China's propaganda chief has called for greater global understanding of the country's ambitious Greater Bay Area mega-plan through the key role played by the media in telling the story, while Hong Kong's leader and Beijing's top representative in the city noted the need for comprehensive coverage that should include its problems as well as merits.
Top officials gathered in Guangzhou on Sunday put the focus on getting the story right as they held the first media summit on the bay area, which aims to transform Hong Kong, Macau and nine Guangdong cities into a world-class urban cluster and an innovation and technology powerhouse rivalling Silicon Valley by 2035.
Following up on the release of the project blueprint in February, Huang Kunming, Politburo member and head of the Communist Party's propaganda department, told an audience of mostly media executives and professionals that world-class news outlets producing high-quality reports were essential to the bay area plan.
"I hope news organisations can focus on the development of the Greater Bay Area and join forces to tell the stories of today's China well … to tell the stories of how 'one country, two systems' has been successfully implemented in Hong Kong and Macau," he said, referring to Beijing's governing principle for the two former colonies.
"The stories of Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau seeking development through collaboration and innovation (should also be told)."
In her keynote speech at the forum, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor made several suggestions for better reporting on the megaproject.
She called for in-depth and objective reporting on the implementation of Beijing's plan through interviews with officials, experts and businessmen, as well as individuals living, working or studying in the area, particularly young entrepreneurs from Hong Kong.
"Of course, a binding duty for the news media is to supervise the government and to expose social problems," Lam said. "We recognise all sorts of reporting, as long as it is objective, fair and fact-based, because to make constant improvements and pursue excellence is a path we must take to build a world-class bay area."
Wang Zhimin, director of Beijing's liaison office in Hong Kong, advised the media to "discover more bright spots, care more about hotspots and look for the pain spots" in covering news concerning Hong Kong individuals starting their careers or business across the border.
"We should promote understanding with better knowledge, promote mutual help with better interaction, and promote win-win cooperation with joint discussions," Wang said.
Jason Hu Chih-chiang, vice-president of Taiwan's largest media group China Times, floated the idea of developing a "mega economic area" by expanding the influence and connections of the Greater Bay Area to Fujian and Taiwan.
"The yolk should remain in Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau, while the egg white can expand to Fujian and Taiwan," Hu, a former Taichung mayor, said in his keynote speech.
"When Fujian is included, the Pearl River Delta and the Yangtze River Delta will be linked and the largest economic bloc on Earth will be born."
Earlier this month, Hu attended another media conference in Beijing, where state leader Wang Yang, chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, advised media bosses to promote the one country, two systems concept in Taiwan.
On the sidelines of the summit, Hu evaded questions on how Taiwan should preserve its autonomy while building closer economic ties with mainland China, and how his media group would handle the one country, two systems issue.
He insisted that he was talking "100 per cent economy and zero politics".
"I think everyone should think about the bright and necessary side, which is economic development. (The issue of sovereignty) is not something that should fall within my consideration," Hu said.
"Taiwan rejects one country two systems but I think we should not indulge in negative thinking … will you keep thinking about how to deal with a divorce when you are about to get married?"
The organisers of Sunday's summit also released a three-year action plan for cross-border media collaboration.
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