After mulling it over, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam will, according to the chatter, ‘announce’ her ‘candidacy’ in the March ‘election’ for Hong Kong Chief Executive next week. The Chinese Communist Party’s local zombies will be under instructions to remain non-committal for a time, while Beijing waits in case any skeletons are found – or need to be found – in her closet/illegal basement. And not long ago the lady seemed genuinely intent on retirement in sunny England. It would be fascinating to know what Leninist charm-tactics persuaded her to change her mind.
Meanwhile – she has signed this deal on the Lok Ma Chau Loop.
Our Peng Chau correspondent has thoughtfully dusted off the (surprisingly exhaustive) archives going back to late Oct 2005…
— daaitoulaam (@daaitoulaam) January 4, 2017
…and continuing into Aug 2007 (perhaps especially recommended), Oct 2007 (starring Regina Ip), early March 2008 (highlight on Shenzhen’s agenda), late March 2008 (Henry Tang) and Nov 2008 (Henry fobs off Shenzhen rabble). Yes, the Lok Ma Chau Loop Shenzhen Cooperation Tech Hub-Zone has a past.
(It has never gone away. Those well-known Friends of the New Territories at Arup were concocting some Low-Carbon High-BS Strategic Development Strategy up there recently.)
What has changed in the last decade?
First, it seems ownership has now been officially transferred to Hong Kong, no doubt by order of Beijing. Pure nasty conjecture: this might have involved confiscation from one of the old Shenzhen mayors or deputy mayors who were imprisoned over the years for selling municipal promotions. Either way, following the necessary arm-twisting it seems ‘Shenzhen’ in some form or other still insists on being involved in the land within Hong Kong jurisdiction. This is a/the key point.
Second, the Hong Kong side has apparently changed its tune. Ten years ago our officials were humouring their Shenzhen counterparts but had little intention of agreeing to the Mainlanders’ obsessive pleas for ‘cooperation’ and ‘partnership’ on Lok Ma Chau.
Third, the pile of dredged-up toxic mud has somehow become fit for humans to develop and occupy.
What has not changed?
First, the notion that this piece of land must be some sort of ‘tech’ or whatever hub, when sprawling Shenzhen easily accommodates thousands of start-ups, the Pearl River Delta is full of other such designated districts, and Hong Kong is supposedly short of space for housing, elderly homes, playgrounds, even apparently dog charities.
(More broadly, we see the continued bureaucratic mentality that a patch of real estate plus a big construction budget can bring into being human talent and inventiveness. Or, alternatively, can serve as a disguise for a luxury housing development for a favoured family, a la Cyberport, or as a way to uplift surrounding land values – on both sides of the border – after the Hong Kong taxpayer puts all the roads, sewers, power lines in.)
Second – and this is the most interesting recurring theme – the Shenzhen side still has a curious deep-rooted interest in Lok Ma Chau as a venue for cross-border movement of (at least some) people and money…
There could be an innocent-ish explanation for this. As we see with its Qianhai Professional Modern Services International Cooperation Hub-Zone Complex, Shenzhen would love a slice of Hong Kong’s low-tax convertible-currency free-for-all money-grabbing action. Who wouldn’t? Beijing would also no doubt like to encourage more ‘integration’ (merging, absorption, profit-reallocation, etc) across the border. (By ‘innocent-ish’ here, we mean in accord with Chinese government policy rather than with private criminal aims.)
Then again, the Shenzhen officials seem to be in a surprising hurry to get the Arsenic Swamp City Science Tech Zone-Hub Park up and running, right now, ASAP, gimme gimme gimme. And the area is very conveniently located near the Shenzhen government headquarters.
And the murk goes on. The Hong Kong side’s estimated time-scale of some seven or so years suggests that our bureaucrats foresee some potential for unforeseen difficulties as they ‘move forward’ possibly without getting anywhere. Maybe, after the Palace Museum supplicant’s kowtow, Carrie just needs to give some quick face to ‘Shenzhen-integration’ to be absolutely sure of moving into Government House.