Address at the Meeting Celebrating the 20th Anniversary of Hong Kong’s Return to the Motherland and the Inaugural Ceremony of the Fifth-Term Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region

By: Xi JinpingFrom:English Edition of Qiushi Journal October-December 2017|Vol.9,No.4,Issue No.33 | Updated: 2017-Nov-28 15:50
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Fellow Compatriots,

Dear Friends,

Today, it is with a joyous heart that we meet on this grand occasion to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to the motherland, and to hold the inaugural ceremony of the fifth-term government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

First of all, on behalf of the central government and the people of all ethnic groups across the country, I extend cordial greetings to all the people of Hong Kong. I also extend warm congratulations to the newly inaugurated fifth-term Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Madam Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, the principal officials of the fifth-term Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government, and members of the Executive Council. Finally, I extend my heartfelt gratitude to all our compatriots both at home and abroad, and foreign friends for their interest in and support for Hong Kong.

At this very moment, standing on the shores of Hong Kong, which over the years have seen much hardship and witnessed profound changes, a myriad of thoughts and emotions well up inside us as we reflect on the course of events that has led us here today.

The destiny of Hong Kong has always been inextricably linked with that of the motherland. After the arrival of the modern era, the Chinese nation was mired in profound hardship due to weak and corrupt feudal rule. In the early 1840s, the invasion of a British expeditionary force comprising merely 10,000 troops forced the Qing government, which had an army of 800,000 troops, to pay reparations and cede the island of Hong Kong. After the Opium War, China was repeatedly defeated by countries of far smaller size and population, and Kowloon and the “New Territories” were forcibly taken from the bosom of the motherland. That era of Chinese history was a time of national humiliation and human sorrow. It was only after the Communist Party of China led the Chinese people through dauntless and tenacious struggle to gain national independence and liberation, and founded the People’s Republic that the Chinese people truly stood up, and probed into and lit the way towards socialism with Chinese characteristics. Since the late 1970s, we have continued with the reform and opening up policy, and after nearly 40 years of dedicated efforts we have opened a new era in the development of the Chinese nation.

It was against the historical backdrop of reform and opening up that Mr. Deng Xiaoping proposed the great vision of “One Country, Two Systems.” Under the guidance of this principle, and through diplomatic negotiations with the United Kingdom, China successfully settled the Hong Kong question, an issue that was left over from the past. Twenty years ago to the day, Hong Kong returned to the motherland. This ended a century of national humiliation, marking a major step towards complete reunification of China. Hong Kong’s return is a monumental achievement in the history of the Chinese nation. Hong Kong has since then embarked on a journey of common development and everlasting unity with the motherland.

Fellow Compatriots,

Dear Friends,

How quickly time goes by. It has already been 20 years since Hong Kong returned to the motherland. According to Chinese tradition, a man enters adulthood at the age of 20. So today, we are celebrating the coming of age of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, which has grown exuberant like bamboo or a pine tree. Looking back on the growth of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, we can proudly say that with the support of the motherland, international vision, and an innovative spirit, Hong Kong has in the last two decades continued to develop its modern mien. The practice of “One Country, Two Systems” in Hong Kong is a success story recognized by all.

–Hong Kong, back in the embrace of the motherland, has joined the remarkable journey towards the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. As a special administrative region directly under the jurisdiction of the central government, Hong Kong has been re-integrated into the system of national governance since the very day of its return. The central government exercises governance over Hong Kong in accordance with the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China and the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, and it has set up corresponding systems and institutions for the special administrative region. Ties between Hong Kong and the mainland grow increasingly close, and interactions and cooperation with the mainland run increasingly deep. The people of Hong Kong have actively taken part in China’s reform, opening up, and modernization, and in these endeavors have made a unique and important contribution. Our compatriots in Hong Kong have ever strengthening confidence in China’s development and national rejuvenation, and share with the people on the mainland the dignity and glory of our great nation.

The ceremony celebrating the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to the motherland and the inaugural ceremony of the fifth-term government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center, July 1, 2017. PHOTO BY XINHUA REPORTER LI TAO

–Hong Kong, back in the embrace of the motherland, has maintained prosperity and stability. Hong Kong has kept its distinct features and strengths. Its charm as a merging point of the East and West is stronger than ever, and its charisma as a vibrant metropolis is greater than in times gone by. Under the practice of “One Country, Two Systems,” Hong Kong’s previous capitalist system and way of life have stayed the same, and its laws have remained basically unchanged. As masters of their own house, the people of Hong Kong manage local affairs within Hong Kong’s purview as an autonomous region, and they enjoy more extensive democratic rights and freedoms than at any other time in Hong Kong’s history. Having withstood the impact of the Asian financial crisis, the SARS epidemic, and the Global Financial Crisis, Hong Kong has emerged stronger as an international financial, shipping, and trading center, and continues to be rated by many international institutions as one of the freest economies and most competitive regions in the world. Hong Kong has made considerable advances in various fields, has increasingly dynamic external interactions, and has expanded its international influence.

