The British minister in charge of Hong Kong affairs has urged the people of the territory to reflect on their history and face the economic downturn with optimism. Concluding his two-day visit - his first since being appointed to the post in June - Dr Denis MacShane said he had observed the depth of worry about the economic situation. He told a British Chamber of Commerce lunch: 'My advice is that people should learn from history and reflect. Hong Kong has always rebounded very strongly.' Dr MacShane has met Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa, Chief Secretary Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, Financial Secretary Antony Leung Kam-chung, politicians and business leaders. Dr MacShane said Hong Kong was undergoing another transition towards 'software rather than hardware'. 'In the second half of the 21st century, Hong Kong will be more exciting and dynamic.' The minister admitted he had been worried and pessimistic about post-handover Hong Kong before 1997. 'Let me confess, I was wrong. Hong Kong and Beijing have shown the right way forward,' he said. Speaking on RTHK's Radio 3 yesterday morning, Dr MacShane said he had discussed with Mr Tung the importance of maintaining the special identity of Hong Kong. Asked if he was worried about the loss of Hong Kong's uniqueness, Dr MacShane said: 'Not at all. So far, so good is my summary of the last four years.' He stressed after the lunch that the British Government wanted 'to see the agreement in 1997, ie rule of law, freedom of expression, internationally recognised civil liberties, is maintained'. 'I shared with [Mr Tung and officials] that the last four years had shown the agreement was working well.' Dr MacShane said Hong Kong should maintain strong bilingual abilities to maintain its position in the 21st century.