Zhang Dejiang, chairman of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, will visit Hong Kong next month to participate in an economic summit related to China’s “One Belt, One Road” program.
The Chinese parliament chief will deliver a keynote address at the Belt and Road Summit, which will take place on May 18.
The trip follows an invitation from Hong Kong’s leader, Leung Chung-ying, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported.
Zhang will become the first top Beijing leader to visit Hong Kong since 2012, when former President Hu Jintao came here to participate in the 15th anniversary celebrations of the city’s return to China.
The Belt and Road Summit, which will explore how Hong Kong can play an important role in China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative, is being organized by the Hong Kong government.
In a government press release late Thursday, Leung said the initiative will provide a new and enormous impetus to Hong Kong’s long-term social and economic development.
The attendance of the chairman of the NPC standing committee and his scheduled keynote speech “fully demonstrates that the central government values and strongly supports Hong Kong’s unique role” in the belt and road initiative, Leung said.
Apart from Zhang, the Hong Kong summit will see the participation of officials from the National Development and Reform Commission, the Ministry of Commerce, the People’s Bank of China and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
China belt and road initiative, which comprises the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road programs, is designed to expand business cooperation between East and West, from Asia to Europe via Southeast Asia, South Asia, Central Asia, West Asia and the Middle East.
Zhang’s scheduled visit to Hong Kong comes at a time when China has expressed concern about pro-independence calls by some Hong Kong groups.
As Zhang is not a senior official in charge of economic affairs, it is suspected that his trip to Hong Kong is aimed at delivering some political message to the city.
The Journal cited an unidentified lawmaker from the pro-establishment camp as saying that the main purpose of Zhang’s trip could be to express Beijing’s support for Leung and his government, as well as telling Hong Kong businessmen that they will not be left out in the belt and road projects.
Democratic Party lawmaker Albert Ho, who is also chairman of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, said he believes Zhang’s visit has political implications.
It is not clear if pan-democrats will meet with Zhang, Ho said, but added that the mainland official will be made aware of the discontent prevailing in Hong Kong over the political situation.
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