Regina Ip un­der­lines the pres­i­dent’s em­pha­sis on his­tory when dis­cussing city’s fu­ture and of­fer­ing guid­ance to SAR

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT -

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.

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