Hong Kong at 25: Politics
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President Xi Jinping has stressed the need for the proper execution of the ‘one country, two systems’ principle and laid out his expectations for the new administration. Photo: Felix Wong

‘China’s bridge and window to the world’: here’s what President Xi Jinping had to say to Hongkongers in July 1 speech

  • Xi’s keynote address came after he officiated at the swearing-in ceremony of the new administration led by John Lee Ka-chiu, the city’s fifth chief executive
  • President stresses the execution of ‘one country, two systems’ must ensure Hong Kong enjoys a high degree of autonomy, while China holds overall jurisdiction

President Xi Jinping delivered a speech at the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai on Friday, marking the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s July 1 return to Chinese rule.

Xi’s keynote address came after he officiated at the swearing-in ceremony of the new administration led by John Lee Ka-chiu, the city’s fifth chief executive.

Xi stressed that the “one country, two systems” governing principle must be executed accurately and comprehensively, with mainland China having overall jurisdiction but the city enjoying a high degree of autonomy.

The president also set out expectations for Lee’s administration, stressing the importance of building an efficient government that will boost residents’ national identity, foster integration with the mainland and solve the city’s deep-seated livelihood issues.

The following is a transcript of Xi’s speech:

Fellow compatriots,

Dear friends,

Today, we gather here on this solemn occasion to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to the motherland and hold the inaugural ceremony of the sixth-term government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR).

At the outset, I wish to extend cordial greetings to all Hong Kong residents and warm congratulations to Mr Lee Ka-chiu, the newly inaugurated sixth-term Chief Executive of the Hong Kong SAR, and to principal officials of the sixth-term Hong Kong SAR government and members of the Executive Council! I also express heartfelt appreciation to all fellow Chinese, both at home and overseas, and foreign friends for their support for the cause of One Country, Two Systems and Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability!

The history of the over 5,000-year civilisation of the Chinese nation keeps records of our forefathers tilling the land here in southern China. China’s modern history following the Opium War records not just the humiliation of the forced cession of Hong Kong, but also the heroic struggle made by the sons and daughters of the Chinese nation for national salvation. The centenary history of the Communist Party of China rallying and leading the people in an extraordinary endeavour carries chapters of the unique and significant contribution of our compatriots in Hong Kong. Throughout history, Hong Kong compatriots have always stood together with the motherland, rain or shine, and the bond that links us is truly inseparable.

Hong Kong’s return to the motherland opened a new epoch in the history of Hong Kong. Over the past 25 years, with the full support of the motherland and common efforts of the government of the Hong Kong SAR and people of all sectors, the practice of One Country, Two Systems has achieved success in Hong Kong recognised by all.

Since its return to the motherland, Hong Kong has been a pioneer riding the wave of our country’s great cause of reform and opening-up. It has leveraged its role as an important window and bridge connecting the Chinese mainland with the world, and has thus made an irreplaceable contribution to the miracle of long-term, steady and fast economic development of the motherland. Hong Kong has become an integral part of the country’s overall development and actively aligned with national development strategies. It has continued to maintain its strengths of being highly free and open and compatible with international rules. Indeed, Hong Kong has played an important role in advancing the new paradigm of China’s opening up on a larger scale, across more areas and in greater depth. Exchanges and cooperation have been steadily improved. The stage for Hong Kong compatriots to start business and achieve success has become increasingly broader.

Since its return to the motherland, Hong Kong has overcome various difficulties and challenges and forged ahead with steady steps. Be it the global financial crisis, Covid-19 or some intense social upheavals, nothing has stopped Hong Kong’s advance. Over the past 25 years, Hong Kong has enjoyed robust economic growth. It has maintained its status as an international financial, shipping and trading centre, and its innovation and technology industry has developed rapidly. Its economy is one of the freest and most open in the world, and it boasts a world-class business environment. Hong Kong’s pre-existing laws, including the common law, have been preserved and developed. Its social programmes are flourishing, and its society has remained stable as a whole. As an international metropolis, Hong Kong enjoys vitality that is the admiration of the world.

Since Hong Kong’s return to the motherland, Hong Kong compatriots have become masters of their own destiny. The realisation of Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong and a high degree of autonomy has marked the beginning of true democracy in Hong Kong. Over the past 25 years, the constitutional order of the SAR, which is based on China’s Constitution and the Basic Law of the SAR, has functioned smoothly. The overall jurisdiction of the Central Authorities has been enforced, and the SAR’s high degree of autonomy has been exercised in the right way. The Hong Kong National Security Law has been adopted, providing the institutions and norms for upholding national security in the Hong Kong SAR. Hong Kong’s electoral system has been amended and improved, ensuring the implementation of the principle of patriots administering Hong Kong. The Hong Kong SAR’s democratic system is in keeping with the policy of One Country, Two Systems and Hong Kong’s constitutional status. It has served to ensure the democratic rights of Hong Kong residents and maintain Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability, and it holds bright prospects for the future.

