HK, Sichuan leaders hail ‘long-standing, unique’ relations
Leaders of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and Sichuan province — the “Land of Abundance” — are resolved to reap a bountiful harvest from the decades-long relationship and collaboration between the two places as they take the ties to a new stage.
“The long-cherished friendship and track record of collaboration between Sichuan and Hong Kong have their roots in the two regions’ unique connections,” said Peng Qinghua, secretary of the Sichuan Provincial Committee of the Communist Party of China.
He made the remarks at the Sichuan-Hong Kong Economic and Trade Cooperation Forum in Hong Kong on Thursday, held in conjunction with the annual Sichuan-Hong KongMacao Cooperation Week, now in its second year.
Sichuan is the home province of the late architect of the nation’s economic reform Deng Xiaoping, whose brainchild “one country, two systems” principle essentially paved the way for Hong Kong’s return to its motherland in 1997 and which has proved to serve the SAR well in the past two decades, Peng said.
The southwestern province is also home to China’s national treasure the giant panda. Two pairs of giant pandas were presented to Hong Kong in 1997 and 2007 as a fitting tribute to the city’s reunification with the motherland. The iconic creature represents the living embodiment of the long-lasting friendship between Sichuan and Hong Kong, he said.
This year marks the culmination of a decade-long cooperation dating back to 2008 when the devastating Wenchuan earthquake — the strongest to hit China in more than 30 years — struck Sichuan.
Hong Kong has so far contributed about HK$10 billion to help the province rebuild itself. Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, who took charge of the reconstruction work at the time, had visited Sichuan 10 times in the past decade to see for herself the progress of the relief effort. A total of 190 projects in 60 quake-stricken areas have been completed this year.
Lam’s latest visit came in May this year when she led a 120-strong delegation to the provincial capital Chengdu to formalize the cooperation mechanism between Sichuan and Hong Kong as the nation commemorates the 10th anniversary of the Wenchuan disaster.
This made Sichuan the first province in western China and the fifth region on the mainland after Guangdong, Beijing, Fujian and Shanghai to set up a cooperation mechanism with Hong Kong, Peng told the forum.
Lam said Sichuan, strategically located along the Yangtze River Economic Belt and covered by the country’s “go west” strategy, is always a partner that Hong Kong cannot afford to miss out on.
“The bilateral relationship between Sichuan and Hong Kong has its roots in the establishment of Hong Kong’s economic and trade office in Chengdu back in 2006, a bold move offering the Asian financial hub access to the massive western part of the Chinese mainland,” she noted. “Since then, with our combined efforts, we’ve made big strides in working closer together.”
To date, more than 5,100 Hong Kong enterprises have invested in Sichuan — the country’s sixth-largest provincial economy in terms of gross domestic product — while 22 Sichuan-based enterprises have gone public on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, Asia’s thirdlargest bourse by market capitalization.
“With the Belt and Road Initiative offering potentially huge opportunities for those with the foresight to jump on the bandwagon, the bilateral ties between Sichuan and Hong Kong will take on new significance,” said Lam.
In his speech to the ongoing China International Import Expo in Shanghai, President Xi Jinping promoted China as an advocate for international openness and cooperation, with its pursuit of a new round of high-standard opening-up and a pledge to widen its market access to the outside world.
“A higher level of cooperation between Sichuan and Hong Kong would stand as a poster child of such commitment,” said Wang Zhimin, director of the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in the HKSAR.
The forum saw the launch of the Chengdu-Hong Kong Youth Innovation and Entrepreneur Hub as one of the landmark results of the event.