HONG KONG – The mainland’s ongoing reform and opening-up will further boost Hong Kong’s economy, bringing new business opportunities, former chief executive Leung Chun-ying predicts.
In an exclusive interview with China Daily, Leung was upbeat about the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region’s prospects in the wake of the latest policies being implemented across the boundary.
Currently working in a charity medical project in Kampong Cham, Cambodia, Leung said the SAR’s trade sector would benefit most from these policies – as trade between the city and overseas countries would become more vigorous.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of China’s reform and opening-up. The 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China last October set out a clear plan to extend these reforms on all fronts.
Leung – now vice-chairman of the country’s top political advisory body, the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference – said he was amazed by the great transformation Hong Kong had undergone in the past 40 years.
One of the things that most impressed him was changes to Hong Kong’s manufacturing industry. He said the sector had taken off as local factories progressively moved into the Pearl River Delta region after the mainland opened its doors.
“It was miraculous to see Hong Kong enterprises developing from local enterprises to large-scale firms rooted in the mainland, and later, to international conglomerates within only 40 years,” Leung stressed.
One million laborers, then working in local factories, subsequently entered and boosted the city’s service sector – now a strong pillar underpinning Hong Kong’s prosperous economy, he explained.
In the early days, Leung was one of the city’s professionals arguing in favor of the mainland opening up its economy. In the 1970s and 1980s, he visited the mainland, offering his views to officials on key issues such as land use, city planning and property.
“In the first several years of the opening-up, most places on the Chinese mainland were still underdeveloped and isolated. There were only around 40 people a day from Hong Kong who got into Shenzhen through the Lo Wu boundary,” he recalled.
“Such a number is a stark contrast to today’s bilateral flow of millions of travelers across the boundary,” added Leung.
Since it began in 1978, the economic liberalization policy has lifted 800 million Chinese people out of poverty. It drove the nation to become the world’s second-largest economy – with per capita GDP soaring from $100 then to more than $8,000 today.
The Belt and Road Initiative is the epitome of the nation’s ongoing opening-up policy, Leung noted.
To further promote these ideas, Leung visited Kampong Cham, Cambodia. There, he launched a charity medical project which he developed to help eliminate cataracts in the province within 18 to 24 months.
The campaign offers free cataract surgery to about 8,000 local patients. It is jointly organized by Cambodian officials and medical staff from Hong Kong and Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region under the framework of the B&R.