Fellow compatriots,

Dear friends,

The policy of One Country, Two Systems is a great initiative that has no precedent to follow. The underlying goal of the policy of One Country, Two Systems is to uphold China’s sovereignty, security and development interests and maintain long-term prosperity and stability in Hong Kong and Macau. Everything the Central Government has done is for the benefit of our country, of Hong Kong and Macau, and of our fellow compatriots in Hong Kong and Macau. At the Meeting Celebrating the 20th Anniversary of Hong Kong’s Return to the Motherland, I stressed the two points that the Central Authorities will stick to regarding the implementation of the policy of One Country, Two Systems: first, the policy shall be implemented unswervingly without deviating or wavering; second, the policy shall be applied fully and faithfully without being bent or distorted. Today, I wish to highlight once more that the policy of One Country, Two Systems, having been tested and proved time and again, meets the fundamental interests of the country and the Chinese nation and those of Hong Kong and Macau. It enjoys the full support of more than 1.4 billion people of the motherland, it has the unanimous endorsement of Hong Kong and Macau residents, and it is widely recognised by the international community. There is no reason to change such a good system. And it must be adhered to over the long run!

Fellow compatriots,

Dear friends,

A review of the past points the way to the future. The rich practice of the policy of One Country, Two systems in Hong Kong has left us much valuable experience and food for thought. Twenty-five years of practice tells us that only with a deep and accurate understanding of the rules governing the policy’s implementation can we ensure that the cause of One Country, Two Systems keeps advancing steadily in the right direction.

First, we must implement the policy of One Country, Two Systems in both letter and spirit. The policy of One Country, Two Systems is an integral whole. Upholding our country’s sovereignty, security and development interests is the paramount principle in the policy of One Country, Two Systems. On the basis of this prerequisite, Hong Kong and Macau maintain their previous capitalist system over the long run and enjoy a high degree of autonomy. The socialist system is the fundamental system of the People’s Republic of China, and leadership of the Communist Party of China is the defining feature of socialism with Chinese characteristics. All residents in the SARs shall conscientiously respect and uphold the fundamental system of our system. Full and faithful implementation of the policy of One Country, Two Systems will create immense development opportunities for Hong Kong and Macau. The more firmly the principle of One Country is adhered to, the greater advantage the Two Systems will demonstrate in practice.

Second, we must ensure the integration of the overall jurisdiction of the Central Authorities and a high degree of autonomy in the SAR. With its return to the motherland, Hong Kong has been reincorporated into our country’s governance system, and the constitutional order of the SAR has been established under the fundamental guidance of the policy of One Country, Two Systems. The Central Government’s overall jurisdiction over the SAR provides the source of the SAR’s high degree of autonomy; at the same time, the Central Authorities fully respect and firmly uphold the high degree of autonomy enjoyed by the SAR as enshrined in law. Enforcing the Central Authorities’ overall jurisdiction and upholding the SAR’s high degree of autonomy are integral aspects of the same policy, and only by ensuring both can we run the SAR truly well. The SAR adheres to the executive-led system; the executive, legislative and judiciary exercise judicial power independently in accordance with the law.

Third, we must implement the principle of patriots administrating Hong Kong. Keeping political power in the hands of patriots is a political rule commonly practised in the world. No people in any country or region in the world will ever allow political power to fall into the hands of forces or individuals who do not love, or even sell out, or betray, their own country. To keep the power to administer the Hong Kong SAR firmly in the hands of patriots is essential for safeguarding the long-term governance and security of Hong Kong; at no time should this principle be allowed to be compromised. Protecting the power to administer is protecting Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability, as well as the interests of the over 7 million Hong Kong residents.

Fourth, we must maintain Hong Kong’s unique status and strengths. The Central Authorities have always handled Hong Kong affairs from strategic and overarching perspectives, with the starting point and ultimate goal always being to uphold the fundamental and long-term interests of both our country and Hong Kong. Hong Kong’s fundamental interests are consistent with the fundamental interests of the country, and the heart of the Central Government and the heart of our Hong Kong compatriots always beat together. Enjoying the backing of the motherland while staying connected with the world is a notable strength of Hong Kong, a strength cherished by both Hong Kong residents and the Central Authorities. The Central Government fully supports Hong Kong in maintaining its unique status and strengths on a long-term basis, in consolidating its role as an international financial, shipping and trading centre, in maintaining its free, open, and sound business environment, in retaining its common law system, and in expanding smooth and convenient linkages with the rest of the world. The Central Authorities trust that in the historical course of building a modern socialist country in all respects and achieving the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, Hong Kong will have an even greater contribution to make.

