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From left: Anson Chan, former Hong Kong chief secretary; Fred Hu, chairman of Primavera Capital Group; and Xiao Minjie, senior economist at SMBC Nikko Securities.
Politics

Hong Kong awaits 'reassuring message' from Beijing: former official

Panelists foresee territory's bright future under 'one country, two systems' principle

TOKYO -- China should live up to its pledge to respect the status of the former British colony, Anson Chan, former chief secretary of Hong Kong, said during a panel discussion on the second day of the Future of Asia conference Tuesday in Tokyo.

The discussion was entitled, "Hong Kong 20 Years After the Handover -- Implications for Greater China."  

"Hong Kong people feel that, increasingly, China is eroding the concept of 'one country, two systems,' eroding Hong Kong's lifestyle, and infringing on basic rights and freedoms," Chan said.

This sentiment is shared by large portions of the population, feeding the pro-democracy Umbrella Movement in 2014 that jammed major city intersections in the city, Chan said.

Noting that Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to attend the 20th anniversary of the former colony's handover to China on July 1, Chan stated: "We sincerely hope that our president will use this occasion to bring a reassuring message to Hong Kong and others that [China] understands, and is prepared to adhere to, the solemn promises that it made to the people of Hong Kong when the joint declaration was signed by Britain and China, followed by the promulgation of the basic law."

Other experts also delivered speeches from both administrative and economic viewpoints on the achievements and future prospects of Hong Kong's "one country, two systems" status.

From an economic point of view, "I think the handover has been an unqualified success," said Fred Hu, chairman of China-based investment firm Primavera Capital Group.

The real gross domestic product of Hong Kong has grown 3.4% on average since the handover, outpacing growth rates achieved by member states of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Hu added.

The chairman said that Hong Kong has become a major financial center, and a bridge between China and the world economy, overcoming the Asian financial crisis of 1997-1998 and the global financial crisis of 2008-2009.

Hu thinks the territory's future is bright as long it can adhere to basic democratic principals. Specifically, Hong Kong should remain autonomous from China and adopt measures to address income inequality, such as enabling low-income young people to buy homes. He also stressed the need for creating a vibrant, start-up economy that can offer new opportunities to younger generations.

Xiao Minjie, senior economist at SMBC Nikko Securities, said Hong Kong remains in an advantageous social position, citing its legal system, although Shenzhen and other areas have also achieved high growth.

China is promoting its Belt and Road Initiative and use of the yuan for international transactions. And Hong Kong is the "optimal platform" for furthering China's global ambitions, according to Xiao.

The experts noted that Hong Kong -- which has a history of established, liberal policies owing to the "one country, two systems" principle -- will remain at the crossroads of China and the world, and see its role increase.

Hong Kong will remain an open pluralistic society that will embrace globalization, multilateralism, free trade, transparency and accountable government, Chan said. "This would be good not just for Hong Kong, but for our country as a whole."

Hu predicted that Hong Kong will remain the prosperous, vibrant and free society that it is today. "Part of my optimism really depends on ongoing transformation of China itself," he said.

The emergence of the middle class and mobile internet are two powerful forces that will drive change in China, which will ultimately benefit Hong Kong, Hu said.

(Nikkei)

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