Delivering her annual Policy Address for 2021, themed “Building a Bright Future Together”, the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Carrie Lam underlined Hong Kong’s role as a gateway between the rapidly digitising Mainland China and the world.
Mrs Lam said Hong Kong’s economy, which had undergone numerous rounds of restructuring, had always been closely intertwined with the mainland’s development, which it should continue leveraging while connecting with the rest of the world.
“All these restructuring processes have been attributed to the remarkable acumen, brilliant versatility and ‘can-do’ spirit of Hong Kong entrepreneurs,” she said.
“The current-term Government stresses that we should play the role of a ‘facilitator’ and a ‘promoter’ to keep connecting with the world to open up markets and explore business opportunities for our enterprises.
“I am confident that Hong Kong is much stronger than ever, and I am most convinced that Hong Kong can integrate into the overall development of the country and play an irreplaceable role," Mrs Lam said.
The Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) welcomed the chief executive’s address, which can create new opportunities for Hong Kong and add fresh impetus to the city’s development.
“The Chief Executive’s Policy Address outlines innovative ideas that can help Hong Kong use opportunities arising from the Chinese 14th Five-Year Plan and play a role in the development of Mainland China,” HKTDC Chairman Dr Peter K N Lam said.
Dr Lam said the policies of extending the validity period of the Convention and Exhibition Industry Subsidy Scheme, expanding convention and exhibition (C&E) facilities and the commitment to stage international convention and exhibition activities in Hong Kong will provide strong support to the industry.
The Commercial Data Interchange platform, which is expected to start operations next year and can reduce the need for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to provide collateral when obtaining loans, can help meet SMEs’ financing needs, he said.
Dr Lam also welcomed initiatives to enhance Hong Kong’s status as an international financial, aviation, trading and dispute resolution centre, as well as policies to enhance the city’s innovation and technology (I&T) ecosystem. He believed that developing the city as an international I&T hub can support Hong Kong’s re-industrialisation and complement I&T development in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area.
“The HKTDC has long been promoting digitalisation, utilising technology to help SMEs upgrade and transform their businesses, and we incorporate I&T elements across all our activities to help SMEs capture opportunities in the digital sphere,” said Dr Lam.
“Looking ahead, developing Hong Kong into a hub for Chinese and international cultural exchange and a regional centre for intellectual property trading can also inject new impetus into the city’s economy,” he added.
“I and my HKTDC colleagues in Hong Kong and our 50 offices around the world will continue to provide platforms and services to help Hong Kong’s business community capture these fresh opportunities.”
The financial industry is a key sector in Hong Kong and Mrs Lam said the Government would expand further the channels for the two-way flow of cross- boundary renminbi (RMB) funds and developing offshore RMB products and tools, including looking into specific measures to enhance demand for the issuance and trading of RMB securities and allow stocks traded via the southbound trading under the Stock Connect schemes to be denominated in RMB. The Stock Connect schemes permit offshore investors to buy selected equities on the Shanghai and Shenzhen stock exchanges through Hong Kong, and mainland investors to buy Hong Kong-listed shares through the domestic exchanges.
Mrs Lam said the Government would promote cross-border financial technology and actively explore with the mainland the formation of a one-stop sandbox network to facilitate financial institutions and information and technology companies from Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao to test cross-border fintech applications.
The Government would also support the cooperation between the Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing and the Guangzhou Futures Exchange in financial product development related to the areas of carbon dioxide emission trading, and assess the feasibility of developing Hong Kong into a regional carbon trading centre, thereby strengthening the city’s role as a regional green and sustainable finance hub.
Expanding on the green theme, she set out her vision for Hong Kong to become a smart, vibrant, green and carbon-neutral city.
“Climate change represents both a challenge and an opportunity," Mrs Lam said. "Hong Kong must put words into action in addressing the crisis of extreme weather brought by global climate change."
Conventions and exhibitions crucial
The chief executive said the C&E industry is crucial to Hong Kong as an international trade centre. To cope with the impact of the pandemic, the Government is implementing the Convention and Exhibition Industry Subsidy Scheme with a commitment of more than HK$1 billion to provide impetus for the industry.
“The Government will further extend the validity of the scheme to the end of next year,” Mrs Lam said.
“In the long run, the Government will continue to expand facilities, including redeveloping the sites of the three government towers in Wan Chai North and the Kong Wan Fire Station into C&E facilities, hotel and Grade A offices, as well as expanding the AsiaWorld-Expo, in order to consolidate and enhance Hong Kong’s status as an international C&E hub.”
Mrs Lam said the Chinese Central Government supports Hong Kong's development as an international I&T hub and the local Government has invested more than HK$130 billion in I&T development over the past four years, which includes setting up two InnoHK research clusters by the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTPC), the city’s flagship innovation and technology institution which marks its 20th anniversary next year. The research clusters have attracted world-class universities and research institutes to collaborate with local universities.
The chief executive also proposed further expanding the capacity of the HKSTPC’s Hong Kong Science Park, which is home to about 900 technology enterprises and start-ups. The expansion, Mrs Lam said, would involve providing an additional 88 hectares (ha) of land, largely for I&T development.
In the past three years, the Science Park’s tenant-incubatees have raised funds amounting to HK$33 billion. It is estimated that for every HK$1 invested by the HKSTPC, an external investment of HK$13 would be attracted, according to Mrs Lam.
Hong Kong should better leverage its strengths in life and health sciences to meet the country’s needs, Mrs Lam said.
“We have a solid foundation in research and a good number of world-renowned experts, whose achievements have been widely acclaimed. Our clinical trial centres are recognised by the National Medical Products Administration, and their data which meet the relevant clinical trial standards are also widely recognised by relevant bodies in the United States and the European Union,” she said.
“I now propose the setting up of an InnoLife Healthtech Hub in the HSITP [Hong Kong Shenzhen Innovation and Technology Park] in the [Lok Ma Chau] Loop, with the 16 life and health-related laboratories in the InnoHK research clusters and the eight State Key Laboratories in life and health disciplines as the basis, to focus on related research work.”
The Government will revive the Ma Liu Shui reclamation project which, together with the land to be vacated by the relocation of the Sha Tin Sewage Treatment Works to caverns, will provide 88ha of new land. Mrs Lam proposed that the land should be used mainly for innovation and technology development rather than the originally suggested residential use.
The HSITP and areas around Lok Ma Chau-San Tin will become the San Tin Technopole. That, together with the Shenzhen I&T zone, will form the Shenzhen-Hong Kong I&T Co-operation Zone. Mrs Lam said the resulting 540-ha site will combine the strengths of Hong Kong and Shenzhen, powering the development of an international I&T hub in the Greater Bay Area.
She also provided an update on Cyberport, another landmark innovation and technology community in Hong Kong. It is estimated that every HK$1 it invests draws HK$13 of investment. Over the past three years, Cyberport start-ups attracted investment of more than HK$12.5 billion. The Cyberport 5 Project, which will increase the gross floor area of Cyberport by more than 40% within four years, has commenced.
The Government will continue to promote re-industrialisation with a five-pronged approach – infrastructure, talents, capital, technology and research – to make our industrial value chain more complete and our economy more diversified.
The Advanced Manufacturing Centre at the Tseung Kwan O Industrial Estate and the Microelectronics Centre at the Yuen Long Industrial Estate will be completed in 2022 and 2023 respectively.
“The good industry response to these two facilities indicates that many enterprises share the view that high value-added and technology-intensive manufacturing processes and production lines can be set up in Hong Kong," Mrs Lam said. “In view of this, I have invited the HKSTPC to start planning for the construction of the second Advanced Manufacturing Centre”.
Mrs Lam said the Government plans to transform the northern part of Hong Kong into a Northern Metropolis with an area of 300 square kilometres, reaching up to the Shenzhen boundary. The metropolis will complement the respective strengths of Hong Kong and Shenzhen and boost Hong Kong’s integration into the overall development of China.
The Northern Metropolis will be developed as an international innovation and technology hub, while to the south the Harbour Metropolis will support Hong Kong’s status as an international financial centre, expanded to include the reclaimed land of the Kau Yi Chau Artificial Islands under the Lantau Tomorrow Vision.
With as many as seven land-based boundary control points, the Northern Metropolis will be the most important area in Hong Kong that facilitates development integration with Shenzhen and connection with the Greater Bay Area.
Northern Metropolis projects are estimated to provide about 350,000 residential units. An additional 600ha of land or so could be developed within the Northern Metropolis for residential and industry purposes, with an estimated provision of about 165,000 to 186,000 residential units.
Upon the full development of the entire Northern Metropolis, 905,000 to 926,000 residential units, including the existing 390 000 residential units in Yuen Long District (main picture) and North District, will be available to accommodate a population of about 2.5 million. The total number of jobs in the Metropolis will increase substantially from 116 000 at present to about 650 000, including 150 000 innovation and technology-related jobs.
Full Policy Address