"One Country, Two Systems": Long-Term Prosperity and Stability for Hong Kong*
July 1, 2017
Time flies. It has been 20 years since Hong Kong's return. According to China's tradition, a man enters adulthood at the age of 20. So today, we are celebrating the coming of age of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), which has grown with the vigor of a bamboo or a pine tree. Looking back at the last two decades, we can proudly conclude that it is in large part thanks to our support, and to its own international vision and innovative spirit, that Hong Kong has continued to develop as a modern metropolis. The practice of "one country, two systems" in Hong Kong is a success recognized by all.
– Since its return, Hong Kong has joined us on our journey towards the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. As a special administrative region directly under the central government, Hong Kong was re-integrated into China's national governance system on the very day of its return. The central government exercises jurisdiction over Hong Kong in accordance with China's Constitution and the Basic Law of the HKSAR, and corresponding systems and institutions have been set up for the special administrative region. Hong Kong's ties with the mainland have grown increasingly closer, as have interactions and cooperation. The people of Hong Kong have played an active part in China's reform, opening up and modernization, and made their unique and important contribution to this endeavor. They have ever stronger confidence in China's development and national rejuvenation, and share with the people on the mainland the dignity and honor of our great country.
– Since its return, Hong Kong has maintained prosperity and stability. It has kept its distinct features and strengths. Its allure of being a vibrant metropolis where the East meets the West has remained as strong as ever. Under the principle of "one country, two systems", Hong Kong has retained its capitalist system and way of life, and its laws have remained basically unchanged. The people of Hong Kong, now masters of their own future, run their local affairs within the purview of the autonomy of the HKSAR. They enjoy more extensive democratic rights and freedoms than at any other time in its history.
Having withstood the impact of the Asian financial crisis, the SARS outbreak, and the global financial crisis, Hong Kong has emerged stronger as an international financial, shipping and trading center; and it has been consistently rated by many international institutions as one of the freest economies and most competitive regions in the world. Hong Kong has made substantial advances in many areas, increased its external interactions, and raised its international profile.
What has happened in Hong Kong fully demonstrates that "one country, two systems" provides the best solution to the historical question of Hong Kong and the best institutional arrangement to ensure Hong Kong's long-term prosperity and stability. "One country, two systems" has proved to be a workable solution and an achievable goal welcomed by the people.
"One country, two systems" is a great Chinese initiative. It offers a new thinking and a new formula to the international community in addressing similar issues. It is another contribution made by the Chinese nation to global peace and development. And it embodies the Chinese vision which values openness and inclusiveness. Upholding and implementing the principle of "one country, two systems" meet the interests of the people of Hong Kong, respond to the needs of maintaining its prosperity and stability, serve the fundamental interests of the nation, and meet the shared aspirations of all Chinese. That is why I have made it clear that the central government will never waver in its commitment to "one country, two systems" and make sure that it is fully applied in Hong Kong without any distortion or alteration. This will enable us to keep advancing in the right direction.
"One country, two systems" is a pioneering initiative that has no precedent. Its application is a process of evolution. Currently, some new developments are occurring and new issues emerging regarding its application in Hong Kong. Hong Kong needs to improve its systems to uphold national sovereignty, and ensure its security and development interests. It needs to enhance education on and raise public awareness of Chinese history and culture. It has yet to build public consensus on some major political and legal issues.
Hong Kong also faces several challenges in economic development. Its traditional strengths are beginning to lose their edge, while new drivers of growth are yet to emerge. Problems of housing and other issues that affect people's lives have become more acutely felt. To address these challenges, meet the expectations of the people for a better life, and advance Hong Kong's development in all sectors, we must stay on a true and steady course, gain a full understanding of "one country, two systems" and implement it faithfully.
And this is what I want to talk to you about.
First, it is imperative to have a correct understanding of the relationship between "one country" and "two systems". "One country" is like the roots of a tree. For a tree to grow tall and luxuriant, its roots must run deep and strong. "One country, two systems" was advanced, first and foremost, to realize and uphold national unity. That is why in the negotiations with the United Kingdom, we were categorical that sovereignty is not for negotiation. Now that Hong Kong has returned to China, it is all the more important for us to firmly safeguard China's sovereignty, security and development interests.
