I have gone through all five policy addresses by CY Leung to try to get the big picture of his governing approach.
However, after having read all of them, the words that have continued to pop into my head are “Celestial Empire”.
It occurred to me that under Leung Chun-ying, Hong Kong has become increasingly like an outpost of the Celestial Empire (i.e. the mainland) where our urban, transport and other key infrastructure planning are dictated not by the actual needs of the people in this city but by the economic and strategic needs of Beijing.
Furthermore, it seems such Celestial Empire mindset — a mainland-centric view of relations between Beijing and Hong Kong — is going to dominate the way forward for “one country, two systems”.
Just look at some of the key infrastructure projects now under way or in the pipeline such as the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link, the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, as well as the proposed Lok Ma Chau tech park and the hotly debated third runway of Chek Lap Kok airport.
We can tell they indeed look more like the components of Beijing’s grand economic expansion plan rather than something that are intended to serve Hong Kong people.
It appears that industrial policy is also now being tailored to the strategic and economic needs of Beijing.
From the government’s “2030+” study, the key role of mainland companies in the Lok Ma Chau tech park, to the proposed logistics center in the New Territories North, these policy initiatives are to be carried out on our soil.
But they are beyond our control and the final say doesn’t rest with us either because they are formulated to meet the “new opportunities” imposed on us by the mainland, whether we like it or not.
On the other hand, not only the facilities on our land but also our air is incorporated into the framework of the Celestial Empire.
In his latest policy address, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying announced that Hong Kong had concluded an agreement with the mainland over establishing an emission control area in the Pearl River Delta waters to regulate emissions from marine vessels.
The agreement is in fact part of an ambitious emissions control program initiated by the State Council on a national scale that covers not only the Pearl River Delta but also the Yangtze River Delta and the Gulf of Bohai in the north, which could have long-term implications for marine transport and cruise tourism in Hong Kong.
However, the agreement has largely gone under the public radar.
True, the economic development of the mainland has provided enormous opportunities for Hong Kong and we are increasingly relying on the mainland economy as our growth engine.
What we are against here is not development itself but the notion that we, the people of Hong Kong, have to resign ourselves to whatever opportunities or roles are “imposed” on us by the mainland, with or without our consent.
When it comes to true municipal autonomy, it is not just about how many new flats we build each year, whether we have universal retirement scheme, or how much GDP growth we have achieved.
Rather, it is about whether we can plan our city and shape our future according to the needs of the people living here rather than what Beijing wants us to be.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jan. 24
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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