Hong Kong and Taiwan to get share of Chinese development

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has dangled the prospect of more perks for Hong Kong and Taiwan even as he made clear that Beijing would not tolerate any breakaway moves.

Mr Li yesterday outlined a future where both territories would share more in the fruits of the mainland's development as "brothers and sisters" of the same family, an implicit reminder of their umbilical relationship with China.

Speaking to reporters at the close of China's annual top political meetings, Mr Li said China would implement policies and plans that would foster growth across the Taiwan Strait and in the semi-autonomous financial hub, at a time of economic uncertainty for both.

Taiwan has struggled to lift its economy for years, with gross domestic product growth last year at 1.4 per cent. Hong Kong last year lost its title as Asia's top financial hub to Singapore, according to a survey measuring key competitive areas.

"We will introduce more policies for our Taiwanese compatriots to live, work and study on the mainland - the conveniences of being family," said Mr Li.

Some of the plans China is drawing up will cover employment, social insurance and living needs to facilitate Taiwanese living and working on the mainland. The aim is to boost social and economic integration of both sides.

Mr Li yesterday reiterated that Beijing had been consistent in its policies towards Taiwan and Hong Kong. He said it had adhered closely to both the 1992 consensus with Taiwan... and the "one country, two systems" principle that gives Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy.

Beijing would also continue preferential policies towards Taiwanese businesses, said Mr Li. These include tax reductions and laws safeguarding Taiwanese investments in China.

To help Hong Kong "maintain its status as an international financial centre", China would launch a scheme there this year to allow overseas investors to buy mainland bonds for the first time, added Mr Li.

The scheme resembles the Shenzhen-Hong Kong stock connectivity launched last year that gave foreign investors access to Chinese stocks, and mainland brokers access to Hong Kong ones.

Goldman Sachs analyst Kinger Lau told the China Daily that the cross-border stock link was likely to become the most important source of capital inflows to the city this year, having already surpassed US$8 billion (S$11.3 billion) so far.

Mr Li yesterday reiterated that Beijing had been consistent in its policies towards Taiwan and Hong Kong. He said it had adhered closely to both the 1992 consensus with Taiwan (that there is only one China, but open to interpretation) and the "one country, two systems" principle that gives Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy.

"Blood is thicker than water, no matter how the situation on the island may evolve," Mr Li said of Taiwan.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 16, 2017, with the headline 'Hong Kong and Taiwan to get share of Chinese development'. Print Edition | Subscribe