In conducting day-to-day affairs, we must have a strong sense of "one country" and firmly observe the "one country" principle, and thereby correctly handle the relationship between the HKSAR and the central government. Any attempt to endanger China's sovereignty and security, challenge the authority of the central government and the sanctity of the Basic Law of the HKSAR, or use Hong Kong as a channel for infiltration and sabotage against the mainland, is an act that crosses the red line, and is absolutely impermissible.
On the other hand, on the basis of "one country", the "two systems" should and can stay in harmony and reinforce each other. We must adhere to "one country" and respect the differences of the "two systems", uphold the power of the central government and ensure a high degree of autonomy in the HKSAR, give play to the role of the mainland as a staunch supporter of Hong Kong and enhance Hong Kong's own competitiveness. At no time should we focus only on one aspect to the neglect of the other. Only in this way can we ensure that the "one country, two systems" ship will maintain a steady course and reach its destination despite any rough seas.
Second, it is imperative to always act in accordance with the Constitution of the People's Republic of China and the Basic Law of the HKSAR. Hong Kong's return completed a major transformation of its constitutional order. The Constitution and the Basic Law together form the constitutional basis of the HKSAR. The Constitution is the fundamental law of China. It embodies the common will of the Chinese people, and represents the legal origin of the system of special administrative regions. Enacted in accordance with the Constitution, the Basic Law provides for the system and policies that should be practiced in the HKSAR, codifies and institutionalizes "one country, two systems", and provides legal safeguards for its practice in Hong Kong.
In observing the order prescribed by the Constitution and the Basic Law, it is important both for the central government to exercise power and for the HKSAR to fulfill its own responsibilities. We should improve the relevant institutions and mechanisms for implementing the Basic Law, and raise public awareness of the Constitution and the Basic Law in Hong Kong, particularly among civil servants and young people. These steps are integral to practicing "one country, two systems", advancing law-based governance nationwide, and upholding the rule of law in Hong Kong.
Third, it is imperative to stay focused on development as the top priority. Development, an abiding pursuit, is critical to Hong Kong's survival, and it holds the golden key to resolving issues there. "One country, two systems" was advanced to achieve two goals: namely, peacefully resuming the exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong, and maintaining its status as an international financial, shipping and trading center in order to promote further growth. Currently, more focus should be given to development. Teenagers want to grow up happy. Young people want to bring out the best of their talent. People in mature years want to be successful, and seniors want to enjoy their golden years. Obviously, all this can only be achieved through development. Hong Kong enjoys the backing of the motherland and is open to the world. It therefore has many favorable conditions for development and distinctive competitive advantages. In particular, China's continuous and rapid development over the years provides an invaluable opportunity, an inexhaustible source of strength, and a broad space for Hong Kong's development. As a saying in Hong Kong goes, "After leaving Suzhou, a traveler will find it hard to get a ride on a boat", meaning an opportunity missed is an opportunity lost. It is important to cherish the opportunity, seize it, and focus your energy on Hong Kong's development.
Fourth, it is imperative to always maintain a harmonious and stable social environment. "One country, two systems" gives expression to the vision of peace and harmony in Chinese culture. It embodies a very important tenet, namely, seeking broad common ground while setting aside major differences. Hong Kong is a pluralist society. So it comes as no surprise that there are different views and even major differences of opinion on some specific issues. However, politicizing everything or deliberately creating differences and provoking confrontation will not resolve these problems. On the contrary, it will only serve to hinder Hong Kong's economic and social development. Bear in mind the larger interests, communicate in a sensible way, and build greater consensus – this is the best way to find solutions to issues over time.
On the part of the central government, we are ready to talk to anyone who loves the country, loves Hong Kong, and genuinely supports the principle of "one country, two systems" and the Basic Law of the HKSAR, no matter what political views or position they may hold. Harmony brings good fortune, while discord leads to misfortune. Hong Kong is an affluent society, but it also faces enormous challenges posed by profound changes in the global economic environment and intense and growing international competition. It cannot afford to be torn apart by reckless moves or internal rifts. The people of Hong Kong must unite, work together and help each other, and by so doing, you will ensure the success of Hong Kong, your common home.
* Part of the speech at the Meeting Celebrating the 20th Anniversary of Hong Kong's Return to China and the Inaugural Ceremony of the Fifth-term Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
(Not to be republished for any commercial or other purposes.)