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'One country, two systems' stands test of time, Hong Kong first top executive says

By Yang Wanli | China Daily | Updated: 2017-06-22 07:37

The principle of one country, two systems has contributed greatly to Hong Kong's social and economic stability and will be a unique advantage for future development, said Tung Chee-hwa, vice-chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

Tung, the first chief executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, said it is normal to have heard different voices in the past two decades, "but most people know the importance of the principle and are supportive because they've seen the benefits".

During the global financial crisis of 1997-98 and the SARS epidemic of 2003, he said central government aid showed how the principle helped Hong Kong.

Over 300 people died in Hong Kong during the 2003 epidemic, Tung said. "There was a severe shortage of masks and drugs. It took just three days for the central government's emergency supplies to arrive in Hong Kong, which really meant a lot to us," he said.

"We saw a 13.6 percent deflation in the six years from 1998 to 2003. Without allowing mainland residents to travel as individual tourists to Hong Kong, the region's economy could not have recovered so fast," he said.

The principle also helps boost Hong Kong industries, Tung said. "Hong Kong is known as Asia's Hollywood and the mainland is our greatest market, with an audience of about 1.3 billion," he said.

Tung said Hong Kong's high-quality legal framework and capitalist economy have not changed since it returned to China in 1997.

This year's Index of Economic Freedom of the US-based Heritage Foundation think tank listed Hong Kong as the world's freest economy for the 23rd year in a row.

"Changes do happen. More people in Hong Kong can now speak Mandarin. Exchange activities also have increased significantly, especially among young people," Tung said. "The region's major trade partners also turned from the United States and European countries to the mainland."

As Hong Kong's population increased to more than 7 million last year, some social conflicts occurred with society's development, which is inevitable, according to Tung.

"The soaring price of real estate and a few conflicts between mainland tourists and local tour agencies are all problems that can be solved with gentle ways within our big family since we are all Chinese," he said.

Tung praised the achievements of outgoing Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, especially in poverty alleviation and support for education and technology development.

"During his term, Hong Kong's GDP growth saw an increase of 5 percent annually, which is really a great achievement," he said.

He also expressed confidence in the next chief executive, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.

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