Practice has shown ample evidence that “One Country, Two Systems” provides the best solution to the historical Hong Kong question and the best institutional arrangement to ensure Hong Kong’s long-term prosperity and stability after its return; it is workable, achievable, and has the support of the people.

Fellow Compatriots,

Dear Friends,

“One Country, Two Systems” is one of China’s great undertakings. It represents a new way of thinking and a new solution that China offers to the international community to address similar issues. It is a novel contribution that the Chinese nation makes towards promoting global peace and development, and it embodies Chinese wisdom which values magnanimity and inclusiveness. Upholding the principle of “One Country, Two Systems” and putting it more fully into practice is in line with the interests of the people of Hong Kong, meets the actual requirements for maintaining Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability, serves the fundamental interests of the nation, and tallies with the shared aspirations of all Chinese people. In this light, I have made it clear on previous occasions that the central government, in implementing the principle of “One Country, Two Systems,” will maintain two key points: the first is to be resolute, to not change, and to not vacillate; and the second is complete precision, to ensure that the practice of “One Country, Two Systems” in Hong Kong will not stray the course, will not be modified, and will continue to advance in the right direction.

As an initiative without precedent, “One Country, Two Systems” must continually evolve through practice. At present, the practice of “One Country, Two Systems” is encountering some new circumstances and issues. Hong Kong’s institutions for safeguarding national sovereignty, security, and its developmental needs require improvement. Education and public awareness regarding national history and culture need consolidation. Several major political and legal issues are yet to achieve public consensus. Economic growth also faces many challenges. Hong Kong’s traditional strengths are losing their edge while new drivers of growth are yet to emerge. Housing and other issues that affect the daily life of the people are relatively conspicuous. To address these issues, satisfy the expectations of the people of Hong Kong for a happy life, and drive the region’s development in all sectors, we must maintain a steady course and firm step, and fully and accurately understand and implement the principle of “One Country, Two Systems.” In this light, I wish to take this opportunity to express several opinions on how to better implement the principle of “One Country, Two Systems” in Hong Kong.

First, it is imperative to maintain the correct understanding of the relationship between “One Country” and “Two Systems.” “One Country” is like the roots and the trunk of a tree; it is only with deep roots that a tree may grow luxuriant foliage, and only with a strong trunk that it may stand tall. “One Country, Two Systems” was raised, first and foremost, to realize and safeguard national unity. During bilateral negotiations with the United Kingdom, we made it abundantly clear that sovereignty is not for negotiation. After Hong Kong’s return to China, it is even more important for us to firmly safeguard China’s sovereignty, security, and developmental needs. In actual practice, we establish a strong sense of “One country” and firmly abide by the principle of “One Country,” thus correctly handling the relationship between the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and the central government. Any action that threatens China’s sovereignty and security, challenges the power of the central government and the authority of the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, or uses Hong Kong to infiltrate and sabotage the mainland, is an action that crosses the red line and is absolutely impermissible. Meanwhile, on the basis of “One Country,” the relationship between the “Two Systems” should and absolutely can accommodate harmonious coexistence and mutual reinforcement. We must both adhere to the “One Country” principle and respect the differences of the “Two Systems,” both safeguard the power of the central government and ensure a high degree of autonomy for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, and both ensure that the mainland plays a key role in supporting Hong Kong and enhance Hong Kong’s own competitiveness. At no time should we prioritize one aspect to the neglect of the other. Only in this way can we ensure that the ship of “One Country, Two Systems” will cleave the waves, sail steadily, and go far.

Second, it is imperative to always act in accordance with the Constitution and the Basic Law. Hong Kong’s return completed a major transformation of its constitutional order. The Constitution of the People’s Republic of China and the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region together form Hong Kong’s constitutional foundation. The Constitution is the fundamental law of the State, it is the embodiment of the common will of people of all ethnic groups in our country, and it is the legal source of the special administrative region. The Basic Law is a basic legislation formulated in accordance with the Constitution. It stipulates the system and policies to be practiced in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, it is the “One Country, Two Systems” principle institutionalized and enshrined in law, and it provides legal safeguards for the practice of “One Country, Two systems” in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. When observing the constitutional order as prescribed in the Constitution and the Basic Law, it is essential both for the central government to exercise power in accordance with the law and for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to fulfill its own responsibilities as the main actor. It is also essential to improve the relevant institutions and mechanisms for implementing the Basic Law, and to raise public awareness of the Constitution and the Basic Law in Hong Kong, particularly among civil servants and youth. These steps are integral to practicing “One Country, Two Systems,” and also a crucial aspect of comprehensively advancing the rule of law and upholding the rule of law in Hong Kong.

