Weathering the Storm with Strong Will
Our Hong Kong Foundation Mid-Year Business Meeting
Speech by Chairman Mr C.H. TUNG
【31 July 2019】 Hello, everyone. All of us here are people who care about Hong Kong and wish for a progressive Hong Kong going forward. I guess everyone is feeling anxious and distressed about the present situation around us. Taking this opportunity today, I would like to share my view and listen to your opinions, with the anticipation that stability will hopefully resume in Hong Kong as soon as possible.
Today, Hong Kong is going through an unprecedented storm—a storm triggered mainly by the extradition bill. With the suspension of the amendments to the bill by the HKSAR Government, this storm should have subsided. However, the situation has instead developed to such a point now that it has not improved, but rather, deteriorated. The turnover of businesses in the retail and catering industries has dropped significantly, as the market shows. The longer the protests persist, the greater the impact they have on SMEs and small businesses, on the number of visitors coming to Hong Kong, and on the desire of foreign companies to invest in Hong Kong. The employment and livelihood of our citizens will be affected in the long run.
Be Alert to Foreign Intervention
If we observe carefully, this political storm has exasperated rapidly and its scale is massive. The organisation of the protests seems to be loose and yet well-planned and clandestine. It is obviously different from movements we saw in the past. We have reasons to believe that this storm was promoted by behind-the-scene forces from outside, and traces of evidence that Taiwan and the United States may be involved.
In fact, since the reunification with China, Hong Kong, due to its special status, has been regarded by foreign politicians and anti-China forces with ulterior motives as a perfect ground to operate on. They have capitalised on the institutional differences between Hong Kong and the mainland to incite fear among Hong Kong citizens against the Communist Party and undermine the relationship between the mainland and Hong Kong. Their fundamental objective is to make Hong Kong a battleground for international forces and a base in opposition to the Central Government, thereby using Hong Kong to constrain China. We, the Hong Kong people, must not be manipulated.
All peaceful and rational Hong Kong citizens must be vigilant. The slogan of the protest movement has now shifted from "Against the extradition bill" to so-called “Liberate Hong Kong / Revolution of our times"; the protests also escalated from raiding the Legislative Council to attacking Central Government Offices in Hong Kong and smearing the national emblem. What kind of situation will this bring Hong Kong into, when the integrity of "One Country, Two Systems" is offended and the authority of the Central Government openly challenged?
If those who have ulterior motives are allowed to continue stirring up troubles, tearing "One Country, Two Systems" apart, how do we then protect Hong Kong people’s way of life as well as the rights and freedoms they have enjoyed? "Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong with a high degree of autonomy, unchanged for 50 years” is a principle under "One Country, Two Systems". Should there be change or no change? I believe Hong Kong people are wise enough to opt for "no change", and I would most definitely also make this choice myself.
In the 22 years since the return of Hong Kong’s sovereignty to China, the Central Government has thoroughly implemented the tenets of "One Country, Two Systems" and "Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong" with overall success. The recent protests also underline that Hong Kong's freedom of speech and assembly are fully protected by the Basic Law.
Fellow Hong Kong citizens: we must be vigilant. A small number of people are taking advantage of the tolerant attitude of our society and the government to not only recklessly attack Hong Kong's economic and social order, but also damage the relationship between the Central Government and the SAR. These acts are absolutely not permissible.
The Hong Kong Police Force, highly disciplined and repeatedly rated as the best police force in Asia by international authorities, are now under great pressure and challenge. Hong Kong used to be one of the safest cities in the world, but now this reputation has been tarnished. Being a city under the rule of law, the Government’s power rests upon the law and must be exercised according to law. The police, the judges, and most of all, the citizens, must be law-abiding. To follow the rule of law is the foundation of civilised society. We believe that the Government would definitely not give way to lawlessness, and that the police have the ability to apprehend offenders. I trust that the people of Hong Kong would support the SAR Government and the Police Force in defending the rule of law by taking decisive measures for the restoration of social order.
