Integration and cooperation within the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area is expected to be given full play as both Hong Kong and Macao seek to open hospitals, schools and healthcare centers in the 11-city cluster, revealed Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council (HKMAO) Director Zhang Xiaoming during an HKMAO meeting last Thursday.

Zhang said the Greater Bay Area development is a national strategy and high on the agenda of the Communist Party of China’s and the country’s economic work for next year. That would require strict implementation of central-government policies and deployments, especially in measures that facilitate the exchanges of talents, commodities, investments and information within the area, he added.

Research on relevant measures to boost development and legal issues should be carried out and each measure should be rolled out upon maturity, Zhang added.

The plan was a common aspiration expressed by the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and Fernando Chui Sai-on, chief executive of the Macao SAR, during their duty reports in Beijing earlier this month.

A package of policies benefiting Hong Kong people who live on the Chinese mainland was announced earlier, including giving them the same rights as mainland residents in terms of the Housing Provident Fund which would help them purchase properties on the mainland.

In her maiden Policy Address in October, Lam pledged to strive for more opportunities and convenience for Hong Kong residents to study, work, start businesses, live and retire in the GBA, in a bid to boost exchanges of people, logistics, funds and information, eventually making the cluster a quality living circle for Hong Kong people.

The integration is also expected to be advanced with the completion of major infrastructure projects in the area, including the soon-to-be-opened 55-kilometer Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge and Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link which would begin service in the third quarter of next year.

The National People’s Congress Standing Committee is slated to vote on a joint customs and immigration checkpoint arrangement at the West Kowloon terminus of the XRL today (Wednesday), which is crucial to the XRL as it offers one-stop clearance in the station, letting passengers travel from Hong Kong to Guangzhou in less than 50 minutes.