Li Keqiang expresses support to Hong Kong

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Despite difficulties and challenges with Hong Kong's economy, the central government will continue to provide strong support to the special administrative region, which will make it grow better, said Vice-Premier Li Keqiang.

Vice-Premier Li Keqiang waves to crowds upon his arrival at Hong Kong airport on Tuesday. He was greeted by senior officials of Hong Kong led by Chief Executive Donald Tsang (first right). [Photo/China Daily]

Vice-Premier Li Keqiang waves to crowds upon his arrival at Hong Kong airport on Tuesday. He was greeted by senior officials of Hong Kong led by Chief Executive Donald Tsang (first right). [Photo/China Daily]

Li made the remarks during his meeting with the SAR's Chief Executive Donald Tsang on Tuesday, as part of his three-day visit to the region.

"Although a changing environment with internal and external situations has caused some difficulties and challenges to Hong Kong, yet I firmly believe, with strong support from the central government and the mainland, and concerted efforts by the SAR government and all the circles of the Hong Kong society, we will be capable of building and developing a better Hong Kong," Li said.

"I am fully confident in Hong Kong's future."

Li started his three-day official visit to Hong Kong on Tuesday, the first since his duty as vice-premier in 2008.

While the SAR's economic growth in the second quarter showed negative growth of 0.5 percent, the first such since 2009, and its economy is expected to enter into a year-long recession, Li's current visit is warmly welcomed by local industries and experts. They believe the visit will create more business opportunities in the region.

On his arrival at Hong Kong Chek Lap Kok airport, Li told the media that the inclusion of Hong Kong in the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015), the first time doing so, shows "the central government's care and support", and the move is also in line with the expectation of all circles of Hong Kong, as well as meeting demands of the nation.

"As a major part of my Hong Kong visit, I will attend the forum on China's 12th Five-Year Plan and economic, trade and financial cooperative development between the mainland and Hong Kong," Li said.

The forum will be held on Wednesday, during which Li will announce and clarify a series of new policies that the central government would like to launch in the next five years to help the region "further develop and enhance its closer cooperation with the Chinese mainland in economy, trade and finance."

"Hong Kong's economy is at a crucial period amid the global financial turbulence and uncertainties. The central government's support is of significance to the region," said Chen Wenling, chief economist of the China Center for International Economic Exchanges and a senior expert on Hong Kong issues.

"Hong Kong's inclusion into the new national Five-Year Plan and Li's visit to clarify the plan shows the central government's strong commitment and high expectation on Hong Kong's economic development."

Cheung Chi-kong, executive director of One Country Two Systems Research Institute in Hong Kong, also agreed.

Hong Kong is so closely connected to the mainland in its economy, and at a time while the mainland's economy is growing quickly, Hong Kong needs to seize the opportunity to consolidate its position and invigorate its economy, he said.

"This will be mutually beneficial to the State and Hong Kong," he added.

Under Li's leadership, the Chinese delegation also includes high-level representatives from the ministries, including Minister of Commerce Chen Deming, China's top economic planner Zhang Ping, and central bank Governor Zhou Xiaochuan. They are expected to make speeches during the forum.

According to statements by the ministries, Li will attend a ceremony for a 20-billion yuan-denominated bond issue in Hong Kong, and also a ceremony for the signing of economic and trade agreements between the mainland and Hong Kong.

"Li will probably announce some substantive measures to promote cooperation between the mainland and Hong Kong," said Yang Yuying, deputy director of the Institute of Industrial and Technological Economics of National Development and Reform Commission.

"More additional agreements to the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) are probably part of those, and more support on helping Hong Kong develop into a global financial and trade center will be another part," she added.

In 2003, the mainland and Hong Kong signed the CEPA, and additional agreements have been made each year since.

In its 12th Five-Year Plan, China pledged to improve Hong Kong's position as an international financial, shipping and trade center, including developing the region into an offshore yuan center.

Li's visit also comes as the US' sovereign credit rating was downgraded amid global economic upheavals.

This year, Hong Kong lost its place as the world's largest center for initial public offerings. Hong Kong's IPOs raised $15 billion this year, while the US had $36 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

"Hong Kong is used to encountering economic upheavals. We can overcome the problems, thanks to its institutional strengths and the backing of the mainland as a big market," said Priscilla Lau, associate professor of Hong Kong Polytechnic University's Department of Business Studies.

Successful mode

During his meeting with Tsang, Li Keqiang also spoke highly of Hong Kong's successful implementation of the basic principles of "one country, two systems", "Hong Kong people governing Hong Kong", and its high degree of autonomy and position as a global center for finance, trade and shipping, since its handover to the motherland in 1997.

"Hong Kong remains prosperous and stable, and it is also one of the most vibrant economies worldwide. Its overall situation is good," he emphasized.

Li also expressed hope that the current HK SAR government, led by Tsang, could maintain its good spirits, addressing problems in the economy and people's livelihood, and removing local residents' anxiety.

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