Macau Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng has set tongues wagging with comments to local media concerning Henqin, the island in neighboring Zhuhai, suggesting the central government could be preparing to transfer control over all or part of it to the Macau Special Administrative Region.
Ho said in an interview at an event in Macau today that “there is good news” for the specific progress of the so-called Guangdong-Macau Intensive Cooperation Zone, the parameters of which have not yet been clearly defined. “It will be announced within this month or next month”, Ho said, when asked about the details, adding that “it’s not convenient to disclose the relevant information now, as this is a central government policy.”
The Guangdong-Macau Intensive Cooperation Zone concept was first announced around the time of Macau’s 20th anniversary celebrations in December 2019, presided over by President Xi Jinping. One idea floated by political observers since then is that Macau would use this framework to expand the administration of its University of Macau campus on Hengqin. The campus currently has a fence running around it and is accessed only via a tunnel from the Macau side. But other analysts see a joint administration of the entire island being more likely, as its border controls could easily be moved back from the current Hengqin crossing to two bridges connecting Hengqin to the rest of Zhuhai. These already have customs checkpoints, because Hengqin is a New Area, a kind of special economic zone.
Ho went a bit further in today’s press conference, again hinting at what lay in store for Macau in Hengqin. The whole country hopes that Macau will be stable, develop at an appropriate pace, and diversify its economy, he said. When a reporter asked if this meant Hengqin could help in this mission of diversification, he said: “That is the road the country has paved for us.”
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