Third, it is imperative to keep focused on development as the top priority. Development, an abiding pursuit, is crucial for Hong Kong, and is vital to resolving various issues in the region. The goals encompassed by the concept of “One Country, Two Systems” are twofold: one goal is to use peaceful means to resume the exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong; the other is to promote further development, thus maintaining Hong Kong’s status as an international financial, shipping, and trading center. Currently, more focus should be given to development. Kids want to grow up happily, young people want to realize their full potential, people in their prime want to be successful in their careers, and the elderly want to enjoy their twilight years – all this can only be achieved through development. Hong Kong is backed by the motherland while it faces the world. It thus has many favorable conditions conducive to development and distinctive competitive advantages. In particular, over the years, China’s continuous and rapid development has provided invaluable opportunities, an inexhaustible source of strength, and broad scope for Hong Kong’s development. There is a saying in Hong Kong, “Once one passes Suzhou, there are no more boats.” It is important for everyone to cherish and seize opportunities as they arise, and to focus energy on the region’s development.

Fourth, it is imperative to maintain a harmonious and stable social environment. “One Country, Two Systems” embodies the vision of peace and harmony central to Chinese culture. A crucial tenet it embodies is seeking common ground while reserving differences. Hong Kong is a plural society, so it comes as no surprise that different views and even major differences on specific issues exist. However, if Hong Kong gets pulled into the whirlpool of “politicizing everything,” or if people deliberately create antagonisms and provoke confrontation, this will not help matters and indeed will only serve to hinder Hong Kong’s economic and social development. It is only by focusing on the bigger picture, communicating rationally, and coalescing common understanding that we will progressively resolve problems. As far as the central government is concerned, as long as someone loves the country, loves Hong Kong, and genuinely supports the principle of “One Country, Two Systems” and the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, we are willing to discuss matters with them regardless of their political views or position. Harmony leads to propitiousness, whereas discord brings about adversity. Although Hong Kong is an affluent society, it still faces enormous challenges posed by profound changes in the global economic environment and increasingly fierce international competition. It cannot afford to be torn apart by reckless moves or internal rifts. It is only when the people in the region unite and work together that the success of Hong Kong, your common home, will be ensured.

Fellow Compatriots,

Dear Friends,

At present, China is in the decisive phase of its goal to achieve moderate prosperity throughout society. People of all ethnicities across the country are united in the endeavor to realize the “Two Centenary Goals” and fulfill the Chinese dream of national rejuvenation. A key part of the Chinese Dream is ensuring the continued success of the practice of “One Country, Two Systems” in Hong Kong. Any cause enjoying public participation and support will surely achieve success. We must ensure the successful development of both the socialist mainland and capitalist Hong Kong; in this we must have every confidence!

Today, the new government of the Special Administrative Region is officially inaugurated. It shoulders major responsibilities and has a lofty mission to undertake. It is my hope that, over the next five years, the government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region will unite people from all walks of life to fully and faithfully implement the principle of “One Country, Two Systems,” to stay committed to the foundation of “One Country,” to make good use of the benefits of having “Two Systems,” and to work hard to ensure the success of every venture. It is essential that we advance with the times, actively perform our duties, and continue to improve government performance. It is essential that we gather our strengths and bring them into full play, thus opening up a new frontier for Hong Kong’s economic development. It is essential that we put people first, provide relief to those in trouble and assistance to those in need, and work hard to address prominent economic issues and concerns regarding people’s livelihoods, so as to truly increase their sense of contentment and happiness. Finally, it is essential that we raise awareness and play a stronger guiding role, and make concerted efforts to step up patriotic education of young people, so as to show our care and support and help them grow up well.

The central government will continue to support the Chief Executive and the government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to govern in accordance with the law. We will continue to support Hong Kong in growing its economy and improving people’s lives, and to elicit its strengths and role in advancing the Belt and Road Initiative, the Guangdong–Hong Kong–Macao Greater Bay Area, Renminbi internationalization, and other major development strategies. Relevant central government departments will actively explore concrete measures to make it more convenient for the people of Hong Kong to study, work, and live on the mainland, and provide more opportunities for them to pursue career development throughout the mainland. In this way, everyone will enjoy brighter development prospects and live better lives while contributing their share in service of their country.

Hong Kong has the strong backing of our great motherland, and the strong support of the central government and the people of the mainland. Hong Kong has gained a wealth of experience over the past 20 years since its return, has a solid foundation for achieving further development, and enjoys the concerted and united dedication of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Regional government and people of all sectors. With all this considered, I firmly believe that the practice of “One Country, Two Systems” will write a new chapter in the story of Hong Kong, and that Hong Kong will once again come forth in renewed splendor!

Thank you.

(Originally appeared in Qiushi Journal, Chinese edition, No.13, 2017)