The new government and the community must rise to the challenge
Wrapping up his visit to the city for the 20th anniversary of reunification with China, President Xi Jinping did not shy away from broaching a host of practical problems that we face. His remarks are the most comprehensive – and authoritative – yet made on the way forward for Hong Kong
Hong Kong is left with much soul searching after ushering in a new chapter yesterday. Wrapping up his three-day visit for the 20th anniversary of reunification with China, President Xi Jinping did not shy away from broaching a host of practical problems facing the city. The remarks are the most comprehensive – and authoritative - yet made, ranging from the need to better implement the policy of “one country, two systems” to staying united and fostering new development. It is now incumbent upon the new government and the community to work together and rise to the challenge.
Amid growing concerns over Beijing’s policy on Hong Kong affairs, the four key points delivered by the visiting state leader have provided much food for thought. In the sternest warning ever, Xi drew what he called “the red line” for Hong Kong. “Any attempt to endanger national sovereignty and security, challenge the power of the central government and the authority of the Basic Law or using Hong Kong to carry out infiltration and sabotage activities against the mainland is absolutely impermissible,” he said. He also made clear that it was necessary to improve the systems to uphold national sovereignty and security, and to enhance education and awareness of Chinese history and culture among locals. These are the clearest signals yet that the city has to speed up the enactment of national security legislation under the Basic Law’s Article 23, and to strengthen national education.
Equally important is the clarification over the new constitutional order. In his keynote speech following the inauguration of the new government, Xi noted that the legal origin of the special administrative region was rooted in the Basic Law and China’s constitution. He said we should strengthen the institutions and mechanisms for implementing the Basic Law and to raise awareness in this respect, especially among civil servants and youngsters.
SEEKING BROAD COMMON GROUND
It is clear that the city has yet to fully capitalise on the opportunities arising from national development. That is why we have been urged to focus more on fostering development. However, this cannot be achieved without a stable and harmonious environment. The president appears to be fully aware of the challenges in this respect. He acknowledged that there are still problems on various fronts, including those brought by global economic changes and international competition. The fact that we are a pluralistic society meant there would always be discord, he said. But however major our differences are, we should strive to put them aside while seeking broad common ground. Only through building consensus and avoiding confrontations and rifts could we foster social and economic development.
The central government has again marked the reunification with new economic incentives – the agreement on the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area and the Bond Connect, which will allow foreigners to trade in the mainland’s bond market and use the city as the access point. But it also represents a policy shift, in that instead of being given unilateral benefits like the scheme allowing mainland tourists to come individually, the city is required to engage itself in the national development framework and offer mutual benefits.
One particular theme resonates throughout the speeches made by Xi. He stressed that our destiny has always been intricately bound with that of the country. Recalling the fall of Hong Kong into British hands and the resumption of sovereignty and the rise of the country, Xi said the success of “one country, two systems” was part and parcel of the Chinese dream. It is in the national interest for Hong Kong to implement the formula successfully.
Yesterday’s speech serves as an authoritative guide on the way forward. As Xi rightly put it, the question is not whether the policy of “one country, two systems” would be altered, but how to implement it accurately and comprehensively. While concerted efforts are needed for the city to move in the right direction, the responsibility falls squarely on Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and her team, who were officially sworn in yesterday. In addition to delivering the election promises, the Lam government is also under pressure to lead Hong Kong in accordance with Xi’s expectations. The task ahead is daunting. But the new team should strive to achieve more than just a pass in meeting the challenges. Xi reminded them that official jobs are not easy, and they should work as a team.
MUCH WORK TO BE DONE
The turnout for yesterday’s July 1 rally, under the theme of “one country, two systems, a lie of 20 years” shows there is much work to be done. As Xi said, the 20th anniversary signifies that Hong Kong has come of age. While we strive to preserve our rights and freedoms under the two systems, it’s also time we fully recognise our obligations to the nation as a special administrative region, and to fully and faithfully implement the principle of “one country, two systems”. Our success lies in staying committed to one country and leverage the benefits of two systems. At no time should we focus only on one aspect to the neglect of the other.