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A unified Hong Kong can achieve a better tomorrow

By Ho Lok-Sang | China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-09-17 09:10
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The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is now at a crossroads. In a sense, it is like a city under siege. We have been challenged by months of violence and political confrontations from unfriendly forces.

In response to the new National Security Law for Hong Kong, the United States passed the Hong Kong Autonomy Act in July, imposing sanctions against individuals, entities and financial institutions.

Together with the "President's Executive Order on Hong Kong Normalization", the US revoked Hong Kong's special status and preferential treatment. Even Hong Kong's exports have to be designated as "Made in China "instead of "Made in Hong Kong".

All of this is on top of the toll that the COVID-19 pandemic has taken on the Hong Kong economy. We have seen massive layoffs. We have seen many business closures and a surge in the government's fiscal deficit.

Hong Kong's tourism industry, one of the four pillar industries, is suffocating for want of both incoming and outgoing tourists.

Hong Kong is bound to face challenges from time to time. There are always things beyond our control that could become an "existential threat" if we do not have the wisdom to face them.

In 1995, Fortune magazine published an article announcing "The Death of Hong Kong". The article also accused China of "persistent backpedaling from its initial commitments to freedom and noninterference".

Data from the World Bank shows that since the handover, Hong Kong has advanced on many fronts.

Of course, the violent protesters failed to see this. Hong Kong SAR and China are sometimes wrongly accused of this and that. But this is no reason why we should lose heart. In the long run, it is our fortitude and steadfast adherence to our principles and core values that carry the day.

Recently, my former classmates at the University of Hong Kong jointly decided to send a letter of thanks to the team of mainland workers who came to Hong Kong amid the coronavirus pandemic to help process the hundreds of thousands of swab samples collected from across the city. At the time of writing, more than 1.67 million samples had been collected.

We wrote: "We are most grateful for your sacrifice and your toiling through day and night to help us identify silent carriers of the COVID-19 virus. Your hard work has now borne fruit, as the number of local infections has finally come down. Many of our businesses and their employees, who have suffered financial pain and mental stress for months, finally begin to see hope. We are sure that people across many industries and sectors like us are thankful and full of respect for you.

"We had the occasion to witness on TV how the hands of some of you have suffered from sores from long hours of work. A strong sense of indebtedness arose in our minds. On the one hand, we feel we could do nothing to correct the biases that some fellow (Hong Kong people) have harbored against our motherland; on the other hand, we are so proud of the fact that the motherland has nurtured so many talented workers who are so professional and so prepared to make sacrifices for noble causes. We are now more confident of our motherland having a great future."

It is increasingly clear that there is an important element in common among great achievers like Major General Chen Wei, who led her team to develop a vaccine against COVID-19; Zhong Nanshan, who led China's fight against COVID-19; Ren Zhengfei, who weathered so many difficulties and grew Huawei into the formidable player in information technology that he is inviting fear and loathing from the United States; and Jack Ma, who developed Alibaba into such a powerhouse despite disappointment after disappointment.

They are all bearers of Chinese culture. Indeed, the team of mainland workers who came to our aid share the same values and traits.

US President Donald Trump had pledged to "make America great again". But he is on the wrong track. Bullying, lying and intimidating cannot make America great. On the other hand, a culture of respect for life, natural environment, benevolence, perseverance, hard work and gratitude will.

If the people of Hong Kong come together for a good fight against all odds backed by Chinese values and culture, tomorrow can only be better.

The author is a senior research fellow at the Pan Sutong Shanghai-HK Economic Policy Research Institute of Lingnan University.

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