Put national interests first, Xi Jinping tells Hong Kong’s new ruling team

President urges administration under Carrie Lam to seize the opportunities before them and says he expects a ‘brilliant report card’

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 July, 2017, 9:31pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 July, 2017, 11:59pm

President Xi Jinping on Saturday urged Hong Kong’s new administrators to seize the opportunities before them or risk missing out on “an entire era” of economic development and global changes, as he delivered Beijing’s clearest message yet on their work ahead in the coming five years.

He told them to come up with “a brilliant report card”, considering national interest, standing firm in the face of pressure and maintaining unity in fulfilling their duties.

The president’s detailed speech contrasted with that of his predecessors, who focused on formalities such as reiterating the “one country, two systems” principle and Beijing’s support for their work.

Xi was speaking shortly after swearing in the new administration led by Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, who vowed to take firm action against any move to undermine the country’s security and sovereignty.

If we do not adapt to changes and seek changes, we could ... miss opportunities for development, or even miss an entire era
President Xi Jinping

Addressing 60 Hong Kong officials, executive councillors and the heads of the city’s legislature and judiciary after the swearing-in, Xi said: “You must produce a brilliant report card with no regret for the country, Hong Kong and for yourselves.”

To achieve that, Xi laid down three principles for them.

Firstly, they should consider national interest: “Whether you are the person in charge of the executive branch, legislature or the judiciary, you must ... conscientiously protect national sovereignty, security and development interests.”

Secondly, they must stand firm in the face of pressure. “It is not a relaxing or comfortable task,” he said, smiling.

“Whether you are implementing one country, two systems, resolving conflicts and difficulties involving the economy and the people’s well-being which have accumulated over time, improving youth education on national history and cultural education, or curbing ‘Hong Kong independence’ ... you need to face up to these challenges. Sometimes you also need to resist pressures and stand firm ... It’s a shame for officials to avoid issues.”

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Thirdly, they should maintain unity: “The governing team is a whole. One’s glory is everyone’s glory, and one’s loss is everyone’s loss. Conscientious efforts should be made to uphold the unity of the administrative team and the authority of the chief executive. You must also support and coordinate with each other ... A team that shares the same desire will be victorious.”

At the end of his six-minute speech, the president said he would be visiting Russia and attending the G20 summit in Hamburg next week.

Becoming increasingly emotional, he continued: “Global economic and political situations are undergoing unprecedented adjustments ... and there will be drastic changes in Hong Kong’s internal and external environments too,” he said.

“If we do not adapt to changes and seek changes, we could ... miss opportunities for development, or even miss an entire era.”

He added that he hoped the executive, legislative and judicial branches would “produce an exam paper with a passing grade”.

In Lam’s inaugural speech, she vowed to repay the trust and support of the people and the central government’s backing “with diligence and achievements”.

“I will resolutely do everything within my ability to implement the one country, two systems principle ... I will, as I always have, rise to these challenges and firmly take actions in accordance with the law against any acts that will undermine the country’s sovereignty,” she said, in front of Xi and some 2,000 guests.

Lam delivered most of her 12-minute speech in Putonghua, but switched to Cantonese as she quoted the lyrics of Sail On, the theme song of the “Hong Kong: Our Home” public participation campaign she led as chief secretary in 2013.

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“Everyone feels lost sometimes, but we won’t give up hope ... All you need is to see me by your side, caring for you, all the way,” she said.

Before leaving Hong Kong in the afternoon, the president told Lam in a one-on-one meeting that he was “confident that you will not fall short of the central government and the people’s expectations”.