Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang has said the city should increase its population by 40 per cent to compete with New York and London as a global financial centre.
Tsang told the Financial Times the population of Hong Kong, already one of the most densely populated places on the planet, should increase from just under seven million to 10 million.
“We must not allow the population to age and then shrink. We must grow in order to be competitive,” the chief executive was quoted as telling the newspaper.
“We have the fundamentals, like New York and London, to create a global financial centre and a reasonably good living for 10 million people here.”
The comments are likely to spark criticism from environmentalists in Hong Kong which relies heavily on imports from mainland China and abroad for food, water and fuel.
Tsang, who stressed the population increase was a long-term vision, was speaking ahead of the 10th anniversary next month of Hong Kong’s return by Britain to Chinese rule.
Tsang has previously encouraged prospective parents to have at least three children, fearing the fall in the territory’s birth rate would put pressure on a shrinking workforce. Hong Kong’s fertility rate is one of the world’s lowest.
He told the newspaper that the Asian financial hub needed to boost immigration as well as improve education and invest in infrastructure to lift its status to global financial centre.
Hong Kong had to “move up the governance scale so that we are in the same rank as New York and London, distancing ourselves completely from the likes of Singapore or Shanghai or everybody else where they are still very much a territorial market,” he said.
Tsang also reiterated a pledge to resolve the thorny issue of democracy in a territory where its citizens do not have the right to vote for its leader. They are allowed to elect only half of the 60-member legislature.
While Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, endorses the ultimate aim of universal suffrage, it does not state how and when this can be achieved.
China is reluctant to allow sudden change for fear it will destabilise the city. “We have to get over (the universal suffrage issue). I don’t wish to hand this problem” to my successor in 2012, he said.
Newer news items:
Older news items: