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Behind Shenzhen's success is courage to dream, learn and act

08-24-2010 15:46 BJT Special Report:30 Anniversary of Shenzhen SEZ |

HONG KONG, Aug. 23 (Xinhua) -- Leung Chun-ying would have never, in his wildest dream, imagined Shenzhen's magic changes in 30 years when he became one of more than 20 Hong Kong-based enlighteners for Shenzhen's reform and opening-up drive in 1979.

Thirty years ago when China set up the Special Economic Zone, Shenzhen was nothing but several fishing villages. Now the city boasts the highest GDP per capita on China's mainland.

"As a professional in land and city planning, I think there has been no city in the human history which has been built into such a large-scale one in such a short period of time," Leung, a veteran land surveyor, told Xinhua in a recent interview.

Leung is Convenor of the non-official members of Hong Kong's Executive Council and a member of the National Standing Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the country's top advisory body.

Leung attributed Shenzhen's success to the city's forerunners' ability to break through ideological barriers and their courage to ask, think, learn and act.

EARLY MEMORIES OF SHENZHEN

Leung's first trip to Shenzhen dated back to August 1977 when he had just come back to British-ruled Hong Kong after 3-year study in Britain. Then, Luohu was the sole boundary checkpoint between the two cities, offering 8-hour service for more than 40 travelers each day, he recalled.

Now, there are more than six -- four land and two marine -- boundary crossings. One of them, Huanggang, offers around-the- clock crossing service. Nearly 100 million commuters and other visitors used these checkpoints last year.

Now Hong Kong residents can pass the crossings in minutes with a "Homeland-return Permit". While over 30 year ago, Leung had to fill in a one-off document called "Homeland-return Letter of Introduction" before taking about half an hour, sometimes hours, to finish complicated entry procedure.

Immediately after passing the crossing, Leung had to report to a nearby police station by having his "Homeland-return Letter of Introduction" stamped.

From that day on, he needed to go to police station every day for the stamp before coming back to Hong Kong via the checkpoint, where customs officials would check whether the numbers of stamps and dates of stay had matched.

Also, Leung had to spend all renminbi cash before leaving Shenzhen, since at that time people was neither allowed to take renminbi out of the Chinese mainland, nor allowed to convert the renminbi back to the Hong Kong dollar.

Since early 1979 when the mainland started the reform and opening-up drive and decided to set up the first industrial zone at Shekou of Shenzhen, Leung was invited to give lectures to Shenzhen's officials and planners as a land surveyor and member of Hong Kong-based Association of Experts for the Modernization of China.

Among his memories still vivid today were Shenzhen's rugged roads, shaky and hard backseat on bikes, and smells in rooms and corridors at Overseas Chinese Rest House near Luohu Crossing.

Another unforgettable memory was about a crude toilet, built by local farmers and featuring bad smell and dirty conditions, at Shekou's industrial zone. While men lecturers from Hong Kong like Leung forced themselves to make it do, women lecturers ran into big trouble.

Eventually, China Merchants Group Hong Kong, which helped these experts on their trips to Shenzhen, bought a mobile toilet from Hong Kong to solve this pressing issue.

"Now these details sound incredible like the Arabian Nights, but they were my true experience," Leung said, grinning.


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