Set aside differences, focus on economy, HK told
Gary Cheung, Denise Hung and Dikky Sinn
Diversity gives city its vitality, but keep debate rational, CPPCC chief advises
State leader Jia Qinglin last night urged Hong Kong people to focus their energies on economic development and set aside their differences.
The chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference said that only by focusing on economic development could Hong Kong retain its global competitive edge and avoid the risk of becoming marginalised.
The appeal from the head of the top mainland advisory body came a day after former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang remarked that recent impediments had made people lose confidence in Beijing.
Yesterday Mrs Chan denied the remark was meant as a challenge to the central government. But she returned to the theme, saying one of the reasons Hong Kong people had lost confidence in the promise of 'one country, two systems' was the pronouncements of mainland Basic Law scholars Wang Zhenmin and Xu Chongde .
The scholars caused a stir recently when they set out six reasons Hong Kong was not ready for universal suffrage.
Mr Jia said diversity was the source of Hong Kong's vitality and it was normal for people to hold different views on certain issues.
'What is important is to seek common ground while setting aside differences and communicating with each other rationally,' he told the 400 guests at a dinner hosted by the government.
Speaking at the dinner, Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen urged Hong Kong people to put aside their differences and work in concert for the further development of the city and the country.
'Although our views may sometimes differ, I sincerely hope that we all share the same love for our country and for Hong Kong,' he said.
Mr Jia said continued economic growth was fundamental to solving Hong Kong's problems.
All 60 legislators were invited to the function - the first encounter between a state leader and the legislature since it voted down electoral reform proposals in December.
Civic Party legislator Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee said Mr Jia had blind faith in the idea that economic development could resolve all problems in Hong Kong. 'Mr Jia obviously failed to face up to reality in Hong Kong,' she said.
Kwok Ka-ki, the legislator representing the medical sector, said he was disappointed Mr Jia did not mention Hong Kong's democratic development.
Mr Jia began his second day in Hong Kong with a breakfast meeting with CPPCC vice-chairmen Henry Fok Ying-tung and Tung Chee-hwa, as well as tycoon Li Ka-shing and his son Victor Li Tzar-kuoi. Younger son and PCCW chairman Richard Li Tzar-kai was absent. PCCW is in talks to sell its telephone and media arms to foreign bidders, a plan opposed by state-controlled China Netcom, which owns 20 per cent of PCCW.
Mr Jia also met businessmen, professionals and CPPCC delegates. He will officiate at a forum today on trade and economic co-operation between the mainland, Hong Kong and Macau to mark the third anniversary of the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement. More than 20 leading mainland officials, including Minister of Commerce Bo Xilai and deputy governor of the People's Bank of China Hu Xiaolian , will attend.