Fong Man-hung discusses the unique relationship between the SARs and mainland and what this means for the future
I had the honor of being invited by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government to join a delegation of dignitaries representing all sectors of Hong Kong and Macao on a recent visit to the mainland in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the nation’s reform and opening-up. The delegation was received by the central government in Beijing, including meeting with President Xi Jinping on Monday. The president shook hands with every one of more than 100 members of the Hong Kong and Macao delegation to show his respect. We were all touched and inspired by his speech, especially the conclusion that “Hong Kong and Macao’s roles are irreplaceable”. It conveys the central government’s recognition of Hong Kong and Macao compatriots’ contributions to the nation’s reform and opening-up, the great importance it attaches to the two SARs and sincere expectations.
The nation has dazzled the world with its magnificent achievements in the past 40 years thanks to the reform and opening-up drive, with Hong Kong and Macao both playing a unique role in it before and after their return to the motherland. Hong Kong started as an investor in the early years of reform and opening-up. It remained the front-runner in terms of economic growth for many years before mainland cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen caught up and even overtook it in recent years. That is the beauty of competition, because without it there would be no incentive to progress. It is safe to say the great majority of Hong Kong residents are proud of the nation’s achievements in economic development, because we are all members of the same nation and have experienced the same highs and lows together.
It warms my heart to realize the nation has not forgotten the contributions Hong Kong society has made to reform and opening-up, especially when Xi quoted an ancient poem in his speech to describe the ultimate relationship as transcending all social, economic, political and personal barriers. He also said Hong Kong and Macao compatriots invest in the mainland not only because they see business opportunities but also because they wish to see people there shake off poverty and the country become more prosperous, adding that all the donations by Hong Kong and Macao compatriots to education, healthcare and poverty alleviation on the mainland demonstrate not just compassion and charity but also family love.
I totally agree with Xi because generations of my family have been committed to various charitable causes on the mainland for more than 60 years even though we have no business interests there. The previous two generations of my family went through the same hardships the nation experienced during foreign invasion and civil wars, which adversely affected countless families in Hong Kong as well as on the mainland. Having seen and felt the sufferings of the Chinese nation in those harrowing years my grandparents and parents decided in 1956 to donate portions of their business income to charitable causes in the mainland, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan on a regular basis. So far we have funded more than 500 charitable projects, such as education, healthcare and social welfare facilities. Behind those donations is not just the belief that one virtuous deed deserves another but also brotherly love between fellow Chinese people. It is both comforting and encouraging to hear the president give his stamp of understanding and approval of the patriotic passion of Hong Kong society. It is hoped that the relationship between the motherland and Hong Kong and Macao will remain close and firm; equal emphasis will be put on business opportunities and patriotic passion, and everybody will join efforts in pursuing the “Chinese Dream” with one heart and one will.
Hong Kong has now returned to the motherland for over 21 years. With the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link and the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge both in service, it is much easier for people living in these regions to travel from one place to another than before and for cooperation between all regions concerned, not only bringing the regions closer but also facilitating deeper integration of Hong Kong’s development into the nation’s overall development strategy.
However, some Hong Kong residents are now concerned the city may lose its uniqueness as a result of economic integration with the mainland and even eventually become indistinguishable from mainland cities. Well, they can put such fear to rest because Xi assured Hong Kong and Macao residents on Sunday that “one country, two systems” is the greatest advantage of the two SARs and their unique and irreplaceable role in the country’s further reform and opening-up will remain. He also expressed the hope that Hong Kong and Macao will seize opportunities arising from the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area development and the Belt and Road Initiative to achieve greater progress in future.
The author is a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference