CHINA> National
HK celebrations marked by support
(China Daily)
Updated: 2007-06-30 08:12

President Hu Jintao talks to Donald Tsang, chief executive of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, after playing table tennis with students at the Hong Kong Sports Institute June 29, 2007. [China Daily]

HONG KONG: President Hu Jintao reaffirmed on Friday the central government's strong commitment to the 'one country, two systems' concept.

The government also stands by its commitment to the principle of "high autonomy of Hong Kong people governing Hong Kong", he said.

Both core ideals ultimately promote the long-term stability and prosperity of the region.

Hu, general secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and chairman of the Central Military Commission, made the pledge when meeting Donald Tsang, chief executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR).

Hu said Hong Kong's development was a proud achievement, and he had great confidence in its future.

He said he hoped the SAR government, led by Tsang, would further focus its efforts on improving people's livelihoods, boosting economic development and bolstering its administrative capability.

Hu arrived here on Friday on a three-day visit to attend celebrations of the 10th anniversary of Hong Kong's return to the motherland.

Tsang thanked the central government for its support, saying the Hong Kong people had been well aware of the advantages of the "one country, two systems" from their experiences in the past decade as well as the importance of exchanges and cooperation with the mainland.

After months of preparation, the HKSAR government is rolling out 460 events combining Chinese and Western elements for the celebrations.

National and regional flags have been raised on the vessels docked in the Victoria Port; and special signs and banners marking the 10th anniversary have been erected along Hong Kong's streets.

A group of Buddhists will toll a bell for three hours to mark the handover on the eve of July 1 before the big day begins with a flag-raising ceremony and ends with a fireworks display.

The People's Liberation Army, which has maintained a low-key presence in the SAR, will be involved in four events, including a demonstration on Sunday by its parachute brigade.

The British Museum has offered more than 200 artifacts for display while a series of sports events have been planned with big-name international stars.

Local residents have been upbeat about Hu's visit, the first one to Hong Kong as Chinese president.

"We welcome the president's visit," Ho Ka-wai, a taxi driver, said.

"In the past 10 years, Hong Kong experienced difficulties such as Asian financial crisis and SARS pandemic and now the economy is again upbeat. I hope the central government can continue to support Hong Kong and help Hong Kong in its economic growth."

Hu's itinerary includes a military review of the People's Liberation Army Garrison in Hong Kong on Saturday.

New arrangement expands cooperation

The central government has lowered the capital requirements for Hong Kong-based companies on the mainland and granted them wider access to 11 new industries through a recently signed supplement to the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement.

According to the supplement, the asset requirements of Hong Kong banks hoping to purchase stakes in mainland counterparts was cut to $6 billion from $10 billion. And Hong Kong tourism agencies, hospitals, public utility-related businesses, and elderly and environmental services would be given wider access to mainland markets.

The amendments are scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2008.

Speaking at the signing ceremony, Hong Kong Financial Secretary Henry Tang said the new CEPA package would provide broader opportunities for Hong Kong business while reinforcing Hong Kong's capabilities of better tapping the mainland market.

He said that the new package provides a positive response to a number of recommendations included in the Final Report of the Economic Summit of the mainland's 11th Five-Year Plan.

"It's stepping forward gradually, to make ways of doing business more diversified on the mainland," said James Sung, a political science lecturer at the City University of Hong Kong.

"The mutual recognition of professional qualifications from both the mainland and Hong Kong is going to encourage better cross-border communications."

Broadened areas

The fourth amendment of the arrangement covers 38 different sectors, making it the furthest reaching yet.

The new accord enhances cooperation in finance, conventions and exhibitions, and mutual recognition of professional qualifications.

In addition to easing the capital threshold, the mainland would also develop green lanes for Hong Kong banks to set up branches in new areas. And mainland banks and fund management companies would also be able to establish subsidiaries in Hong Kong.

To boost tourism, the agreement stipulates that the minimum annual business turnover required of a Hong Kong travel enterprise setting up a joint venture or wholly owned enterprise on the mainland would be respectively reduced to $8 million and $15 million.

The required capital investment for Hong Kong medical-services suppliers setting up equity or joint ventures on the mainland would be reduced from 20 million yuan ($2.6 million) to 10 million yuan ($1.3 million).

Hong Kong service providers would be allowed to operate elderly service agencies in the form of wholly owned, private, non-governmental enterprises in Guangdong Province on a pilot basis.

According to the clauses addressing public utilities, Hong Kong service providers would be allowed to set up wholly owned operations to construct and operate gas, heating and water-supply networks, in addition to water-drainage services, for medium-sized mainland cities.

Warm applause

Vice-Chairman of the Hong Kong Association of Travel Agents Paul Leung said the arrangement would be a win-win situation.

"It not only helps increase exposure for Hong Kong travel agents in the mainland market, but also, the quality of mainland players can be improved through the consequential competition," he said.

"Small and medium-sized Hong Kong banks can speed up their mainland expansion with the help of the CEPA," said the Hong Kong Association of Banks Chairman Peter Sullivan.