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HK-mainland Discuss Joint Plans

Hong Kong Chief Secretary Donald Tsang and government officials from Guangdong Province and Shenzhen held central government-brokered talks for the first time Thursday.

As a result of the Beijing meeting, cooperation is set to increase between Hong Kong and the Pearl River delta areas in large-scale infrastructure projects.

Officials from the State Development Planning Commission, the Ministry of Communications, the Ministry of Railways, and the Civil Aviation Administration of China were present at the talks.

Both sides agreed to speed up a number of joint projects, including the Western Passage between Shenzhen and Hong Kong, pipe networks transferring liquefied natural gas from Guangdong to Hong Kong, and an express railway line linking Shenzhen and Hong Kong.

They also exchanged plans for building ports and airports, which are part of their strategic blueprint to develop into logistical centers.

Although some of the projects had already been under discussion before the two sides came to Beijing, the participation of the central government will take their cooperation to a higher level, according to the State Development Planning Commission.

Most of all, it shows Beijing's willingness to include the development of the Pearl River delta areas and Hong Kong within a unified framework, said commission chief Zeng Peiyan.

"Against the backdrop of economic globalization, the integration of the regional economy and China's entry into the WTO (World Trade Organization), it is essential for the mainland and Hong Kong to strengthen cooperation and plan their future as a whole,'' said Zeng.

"The two sides should avoid wasting resources in overlapping construction, and should seek mutual prosperity and development.''

The proposed Western Passage, which is set to cost an estimated 3 billion yuan (US$360 million), includes a five-kilometer bridge and related facilities.

When the passage is finished, it will take only 35 minutes to drive from the Shekou area of Shenzhen to Hong Kong's new airport and 40 minutes to the planned Disneyworld in Hong Kong.

The two sides agreed to build the passage together. The project is expected to be completed in 2005.

They also agreed to try to start laying liquefied-natural-gas pipelines between Guangdong and Hong Kong by the end of this year.

They have also officially begun a study on the construction of an express railway to link Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Hong Kong.

The joint study, led by the Ministry of Railways, will decide how, when, where to build such a railway.

According to the schemes proposed by both sides, a high-tech magnetic-suspension railway will be considered.

More meetings between Hong Kong and the mainland will be held soon after the February 12 Spring Festival, said the State Development Planning Commission.

(China Daily February 1, 2002)

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