By Shristi Kafle
(The author is the correspondent of Asia-pacific Daily in Nepal.)
In May 2019, when I visited the world's longest bridge-tunnel landmark that connected Hong Kong with Macau and Zhuhai, I was awestruck. The visit was from Zhuhai, western Guangdong in China, side and as soon as I entered into the bridge, it felt a grand masterpiece. For someone coming from a least developed country, the massive infrastructure in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area was beyond imagination.
The undersea tunnel section was more exciting as any such structure lacks in the Himalayan country Nepal. It is also the world's longest immersed tube tunnel under the sea. The 55-km-long world-class project reflects Hong Kong's development and China's rising power.
Travelling through both bridge and tunnel, we reached till the entrance of Hong Kong, from where the international airport and tall buildings were clearly visible. In next few days, I was in Shenzhen and witnessed Hong Kong's vigor from across the border. It was my closest view of Hong Kong, which stood astonishing in summer weather, bridging gap between mainland China and rest of the world.
Not just I, in the modern times, Hong Kong's fast pace development has fascinated the whole world, including Nepal.
In a short span of time, Hong Kong has leveraged its unique strengths under "one country, two systems." In 25 years of its return to Chinese sovereignty, it has transformed into a global financial hub, which is the biggest achievement.
As seen from outside, with the national support, it has been able to achieve a diverse social development, a vibrant economy and sustainable growth. In 1997, Hong Kong's GDP was 174.51 billion U.S. dollars, as per reports, whereas by 2021, it was about 364.31 billion U.S. dollars. In this period, Hong Kong's GDP saw a growth of an average annual rate of 2.7 percent in real terms, which is remarkable.
At a time when the world suffered a lot and is still facing impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, the support from China has been instrumental to Hong Kong's economic recovery. Besides, the five-year plan is expected to further support Hong Kong to fully revive its economy.
With the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge, the city has bridged a gap between mainland and the remaining world. With smooth connectivity and communication comes huge business opportunities in the mainland market, it has even a great role to play. However, it needs to be able to grab opportunities. One way would be its participation in the development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area. On the other side, mainland China's support seems crucial to help Hong Kong break the barriers and achieve greater development.
Hong Kong's unique advantages in trade and investment, finance, innovative technology, shipping and professional services can be integrated with rapid development in the mainland. This could lead to connection between domestic and international markets. It would pave the way for growth and create a prosperous society.
Nepal and Hong Kong Ties
Hong Kong, the name of the city has always fascinated general Nepali population since decades, as it is included in poems, books and popular Nepali songs like Hong Kong ID and Hong Kong ko sun ko churaa (gold bangle from Hong Kong).
As per reports, more than 20,000 Nepali people live in Hong Kong whereas the Nepali population in Macao is about 4000. Nepalis are engaged in various works including businesses in the open and receptive Hong Kong while most of the Nepalis work in casinos and hotels in Macao.
From 1997 to 2021, Hong Kong's population saw an increase of nearly 1 million over the past 25 years. Besides, under the Quality Migrant Admission Scheme, there is an annual quota for migrants, which has increased to 4,000 last year. This has also attracted many talents, including from Nepal.
Among many, one of the major connections between Nepal and Hong Kong is the “British Gurkhas”, a renowned contingent of Nepali soldiers, who served in Hong Kong as a part of British army from 1960s till 1997. Since then, Nepali families have well settled in Hong Kong, with deep respect and cultural exchanges to one another. They have been living a secured life, which has further attracted many people back home.
Nepal has always expressed commitment to “One China Policy” and has honored the “One Country Two Systems” principle adopted in Hong Kong and Macao Special Administrative Regions. There has been a cordial and friendly relation with tremendous potential for further cooperation.
Room for Cooperation
Nepal and Hong Kong could work together in the sectors like trade and investment, business promotion, and tourism among others. Hong Kong has become one of the most preferred destinations for employment opportunities for Nepalis. Furthermore, there is also a prospect of human resource utilization as Nepal is known as a labor exporting country.
Since Nepal has immense resources and a viable investment friendly environment, it could become a destination of choice for investors of the Hong Kong. In the context of rapid pace of globalization and regionalism, Nepal and Hong Kong can cooperate in various fronts.
Since Nepal is open for investment and has liberal economic policies, Hong Kong can grab the opportunities, while Nepali side will be receptive for necessary support. There are enough rooms for cooperation in tourism as well since the Himalayan country is a home for natural beauty, mountains and lakes, diverse culture and friendly people.
The world watched closely the unrest in Hong Kong for some time due to proposal of amendment bill on electoral laws and multiple challenges, which disrupted economy and daily lives. Peace-loving Nepali people also expressed concerns and worries over instability and violence.
There were interferences, domestic and foreign, leading to mishaps and chaos. But now there are hopes that it has returned to peace and own democratic system.
Nepali and Nepali people want to see Hong Kong continue as the global financial hub and achieve greater development. People want to witness a new vitality in Hong Kong, which should embrace and grasp the opportunities of China's reform.
(ASIA PACIFIC DAILY)