Addressing Deep-Level Confrontations within Society
We must also admit that there have been long-time inadequacies in addressing problems in areas such as housing, youth social mobility, disparity between rich and poor, healthcare, education, and retirement protection that have bred anguish in society, causing some young people to feel unsettled and anxious because they do not see a good prospect for themselves. These emotions are now being vented through street politics.
For these long-standing problems, the Chief Executive has indicated that she has learnt the lesson and would ensure that the Government's future work will heed people's feelings and concerns, and that it will actively respond to the public's opinions and demands. The SAR Government already heard the voice of the public. We must believe that the Government will face up to the root causes of deep-level confrontations in society and demonstrate both the foresight and courage for significant reforms in order to ensure that it governs for the people, regains the confidence of the people, and rekindles hope in society. We must support the Chief Executive Mrs Carrie Lam and the SAR Government in administering Hong Kong according to the rule of law and in rolling out reforms.
As a matter of fact, Hong Kong possesses abundant fiscal reserves and has strong policy support from the Central Government. As long as the SAR Government receives support from all walks of life in society, makes good use of its resources and taps into the development potentials of the Greater Bay Area with a positive and proactive attitude, we absolutely have what it takes to break the current deadlock and inject new energy into society by means of providing our citizens with more dignified living space, better medical system, more enhanced education system, and more secure retirement protection.
Maintaining Confidence in Our Country and Hong Kong
The achievements of Hong Kong today were attained by several generations of people incrementally and gradually. Whilst progress in society is often accompanied by controversies and obstacles, we always believe that the vast majority of Hong Kong’s population are peaceful and rational—they are people who seek truth, who are flexible and practical, who make our society vibrant.
More importantly, Hong Kong receives strong backing from the motherland. There are, of course, still many areas where China needs to catch up in, yet the amazing breakthroughs and impressive achievements China has made in 70 years’ time are really encouraging. China is already the world's second largest economy and the largest trading country of goods. According to World Bank data, one-third of the global economic growth from 2012 to 2016 was contributed by China. Our generation of Chinese were born in an era full of opportunities in the background of rising national strength, for which we should take pride!
In this era of national rejuvenation, our country’s international status has been unprecedentedly high, reaching the centre of the world stage like never before. I am really fortunate to have had the opportunities to participate in many national development planning meetings. I am most proud of seeing that China is playing the role of a "responsible power" whilst developing itself: It has launched the "One Belt, One Road" initiative, led the establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and wrote the concept of “building a community of shared future for mankind” into a UN resolution, to name but a few. The advocacy of "peace, development, cooperation and mutual benefit” by China is also well received by everyone. All of these are not propaganda but indisputable realities.
Let me offer two more examples: NASA in the United States confirmed that China is playing an important role in the global greening process. Photographs from space show that, even though China accounts for only 6.6% of vegetation area in the world, it has contributed 25% of the net increase in such area on the global scale.
Just as the United States withdrew from the Paris Agreement, China was three years ahead of schedule in fulfilling its 2009 commitment: to reduce carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP by 40-45% from the 2005 level by the year of 2020. The above two examples highlight China's contributions to the international community.
One advantage of Hong Kong is our unique and strategic geographical position. The “Outline Development Plan for the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area”, published earlier this year, clearly lists Hong Kong as the first of the four central cities in the Greater Bay Area—a demonstration of our country's support and attention on Hong Kong. Another point to note is that Asia is the next global economic growth centre; the future economic growth rate of Asian countries will far exceed that of the G7 countries who currently lead the world. China, undoubtedly, is the "core engine" for Asian economic growth. Shouldn’t Hong Kong, being a "central city" in Asia, take the initiative to embrace opportunities instead of running away from them? I hope that all young people in Hong Kong will lay down their dissenting views and work with our country to actively explore broader space for development, rather than standing in a position of doubt and distrust.
