Hil­ton Cheong-Leen is con­fi­dent that Hong Kong’s new CE Car­rie Lam’s team can de­liver in up­grad­ing peo­ple’s liveli­hood

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT -

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.

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