President Xi Jinping gave Hong Kong and Macau a ringing endorsement as he set out how both cities blazed a trail during China’s economic reforms, and praised the cities as being among the “miracle creators” of the country’s development.
Xi also noted how the former European colonies had taken the lead during China’s successful reform and opening up over the past 40 years, investing on the mainland, setting examples of how market economies worked and serving as test beds for innovation.
He also named seven members of the Hong Kong elite and one from Macau’s as examples of the cities’ contributions.
The president spoke on Monday at a closed-door meeting with a delegation of top officials and business leaders from the semi-autonomous cities.
“Over the 40 years of reform and opening up, our country’s development has made historic achievements that have attracted world attention,” Xi said. “Hong Kong and Macau compatriots, as well as overseas companies and individuals based in Hong Kong and Macau, have their share of contributions. Regarding this, the mother country and people will never forget.
“Hong Kong and Macau compatriots, like mainland people, are both the creators of the country’s great miracle of reform and opening up.”
Xi said Hong Kong and Macau were the first to invest in the mainland, providing the first joint venture company there, the first joint venture motorway, the first branch of a non-local bank and the first five-star joint venture hotel. As of last year, he said, the cities had invested US$1 trillion on the mainland, accounting for 54 per cent of all outside investment.
The meeting involved top officials and more than 200 business and political leaders from the two cities. Several leading Beijing officials, such as Vice-Premier Han Zheng, were also present.
Hong Kong and Macau compatriots, like mainland people, are both the creators of the country’s great miracle of reform and opening up
President Xi Jinping
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor led the city’s 160-strong delegation. Her Macau counterpart Fernando Chui Sai-on took a group of 60 to the capital.
Xi took pains to show his close association with, and affection for, both cities in his closed-door speech, not missing a chance to remind people how he was personally involved in facilitating the cities’ contributions.
“I have very close knowledge of this,” he said. “When I was working in Fujian, Zhejiang and Shanghai, I planned and moved forward a lot of collaboration projects between the mainland and Hong Kong and Macau.”
He added that he was in charge of Hong Kong and Macau affairs after he joined the central government in 2007.
“I got to know many Hong Kong and Macau friends in this process.”
Offering examples of the cities’ key contributors to the nation, Xi referenced the Zhong Shan Hot Spring Hotel, built in 1979 by late Hong Kong tycoon Henry Fok Ying-tung and Macau’s gambling mogul Stanley Ho Hung-sun. Xi said he visited the hotel personally.
He credited former Hong Kong chief executive Leung Chun-ying for hosting free workshops in 1978 on the “Western land administrative system” in Shenzhen and Shanghai, and participating in drafting the country’s first land tendering document in 1987 in Shenzhen.
Anthony Neoh, the chief adviser to the China Securities Regulatory Commission between 1998 and 2004, and Laura Cha Shih May-lung, who chairs the Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing, helped establish the norms of the mainland’s securities market, Xi said.
Other individuals named included the late Hong Kong film mogul Run Run Shaw, the city’s late philanthropist Tin Ka-ping, and truck driver turned philanthropist Wong Fuk-wing, who sacrificed his life saving others during an earthquake in Yushu county, Qinghai, in 2010.
After the meeting, National People’s Congress deputy Brave Chan Yung said, Xi also mentioned former Hong Kong chief executive Tung Chee-hwa and former Macau chief executive Edmund Ho Hau-wah for helping to promote China in the United States and Portuguese-speaking countries.
Xi also praised former World Health Organisation chief Margaret Chan Fung Fu-chun for her work at the international body, according to the NPC deputy.
In the speech, Xi said the “one country, two systems” policy – under which both cities are government by Beijing but promised a high degree of autonomy – was their “greatest advantage”.
He urged the cities to grab the opportunities of the “Belt and Road Initiative” and “Greater Bay Area” plan. The former refers to Beijing’s global trade strategy, while the bay area scheme is a plan that seeks to turn Hong Kong, Macau and nine nearby mainland cities into a financial and innovation hub to rival California’s Silicon Valley.
Xi called on the cities to “more actively” help the country’s full-scale opening up, integrate into the country’s development, safeguard the country’s political system and national security, and promote international cultural exchanges.
City leader Lam said on Tuesday the government would seriously study how the president’s hopes could be integrated into policies.