PM and HK leader reaffirm strong ties

PM and HK leader reaffirm strong ties
(From far left) Mr Ling Kar Kan, director of the Planning City Gallery; PM Lee; his wife Ho Ching; and Mr Jacky Foo, Singapore’s Consul-General in Hong Kong, at an MTR exhibit on Hong Kong’s rapid transit rail system, at the gallery.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong met Hong Kong political and business leaders yesterday in his first trip to the city since 2001.

At an evening meeting with Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying before a dinner attended by other Hong Kong politicians, the two leaders reaffirmed strong bilateral ties, said a statement from the Prime Minister's press secretary.

Mr Leung told Mr Lee that he looks forward to continued support from Singapore to bring about an early conclusion of the negotiations for the Free Trade Agreement between Hong Kong and ASEAN, said a statement from the Chief Executive's Office. Talks began in July this year.

The two men also exchanged views on the challenges that the cities share in housing, land use and infrastructure development.

They discussed how the massive transport infrastructure push by Beijing is bringing the region closer together, such as through a road link that would allow a driver to travel from Hong Kong to north Vietnam in 24 hours. This will be possible after the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, an ambitious 50km, 73 billion yuan (S$15 billion) structure across the Pearl River, is ready in 2016.

"The barriers are coming down. And the rest of the world and this region will follow suit," said Mr Leung.

Mr Lee noted that Beijing is also pushing for the revival of the ancient Maritime Silk Road, a trading route that winds through the South China Sea.

Singapore-Hong Kong trade has been growing steadily: In the first seven months of this year, bilateral trade grew 4.9 per cent over the same period last year to $35.4 billion.

Earlier in the day, Mr Lee met former chief executive Tung Chee Hwa, who is now vice-chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

They exchanged views on the latest political and economic developments in Hong Kong, mainland China and the region, said the press secretary's statement.

Mr Tung also told Mr Lee that whenever he visits Singapore, he is impressed by what the Singapore Government is doing to position the nation for the future.

"We try to keep up because the region is moving and we have to keep abreast of it," said Mr Lee. "It's quite difficult, where we are, to try to move ahead. Just like Hong Kong, you can't go as fast as before, because it's more complicated."

On the last stop of his week-long tour of southern China, Mr Lee also attended a briefing by Hong Kong's city planners and took a night-time walk in its bustling Tsim Sha Tsui area.

He returns to Singapore today.

This article was first published on Sep 18, 2014.
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