Macau, China, 25 Jun – The central government has given the green light to a pilot joint development project between Macau and Zhuhai on Hengqin Island, China Central Television said Wednesday.
The 86 sq km island would be developed into a key base for commerce, tourism, scientific research and hi-tech industries, and would become part of the Zhuhai Special Economic Zone, it said.
The project was approved at Wednesday’s State Council Standing Committee meeting chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao .
"We would set up Hengqin Island as a pilot zone for the new pattern of Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau co-operation," the report said.
"The island will be a new platform to promote industry upgrade in the west bank of the Pearl River under the `one country, two systems’ policy."
A separate management system would be introduced for port and customs operations, CCTV said. The central government would encourage innovative industries, including finance and information technology.
The State Council has urged relevant departments and Guangdong’s government to co-operate and implement guidelines from Beijing.
The Zhuhai and Macau governments are both interested in developing Hengqin Island into a cultural and industrial base.
The University of Macau has proposed setting up a new campus on the island.
The National People’s Congress (NPC) also began deliberating a draft bill Monday that would give the Macau Special Administrative Region (SAR) jurisdiction over 1.1 sq km of land on Zhuhai’s Hengqin Island for about 40 years according to Xinhua news agency.
The draft bill, submitted to the ninth session of the Standing Committee of the 11th NPC for deliberation, proposes to pass jurisdiction of a part of Hengqin to Macau through a leasehold arrangement for the new campus of the University of Macau (UM).
The university, which has nearly 6,600 students, now occupies a plot of land measuring just about 0.054 sq km in Taipa.
"Macao is too small to offer land for the university’s expansion," Zhou Bo, vice director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, explained to the lawmakers.
He said the university’s teaching facilities were too crowded for the school to develop. The State Council has approved the draft.
The move aimed to "further support Macau to develop education and cultivate talents to promote a sound and fast development of the special administrative region," Zhou said.
Under mainland law, a lease for the purpose of education expires after 50 years.
Zhou said the university’s jurisdiction over the new site would expire on Dec. 19, 2049, but could be longer or shorter with the consent of the State Council.
If the bill is ratified by the NPC Standing Committee, the new campus would be under the administration of the Macau Special Administrative Region (MSAR), accessible only from the Macau side through a special passage linking Macau with Hengqin.
People would not be allowed to enter directly other parts of Hengqin Island from the new campus either, according to the draft bill.
The proposal has a precedent. The Hong Kong SAR acquired the right to use a plot of land at the Hong Kong Port Area within Shenzhen Bay Port through a leasehold in 2006.