Editor's note: A framework agreement will give the blueprint and roadmap for forging a closer partnership between Hong Kong and Guangdong. With determination and concerted efforts, it will be just a matter of time before the two regions to tear down the invisible wall that stands in the way of joint development.
Two days ago in Beijing we signed the Framework Agreement on Hong Kong-Guangdong Co-operation that is key to implementing the Outline of the Plan for the Reform and Development of the Pearl River Delta (PRD). This outline was unveiled by the Central People's Government last year with the goal of establishing the PRD as one of the most competitive regions in the world by the year 2020.
What does this framework agreement mean for Hong Kong?
First and foremost, this landmark accord will serve people and companies of both Hong Kong and Guangdong, and promote mutual development. In other words, it will help to dismantle the invisible wall between us while preserving the integrity of "One Country, Two Systems" and the Basic Law.
A major underlying principle of the accord is "market leads, government facilitates". Removing unnecessary obstacles will facilitate the free flow of people, goods, capital and information. People will have greater choices in the way they work and live. There will be more opportunities for companies to thrive and grow.
In the coming decade, the framework agreement will have far-reaching implications for Hong Kong's relationship with Guangdong, in terms of transport infrastructure, cross-boundary movements, environmental protection, and support to businesses.
A number of mega cross-boundary infrastructure projects are at various stages of development. The coming decade will see the commissioning of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge, the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link, and two mainland highways linking Hong Kong with the PRD. Meanwhile, planning is in full swing for an additional control point at the eastern boundary and a high-speed railway connecting Hong Kong and Shenzhen airports .
Combine these with the strategic road and railway systems in Hong Kong and you have an extensive, seamless network with the various airports, waterways and ports in the PRD, making it possible to travel from Hong Kong to major PRD cities within one hour.
Software is equally important. The two sides will study various options to streamline immigration and customs clearance to facilitate self-service passenger clearance, synchronised customs declarations and clearance for goods, single platform for vehicle clearance, mutual recognition of customs inspections, and so on. These measures will go a long way in enhancing cross-boundary efficiency.
Further, we will create a single platform for Octopus and its Guangdong counterpart to ensure acceptance of the card after crossing the Shenzhen River. We also aim to relax the licensing arrangement for cross-boundary vehicles including private cars so that driving your own car to the mainland becomes a viable option. We will also make every effort to lower cross-boundary telecom charges.
In anticipation of more Hong Kong residents choosing to work and live in the PRD, the framework agreement proposes a host of support measures, including:
exploring the possibility of allowing Hong Kong technicians to obtain international, mainland and local qualifications by sitting for a single examination;
Hong Kong residents receiving the same medical privileges as their compatriots in Guangdong; improving the transfer of patients between the two medical systems; encouraging Hong Kong's medical sector to provide high quality medical services in Guangdong;