Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has thrown his weight behind Hong Kong’s imposition of export controls on infant formula, arguing they are consistent with the Basic Law and international trade rules.
He insisted that the government had been forced to act to protect the interests of Hong Kong residents and to ensure an uninterrupted supply of baby milk powder.
“The measures are not aimed at anyone,” Leung told a news conference in Beijing, denying that the government is adopting “populist” policies.
It’s the second time in two days that a top Hong Kong official has spoken out in defense of the measures, which have been criticized by various sectors in Hong Kong and on the mainland as being harsh and unnecessary.
Secretary for Security, Lai Tung-kwok, had also said on Tuesday the HKSAR was compelled to take the steps as a last resort to solve a critical shortage of essential baby food.
Leung said that, in the next few days, the government will step up communication with the mainland, such as answering queries from the mainland press, to explain the motives and details of the new regulations in order to clear up any misunderstanding.
Reports are mounting that Hong Kong may set a daily cap on the number of visits by Shenzhen residents as part of efforts to halt parallel trading activities. But, the Chief Executive said no decision has yet been made as the government is still reviewing its capacity to handle visitors.
He warned that it would be a problem for the HKSAR if service quality in the tourism sector slips due to the huge influx of visitors.
Leung ended a three-day visit to Beijing on Wednesday after attending the opening ceremony of the 12th National People’s Congress and heard Premier Wen Jiabao’s Government Work Report.
He said Hong Kong should take full advantage of the opportunities presented by the country’s robust economic growth and play an important role in national development.
The premier’s report, he said, has reinforced his belief that the mainland’s State policies and robust economic growth would help improve Hong Kong people’s quality of life.
The report revealed that the rate of private car ownership in mainland cities has already overtaken that of Hong Kong. Though it is arguable if this is good for the environment, Leung said it is a concrete and convincing indication of rising personal income and living standards on the mainland.
Another figure that matters to the HKSAR, he noticed, is that the mainland has become a major source of outbound direct investment with an annual growth rate of 25.5 percent since 2007.
“Hong Kong is a national and global financial hub. We have the right conditions and advantages to fulfill the country’s need to take capital abroad,” the Chief Executive said, adding that Hong Kong can play a similar role in supporting the mainland’s service industry.
Wen’s report, he said, has strengthened his belief in his approach to tackle the city’s deep-rooted problems, such as housing and poverty, by riding on the nation’s robust economic growth, with the help of the many State policies that favor Hong Kong.
“We can share the development and prosperity with the cities and provinces on the mainland, so that we could achieve a higher rate of economic growth. Then people will earn higher income, and youths will have more and better opportunities to move up the social ladder,” he added.