As long as we maintain our confidence, tolerance and perseverance, and as long as we rely on the wisdom and courage of Hong Kong people with the strong backing of our country, I am convinced that Hong Kong will be able to overcome hardship, make advancements in a stable and firm manner, and weather the current storm towards a hopeful future.
Four Principles of Our Voyage out of the Storm
Many people have recently expressed different opinions on the situation in society; but more importantly, most citizens have not yet spoken and are watching the developments silently. These citizens are most concerned and worried about Hong Kong losing out if the situation goes on.
The silent majority have witnessed how the once peaceful and well-developed Hong Kong suddenly descended into violence, hatred, confusion and disorder, not knowing when this situation will end. They love Hong Kong—their home for many generations; they are the mainstay of Hong Kong society. It is necessary for us to make the loudest voice together and ask all parties to cease fighting immediately. We wish that protests will stop, so that groups with divergent beliefs and backgrounds could get a chance to resolve their differences through better coordination and negotiation. At the same time, it will give the SAR Government time and space to adjust policies and turn this crisis into an opportunity.
I believe in four principles, which are highly important when it comes to putting an end to disputes:
1) National sovereignty cannot be challenged. Old words of wisdom say that: “With the skin gone, to what can the hair attach itself?” Only by accurately understanding the relationship between the Central Government and the SAR can Hong Kong's prosperity and stability be ensured. Any behaviour that endangers the security of national sovereignty and challenges the authority of the Central Government is absolutely not permissible. All Hong Kong citizens should support the motherland and "One Country, Two Systems".
2) Hong Kong's stability is not to be damaged. As the classical saying goes: “There is no greater blessing than good governance, and no greater harm than chaos.” The prosperity and stability of Hong Kong society is the basis for every citizen’s well-being. Hong Kong must restore social order as soon as possible, return to effective governance, take measures to improve people's livelihood in a pragmatic way, regain the confidence of investors and the international community, and solidify Hong Kong’s core competitiveness.
3) Violent behaviours cannot continue. “One who relies on virtue shall thrive, and one who relies on force shall perish,” said an ancient sage. Condoning violence means tolerating brutality on people’s lives. Any citizen who loves peace should distance from violence, support the police in law enforcement, defend the rule of law, and guard our moral bottom lines.
4) People’s voices cannot be ignored. “People are the foundation of a nation; a firm foundation gives the nation peace.” Administrators must humbly listen to different opinions, constantly evaluate the social situation, adjust their way of thinking, review strategies, and formulate policies that will most effectively stabilise the situation and promote development, so that everyone can restore their confidence. We must focus on the people, serve the people, and solve the people’s problems.
This is the Calling of Our Times: Cherish Hong Kong and Defend Our Home!
My fellow friends, the on-going chaos and violent conflicts have seriously damaged the rule of law in Hong Kong, undermined business environment, eroded the confidence of the international community in Hong Kong and even affected the relationship between the mainland and Hong Kong. What should worry us is that society is now losing the basic sense of trust and mutual respect, as confrontation intensifies and hate spreads. Do we really want to see Hong Kong slipping towards recession, collapse, and destruction? If the situation continues, is there anyone who is going to ultimately benefit from this? Please think carefully: who ultimately is going to benefit from all of this?
My position is clear: first of all, we will not compromise for those people who are determined to disrupt Hong Kong, tear it apart and destroy it with violence. We shall not back down, and we strongly say NO.
Secondly, as for the social and economic issues that have plagued Hong Kong for many years and urgently require solutions, the Government should handle them immediately. There is no time for any delay.
Thirdly, we must resolutely implement the principles of “One Country, Two Systems”, “Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong” and the “high degree of autonomy” that Mr Deng Xiaoping formulated for Hong Kong.
My fellow friends, there is opportunity in every crisis. Let the current situation be a wake-up alarm! This is the calling of our times: Bridge the rift and stop the fighting! Cherish Hong Kong and defend our home!