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Speech at Cocktail Reception Celebrating The 20th Anniversary of Hong Kong's Return to China

By H.E. Ambassador Chen Xiaodong

Your Excellency Mrs Josephine Teo, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, Second Minister for Manpower and Second Minister for Foreign Affairs,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

    Good evening! Welcome to the reception celebrating 20 years of Hong Kong's return to the motherland.

    On the first of July 1997, the Chinese government resumed the exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong. Hong Kong finally returned to the embrace of the motherland after more than a century. This opened a brand new chapter in Hong Kong's history.

    20 years have since passed. With the full support of the Central Government and the mainland, Hong Kong has forged ahead despite difficulties, and its all-round progress is well-recognized across the world.

    The past two decades has seen successful practice of "one country, two systems". The Central Government faithfully implemented the principles of "one country, two systems", "Hong Kong people governing Hong Kong" and a high degree of autonomy. We acted in strict accordance with the Constitution of China and the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR).

    As a result, the capitalist system, the way of life and the majority of laws in Hong Kong have all remained unchanged. "One country, two systems" has shown strong vitality, and its practice has been widely accepted and acclaimed in Hong Kong and worldwide.

    The past two decades has seen steady progress in Hong Kong's democratic development. Both the Central Government and the Government of the Hong Kong SAR endeavor to promote Hong Kong's democracy according to law. Today, Hong Kong citizens enjoy wide-ranging rights and freedoms, more than at any other time in history.

    Hong Kong has ranked at the very top on the Human Freedom Index for six years running. In the area of rule of law, it rose from below 60th in 1996 to the 11th in 2015.

    During the election of the fifth Chief Executive held in March this year, both the number of registered voters and voter turnout reached record highs. Ms. Carrie Lam was elected with high margins to be Hong Kong's first female Chief Executive. The election highlighted the maturing of Hong Kong's democracy.

    The past two decades has seen solid progress in Hong Kong in economic and social fields. Hong Kong emerged stronger after a string of challenges, from the Asian financial crisis, the SARS epidemic to the global financial crisis. Not only was its economy doubled in size, it has also been ranked the world's freest economy for 20 years in a row.

    Hong Kong maintained its position as the financial, trading and shipping center in the Asia-Pacific and beyond. Numerous indices show that Hong Kong's performance in human development, health, government efficiency and anti-corruption all made big improvement compared with 20 years ago.

    The past two decades has seen faster integration between Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland. The mainland has always been a firm supporter for Hong Kong's prosperity and stability while Hong Kong has served as a"super-connector" between China and the world.

    The Central Government has introduced a series of preferential policies for Hong Kong, such as the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement-CEPA, the Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect and the Shenzhen-Hong Kong Stock Connect.

    Hong Kong has become the biggest source of investment as well as a key financing platform and offshore RMB center for the mainland. The mainland stands as Hong Kong's largest trading partner and a major source of investment. Such interdependence and integrated development has been deepening.

    The past two decades has seen expanding relations between Hong Kong and the world. Supported by the Central Government, Hong Kong took an active part in international affairs. It has joined 42 important international organizations under the name of "Hong Kong, China" and signed over 250 international conventions and 200 plus bilateral agreements.

    As the "capital for international conventions" in the Asia-Pacific, Hong Kong hosts an average of over 300 major events per year. In recent years it has hosted the equestrian competitions of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, the fifth East Asian Games and the Asian Financial Forum.

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

    Hong Kong has traveled a remarkable journey over the past twenty years, and the "Pearl of the Orient" now shines even more brightly. Hong Kong's achievements have not come easily and the experiences along the way should be cherished.

    First, stay true to "one country, two systems". Facts have proven, it is not only the best solution to the Hong Kong question left over from history, but also the best institutional arrangement for the long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong after its return to the motherland.

    As President Xi Jinping stressed, the key to Hong Kong's success lies in the comprehensive and faithful understanding and implementation of "one country, two systems" and safeguarding the authority of the Basic Law.

    At the same time, we know that "one country, two systems" is a pioneering endeavor, where there is no ready experience to draw on. We can only "cross the river by feeling for the stones." But no matter how things evolve, our commitment to the full and accurate implementation of "one country, two systems" will never change. We will abide by the Constitution and the Basic Law and promote all-round development of Hong Kong. We will make sure the practice of "one country, two systems" moves forward in the right direction, without being bent or distorted.

    Second, always have faith in the motherland. Hong Kong has the Chinese mainland at its back and opens up to the entire world. That is its greatest advantage. Although the Chinese economy has entered the "new normal", Hong Kong's role as a window and platform for the mainland has only increased.

    I believe Hong Kong will seek greater synergy with major national strategies. It will seize the opportunities presented by projects like the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Big Bay Area and find overlapping areas of what the country needs and where Hong Kong does well. This will help deepen Hong Kong's potential for economic development.

    In particular, with the Belt and Road Initiative making steady progress, Hong Kong's position as the "super-connector" is even more solid. Its competitive edge in institution, location, expertise and talent is all the more prominent. All this means broader prospects for its participation in the Belt and Road initiative.

    Third, stay committed to maintaining stability and improving people's well-being. These two tasks are the most important goals for Hong Kong and the common wish of the Hong Kong people. The sustained economic growth and ever-improving livelihood are the very foundations for social stability and the democratic system of Hong Kong.

    We are confident that the new SAR government will unite and lead the Hong Kong people and always put the city's interests and long-term prospects first. They will maintain rational communication, and work in one mind to address people's concerns and uphold the rule of law to ensure Hong Kong's lasting stability and prosperity.

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

    Singapore has much in common with Hong Kong in history, culture and growth model. Both were members of the "Four Asian Tigers." Both are held as best examples for urban development in Asia.

    As important financial, trading and shipping centers in the Asia-Pacific and beyond, Hong Kong has the mainland at its back, and Singapore reaches out across Southeast Asia. There is enormous space for Hong Kong and Singapore to work together. With mutual learning, Hong Kong and Singapore could usher in a new chapter of win-win cooperation.

    Faced with backlash against economic globalization, regional integration and rising protectionism, Hong Kong and Singapore have a lot to do as supporters and advocates for free trade and open economy.

    We hope that Hong Kong and Singapore will strengthen economic ties with each other and jointly participate in the Belt and Road initiative. They have a big role to play to boost regional economic and trade cooperation and promote the growth and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific.

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

    In two days' time, on 1st July, a ceremony will be held in Hong Kong to mark the 20th anniversary of its return, and the new Hong Kong SAR government will be sworn in. President Xi Jinping will attend these events and make important remarks.

    Let's look forward to the celebrations and share the joy and excitement together.

    To conclude, I would like to propose a toast,

    To the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong and the happiness of the Hong Kong people.


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