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Scholar urges Hong Kong to address 'cultural gap'

By Gao Changxin in Hong Kong | China Daily | Updated: 2013-06-19 07:42

A top Hong Kong scholar has called on the special administrative region to bridge cultural and social differences with the mainland, in a bid to boost its waning competitiveness.

In a report published on Tuesday, Gui Qiangfang, president of the China Institute of City Competitiveness, said Hong Kong's comprehensive competitiveness, including social, environmental and cultural strength, has declined in recent years.

One of the major reasons for this decline is Hong Kong's cultural gap with the mainland, which resulted in the city not fully making use of preferential policies from the central government.

"Hong Kong is trailing further and further behind the world's top cities including New York, Tokyo and London, and has been overtaken to some extent by more and more mainland cities," said Gui,

The cultural gap is one of the 10 reasons Gui listed for Hong Kong's waning competitive edge, which also include an absence of strategic planning, a lack of innovation, and growing competition from big mainland cities such as Shanghai and Shenzhen.

But still, Hong Kong remains the most competitive city in China, benefiting from its sound legal framework and open market, according to the institute.

Gui's comments come as some Hong Kong residents appear to have developed a distaste for mainland tourists.

In a high-profile incident last year, a mobile phone video of a shouting match between mainlanders and locals aboard the subway in Hong Kong went viral on the Internet.

A brawl ensued after a local woman told off a mainland child traveling in Hong Kong with her mother for eating dried noodles on the train, where eating is prohibited.

Another issue is cross-border childbirths, in which mainland women fly to Hong Kong to give birth, meaning that their children can gain their Hong Kong permanent residency.

Hong Kong government statistics show the number of newborns of mainland women not married to Hong Kong permanent residents skyrocketed from less than 1,000 in 2000 to more than 35,000 in 2011.

Gui urged Hong Kong to strengthen communications with Beijing to avoid conflicts, boost mutual trust and deal with difference in a timely manner.

"The root of Hong Kong's development lies in the fact that it has the mainland, the world's second-biggest economy, as its hinterland," said Gui.

"Hong Kong shouldn't let those cultural and social differences stand in the way of cooperating with the mainland, which would create a win-win situation."

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