Hong Kong's handover a great success

Updated: 2007-01-02 09:03

HONG KONG -- As Hong Kong is preparing to celebrate the 10th anniversary of its return to the motherland in 2007, British Consul-General in Hong Kong Stephen Bradley said, " Ten years on, the handover has obviously been a great success."

"Clearly, people (in Hong Kong) are more optimistic. What is encouraging is that people see more clearly the very important role Hong Kong has to play in the huge development that is going on in the Chinese mainland," he said in an exclusive interview with Xinhua.

Bradley was assigned to Hong Kong at the end of 2003, when the economy of the special administrative region in southern China was bottoming out after being hit badly by the Asian financial crisis and SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome).

Over the past three years, the economic growth had been very strong, with booming property market, bullish stock market and diving of unemployment rate, said Bradley, noting few people are worried about the possibility of Hong Kong being overtaken by other Chinese cities such as Shanghai, because there is no question that Hong Kong is the international financial center.

He pointed to the listings of dozens of enterprises from the Chinese mainland in Hong Kong stock exchange, including the heavyweight Bank of China and the giant Industrial and Commercial Bank of China.

"That's just reinforced this role. I think people see more clearly where Hong Kong will fit into the developing economy of the mainland, and what it can offer and provide, and what it can gain from that," he said.

"In the short to medium term, I see a lot of positive factors for Hong Kong and a lot of reasons to be optimistic," he said, adding that looking five years ahead, the city is expected to develop steadily unless something unexpected happens.

In its 11th Five-Year Program (2006-2010), the Chinese government pledges to support Hong Kong's role as an international financial, trade and shipping center, and this is also the first time for the city to be included in China's national development program.

"I think this is feasible, as Hong Kong has many advantages," he said, citing the superior geographical location, good management, infrastructure and highly skilled personnel.

Before the handover in 1997, Bradley said, the most obvious concern for a lot of British people was that whether the Chinese government would honor the undertakings made in the Sino-British joint declaration, which were subsequently put into the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR).

According to the Basic Law, HKSAR will be governed by the people of HKSAR under the principles of "one country, two systems".

"But the concerns are long gone. I think ten years have shown that Hong Kong has been allowed to run itself and the government in Beijing has made great efforts to let Hong Kong to run itself,"he said.

"I think that is visible. We can argue about certain particular issues like politics and democracy, but I think on the fundamental point, the really central basis on which Hong Kong is built, there is no question at all," he said.

The consul-general said that both the British government and business people are gaining awareness of Hong Kong's potential role and are more relaxed when talking about Hong Kong, because Britain and HKSAR have established a new normal relationship with the colonial period a long past.

Even though Britain is no longer the governing power of Hong Kong, nevertheless, British interests in the city are as great as they ever were, he said.

"British people here and our commitment to Hong Kong's future success is as absolutely as it ever was," said Bradley.

He said one of the direct contribution of Britain to Hong Kong's prosperity is that after the handover, British investment in Hong Kong has been increasing instead of retreating.

Britain will continue to conduct exchanges and cooperation with HKSAR in all sectors such as economy, education and environmental protection to contribute to the prosperity of Hong Kong, he said.

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