Letter to Hong Kong – Lessons Learned in First ten Years

RTHK Radio3  2007-07-08

Fellow compatriots, dear friends,

Ten years ago today, at the handover ceremony of Hong Kong held by the Chinese and British governments, the Chinese government solemnly announced its resumption of the exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong and the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People ’ s Republic of China. Hong Kong ’ s return to the motherland fulfilled the century-old wish of the Chinese people of all ethnic groups, including the people in Hong Kong. It will go down as a great event in the annals of Chinese history.
Today, after ten years, we are meeting here to warmly celebrate the tenth anniversary of Hong Kong ’ s return to the motherland. During the past decade, Hong Kong ’ s exchanges and co-operation, and particularly its business ties with the mainland, have grown increasingly closer. With stronger support from the mainland, Hong Kong serves as an important window and bridge for China ’ s economic, scientific, technological and cultural exchanges with the rest of the world. Through their dedicated efforts, Hong Kong people have both promoted the development of the Special Administrative Region and contributed their share to China ’ s modernisation drive.
Fellow compatriots, dear friends: ten years is just a very brief moment in the long course of human history. But for the cause of “ one country, two systems ” we are advancing, the past decade has been ground-breaking in significance. Over the ten years, we have obtained much valuable experience in this great endeavour, which may be summarised into the following four major points:
First, it is important to fully and faithfully appreciate and implement the policy of “ one country, two systems ” . “ One country, two systems ” is an integral concept. “ One country ” is the prerequisite of “ two systems ” . For without “ one country ” , there is no need to have “ two systems ” .
The policy of “ one country, two systems ” is not kind of makeshift. Historically, Hong Kong ’ s unique status has served China ’ s interests well. Chairman Mao Zedong once said: “ It is better to keep Hong Kong the way it is [ … ] it is useful to us right now; ” the resources of Hong Kong should be “ fully utilised in the interests of [mainland ’ s] long-term planning ” . The primary goals of China ’ s Hong Kong policy that time were to secure a less threatening external political environment and to make calculated use of Hong Kong for economic needs.
When Mr Deng Xiaoping put forward the “ one country, two systems ” formula in the early 1980s, he had not only the well-being of Hong Kong people in mind, but also the contributions of preserving Hong Kong ’ s system and uniqueness to China ’ s development. During the early days of Open Door Policy, mainland policymakers envisaged Hong Kong acting as the means through which the “ positive ” aspects of capitalism would be funneled into the eastern coastal regions and from there, to the rest of China. Even today, Hong Kong still plays an important role in China ’ s economic development, financial reform for instance. Hong Kong can serve as a platform for mainland investors to gain exposure and accumulate experience through investing in overseas markets. This will speed up China ’ s convergence with international standards. Hong Kong can also serve as the laboratory for capital account convertibility of the renminbi and the increasing international use of the currency.
Hong Kong ’ s contributions to China are by no means limited to the economic sphere. Without democracy, there will be no socialism. Without social and political modernisation, China ’ s economic growth could not be sustained. Instituting and developing social and political pluralism in the Special Administrative Region – that is, the rule of law, the freedom of expression and association, and a representative, accountable, checked and balanced government – Hong Kong could serve as the model for social and political modernisation on the mainland, as it earlier served in China ’ s economic modernisation.
Should Hong Kong ’ s autonomy and uniqueness be compromised, its contributions to the motherland would be seriously jeopardised. Only when the contributions of preserving Hong Kong ’ s autonomy and uniqueness to China ’ s modernisation drive are fully appreciated can the strength of “ one country, two systems ” policy be brought to play to the real benefit of the people in Hong Kong as well as on the mainland.
Second, it is important to strictly comply with the Basic Law. The Basic Law is binding not only on Hong Kong but also on the Central Government. Implementation or interpretations of the Basic Law should be based not on political considerations or convenience, but on reasoning, justice, legality and precedents. Determination of the legislative intent of the Basic Law based on personal memories is not the rule of law. This is the rule of people.
Relating to Hong Kong ’ s electoral system, it should be noted that Article 39 of the Basic Law has already incorporated the principle of “ equal and universal suffrage ” as stipulated in the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights. An editorial of Xinhua Ribao, which was then under the direction of late Premier Zhou Enlai, put forward the views that “ for a true system of election by universal suffrage, not only should the right to elect be ‘ universal ’ and ‘ equal ’ , the right to be elected should also be ‘ universal ’ and ‘ equal ’ [ … ] if a pre-determined qualification is prescribed for candidates, or certain people are even designated by the authorities as candidates, then electors will only become tools for casting votes, even if their right to elect is not restricted ” . In determining Hong Kong ’ s ultimate electoral arrangements for the Chief Executive and the Legislative Council, we should bear in mind that the above principle and provisions of the Basic Law are strictly observed.
Third, it is important to give high priority to promoting economic development and improving people ’ s well-being. With the backing of the mainland, which is experiencing fast growth, Hong Kong enjoys unique opportunities and favourable conditions. Yet, the enhancement of the freedom and efficiency in the flows of factors of production through further economic integration with the mainland is a “ two-edged sword ” . While the short term effects seem rather impressive, the lopsided dependence on mainland ’ s support may again soften Hong Kong ’ s resolve to tackle the crux of the problem: the lack of cutting edge. Without persistent efforts in maintaining local advantage, the consequence could be Hong Kong ’ s secular decline.
Fourth, it is important to uphold social harmony and stability. Promoting social harmony and maintaining social stability require not only the goodwill of people from all walks of life, but also a democratic institution under which societal conflicts could be resolved through proper political means. Moreover, vast inequality and poverty can strain the social fabric of a society. Those who worry about the fragmenting of our society will have far greater cause for concern. A polarised society is less harmonious and stable than one with a large and strong middle. Extreme inequalities and poverty also make collective decisions more difficult – whether about government fees and charges, education reforms, importation of labour or environmental protection – because citizens in sharply different economic positions are likely to be affected by these sorts of decisions in very different ways.
Fellow compatriots, dear friends: both the mainland and Hong Kong are now at a new historical starting line in their development endeavours. We are convinced that by fully appreciating the benefits of preserving Hong Kong ’ s autonomy and uniqueness to China ’ s modernization under the policy “ one country, two systems ” ; implementing and interpreting the Basic Law based on reasoning, justice, legality and precedents; maintaining Hong Kong ’ s competitive advantages while capitalising on opportunities brought about by the developments on the mainland; and upholding social harmony and stability through instituting democratic reforms and closing the income gap, Hong Kong people can surely create another success story and make new contributions to the motherland.
Thank you!