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Nation's commitment Hong Kong's biggest asset

By Jason Lee | China Daily Global | Updated: 2022-06-24 08:52
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Pedestrians walk under a raft of national and HKSAR flags. Andy Chong/China Daily

Hong Kong's first 25 years after its return to the motherland have been an extraordinary and bumpy journey. The "one country, two systems" principle has been tested by various daunting challenges, yet we can proudly say that Hong Kong has braved them all.

Some say that Hong Kong is a blessed land, and that we have always had good luck staying out of harm's way. I respectfully disagree. Hong Kong residents are resilient and hardworking, and despite differing viewpoints, when faced with adversity, we join together as one and conquer all odds.

However, there were numerous moments when the problems were so great that they were beyond our capacity, and we still triumphed because the motherland was always there for us.

Let's start by rolling back to the early days immediately after the handover 25 years ago, when the 1997 Asian financial crisis erupted.

Just three months after its reunification with the motherland, Hong Kong saw its dollar come under speculative pressure. Stock markets were also stormed by short sellers. The special administrative region government declared a war against international speculators by bravely snapping up stocks from the market with hundreds of billions of Hong Kong dollars to defend the currency and the Hang Seng Index. And we won. Hong Kong not only safeguarded the value of its assets but also its international financial center status.

Behind this historic victory was the central government's firm support. When Hong Kong people felt unsure about the city's future, then-premier Zhu Rongji resolutely pledged to the city and the international community that Beijing would safeguard Hong Kong's prosperity at all costs. The central government deployed two deputy central bank governors to the city and gave Hong Kong a guarantee with its $120 billion foreign exchange reserve to back up the SAR in the battle against international speculators.

At that time, the Chinese mainland was not as strong, but still gave all it had. That is the ultimate source of confidence for the SAR government and the local people. And confidence is more valuable than gold.

Five years later, in 2003, Hong Kong was struck by the SARS epidemic. The central government, which was also having a hard time wrestling with this public health crisis, again stood up to help. According to previous reports, it provided over 15 metric tons of medical protective clothing and a great volume of other equipment to the city.

Later, as Hong Kong slipped into recession and the local unemployment rate hit a historic high, the central government introduced the Individual Visit Scheme to facilitate the influx of mainland visitors to Hong Kong in the hope of injecting new momentum into the city's economy and help ease its unemployment situation. Hong Kong's retail, catering, hotel and tourism industries, which sustain a large proportion of the city's employment force, rebounded quickly and achieved further development as a result.

Our memories of the 2019 riots must still be fresh. No one could have predicted that the riots would escalate so rampantly in a city with a long history of peace and order, and that severe violence would reach such proportions. It demonstrated that a national security crisis in Hong Kong was real, and that it had the potential to become extremely serious and catastrophic.

Imagine how this tragedy might have unfolded if Hong Kong had had to face it alone. We may still be enslaved by mob rule. The city's lifelines, such as trade, logistics, finance and tourism, would almost certainly be paralyzed. In just a few years, the city might have lost its competitiveness.

The central government was the one that made the tough decision to enact the National Security Law for Hong Kong, putting an end to the chaos and allowing Hong Kong to take a deep breath and resume law and order. And that is the bedrock of any development, anywhere around the world.

History is the best testimony. Some argue that "two systems" is the essence of the governing principle and "one country" is just "political correctness". But facts tell us a different story: "One country" is always the foundation, without which Hong Kong might already have perished in any of the extreme crises mentioned.

Hong Kong is a strong city, and we are prepared for more challenges ahead. However, only with the strong support of the mainland can Hong Kong pursue its dreams without burdens. Only with a firm stance on "one country" can the city maintain its freedom and openness. The principle is not just a constitutional requirement for Hong Kong, but part of the nation's promise to the city: "Whatever situation you might be in, I will have your back, always."

That commitment has been proved time and time again in the past 25 years and surely will continue to be proved in the future.

The author is a member of the Zhongshan City Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference in Guangdong province and executive vice-chairman of the Hong Kong CPPCC Youth Association. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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