Hong Kong SAR embraces a bright future as it turns 25
John Leung

Editor's note: Decision Makers is a global platform for decision makers to share their insights on events shaping today's world. John Leung is the Director of the Office of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China in Beijing. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

July 1 is a memorable and joyful day for Hong Kong people, particularly for those who witnessed the return of the city to the motherland and the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) under the principle of "One Country, Two Systems" 25 years ago.

Some Western media predicted the "death of Hong Kong" in the run up to 1997 and after. But such predictions have been proved wrong. Over the past 25 years, Hong Kong did face various challenges, from the Asian financial tsunami in 1997, SARS in 2003, the Great Recession of 2008, social turmoil in 2019, to the COVID-19 pandemic that started in late 2019. Nevertheless, with the strong support of the central government, Hong Kong has shown immense resilience, riding through these difficult times and going from strength to strength. 

The successful implementation of "One Country, Two Systems" has proved to be the fundamental safeguard for Hong Kong's long-term prosperity and stability. After months of social unrest in 2019, Hong Kong has regained stability with the implementation of the national security law and improvements to its electoral systems in the past two years. As we ride out the COVID-19 pandemic, the new SAR government, which takes office on July 1, is gearing up to embark on a new chapter for building our economy and improving people's livelihood.

The National 14th Five-Year Plan, approved by the National People's Congress in March 2021, has opened up vast opportunities under the concept of "dual circulation" for economic development driven by innovation and reform. As a gateway, springboard and intermediary for economic and cultural exchanges, Hong Kong is an important channel for the country to connect with the international community. We have entered an era of opportunities, further leveraging the advantages of "One Country" and "Two Systems." 

Hong Kong is committed to upgrading our four traditional centers of finance transportation, trade and international legal and dispute resolution services. We are also playing to our strengths in four emerging areas: innovation and technology, aviation, international cultural exchanges, and intellectual property trading.  

We are glad to see significant developments in some of these strategic areas in the past few months.

In terms of innovation and technology, InnoHK, Hong Kong's flagship initiative for promoting global research collaboration, was officially launched on May 25.  The initiative puts Hong Kong on the global advanced technology map. A total of 28 research laboratories have been admitted, involving seven local universities and research institutions, as well as over 30 institutions from 11 economies, and pooling up to 2,000 researchers locally and from all over the world.

The groundbreaking ceremony for the Chinese Medicine Hospital (CMH) and the Government Chinese Medicines Testing Institute (GCMTI) held on June 2 were two more noteworthy events. The CMH will promote the development of services, education, training, innovation and research of Chinese Medicine in Hong Kong. The GCMTI will specialize in the testing and scientific research of Chinese Medicine, with a focus on the research and establishment of internationally recognized reference standards on Chinese Medicine safety, quality and testing methodology. Both institutions are due to be completed in 2025. 

Hong Kong has come a long way in advancing innovation and technology as part of its efforts to diversify Hong Kong's economy. Over the past five years, the SAR government has invested over HK$150 billion ($19 billion) and rolled out a series of measures to encourage R&D, nurture talents and improve infrastructure.

Our commitment to innovation and technology development is also featured in the Northern Metropolis Development Strategy, which will guide Hong Kong's visionary development through the next decade. The blueprint aims to develop a new city center with the innovation and technology industry as the economic engine. The development of the Northern Metropolis will also enhance the cooperation between Hong Kong and Shenzhen, and facilitate our integration into the overall development of our country.

On international dispute resolution services, the Asian-African Legal Consultative Organization (AALCO) opened its Hong Kong Regional Arbitration Center on May 25. The establishment of the center marks a major milestone in the development of Hong Kong as a leading center for international legal and dispute resolution services in the Asia-Pacific region, and constitutes a significant vote of confidence from the Central Government and the AALCO to Hong Kong.

An external view of the Hong Kong Palace Museum in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China. /CFP

An external view of the Hong Kong Palace Museum in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China. /CFP

On the cultural front, Hong Kong's newest arts and cultural landmark, the Hong Kong Palace Museum (HKPM), held its opening ceremony on June 22. As a collaborative project between the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority and the Palace Museum in Beijing, the HKPM promotes the study and appreciation of Chinese art and culture, and it will also foster cultural exchanges with the international community. It marks a new chapter for Hong Kong in developing itself into an East-meets-West center for international cultural exchange as outlined in the 14th Five-Year Plan.

We are also pursuing new initiatives on other fronts. For example, on financial services, the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong regulators recently reached an agreement to include exchange-traded funds (ETFs) in the "Stock Connect" program. This will allow investors to trade eligible ETFs listed on both the mainland and Hong Kong exchanges by using local securities firms or brokerages. On aviation, Hong Kong is completing its third runway for meeting long-term air traffic demand at Hong Kong International Airport and strengthening its status as a leading aviation hub. The entire three-runway system is expected to be finished in 2024, tying in with the expected revival of the aviation industry.

No one could underestimate the challenges ahead in an increasingly turbulent global environment. But the proactive moves highlighted above show that Hong Kong is ready to usher in a new era that enables it to shine even brighter as the Pearl of the Orient in the next 25 years and beyond. Both the solid backing of the country and the joint efforts of the Hong Kong people will hold the key for the future success of the SAR.

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