Senior officials of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and Shenzhen’s Luohu district officiate at the opening ceremony of 2023 Shenzhen (Luohu) – Hong Kong Economic and Trade Cooperation and Exchange Conference in Hong Kong on Friday. (ANDY CHONG / CHINA DAILY)

Shenzhen’s Luohu district is ramping up efforts to strengthen economic and trade cooperation with Hong Kong, with a major digital-yuan program unveiled and several memorandums of understanding in various sectors signed at a cooperation conference held in Hong Kong on Friday.

The event, which was the first face-to-face exchange between Luohu and Hong Kong since the full resumption of quarantine-free cross-border travel on Feb 6, shows that the cross-border flow of people, goods, capital and information is accelerating, and that the two sides can expect a wider, deeper and higher level of cooperation, officials said.

Luohu is sparing no effort to develop itself into a core zone of international consumption, a pilot zone of Shenzhen-Hong Kong integrated development, and a demonstration zone of a modern industry cluster, said Fan Defan, director of the district’s government.

“We urgently need to strengthen and deepen collaboration with Hong Kong in the fields of trade and consumption, cross-border finance, professional services, fashion and tourism,” he said at the 2023 Shenzhen (Luohu)-Hong Kong Economic and Trade Cooperation and Exchange Conference.

Director of the Luohu district government Fan Defan address the conference. (ANDY CHONG / CHINA DAILY)

On Feb 6, the first day of the full border reopening, the Luohu port saw about 60,000 travelers, accounting for a third of the total cross-border volume, Fan said.

As a significant transportation hub, the district enables overseas arrivals from Hong Kong to travel easily to every part of the country because of Luohu’s geographic proximity to the airport and developed rail networks, while mainland visitors can reach Hong Kong’s central business districts via Luohu in one hour, he said.

“We sincerely invite businesspeople from Hong Kong to take a trip to Luohu to experience its convenient transportation, superior ecosystem, happy life, and robust development,” Fan said.

Hong Kong Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Erick Tsang Kwok-wai said that passenger numbers via land checkpoints have reached 2.6 million since free cross-border travel fully resumed. He said about 6,500 enterprises with Hong Kong roots have been set up in Luohu, and there are still enormous opportunities springing up in various sectors.

“The Hong Kong SAR government will strengthen close contact with the mainland, and strive to implement more policies and measures that benefit GBA development to promote main elements of people, goods, capital and information to flow smoothly and efficiently across the border,” he said.

Hong Kong Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Erick Tsang Kwok-wai address the conference. (ANDY CHONG / CHINA DAILY)

Hong Kong Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Algernon Yau Ying-wah said, “The two sides should tap their complementary advantages to proper mutual development”, as the innovation and technology hub of Shenzhen is a pioneer in driving high-quality development of the country’s advanced manufacturing industry, and the SAR has sophisticated financial infrastructure and legal system.

“The Hong Kong SAR government will continue to strengthen cooperation with Shenzhen, actively integrate into the national development, and promote high-quality development,” he said.

At the event, a carnival of digital-yuan cross-border consumption was unveiled.

Luohu has started giving away e-CNY red packets worth a maximum of 999 yuan ($146) each to Hong Kong residents who have families or friends in Shenzhen, as well as those who go to Shenzhen. The district has worked with the Bank of China and Octopus to launch the e-CNY hard wallet self-service issuing machine, which is a major innovation in the cross-border application of digital yuan.

“The launch of the e-CNY hard wallet self-service issuing machine has realized the connectivity between digital-yuan hard wallets and Hong Kong mainstream payment institutions for the first time,” said Huang Tuo, director of Luohu’s financial services department. “This event marks the first application of digital yuan hard wallets among overseas groups in Shenzhen. It is also the first time that e-CNY is widely covered in cross-border consumption scenarios in both Shenzhen and Hong Kong.”

Hong Kong Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Algernon Yau Ying-wah address the conference. (ANDY CHONG / CHINA DAILY)

A number of memorandums of understanding between government departments of Luohu and associations of professionals, innovation technology and manufacturing, tourism of Hong Kong were signed at the conference.

As an economic and cultural pivot connecting the SAR and the mainland, Luohu has three land crossings between Shenzhen and Hong Kong with large passenger traffic. Its passenger volume averaged about 230,000 per day in the first half of 2019.

The district has launched favorable policies to attract businesses and people from Hong Kong there. For example, it has offered generous support to newly introduced Hong Kong-funded enterprises, and newly established innovation and entrepreneurship bases for Hong Kong and Macao young people. It has also provided subsidies to qualified professionals and graduates from Hong Kong to help them with their employment and living in Shenzhen. The district has also launched a talent exchange program, providing one-stop services for Hong Kong young people to work and take internships in Shenzhen. 

After Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu’s maiden policy address in October, Luohu issued an implementation plan to accelerate integrated development between the two places. The 45 measures in the plan cover six areas, including developing the economy and improving people’s livelihoods.

The event attracted more than 300 representatives from both Luohu and Hong Kong, including government officials, deputies to the National People’s Congress, members of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, Hong Kong lawmakers, and business and financial heavyweights.