Fellow compatriots,

Dear friends,

In the Chinese people and the Chinese nation’s great advance from standing up to becoming prosperous and growing in strength, our Hong Kong compatriots have never been absent. Now, Hong Kong is in a new stage of moving from chaos to governance and then from governance to greater prosperity, and the next five years will be crucial for Hong Kong to break new ground and launch a new take-off. Hong Kong faces both opportunities and challenges, and there are more opportunities than challenges. Both the Central Government and people across all social sectors in Hong Kong have high hopes for the new government of the SAR, and people of all ethnic groups in China wish the best for Hong Kong. Here, I want to express four hopes for Hong Kong.

First, strive to improve governance. Enhancing the system and capacity for governance and boosting its efficacy are of pressing importance for the development of the Hong Kong SAR. As administrators of Hong Kong, the Chief Executive and the SAR government bear the primary responsibility for administrating Hong Kong. You should all faithfully fulfil the oath of office, take solid steps to implement the policy of One Country, Two Systems, uphold the authority of the Basic Law, and dedicate yourselves to the Hong Kong SAR. Officials should be selected on the basis of both integrity and competence, and outstanding individuals who are firm in their love for both the country and Hong Kong, professionally competent and dedicated to serving the public should be extensively drawn into government service. The sense of national identity and a global vision should be highlighted, and plans for Hong Kong’s development should be made with overall and long-term requirements in mind. The philosophy of administration should be transformed, and the relationship between the government and the market better balanced, so as to better promote a well-functioning government and an efficient market. Government administration and conduct should be improved, so that the officials will demonstrate a new level of commitment and satisfactory performance, and take on a new look of good governance.

Second, keep strengthening the momentum of development. Hong Kong enjoys a unique position, favourable conditions and broad space for development. The Central Authorities fully support Hong Kong in seizing the historic opportunities presented by our country’s development and in aligning with national strategies such as the 14th Five-Year Plan. the development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area and the high-quality development of Belt and Road Cooperation. The Central Authorities fully support Hong Kong in developing more extensive and closer exchanges and cooperation with the world and in attracting more people who aspire to start up businesses and fulfil their dreams in Hong Kong. The Central Authorities also fully support Hong Kong in advancing reforms in an active and prudent manner, breaking the impediments of vested interest and fully unleashing the enormous creativity and development vitality of Hong Kong society.

Third, take solid steps to address difficulties in people’s lives. As a Chinese saying goes, “Those who get the benefits of the world take on responsibility for all, and those who enjoy the happiness of the world share concerns for all”. As I have said, meeting the people’s aspirations for a better life is the goal of all our work. At present, what the people of Hong Kong desire the most are a better life, a bigger apartment, more business start-up opportunities, better education for kids and better elderly care. What the people call for, we must strive to deliver. The new government of the SAR should deliver concrete outcomes and live up to people’s expectations, give top priority to meeting the aspirations of the whole community, especially ordinary people, and act with greater resolve and take more effective steps to address existing problems so that more fruits of development will reach all people in Hong Kong in a more equitable way, and each and every one of them will have greater confidence that as long as they work hard, they are fully capable of making a difference for themselves and their families.

Fourth, jointly uphold harmony and stability. Hong Kong is the common home for all its people, and a harmonious family will always prosper. Having gone through ups and downs, people have learned the hard way that Hong Kong must not be destabilised and cannot afford any chaos. There is extensive consensus that no time should be lost in Hong Kong’s development and that all interference should be removed so that Hong Kong can stay focused on development. Everyone living in Hong Kong, regardless of their profession or belief, is a positive force for the development of Hong Kong and can contribute their due share to Hong Kong’s development, as long as they genuinely support the policy of One Country, Two Systems, love Hong Kong, and abide by the Basic Law and laws of the SAR. I hope all Hong Kong compatriots will vigorously promote the mainstream values that are centred on a love of our country and love of Hong Kong and consistent with the policy of One Country, Two Systems, carry forward the fine tradition of inclusiveness, solidarity, common ground without uniformity, perseverance and a can-do spirit, and work together to create a better life.

In particular, we should care about the young people. When the young people thrive, Hong Kong thrives. When the young people grow, Hong Kong grows. When there is a future for the young people, there is a future for Hong Kong. We should help the young gain a keen appreciation of the underlying trend in both our country and the world, and heighten their sense of national pride and ownership. We should help young people overcome difficulties in education, employment, business start-up and home-buying, and create more opportunities for them to grow and shine. It is our earnest hope that all young people in Hong Kong will join efforts to build a better Hong Kong and write a splendid chapter in their life with their youthful vigour.

Fellow compatriots,

Dear friends,

As a line from a Chinese poem reads, “How I wish I could soar the sky on the borrowed wings of a yellow crane!” The great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation has become an irreversible historical process. Ensuring the continued success of the practice of One Country, Two Systems in Hong Kong is an integral part of this historical process. We are convinced that on the new journey of realising our country’s second centenary goal, Hong Kong, with the strong support of the great motherland and the solid implementation of the policy of One Country, Two Systems, will surely achieve even greater accomplishments and share, together with fellow compatriots of the motherland, the glory of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation!