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Hong Kong 'irreplaceable' for China: vice-premier

17 august 2011, 13:48
China's Vice Premier Li Keqiang said Wednesday that Hong Kong has played an "irreplaceable role" in China's rapid economic growth, and will be key to making the yuan an international currency, AFP reports.

Li, the expected successor to Premier Wen Jiabao as head of China's day-to-day administration, announced a series of measures to boost economic ties with the former British colony returned to China in 1997.

Those steps include making it easier for Hong Kong firms to do business in the mainland, and boosting the city's status as a hub for Beijing's ambitious goal to turn the yuan into a global currency rivalling the US dollar.

"Hong Kong's destiny and prosperity link closely with those of the motherland," Li told an economic forum in the semi-autonomous territory.

The premier-in-waiting said it was key that Hong Kong "continues to bring out the unique advantage it has developed over the years and play its irreplaceable role in (China's) reform, opening-up and modernisation drive."

Li arrived in Hong Kong Tuesday on a three-day visit as he looks to showcase himself ahead of the expected leadership reshuffle in Beijing next year.

He also presided over a signing ceremony Wednesday to launch Beijing's third, and so far biggest, sovereign bond issue in the financial hub with plans to raise 20 billion yuan.

Beijing's previous sovereign bond issues in September 2009 and November 2010 in the southern Chinese city -- which maintains its own currency -- raised six billion yuan and eight billion yuan, respectively.

US fast food giant McDonald's, heavy equipment maker Caterpillar and the World Bank have also launched yuan-denominated bond offerings in Hong Kong.

"We will gradually increase the size of issuance and work for the development and improvement of the (yuan) bond market in Hong Kong," Li said Wednesday.

He added that China's government would "exert its utmost to do everything that contributes to prosperity and stability of Hong Kong."

His comments come as Hong Kong authorities face rising public anger over soaring property prices, while activists call on Beijing to speed up promised political reforms, including direct elections for the territory's leader.

Small demonstrations were expected during Li's visit, with activists calling for the release of political detainees and more information about a recent high-speed train crash in eastern China that killed at least 40 people.

Tensions flared last month when Wang Guangya, director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of the Chinese State Council, or cabinet, said local officials' colonial-era roots meant they "don't know how to be a boss".

Hong Kong maintains its own political and legal system under the "one country, two systems" model, and guarantees civil liberties not seen on the mainland.

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