Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Tuesday rejected speculation that Hong Kong is losing out to neighbouring Shenzhen in China’s planned mega-development project for the Pearl River Delta, but said her own city’s politicised climate is a hurdle to governance.

Lam told a press conference the two cities would act as a “dual engine” to drive development in the Greater Bay Area, Beijing’s scheme to develop Hong Kong, Macau and nine nearby mainland cities including Shenzhen into a high-tech innovation hub to rival Silicon Valley.

Photo: Selina Cheng/HKFP.

She rejected comment that Hong Kong may be sidelined by Shenzhen and other mainland cities.

Observers have noted that Chinese leader Xi Jinping hailed Shenzhen as the core driver of Greater Bay Area developments during his remarks at 40th anniversary celebrations there last week, while Hong Kong was mentioned only in passing.

Work to transform Shenzhen began only in 1980 as China launched its dramatic economic development drive. In 2018 the city’s GDP surpassed that of Hong Kong, which had played a major role in developing it.

Lam, in an interview with a local broadcaster last week, responded “I don’t mind,” after she was asked about the neighbouring city overtaking Hong Kong. But on Tuesday she said her comment had been misunderstood.

“If I didn’t care, I would not put up all these proposals or support measures to the central people’s government for them to consider positively, so that I can take Hong Kong’s economy to another high level,” she said.

Lam said it was only natural for Shenzhen to surpass Hong Kong in GDP since it had more than double the population and also more land for development. She said Hong Kong’s per capita GDP was still greater than that of its neighbour.

greater bay area
File photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

The two cities would have complementary roles in Greater Bay Area development plans, Lam said. “We could act as a dual engine to drive the development in the Greater Bay Area.”

“The two places have their own advantages that can complement their synergies and mutual success,” she added. “We have a long history and rich experience in liaising with the rest of the world.”

“The only thing that sometimes let us down is the high politicisation in this society, which makes it difficult for us to act as efficiently as [we can] in Hong Kong.”

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Selina Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist who previously worked with HK01, Quartz and AFP Beijing. She also covered the Umbrella Movement for AP and reported for a newspaper in France. Selina has studied investigative reporting at the Columbia Journalism School.