Beijing said to be eyeing administrative handover of Hengqin to Macau

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There are reports circling that Chinas central government is set to hand over the nearby Special Economic Zone of Hengqin to Macau.

According to a handful of Chinese-language media reports, Hengqin would either be given to Macau as gift or placed under Macaus administration, either directly or in a joint arrangement with Guangdong Province.

Macau Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng refused to confirm any details on Thursday but said further cooperation between Macau and Guangdong Province would be announced very soon. Inside Asian Gaming understands an announcement is expected on 8 August.

Good news will be announced very soon, but we still need to wait for the confirmation from the Central government, Ho said. But it is very likely to be announced this month, or next month.

Should such an arrangement be put in place, it would provide a unique opportunity for Macau to diversify its economy away from its current focus on gaming.

Ho noted that although the overall situation in Macau remains positive, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the challenges that come from being so reliant on a single industry.

The country hopes to see Macau develop moderately and diversified steadily, he said.

Located directly adjacent to Macau in Zhuhai and connected by the Lotus Bridge, Hengqin, a special project of the Beijing government, was allocated as a Special Economic Zone in 2005 with tax breaks and flexible immigration policies implemented for businesses and individuals from Macau and Hong Kong as a means of encouraging business and tourism investment.

All six of Macaus casino concessionaires own land in Hengqin for future non-gaming developments although none have yet begun any significant construction work or announced details of their plans.

There is already precedent for Beijing handing over land in Hengqin to Macau. In 2013, the Hengqin Campus of University of Macau was placed under Macau rule as a landmark project seen to be ushering in a new model of collaboration between Guangdong and Macau.

Cooperation between the neighbouring jurisdictions also includes the Guangdong-Macao Cooperation Industrial Park, jointly built in accordance with the Framework Agreement on Guangdong-Macao cooperation and covering an area of five square kilometres. Development focuses on the traditional Chinese medicine, cultural and creative, and education and training industries.

Likewise, Macau New Neighbourhood at Hengqin Island is a residential project aimed at assisting Macau residents in purchasing real estate. It covers 190,000 square meters with Hengqin providing around 4,000 residential units and a series of auxiliary facilities for Macau citizens working or studying in the Greater Bay Area.