Published: 01:09, December 11, 2020 | Updated: 08:33, June 5, 2023
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Qianhai can be a trailblazer in Shenzhen-HK cooperation
By Paul Yeung

With China marking the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone (SEZ) this year, Qianhai, as Shenzhen’s first “Pilot Free Trade Zone”, naturally plays a key role in the advancement of the region as it develops into the “Shenzhen-Hong Kong Modern Service Industry Cooperation Zone”. 

During his visit to Shenzhen in October this year, President Xi Jinping announced a comprehensive pilot reform plan for Shenzhen to celebrate its 40th anniversary. The plan contains a list of important areas and crucial stages of reform where Shenzhen will be given more decision-making power in batches. The first batch covers 27 reform measures and 40 authorized matters. Creating a market-oriented, law-based and internationalized business environment is one of the key tasks in the reform plan. This is an area where Hong Kong’s professional services can serve as an important example in high-standard performance. The outline development plan for the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area proposes to optimize and enhance the functions of the Shenzhen-Hong Kong Modern Service Industry Cooperation Zone in Qianhai, so that the city can achieve an innovative breakthrough in the modern era.

Talent is an integral part of opening up and collaboration within the professional service industry. Hong Kong’s professional services still have not fully benefited from years of reform and opening up on the mainland, where they encounter difficulties in meeting government policies and required measures in place if they wish to enter the mainland market. Qianhai is well-positioned to implement pilot reform and become the leading experimental theater for groundbreaking cooperation between Shenzhen and Hong Kong professional services development. 

Since the central authorities have opened the “front gate” for Hong Kong-based professional service providers to enter the mainland market, we can and should figure out the best way to make the pilot reform plan work in Qianhai cooperation zone

Since the central authorities have opened the “front gate” for Hong Kong-based professional service providers to enter the mainland market, we can and should figure out the best way to make the pilot reform plan work in Qianhai cooperation zone. Further improvement can be made on the mutual recognition of professional qualifications under the current Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA). By simplifying the mutual recognition procedure, as long as professionals have obtained their qualification and relevant work experience in Hong Kong, their credentials will be accredited by Qianhai authorities, allowing them to establish start-ups in Qianhai with an expanded scope of service to cover the entire Shenzhen municipality.

The legal service industry is ahead of its peers in reforming its professional accreditation framework, which has evolved into piloting its own qualification exams in the Greater Bay Area for a period of three years. This reform is the outcome of exchanges, dialogues and efforts between Shenzhen and Hong Kong over the years, which serves as an inspiring model for other industries. The pioneering experience can also be applied to other professional services in Qianhai. For accounting service, restrictions on practicing bookkeeping and operating an accounting firm can be further relaxed to allow, on the one hand, the mutual recognition of auditing experience of partners residing in the two cities and, on the other hand, the establishment of an accounting firm entirely owned by overseas qualified professionals in Qianhai. For the construction industry, projects can be specifically open to Hong Kong professionals who meet the required qualifications for bidding. The next step would be for Hong Kong-based professional service providers to be able to obtain business licenses from mainland authorities without reciprocal treatment for mainland firms in Hong Kong, in order to attract overseas talents to Qianhai.

The above-suggested trailblazing measures can be expanded to form a pilot area in Qianhai that allows seamless convergence of professional services from Hong Kong and Shenzhen. In this pilot area, professional certificates issued by either city will be recognized without additional bureaucratic hurdles and valid for three to five years. From there Qianhai authorities will find a good reason to invest in infrastructure such as living quarters and recreational facilities to draw Hong Kong youths to work and live in Qianhai and Shenzhen. Ultimately it will help Hong Kong youths get involved in the overall development of the country.

In his speech at the 40th anniversary celebrations in Shenzhen, President Xi stressed that the Shenzhen SEZ is tasked with maintaining the correct bearing of reform, liberating the mind, staying the course of innovation, doing its best in formulating critical reform measures in key areas of comprehensive development and achieve tangible results that can be reproduced and popularized around the mainland. With the Shenzhen-Hong Kong Modern Service Industry Cooperation Zone as its “correct bearing” Qianhai has every reason to “liberate the mind” and dare to take the lead in blazing new trails. 

The author is senior research officer of the One Country Two Systems Research Institute.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.