Toast at the Welcome Dinner Held by the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region
30 June 2017
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying,
Chief Executive-Elect Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor,
Good evening! It gives me great pleasure to come back to this beautiful city after an interval of nine years and celebrate with you the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to the motherland. On behalf of the Central Government and people of all ethnic groups across China, I would like to extend our warmest greetings and best wishes to you and, through you, to all Hong Kong residents.
– Time keeps rolling on. In the blink of an eye, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is 20 years old. The moving occasion of Hong Kong’s return to the motherland in 1997, like a long-separated child coming back to the warm embrace of his mother, is still vivid in our memory. We still recall the solemn ceremony of the transfer of government in Hong Kong, the playing of the stirring national anthem of the People’s Republic of China and the raising of the national flag of the People’s Republic of China and the regional flag of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. We still recall the joy and excitement of Hong Kong people who cheered the processions of the People’s Liberation Army Hong Kong Garrison despite downpours. And we still recall the festive celebrations across China where people were singing and dancing to hail Hong Kong’s return. These historical scenes have become a part of the collective memory of all the Chinese people.
– All crops grow through cultivation. Over the last two decades, the practice of “One Country, Two Systems” in Hong Kong, like the growth of a seedling, has become strong and robust despite wind and rain and yielded many fruits. The SAR system established under the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China and the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region has operated effectively, and democracy in Hong Kong has been advanced in accordance with law. The multiple indicators of governance of the HKSAR such as government effectiveness and the rule of law are much higher than those before Hong Kong’s return to the motherland. Hong Kong enjoys steady economic growth and remains one of the most competitive and free economies in the world. Hong Kong has maintained social stability and scored great progress in various fields of endeavor. Its average life expectancy is one of the highest in the world. While such achievements would not have been possible without the strong support of the Central Government and the mainland, they are primarily attributed to the unity and hard work of the HKSAR Government and people of Hong Kong. Here, I wish to salute you, the people of Hong Kong and all those in Hong Kong who have made such achievements possible.
– Now is the time to build on past achievements and make new progress. “One Country, Two Systems” is a great pioneering initiative by China. Its practice, featuring socialism in the main body of the country and capitalism in certain regions, is unprecedented in human political history. It is a breakthrough those before us made through exploration and with extraordinary courage. We the succeeding generation should practice and develop “One Country, Two Systems” with firm resolve. The road ahead may not be smooth, but our commitment to “One Country, Two Systems” remains unchanged, and our resolve remains firm and strong. We are fully confident that we are able to “ride the wind and cleave the waves”, and achieve even greater success in the practice of “One Country, Two Systems” in Hong Kong through persistent and unrelenting efforts like sifting through sand thousands of times to find gold.
On this occasion, I wish to share with Hong Kong compatriots the importance of having confidence in the following three areas:
First, we should have confidence in ourselves. We Chinese are a great people. Our time-honored 5,000-year civilization is the only ancient civilization that has survived with no interruption. For a great part of recorded history, the Chinese nation led the world in economic, scientific, cultural, art and other fields, and contributed much to the progress of human civilization. China lagged behind other countries in modern times, but that has changed since the founding of New China in 1949. The Chinese nation, under the leadership of the Communist Party of China and thanks to dedicated efforts of the Chinese people of several generations, has proudly taken its place among the nations of the world.
Thanks to the hard work of several generations of its people, Hong Kong has transformed itself from an unknown fishing village into a world-renowned modern metropolis. The key to Hong Kong’s success lies in its people’s love of the country and Hong Kong, and their perseverance, pursuit of excellence and adaptability. I want to particularly commend Hong Kong people’s participation in and significant contribution to China’s reform, opening-up and modernization drive. The Central Government and people across the country have never forgotten what you have done. The people of Hong Kong have the ability and wisdom to administer Hong Kong well and achieve greater development and progress in Hong Kong. I am sure you will continue to do all you can for the development of the country and distinguish yourselves on the world stage.
Second, we should have confidence in Hong Kong. Hong Kong is blessed with many favorable conditions and unique strengths for development. It has a highly free and open economy featuring free flow of factors of production such as personnel, goods and capital, and this is a major factor in both attracting international capital and retaining local capital. With its internationally recognized legal, accounting and regulatory systems, a full-fledged service sector, clean and efficient government and business-friendly environment, Hong Kong has the full confidence of outside investors. Hong Kong is an important international financial, shipping and trade center, a major conduit connecting the mainland and international markets and a two-way service platform for China both to attract foreign investment and enter the international market. Hong Kong is by far the mainland’s biggest source of external direct investment and non-local financing platform, and it has grown into the mainland’s largest non-local investment destination and the biggest offshore RMB business center in the world. More importantly, the practice of “One Country, Two Systems” has given Hong Kong an institutional advantage, enabling it both to share in the mainland’s vast market and development opportunities and serve as a testing ground for the country’s new opening-up initiatives, and this gives Hong Kong an edge in pursuing development. Pilot programs of the Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect and the Shenzhen-Hong Kong Stock Connect have both been launched in Hong Kong, so will be the “Bond Connect”. By building on and leveraging these strengths, Hong Kong will surely be able to keep and attract investment and talents, seize opportunities presented by economic globalization and regional cooperation to promote innovative local business start-ups, and develop new growth drivers. The legendary city of Hong Kong by the Lion Rock will surely open a new chapter of development and prosperity.
Third, we should have confidence in our country. The motherland has given and will always give a strong backing to Hong Kong. Thanks to close to 40 years of reform and opening-up, China has made big strides forward: from first managing to stand on its feet to becoming prosperous and strong. China is now the world’s second largest economy and its leading manufacturer and trader in goods. China has the world’s largest foreign exchange reserves, and it has contributed more to global economic growth than any other country. Its scientific and technological strength is rising, with advanced achievements made that include the high-performance computer, manned spaceflight, lunar exploration program, quantum communications, Beidou Navigation Satellite System and manned deep-sea submersible. China’s high-speed railway has entered the world market. The independently-developed C919 airliner made a successful maiden flight. Our circle of friends is growing: The China-initiated Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank now has 80 approved members, and over 100 countries, regions and international organizations have actively participated in the Belt and Road Initiative launched by China. The Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation was successfully held in Beijing six weeks ago, and China’s call to boost global development has added strong impetus to the endeavor of building a community of shared future for mankind. An increasingly prosperous motherland serves as a source of strength for Hong Kong to overcome difficulties and challenges; it also presents a reservoir of opportunities for Hong Kong to break new ground, foster new driving force and create new space for development. When our country does well, Hong Kong will do even better.
A popular song in Hong Kong has this line: “Self-confidence is so important. Open up your mind and your dream will come true.” We should have full confidence in ourselves, in Hong Kong and in our country, fully and faithfully implement the policies of “One Country, Two Systems”, “Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong” and a high degree of autonomy, abide by the Basic Law of the HKSAR, and make focused and concerted efforts to pursue development. By doing so, we can certainly deliver an even brighter future for Hong Kong.
To conclude, I wish to propose a toast:
To a prosperous and strong China and the great renewal of the Chinese nation;
To the long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong; and
To the health of all the friends present and your families.