerable knowledge of the country, which will help advance the “One Country, Two Systems” principle.
At the sessions, Yeung also touched on the uncivilised behaviour of some Chinese nationals when travelling abroad. He hoped that the China National Tourism Administration would formulate relevant regulations and guidelines for Chinese nationals when travelling abroad. He looked forward to an improvement in the civic qualities of our people so that when we are abroad, each of us can spread Chinese culture as well as publicize China’s progress. He added that tour guides must be more strictly certified and managed so that they can guide the civilised behaviour of tourists.
Summing up the “Two Sessions”, Yeung had a deep appreciation of the accurate summary and clear foresight of Premier Li’s report. He believed that democracy is not empty talk, and the consultative nature of the “Two Sessions” precisely reflects how the concept of democracy is being effectively implemented. He also genuinely felt the great importance the country attaches to Hong Kong. The business community must make use of its advantages of being in close proximity to the Motherland to capture the opportunities.
Peter Wong: Tie in with the “Belt and Road” development from various aspects
At this year’s “Two Sessions”, Life Honorary Chairman Peter Wong (NPC Deputy) submitted 9 proposals on areas such as the “Belt and Road”, law, publicity, economy and the welfare of war veterans. With regard to the “Belt and Road”, Wong proposed that existing mechanisms and platforms should be efficiently used to reduce duplication of construction so as to avoid waste of resources. He also proposed setting up the “University Alliance of the New Silk Road” for personnel training, as well as promoting the “Belt and Road” cultural tourism, turning cultural relics into cultural industries. He also suggested the country regularly publish the progress of the “Belt and Road” infrastructure projects so that private enterprises of the cross-strait four regions can keep abreast with the latest developments.
Regarding law, Wong looked forward to the country focusing on grassroots legal services and improving industry regulations. As a member of the Basic Law Advisory Committee, he also recommended the NPC Standing Committee to review the inadequacies of the Basic Law so that the HKSAR’s judicial power is truly fair and that the Basic Law can keep pace with the times. For publicity, Wong hoped that the Central Government could have appropriate broadcast channels in Hong Kong to properly publicize its policies. He also believes that as education through films and TV broadcast is very effective, it should support excellent works so that they can spread throughout the public.
On the economic front, Wong specifically mentioned the tourism industry. He believed that the tourism industry should be supported as it has an important contribution to GDP, employment and poverty alleviation. He therefore hoped that taxes on the industry can be reduced in order to improve its profits. As for the welfare of war veterans, it has always been Wong’s concern. This year, he proposed bringing back the remains of soldiers from the Chinese Expeditionary Force who died in Myanmar to their Motherland as soon as possible. He believed that this will not only win public approval, but also gain the gratitude of our martyrs’ descendants, fully demonstrating the sense of responsibility of a big country.
William Lee: Aligning Hong Kong’s gold market with the “Belt and Road”
This year’s “Two Sessions” continued to focus on the implementation of the “Belt and Road”. Life Honorary Chairman William Lee (CPPCC National Committee Member) pointed out that as Hong Kong’s gold market is at the forefront of the world, Hong Kong can use it to align with the “Belt and Road”. Whether in spot gold or gold futures, Hong Kong can play a role. The Mainland can use Hong Kong’s gold market as a window to promote internationalization of the country’s gold market. He also supported the country in increasing its gold reserves. He believed that for such a huge economy like China, its current gold reserves are not enough to reflect the country’s true strength. It should therefore continue to increase its gold reserves when appropriate. Since its launch in 2015, the Shanghai-Hong Kong Gold Connect scheme has gained a strong development momentum. Lee’s appraisal of the scheme was “orderly”: orderly development, orderly opening up and orderly construction. He believed that there is still considerable room for development.
From the macro perspective, Lee repeatedly stressed that Hong Kong must “go global” together with the Mainland. In particular, Hong Kong must not fall behind in responding to the the “Belt and Road” national strategy. He said that Yu Zhengsheng, Chairman of the CPPCC National Committee, had put more emphasis on Hong Kong's and Macau’s developments in his report, especially focusing on how Hong Kong and Macau compatriots and overseas Chinese can play a role in the “Belt and Road”. Lee suggested that the process of “going global” should be gradual and by all means avoid undue haste. We should focus on partnership with traditional well-qualified, highly experienced enterprises and “go global” with safety as the prerequisite in order to prevent external market chaos affecting the internal control of national development.
Lo Man-tuen: Raise Foreign Minister’s political status to adapt to big country diplomacy
As China is increasingly seen by the outside world as a diplomatic powerhouse on a par with the US, the role of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is becoming increasingly important. Life Honorary Chairman Lo Man-tuen (Deputy Director of the Committee of Foreign Affairs of CPPCC National Committee and CPPCC National Committee Member) believed that the Foreign Minister’s political status should be elevated in a timely manner to meet the needs of our big country diplomacy. He pointed out that China’s big country diplomacy in the new era will be more effective in maintaining and enhancing its national interests. It will more actively promote the reform and perfection of the international order, more fully participate in the global governance process, and assume the responsibility as a big country that is commensurate with its strength. This is not only the responsibility that China should assume in view of its growing international status, but also the expectation of the international community for China’s development.
The “Belt and Road” is China’s strategy for comprehensively opening up to the outside world in the new era. Lo stressed that to ensure the smooth progress of the initiative, the key lies in dealing with partnership with various countries. This involves a lot of diplomatic work, including signing of memorandums of understanding on partnership, formulating partnership plans, setting up sound mechanisms for bilateral partnerships, and developing implementation plans and action road maps for constructing the “Belt and Road”. With a high political status, the Foreign Minister can better shoulder heavy responsibilities such as seeking development, interacting and settling disputes with various countries.
He pointed out that since the founding of new China, the Foreign Ministry has been headed by state leaders most of the time, but this practice was not followed in the past 20 years. Lo suggested continuing the practice of appointing a state leader to serve concurrently as Foreign Minister. Drawing reference from the arrangement that the posts of Defense Minister and Public Security Minister are held by State Councilors, the Foreign Minister can also be a State Councilor. Such an arrangement where this ‘high-ranking match’ becomes an established norm will improve the Foreign Minister’s political status, which will better adapt to the needs of big country diplomacy and the “Belt and Road” strategy.