Big things are coming to Yuen Long. In January, Hong Kong and Shenzhen joined hands to turn the Lok Ma Chau Loop into the Hong Kong/Shenzhen Innovation and Technology Park, and a 87-hectare project that will be four times bigger than the Science Park in Sha Tin.
The announcement settles a 20-year border dispute over the loop, which is a muddy piece of land created when the Shenzhen River was straightened in 1997. Both Hong Kong and Shenzhen claimed the land, but now that Shenzhen has acknowledged Hong Kong’s ownership, its development potential can be unleashed.
The Hong Kong government will build the park’s basic infrastructure, but it will be up to the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation to manage its 1.2 million square meters of floor area. A special committee with representatives from both Hong Kong and Shenzhen will oversee the development.
Innovation is the buzzword in today’s economy, and any new support for start-up technology businesses is welcome. New high-quality space custom-built for start-ups and research and development companies can provide an outlet for entrepreneurs graduating from the city’s universities, and it can convince more technology companies to relocate to Hong Kong.
Things are already looking up in Hong Kong’s tech scene. Last year, the government announced a HK$2 billion Innovation and Technology Venture Fund, and mainland giant Alibaba has contributed US$130 million to a Hong Kong investment program for start-ups. Shenzhen’s scene is even hotter: some of China’s biggest tech companies are located in the booming border city, while grassroots entrepreneurs are flourishing in the city’s do-it-yourself culture.
There are still many questions about the loop to be answered. Transportation is one of them. At the moment, there is just a one-lane road between the loop and the rest of Hong Kong, and there is no direct connection to Shenzhen. To overcome this isolation, new road and rail infrastructure will need to be built – perhaps a spur of the existing East Rail Line to Shenzhen, or a modern tramway system that leads to the Lok Ma Chau border crossing.
If good connectivity can be established, the benefits could spill over into Yuen Long and the North District, the two areas adjacent to the loop. Both districts benefit from an abundance of space — including the industrial space often preferred by start-up companies — as well as close proximity to Shenzhen’s robust tech scene.
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