【明報專訊】THE Hong Kong and Shenzhen governments have signed a memorandum of understanding related to the development of the 87-hectare Lok Ma Chau Loop into a Hong Kong/Shenzhen Innovation and Technology Park, ending two decades of dilly-dallying.
The development of the Loop dates back to time before the handover, when efforts were made to bring the Shenzhen River under control. The project involved straightening a bend of the river near Lok Ma Chau. As a result, the Loop, which was originally under Shenzhen's jurisdiction, became on the southern side of the Shenzhen River and fell within Hong Kong's city boundary. The State Council decreed on the day of the handover in 1997 that the ownership of the Loop should belong to Shenzhen, but the right of its administration should belong to Hong Kong. After years of discussion about how the two governments should cooperate on the Loop, Donald Tsang, the then Chief Executive, included its development as one of the ten major infrastructure projects in his 2007 Policy Address, suggesting that the two sides negotiate on how to cooperate under the principle of "joint development and mutual benefits". However, due to disagreements over issues such as the ownership of the land, there was much cry and little wool. Last year, the Shenzhen government made a concession at last and accepted that the Loop belonged to Hong Kong, paving the way for the signing of the memorandum.
It used to be decided that the Loop's ownership and administrative right belonged to Shenzhen and Hong Kong respectively. But they are both in Hong Kong's hands now. Things having developed in such a way, there are, unavoidably, concerns about why the Shenzhen authorities made such a concession. Concerning the matter, the Hong Kong SAR government stressed that no backroom deals exist. According to the "joint development mechanism" agreed by the two sides, Hong Kong's legal and land administration systems will remain in force in the Loop. Though a joint task force will be set up by the two sides to "advise on" the development of the park, the directors of an affiliated company, which will be tasked with the park's construction and operation, will be appointed by the Hong Kong government. In other words, Hong Kong will have the final say. Furthermore, to dispel doubts that the park will be reduced to another real estate project and a "backyard" of mainlanders, the SAR government has also promised that the region will be reserved for research on new and high technologies and the cultural and creative industries only, and will involve no residential housing projects. The whole project will be run in a non-profit manner with all the earnings reserved for the park. "How the earnings will be shared" is not a question at all.
These terms are very advantageous to Hong Kong indeed. However, it would be too naive to believe that Shenzhen is doing Hong Kong a huge favour or giving Hong Kong a generous gift. For more than a decade, Shenzhen's innovation and technology has moved forward in leaps and bounds, and is now called, by the international media, "the Chinese Silicon Valley". Tencent, the Shenzhen-headquartered company which went public in Hong Kong only thirteen years ago, has now a market value of over HK$1 trillion and is one of the four biggest internet technology companies globally. As for DJI, which develops Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and aerial filming systems, it was established eleven years ago and is now the trendsetter in commercial UAVs worldwide.
The SAR government is planning to formulate measures to make it more convenient for mainland talent to travel to and from the park and work there. This is understandable. But the government must, at the same time, encourage mainland innovation and technology companies stationed in the park to cooperate with their Hong Kong counterparts and recruit more Hong Kong talent. It should also consider supporting Hong Kong start-ups which intend to move to the park by, for example, providing tax credits. All in all, the government has a responsibility to make sure that the project will benefit Hong Kong people instead of being a springboard for non-locals.