Despite competition, Hong Kong’s tech experts are making headway in pushing for their digital certificate called e-Cert to be used in the city’s trade with mainland economic powerhouse Shandong province.
Online transactions can leave consumers nervous absent a certificate of authenticity, and the development came as the inaugural China International Import Expo opened in Shanghai on Monday.
Smart City Consortium is among the more than 160 businesses and professional groups from Hong Kong taking part in the expo, which has attracted 2,800 companies from 130 countries.
Eva Chan Yuen-wah, vice-chairwoman of the consortium’s eID committee, voiced excitement realising that Zhang Zhongjun, a senior official from Shandong’s industry and information technology department, was among those visiting her firm’s booth on Monday.
“The expo is a good platform,” Chan said. “Zhang told us he could deliver the proposal to Beijing in a few days.”
“Once the green light is given, the whole of Shandong province is open for the digital certificates.”
A coastal economic powerhouse in eastern China, Shandong has a population of 100 million people. Its GDP last year totalled US$1 trillion, trailing only Guangdong and Jiangsu provinces on the mainland.
In a meeting between Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and Shandong Governor Gong Zheng in August last year, the city leader said the two places enjoyed a close economic and trade relationship. Lam called Hong Kong the top choice of Shandong companies seeking to be listed outside the mainland.
If the deal is approved by Beijing, Shandong firms would be able to apply for digital certificates so that companies from Hong Kong and elsewhere could verify their identity when making electronic transactions.
Zhang confirmed to the Post that efforts had been under way.
“Enhancing the interconnection and mutual access between Shandong and Hong Kong has always been our goal,” he explained. “Such digital certificate services could facilitate business operations, cut costs for small and medium enterprises, and reduce cases of fraud.”
Chan said the two sides had met before at another exhibition in Hong Kong, but she found the expo a good platform for catching up and expediting cooperation. She noted the Shandong delegation would likely pay a visit to the city in December and that further details would be shared.
Apart from IT companies, the Hong Kong exhibitors ranged from those working in food and health products, to professional service providers such as construction and logistics firms.
Lam and Hong Kong’s financial, commerce and mainland affairs secretaries on Monday toured the Hong Kong exhibition area of the expo in Shanghai.
Afterwards, Lam said she met President Xi Jinping as he toured various exhibition zones, including Hong Kong’s. She told the president the city’s participation in the import expo showed it was proactive in supporting innovation and technology as well as free trade.
Lam was asked whether she was worried for Hong Kong because Xi on Monday ordered the establishment of a new equity bourse in Shanghai to help technology companies raise capital.
But the chief executive said China’s further reform and opening up would only result in “more opportunities for Hong Kong”.
“The president has said that the financial industry will be a priority in China’s further reform and opening up. This should be a good opportunity for Hong Kong.”
Kimmy Chung is reporting from Shanghai