National leader’s July 1 speech gives Hong Kong much-needed confidence

The political tradition in China attaches prophetic importance to leaders’ words, be it in speeches or writing, to shed light on the future path of the nation. Likewise, President Xi Jinping’s remarks delivered on his inspection tour of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region for the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the reunification with the motherland were deemed to forecast the future of “one country, two systems” practices in the city.

When making second-guesses about the future of the “one country, two systems” framework, we must praise President Xi for his wisdom embedded in the keynote speech delivered on July 1. Great leaders are those who can cast invaluable light on the future and proclaim the edicts that shape the new age. Chairman Mao Zedong’s Report on an Investigation of the Peasant Movement in Hunan (March 1927), for example, laid down the correct, though then-controversial, strategy of revolution by tapping the huge history-making potential of the grassroots peasants in the countryside. He correctly predicted that the peasants would sweep all the imperialists, warlords, corrupt officials, local tyrants and evil gentry into their graves. Thus a new China would be established at the hands of the new force.

Likewise, President Xi’s remarks on Hong Kong marked the formation of the new special administrative region, and Luo Huining, director of the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, correctly pointed out that the speech was a milestone in its significance. We see a strong case for using the president’s remarks as a basis for making projections about the future practice of “one country, two systems” in the SAR. Three aspects of importance need to be discussed at the initial stage to put his words into action.

First, President Xi has set out four necessary conditions for the successful implementation of “one country, two systems” in the city (“the four necessary principles”). Secondly, he has laid down a “four proposals list” for the new SAR government (“the to-do list”). Finally, he has affirmed that the principle will be adhered to over the long run. His affirmation reminds us that the accurate understanding of the “one country, two systems” principle entails tangible results, and the success in Hong Kong can be repeated in other places.

The four fundamental principles are: implementing the “one country, two systems” in an accurate and comprehensive manner; exercising the city’s high degree of autonomy firmly within the framework of overall jurisdiction of the central government; adhering to the principle of “patriots administering Hong Kong”; and maintaining Hong Kong’s unique status, free and open business environment and the common law system.

The fourth fundamental principle has unprecedentedly brought to the forefront the need to preserve the common law system and independent judiciary in the city. The heads of the Bar Association and the Law Society of Hong Kong called Xi’s tone-setting assurances encouraging, while Secretary for Justice Paul Lam Ting-kwok said such assurances painted a rosy picture for the city in the long run.

At a time of mounting concerns about the future of the principle as Hong Kong progresses toward 2047 and doubts about Beijing’s long-term commitment to the “one country, two systems” principle and related provisions stipulated in the Basic Law, President Xi gave the most definitive answer to the important question of how long the principle will last

With its emphasis on judicial precedents, the common law system is more flexible than the civil law system. It is also open to innovation. The common law system is business-friendly because it enables businesses to predict legal outcomes with a much higher degree of certainty. The common law system is as important now as it has ever been for Hong Kong to retain its status as an international financial center. It has also put Hong Kong in a special position that no other Chinese city can yet match.

The to-do list outlines the tasks for the new administration under Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu. The tasks are: improving governance, strengthening the momentum of development, solving deep-rooted livelihood issues, and ensuring harmony. In line with his emphasis on the need to reach out to the deep grassroots, President Xi has gathered sufficient firsthand information to afford him a comprehensive and correct understanding of the needs of the masses in the city. According to President Xi, what the people of Hong Kong desire the most are a better life, a bigger flat, more business startup opportunities, better education for kids, and better elderly care. Consideration has also been given to the problems faced by the young people of Hong Kong.

The tasks ahead for the sixth-term SAR government are daunting and challenging. In response to President Xi’s expectations, the chief executive should form a strong governing team capable of mobilizing the support of the entire bureaucracy, go deep into the masses by conducting regular site visits, and implement effective policies to solve the deep-seated livelihood problems of Hong Kong. Lee deserves great credit for his plan to set up four task forces to tackle pressing livelihood issues. He has also stressed the need to foster a stronger accountability culture. Lee and his governing team should try their best to live up to President Xi’s expectations.

At a time of mounting concerns about the future of the principle as Hong Kong progresses toward 2047 and doubts about Beijing’s long-term commitment to the “one country, two systems” principle and related provisions stipulated in the Basic Law, President Xi gave the most definitive answer to the important question of how long the principle will last. President Xi stated in no uncertain terms that “one country, two systems” is a good system with strong vitality that should be long-lasting. Luo said President Xi’s assurances had injected self-confidence into Hong Kong society and is a “confidence booster” for the misinformed and those questioning the sustainability and feasibility of the principle. The international community should also take these assurances to heart.

It is safe to say that more than 7 million Hong Kong residents are deeply grateful to President Xi for the “confidence booster”. There is a strong case to be made that Hong Kong’s success lies in upholding our country’s sovereignty, national security and developmental interests under the premise of “one country”, while capitalizing on the golden opportunities offered by the “two systems”. A bright future is ahead of us if we faithfully comply with the four fundamental principles.

Junius Ho Kwan-yiu is a Legislative Council member and a solicitor. Kacee Ting Wong is a barrister, part-time researcher of Shenzhen University Hong Kong and the Macao Basic Law Research Center, and co-founder of the Together We Can and Hong Kong Coalition.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.