Hong Kong’s chief secretary, Henry Tang Ying-yen, did a good job in Shenzhen yesterday. It was the two cities’ regular love-in, hosted by the acting mayor, Wang Rong (non-acting predecessor Xu Zongheng being under arrest for graft). The painstakingly agreed joint statement indulges in mutual backslapping about the gathering being a resounding success and the usual vague plans to cooperate about cooperating. But is there any danger of something of real substance?
The main achievement of the meeting was to agree that the two cities would continue working together on a special zone of some sort in Qianhai (above Mawan Port in the area north of Shenzhen’s pleasant southwestern district of Shekou). It will be a bonded port, service park or The Manhattan of South China!!, according to taste.
Why should Hong Kong – and presumably its hard-working, clean-living, disfranchised taxpayers – help an adjoining city start up what appears to be an attempt to bite into the market share of the Big Lychee, free port to the gentry since 1841? That question was asked last June when Shenzhen’s official mouthpiece excitedly announced that Hong Kong would essentially co-build the project (just days before Xu’s detention). Our officials awkwardly mumbled that it would provide opportunities for Hong Kong firms.
Yesterday’s joint statement spells out the arrangement more clearly:
…both sides have reviewed the work progress in the past few months, and have reached consensus on the respective role in taking forward the co-operation initiative.
And those respective roles are:
Shenzhen Municipal Government will take up the leading role, and be responsible for the development and management of the Qianhai area, while the HKSAR Government would provide comments on the study and formulation of issues like development planning and policies.
Phew! They pay for, construct and run the thing, and we provide… comments. Free, presumably, but I think we can live with that.
So well done, Henry, for shielding us from molestation by Shenzhen-ites’ grubby, acquisitive little official fingers straying across the border. He also agreed – as Shenzhen had already – that the Big Lychee should accept a fresh supply of visitors: ragged and impoverished migrant workers from outside Guangdong province who live on RMB1,000 a month if they are lucky. Excellent news for anyone in Hong Kong needing cheaper illegal labourers and hookers.