Hilton Cheong-Leen is confident that Hong Kong’s new CE Carrie Lam’s team can deliver in upgrading people’s livelihood
This year, we celebrate, with a wide range of cultural and sports activities across the city, the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s peaceful return to China on July 1, 1997. Over the past 20 years, I have often wondered about the uniqueness of the bond between the Chinese mainland’s socialist system and Hong Kong’s capitalist system which derives from past British colonial experience. That bond is the Basic Law and the “one country, two systems” governing concept for Hong Kong, which was the result of extensive Sino-British diplomatic negotiations in the 1980s with valuable input from Hong Kong lawmakers at the time.
Article 5 of the Basic Law states that the mainland’s socialist system and lifestyle shall be respected, and Hong Kong’s capitalist system and lifestyle shall continue for the next 50 years (until 2047).
China joined the World Trade Organization in 2000 with the support of 20,000 factories in the Pearl River Delta established by Hong Kong entrepreneurs. Chinese-made toys, houseware and other products were shipped to countries worldwide which led to China becoming known as the “factory of the world”. And China has become an economic powerhouse second only to the US.
The “one country, two systems” link between capitalist Hong Kong and the socialist mainland is today as dynamic and robust as ever, continuously evolving and adapting to new challenges and changing circumstances.
Hong Kong has a serious wealth gap caused mainly by skyrocketing homes prices. This has created a sense of insecurity and hopelessness for the future among our younger generation. This was one of the contributing factors that led to the 79-day occupation of key areas in the The author is a former LegCo member, former chairman of the Urban Council and former chairman of the Hong Kong Civic Association.
commercial heartland of Hong Kong in 2014, and their demand for radical change and reform. Fortunately, the government and our highly disciplined police force managed to keep the protest under control and bring it to an end peacefully.
When Leung Chun-ying became Chief Executive in 2012, his top priority was to set up a 10-year roll-forward housing program to build 500,000 homes and resolve the housing crisis. His then chief secretary for administration, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, came up with a comprehensive program to alleviate the hardships of one million people living below the poverty line. Continuity of the vital programs is assured as she has succeeded Leung after being sworn into the top post by President Xi Jinping.
Livelihood issues, including public housing, education, poverty alleviation, elderly care and youth issues, are at the top of her agenda. Her cabinet comprises mainly veteran bureaucrats who should be able to hit the ground running as most of them have already established good working relations with the civil service and are familiar with the work of the Legislative Council.
Political reform, a landmine at the best of times, will be wisely set aside for the time being, as tackling it now risks creating animosity with various political parties, thereby adversely affecting the pressing business of improving people’s livelihood. The top leadership in Beijing has confidence in Lam as she has vowed to keep the local separatist movement under control since failure to do so will create instability and affect our favorable business climate.
The Belt and Road Initiative and the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area project will afford our entrepreneurs untold opportunities and our young people career options beyond our borders, that is, if we embrace them with a positive mindset. Increasing numbers of entrepreneurs from the mainland will traverse the four corners of the earth in search of business opportunities. I have no doubt this will create positive spin-offs for Hong Kong. Again, this would require us to be both nimble-minded and fleet-footed if we are to capitalize on our favorable strategic location and our experience in dealing with our mainland compatriots. But it all adds up to great opportunities for us to exploit.
I think the new Chief Executive’s commitment to improving the quality of education, which is linked to the quality of our future generations, is part of the process of raising the income level of those who have a higher standard of education or training. Our younger generation should not be made to feel the years spent in higher education will not make an appreciable difference to their bottom line.
Reforming our education to make it more relevant to the changing needs of the workplace is crucial if our younger generation is to fully exploit the many opportunities that will come their way. Simultaneously, our business and industry leaders should be flexible in adjusting to the fast-changing economic forces to create jobs and ensure Hong Kong’s continued relevance. In other words, our future success requires the coordinated collaboration of the government, private business and the education sector.