Broad role in Belt and Road Initiative for HK: Carrie Lam

It will also work with mainland to boost status as financial hub

Hong Kong is to sign a deal with a key Chinese government agency on the city's broad-based involvement in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), its Chief Executive Carrie Lam said.

The city is also to cooperate with China's financial agencies to consolidate and raise Hong Kong's status as an international financial centre, Mrs Lam told reporters at the end of her four-day visit to Beijing.

Mrs Lam met Mr He Lifeng, chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), on Tuesday, with whom she discussed Hong Kong's role in the BRI and the development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Bay Area.

These initiatives, she said yesterday, were "huge opportunities" for the city's economic development.

She said the city will be signing a cooperation agreement with the NDRC in the coming months that will be broad-based and play to Hong Kong's advantages, particularly in the professional services.

During her visit, she also met officials from China's central bank, the People's Bank of China, and the banking, securities and insurance regulatory commissions.

They talked about cooperation to raise Hong Kong's status as an international financial centre.This included encouraging Chinese financial institutions to set up their regional headquarters in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong's economic development was high on the agenda of Mrs Lam's visit, her first since taking office last month. She met senior officials from 16 ministries and commissions of the central government.

"Only in having a good economy can we have the ability to improve the people's livelihood and create more good-quality jobs for the city's residents, particularly young people," she said.

Mrs Lam has made economic development one of her government's key tasks at a time when disaffection over housing, growing income inequality and lack of social mobility, particularly for young people, has spilled over into the political arena.

Agitation for greater democratic freedoms and autonomy for the city has continued. Beijing has emphasised support for Hong Kong's economic development as a way of bringing political stability to it.

Hong Kong reporters at press conferences on Monday and yesterday asked Mrs Lam about the co-location of the mainland and Hong Kong immigration checkpoints for the high-speed rail link between the two sides at the city's West Kowloon terminal.

Some Hong Kongers worry that this move would erode the city's autonomy, guaranteed under the "one country, two systems" principle.

A news report in the South China Morning Post on Mrs Lam's meeting with Chinese Education Minister Chen Baosheng on Monday noted that he reminded her of "President Xi Jinping's instructions on the need to strengthen young people's education on the Chinese Constitution, Basic Law and Chinese history and culture".

It said analysts saw this as Beijing pressuring Mrs Lam to revive national education in the city, which Hong Kongers object to as a bid to "brainwash" the young with pro-mainland propaganda.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 10, 2017, with the headline 'Broad role in Belt and Road Initiative for HK: Carrie Lam'. Subscribe