What does the new Shenzhen reform plan mean for Hong Kong?

August 21, 2019 10:40
China plans to carry out further reforms in Shenzhen, aiming to make the city a world leader in competitiveness. Photo: Reuters

China's State Council has unveiled a detailed plan for wide-ranging reforms to be implemented in Shenzhen.

The plan was released against the backdrop of a series of anti-government protests in Hong Kong. Some observers have speculated that the Beijing move marks a policy direction of boosting Shenzhen and dumping Hong Kong.

But I believe the new blueprint will actually benefit Hong Kong.

The draft of the plan was first reviewed by President Xi Jinping on July 24. And the plan had not mentioned anything about Hong Kong in the draft version.

But the official document released on Sunday touched upon Hong Kong in a notable way and highlighted the intention to enrich One Country Two Systems.

The reform seeks to facilitate mutual fund recognition and financial market mutual access between Hong Kong and Shenzhen, as well as accelerate the construction of Shenzhen-Hong Kong Science and Technology Innovation Cooperation Zone, among other things.

That clearly shows that Beijing has yet to give up Hong Kong despite the escalating social unrest in the special administrative region in recent weeks.

In fact, the plan is far more strategic than just about Hong Kong and Shenzhen.

It has put a lot of emphasis on rule of law, livelihood, and sustainable and quality economic development.

Some political change would even be allowed in Shenzhen, with the guidance of the ruling Communist Party. According to the report, the plan would “expand people’s orderly political participation under the guidance of the Party” .

Shenzhen would be allowed to “make flexible changes to laws, regulations and local ordinances based on Shenzhen’s need for reform and innovation”.

It shows that top leaders in China know quite well that the nation has to beef up its legal, social and political system if the country is to move to the next level.

Shenzhen was carefully chosen since the city has more room for making mistakes compared with Beijing or Shanghai. Also, Shenzhen is China’s most international and youngest city, with a population averaging only 32.5 years in age.

The reform signals Beijing’s continued opening up, which would be positive for Hong Kong.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Aug 20

Translation by Julie Zhu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal columnist