The process will start with the establishment of a “cooperation zone” on the Macau side of Hengqin Island, to be jointly administered by Guangdong and Macau, with a CCP, police, state security police and government presence.
The aim of the zone is to fast-track semiconductor chip designs and other high-tech research and development projects including new energy, big data, artificial intelligence and biomedical industries.
In a plan for a new industrial and residential development at Hengqin, an island south of Guangdong’s Zhuhai city, just over the bridge from Macau, the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO) said greater cooperation was needed with Macau to build homes for its residents and integrate the city’s economy with that of Zhuhai and environs.
Hengqin is currently a divided island, with part of its territory leased to Macau and part still administered by Guangdong.
The Hengqin campus of the University of Macau and the Macau jurisdiction of Hengqin port are managed by the Macau Special Administrative Region government authorized by the Standing Committee of the National Peopleâ€™s Congress.
They are currently subject to Macau regulation and governance, and are separated from the mainland Chinese side by physical fences.
“By the 25th anniversary of Macauâ€™s return to the motherland in 2024, Guangdong and Macau will have discussed, jointly built, managed, and shared systems and mechanisms to run [Hengqin] smoothly,” the HKMAO statement said.
“By the 30th anniversary of Macaoâ€™s return to the motherland in 2029, the cooperation zone and Macaoâ€™s economy will be highly coordinated and its regulatory regime deeply integrated,” the HKMAO said.
The plan would also support the extension of Macau’s light rail service into the Zhuhai urban rail network and nationwide rail services, it said.
“Part of Hengqin is under the jurisdiction of Macau, the so-called first line, where Macau’s civil and commercial regulation holds sway,” Choi told RFA. “It’s a disguised way to weaken the differences between Hengqin and Macau.”
“This distinction will disappear at some point in the future, as will the border, and the cultural differences will disappear too,” he said. “It’s not just about whether Macau has to contribute funding; it’s about assimilation.”
Joseph Cheng, former politics lecturer at Hong Kong’s City University, said a similar scheme is being rolled out on the border between Hong Kong and mainland China, near Shenzhen.
“There are two directors of [the Hengqin] cooperation zone; the governor of Guandong and the Macau chief executive,” Cheng said. “This has never happened before.”
“But don’t forget that the Hengqin cooperation zone is run by the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area Construction Leading Group,” he said. “If this model is applied to areas of Hong Kong like Qianhai, then it will erode the roles of Hong Kong and Macau in the name of Greater Bay Area integration.”
Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.