HK, Sichuan lead­ers hail ‘long-stand­ing, unique’ re­la­tions

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - HONG KONG - By LUO WEITENG in Hong Kong sophia@chi­nadai­lyhk.com

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.

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