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Broad prospects emerge for cooperation between Hong Kong and Nansha

HK EDITION | Updated:2022-09-23

Located at the southernmost end of Guangzhou city is Nansha district, a State-level new area overseen by the Guangzhou municipal government. To its 846,000-plus residents, it is simply a place to live. But to Hong Kong, it is a place brimming with opportunities.

As the geographical center of the Pearl River region, Nansha's 803 square kilometers of land - which is approximately two-thirds the size of Hong Kong - boasts convenient transport links to Hong Kong, an international cruise terminal, a container terminal with a throughput similar to Hong Kong's, affordable living, and plenty of green spaces.

And with an average three-bedroom apartment costing no more than 4,000 yuan ($570) per month in rent, it is no wonder that the State Council have been supporting greater collaboration between Hong Kong and Nansha.

As well as being accessible via the Nansha Bridge in central Guangdong, a 35-minute journey via high-speed rail from West Kowloon or an hourlong ferry ride from Tsim Sha Tsui are just some of the many modes of transport available for Hong Kong residents.
On June 14 this year, the State Council released a 26-point document that detailed incentives ranging from healthcare, employment, education, tax incentives and social welfare to attract Hong Kong residents.

The document, titled "Master Plan of Guangzhou, Nansha on Deepening Comprehensive Cooperation between Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao with Global Perspective", is a highly ambitious blueprint for consolidating Hong Kong, Macao and other mainland cities into the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area.

While Nansha is only a district in the GBA, which comprises over 56,000 square kilometers and 80 million people, it is an area that offers much promise.

In fact, the State Council's document is the blueprint for transforming Nansha into the beating heart of the GBA economic powerhouse by 2035.

There are five key development directions for Nansha. One, encourage technological innovation to facilitate industrial development; two, create platforms to encourage young entrepreneurs and startups; three, establish a gateway between China and the international community; four, become a "center of excellence" that sets the standards for the GBA's rules and regulations; and five, establish a slew of high-quality urban development projects.

And from now until 2024, Nansha's district administration will be increasing the area's local government debt limit by 10 billion yuan year-on-year. Guangdong's and Guangzhou's governments will also remove restrictions on Nansha's current annual land usage limit.
It is also expected that by that same year, Nansha will have the beginnings of its own innovation and industrial transfer system for businesses of all shapes and sizes.

Young talent and budding entrepreneurs from Hong Kong should also look toward Nansha for growing their businesses and putting down roots.

To that end, education will also be at the heart of Nansha's development. The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (Guangzhou) has a campus in Nansha, and the Minxin Hong Kong School - a nonprofit school in Nansha - has been set up for the sole purpose of accommodating Hong Kong children at primary and secondary school levels.

To my delight as a medical professional, the central government has also confirmed that Hong Kong, Macao, and Nansha's healthcare sectors will be working closely together.

So, what does this mean for Hong Kong, and what will it bring to the table?
Unfortunately, we are still contending with a shortfall of doctors. As it stands, there are 15,000 registered doctors serving 7.4 million Hong Kong residents. This means that for every 1,000 patients, there are fewer than two doctors available. The World Health Organization stipulates that a nation-state or advanced city must have a minimum of 2.5 doctors for every 1,000 patients.
While we may not be able to supply medical personnel to Nansha, our internationally recognized standards of care and management are valuable assets.

In Hong Kong, medical professionals and our standards of care are regulated by the Medical Council of Hong Kong. The council also protects patients in the event of any professional misconduct.

Hong Kong's fair and mature legal system is also a source of pride. Our unique hybrid system of common law and civil law is just one of the many prized features of our legal framework.

In cases involving patient-doctor conflicts, we have civil tribunals for less-serious complaints and various courts of justice for handling medical cases with criminal elements. Further to this, the Medical Protection Society offers professional indemnity for healthcare professionals.

Luckily, instances of negligence by doctors against patients are rare in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong has long maintained one of the lowest rates of infant mortality and maternal mortality in the world. And for seven consecutive years, we have held one of the highest life expectancies in the world - with women living up to 87.7 years of age and men at 83.

I can also say with authority that our healthcare sector is well-connected and up to date with international pharmaceuticals. The Health Department has, through stringent checks, allowed a wide range of overseas medications to be made available in the special administrative region. The Chinese mainland, on the other hand, has a less-open policy when it comes to approving foreign pharmaceuticals.

Each GBA city has something to bring to the table, but in the meantime, there is plenty to be done; this is where the Consultative Committee on Guangdong-Hong Kong Cooperation (Guangzhou Nansha) comes in.

Former chief executive Leung Chun-ying established the consultative committee in April last year for the purposes of strategizing policymaking and implementation for issues specific to Hong Kong-Nansha relations, through G2B consultations; namely, the Nansha government consulting with Hong Kong experts.

There are 14 special expert groups for specific policy areas; I oversee the medical affairs task group. At present, our primary task is to initiate a medical "free flow channel" between Hong Kong and Nansha. In short, this would facilitate straightforward communication between healthcare professionals and the free movement of medicines and medical hardware.

However, the consultative committee is just one of many institutions created for optimizing healthcare cooperation between Guangdong and Hong Kong. For example, there is the Guangdong Provincial Eye Health Association and the Greater Bay Area Ophthalmologists Alliance.

While the reality of Hong Kong residents becoming long-term residents in Nansha seems like a distant prospect, I can safely say that the time will come sooner than we think. And if the last two or so years have taught us anything, it's that we must always expect the unexpected and remain prepared for anything.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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