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Monday, February 18, 2019, 12:49
Bay Area benefits — the sky's the limit, experts say
By Kathy Zhang
Monday, February 18, 2019, 12:49 By Kathy Zhang

HONG KONG - People from different sectors in Hong Kong have high expectations of the benefits to be offered by the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area’s further development, with its blueprint expected to be unveiled this week.

Lo Wai-kwok, a lawmaker and chairman of the Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong, is confident about the Bay Area’s future, believing that Hong Kong stands to gain from further regional integration and collaboration.

Hong Kong’s advantages as an international financial center and in logistics, aviation, as well as innovation and technology, will help push forward the region’s development, 

Lo Wai-kwok said

Hong Kong’s advantages as an international financial center and in logistics, aviation, as well as innovation and technology, will help push forward the region’s development, he said.

READ MORE: Bay Area to become global innovative hub and BRI gateway

Conceding that opportunities are usually accompanied with challenges, he said rising trade protectionism and trade conflicts between the United States and China have exerted pressure on the development of enterprises in the Bay Area. Besides, worldwide competition in inno-tech is also fierce.

Given the challenges, Lo hoped that ongoing trade talks between the world’s two largest economies will help reduce economic risks. On the other hand, the Bay Area needs to consolidate its edge in the innovation and technology sector, and cultivate and attract more talents to maintain the its vitality.

In terms of cross-boundary infrastructure construction, Lo, who represents the engineering functional constituency in the Legislative Council, said the two major infrastructure links launched in the second half of last year — the Hong Kong-section of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Linkand the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge — mean greater convenience and more choices for people living in the area. People now have more modes to choose from in travel and transportation, as well as living and doing business in the Bay Area, with the travel time having been greatly reduced.

He called for more investments to build up transport infrastructure not just in the Bay Area.

Witman Hung Wai-man — principal liaison officer for Hong Kong of Shenzhen’s Qianhai Authority — said a key aspect of the Bay Area’s uniqueness lies in the advantages the Hong Kong and Macao SARs enjoy under “one country, two systems”. Integrating the two SARs and their unique advantages is an important part of the Bay Area’s development. Qianhai has accumulated rich experience in Hong Kong-Shenzhen cooperation, and such experience will be useful when the Bay Area promotes wider and deeper cross-boundary collaboration, he said.

Qianhai has introduced pilot programs to narrow the gap between Shenzhen and Hong Kong in professional practices and regulatory frameworks. The programs cover the handling of business disputes, and the presence of Hong Kong residents as jurors to help with related court cases. Qianhai is also among the first places on the Chinese mainland to recognize people’s professional qualifications earned across the boundary. Some Hong Kong accountants and lawyers can practice in Qianhai as a result, Hung said.

Nurturing entrepreneurship and incubating tech startups have also been areas in which Qianhai has made big strides. The program will be expanded to provide opportunities for more young people to chase their dreams. In addition, Qianhai will strengthen partnerships with Hong Kong universities to provide more platforms for into-tech talents.

Hung believes the Bay Area will draw high-skilled people from overseas. Acting alone now, Hong Kong, Macao and Guangdong may face their own limitations in attracting high-end global talents. But, by working together and combining the vast mainland market with Hong Kong’s international prestige, the Bay Area will have a much better chance in the global competition for talents, he said.

Rizwan Ullah — the only non-Chinese member of the Youth Development Commission in Hong Kong — is upbeat about the opportunities for young people in the Bay Area, as well as countries and regions involved in the Belt and Road Initiative.

The Hong Kong-born Pakistani calls for multi-level approaches to help young people seize the opportunities.

More communication and exchanges among young people in the Bay Area will be the first step in raising their awareness of the opportunities, Ullah stressed.

Society should then be able to prepare young people for the chances on offer with the necessary skills and competitiveness, such as knowledge in science and technology and language skills, including English, Mandarin and Cantonese, he said. Young people should broaden their horizons and find more opportunities, and, at the same time, open their minds and realize that they no longer compete with peers in one locale only, but also in the Bay Area and beyond, Ullah suggested.

IN PHOTOS: B&R forum focuses on Bay Area opportunities 

Chow Pak-chin — a Hong Kong ophthalmologist and medical director of the Asian Foundation for the Prevention of Blindness — believes the Bay Area’s further development will provide a greater scope for individuals and organizations to bring positive changes to society and support important polices such as the BRI.

In May last year, Chow was among the chief organizers of a charitable program that brings eye doctors from Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland to perform free cataract surgeries in Cambodia. About 1,300 patients have benefited from the program so far. The number is a bit behind schedule for the program planned to run for 18 to 24 months, and Chow said the team has reached an understanding with local authorities in Cambodia to step up the efforts in public education and transport prospective patients to designated areas to go through the operation.

The team has also trained a local Cambodian eye doctor. Now updated with the latest techniques and procedures practiced in Hong Kong, the Cambodian doctor has already performed about 30 cataract surgeries. That is the spirit of “train the trainers”, Chow said.

He said similar projects have been carried out on the Chinese mainland for more than two decades. As a lot of unforeseen obstacles are to be overcome in bringing the program to Cambodia, the organizers, including himself, will gain useful experience that may be helpful if the programs are extended to other BRI countries and regions, he predicted.

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