How 'one country, two systems' ensures Hong Kong's prosperity and stability
Song Zhe says the central government has spared no effort to support Hong Kong's prosperity and stability, and will continue to do so through its work in foreign affairs
The white paper on the practice of the "one country, two systems" policy in Hong Kong, released by the State Council recently, made a comprehensive review of Hong Kong's progress since the handover in its efforts to expand its external ties and gain a competitive edge in the world.
Foreign affairs is an important symbol of state sovereignty and a key component of the central authority's exercise of jurisdiction over Hong Kong in accordance with the law. The commissioner's office has all along implemented earnestly the central authority's principles and policies on foreign affairs related to Hong Kong. We do our utmost to support Hong Kong's prosperity and stability.
Having served in Hong Kong for over two years now, I feel deeply that a lot cries out to be done to serve the interests of Hong Kong. It is a joy to make a modest contribution to its continued development, and to the protection of lawful rights of fellow Hongkongers.
Over the past 17 years, the central government has successfully supported Hong Kong in expanding external exchanges and cooperation. The city's international influence is on the rise. It is poised to be one of the world's most free, dynamic and prosperous economies.
From the 1997 Asian financial crisis, to the 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome epidemic and the international financial crisis in 2008, whenever risks or challenges face Hong Kong, the central government has always given the city firm support. Efforts are made in Hong Kong-related foreign affairs to ensure its economic and social development, and to keep and lift its position as a world financial, trade and shipping centre.
For 17 years, these efforts have been fruitful. Some of them are well known to the people of Hong Kong while others may be less well-known, and they include the following.
The central government authorises Hong Kong to sign agreements with many countries on matters such as the avoidance of double taxation, trade promotion and protection, and criminal judicial assistance. Thanks to the central government's push, the Hague Conference on Private International Law opened its Asia-Pacific regional office in Hong Kong. All this provides a strong legal guarantee for Hong Kong to develop external cooperation.
Hong Kong has attended over 1,400 international conferences as a member of the Chinese government delegation. It has participated in over 20,000 international conferences not limited to states, in the name of "Hong Kong, China". Chinese embassies and consulates abroad have used a lot of resources to promote Hong Kong and increase the international community's understanding of and cooperation with Hong Kong.
The central government gives strong support to Margaret Chan Fung Fu-chun, Observatory director Shun Chi-ming and other Hongkongers to successfully run for key posts at international organisations. Hong Kong is proud of them. The nation is proud of them. Today, holders of the Hong Kong SAR passport can travel visa-free or visa on arrival to 150 countries and regions. Their international travel is more convenient than ever before.
The well-being of fellow Hongkongers has always been a concern of the central government. Whenever they meet difficulty or danger, leaders attach great importance to providing swift assistance and helping them out of difficult situations. The evacuation of Chinese workers in Libya, and the responses to the Manila hostage crisis, the hot-air balloon disaster in Egypt and the recent violent protests in Vietnam targeting Hong Kong businesses, are all testament to this. The central government has handled more than 10,000 cases related to consular protection of fellow Hongkongers.
Hong Kong people want to know more about foreign affairs. Hong Kong students want to broaden their horizons and develop themselves. For that purpose, the commissioner's office has held a variety of activities such as a foreign affairs knowledge contest, foreign affairs summer camp, an open house day and a diplomatic forum. All aim to enable fellow Hongkongers to gain experience of the nation's diplomacy, and more understanding of the nation's international standing and role.
Over the past 17 years, Hong Kong has become even more favoured internationally. Some 124 countries have set up consular missions in Hong Kong. More and more international organisations and multinational companies have set up offices or regional headquarters here. This benefits from the central government's promotion as well as the Hong Kong SAR government's hard work.
Moreover, it shows vividly that the international community is confident in China, Hong Kong, and "one country, two systems".
Hong Kong's return to the motherland makes Hongkongers proud of being their own masters, and enables them to share with mainlanders the honour of being part of an increasingly strong nation. For 17 years, the successful implementation of "one country, two systems" in Hong Kong reveals one important thing. Hong Kong's past was closely connected with the nation's destiny; its future will rely on the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. We firmly oppose any outside interference or involvement in Hong Kong's affairs in any way.
Hong Kong is now at a new starting point in its development. To remain competitive in the world, fellow Hongkongers need to work in synergy, strive forward, cherish and make good use of the precious opportunities that come with the nation's comprehensive deepening of reform.
Hong Kong needs to participate in national development at a higher plane to seek a broader space for the future. The nation's foreign affairs work will continue to protect the vital interests of fellow Hongkongers, broaden Hong Kong's international exchanges, increase its international influence, and promote its long-term prosperity and stability.
Song Zhe is the commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China in Hong Kong SAR