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劉廼強 | 18th Feb 2011 | SCMP | (59 Reads)

Some 14 years after the handover, some people in Hong Kong still have a very narrow interpretation of one country, two systems, and a xenophobic view towards the mainland. It took the combined devastation of 68 consecutive months of deflation and severe acute respiratory syndrome in 2003 to convince us of the necessity of economic integration with the thriving Pearl River Delta region.

And with economic recovery, brought about by the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement, the arrogance of some people also returned, and any further integration in other areas has been steadfastly rejected. Deep in their hearts, they still want Hong Kong to be a lonely island.

A recent case in point is the reaction to the government consultation on the recommendations of a joint study commissioned by the Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau governments, titled The Action Plan for the Bay Area of the Pearl River Estuary. Like many other official consultations over the past few years, everything seemed quiet until the last few days when out of nowhere came thundering objections from dissidents.

There was uproar on the internet with claims that the plan would annex Hong Kong to Guangdong and thus bring a de facto end to the special administrative region's high degree of autonomy.

This was echoed when dissident lawmakers called for a last-minute extension of the consultation by three months, and for planning officials to explain the study to lawmakers. As usual, the government obliged with an extension.

Those who have been following developments in the region probably knew about this idea a long time ago. At our request, Hong Kong was included in the State Council's planning guidelines to develop the Pearl River Delta in 2008.

The Hong Kong and Guangdong governments have also jointly launched a quality living circle project and signed a co-operation framework agreement. The action plan, as its name implies, is therefore a blueprint for implementation, and a natural outcome of previous agreements.

The official response to criticism by activists and lawmakers - that the study contained few details and was not publicised - was that this plan was only a summary of existing urban planning proposals prepared separately by governments in the region. To a large extent, this is true. The document is also intended for public consultation and is not final; there is still a lot of room for queries and objections to specific recommendations.

But if we are going to have second thoughts about Hong Kong's further integration with the mainland, we will have to go back at least to the planning guidelines in 2008.

In that case, the SAR government will have to go all the way to the State Council and appeal to have it rescinded. Should that happen, could anyone take our government seriously in future negotiations?

As a result, whether our dissidents like it or not, since their vigilance has lapsed and they did not raise objections over two years ago, Hong Kong is now on a relentless course of further integration with the mainland, in spheres besides the economy, and there is very little they can do about it. They could make a scene and cry their hearts out, but that is about all.

As for the rest of us, we are happy to work closer with our neighbouring cities to create a bigger and better living space for all of us in the region, with more opportunities and convenience. One country, two systems is not about segregation, and will never be construed as such.