Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and several senior officials have called for more economic cooperation with China’s Pearl River Delta cities following an official tour of the “bay area” region.

Leung led the delegation in response to a development plan announced by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in his annual work report last month.

CY Leung, Matthew Cheung Paul Chan
CY Leung, Matthew Cheung and Paul Chan on a tour to the Pearl River Delta bay area. File Photo: GovHK.

“Hong Kong will benefit from economic cooperation with the bay area,” Leung said on Tuesday. “Without the Chinese market, I believe many professionals will lose their jobs.”

He said Hong Kong should join nine cities with high economic growth in the bay area in drawing up a joint development plan.

There is also a “natural trend” of Hongkongers increasingly moving to the mainland for retirement, work or study, Leung said. “The government is not pushing for the upward trend, let alone forcing people to move there,” he said. “It happens because there is such a demand.”

Leung cited a China-based commerce chamber consisting of Hong Kong businessmen as saying that around 300,000 Hongkongers – around 7.5 per cent of the city’s labour force – work in China on a long-term basis.

Retirement and vacation

Senior officials who joined the tour have also spoken in favour of cooperation with the bay area.

Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung said on his blog on Sunday that mainland China has become a “part of everyday life for Hong Kong people.” He said the government will continue promoting closer ties between Hongkongers and mainlanders.

cy leung pearl river delta
CY Leung (L) met with Guangdong governor Ma Xingrui (R) during the tour. File Photo: GovHK.

Finance Secretary Paul Chan said Hongkongers should consider moving to mainland China after retirement. He also suggested people opt to travel to Enping in Guangdong instead of Japan for hot spring vacation.

“There is no need to travel all the way to Japan,” he said.

The finance chief added that transportation between Hong Kong and China will become more convenient in the future, as the Chinese government included the bay area in its 13th Five-Year Plan for National Economic and Social Development.

But Leung said Tuesday that he does not usually visit hot springs, when asked by reporters whether he had visited any in Enping.

He did not answer another question as to whether he would move to the region after retirement.

See also: Mainland bay area tour a ‘timely and necessary’ chance to cooperate with Pearl River Delta cities, says CY Leung

CY Leung, Matthew Cheung Paul Chan
CY Leung, Matthew Cheung and Paul Chan on the tour to the Pearl River Delta bay area. File Photo: GovHK.

Meanwhile, Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Ceajer Chan Ka-keung suggested facilitating financial services and capital flow between Hong Kong and China.

He said Hong Kong possesses all the qualities needed to become the financial hub for the emerging economy in the bay area, partly because of its close proximity to cities such as Shenzhen.

But businessman Li Sau-hung, president of the Chinese Manufacturers’ Association, expressed concern that including Hong Kong in the bay area development might harm the city’s business interests, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported.

He said the city’s business sector welcomes mutually beneficial cooperation with China, but it worries that Guangdong may ask the Chinese government for policy advantages that would lead to unfair competition.

Beijing’s National Reform and Development Commission plans to complete a development plan for the bay area in October. Leung Chun-ying said earlier that the Hong Kong government needs to submit its opinion by June.

Correction 20:35: A previous version of the article erroneously used the previous title of Finance Secretary Paul Chan.

Ellie Ng has written for Foreign Policy, the Daily Telegraph, Global Voices Online and others.