Regina Ip underlines the president’s emphasis on history when discussing city’s future and offering guidance to SAR
During his threeday whirlwind visit to Hong Kong to celebrate the special administrative region’s 20th anniversary, President Xi Jinping not only brought good weather but also many memorable sound bites and powerful messages.
Xi spoke to select groups of mainland officials and troops and Hong Kong people on six occasions. On each occasion, Xi made specific demands targeted at his audience. As Zhang Xiaoming, head of the Liaison Office, pointed out, in his keynote speech delivered at the inauguration ceremony of the fifth-term Hong Kong SAR Government on July 1, Xi laid out four imperatives in implementing “one country, two systems” — Hong Kong must grasp accurately the relationship between “one country” and “two systems”; act in accordance with the nation’s constitution and the Basic Law; focus on development and uphold a harmonious and stable environment.
Xi’s pronouncements on “one country, two systems” are naturally of central importance to our understanding of the nation’s vision of this unprecedented arrangement now. Much has been written on Xi’s proclamations on “one country, two systems” since his visit. Yet there are other equally important dimensions of Xi’s remarks in Hong Kong which deserve our attention.
As someone who has been studying and working for years to make Hong Kong a success under “one country, two systems”, Xi came across as a leader who understands Hong Kong’s challenges extremely well. In his keynote speech on July 1, Xi succinctly summarized the most critical challenges facing Hong Kong — Hong Kong’s systems to safeguard the nation’s sovereignty, security and developmental interests have yet to be perfected; promotion of understanding of the nation’s history and culture need to be strengthened; Hong Kong’s community lacks consensus on certain important political The author is the chairwoman of the New People’s Party and member of the Executive Council and Legislative Council.
and legal issues; Hong Kong’s economic development faces many challenges as its traditional advantages weaken and new engines of growth have yet to be developed; and Hong Kong’s housing problems remain acute. Small wonder that one of Xi’s key messages on touching down at Hong Kong’s airport on June 29 was a reminder that Hong Kong should “plan for the future”. In other words, there is no room for complacency and Hong Kong must do better.
Another less-noticed but no less important aspect is that Xi’s remarks were purposefully steeped in history and emotions. His first words on the tarmac of Hong Kong’s airport were “Hong Kong has always stirred my heart”. The remarks were in the same vein as those Xi made when he met with Taiwan’s leader Ma Ying-jeou in Singapore in November 2015. On that occasion Xi said he and Ma were “brothers whose sinews remain intertwined even though bones had been broken, and family members whose blood is thicker than water”. The purpose was to remind Taiwan compatriots that we were of the same race and descended from the same ancestors though separated geographically.
In view of Hong Kong’s special historical circumstances, on July 1, Xi took pains to remind Hong Kong people that Hong Kong was snatched from China in the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) by colonial predators. Hong Kong was lost owing to the incompetence of the late Qing government. The wrongs done to our nation had only been righted as the result of the arduous and determined struggle of the Chinese people after the establishment of New China.
Knowing that there is no lack of Hong Kong people, particularly young people with little knowledge of the modern history of China, who are ignorant of the sufferings inflicted on our nation by imperialist powers and who still harbor pro-colonialism or separatist sentiments, Xi’s historical recollection was intended to instill proper knowledge of history. In recalling the background to Deng Xiaoping’s formulation of the “one country, two systems” arrangement to resolve a historical problem, Xi reminded Hong Kong people that Hong Kong’s return to China was part of the nation’s objective of unifying the country ultimately. Separation would not be an option.
Xi’s speech at the welcome dinner on June 30 was no less noteworthy in the broad, global and forward-looking context in which it was made. In asking Hong Kong people to have faith in themselves, in Hong Kong and in the country, Xi laid out the rapidly evolving global and national situations which Hong Kong is facing. Hong Kong has many unique advantages and favorable conditions. It continues to enjoy a leading position in international finance, shipping, trade and remains an important platform for China to modernize its economy and internationalize its currency. However, after almost 40 years of reform and opening-up, China has turned the tables and is now leapfrogging in technology and innovation. It is now an international heavyweight in driving growth and globalization. Hong Kong must learn to grasp the new realities and move ahead in tandem with the nation if it is to continue to prosper.
In sum, Xi has left a great impression on Hong Kong as a true patriot, a staunch nationalist and a forwardlooking leader with a historical and global perspective. His speeches are sweeping and panoramic in bringing the past, present and future together, as well as the mainland, Hong Kong and the world. Hong Kong needs to rise to the many challenges implicit in his speeches. The nation has beckoned and the opportunity is there. Whether we could prosper as part of the nation really depends on whether we could grasp the moment.