A series of commemorative and festive activities have been carried out over the past few weeks on the Chinese mainland, in Hong Kong, and in many Chinese communities worldwide, in the run up to the 10th anniversary of Hong Kong's return to China.
These activities have taken various forms: symposiums and workshops, gala performances, art exhibitions, sports competitions, get-togethers in local communities, in addition to the release of books, films and postage stamps related to this grand occasion.
Hong Kong had been separated from China for so long that quite a few foreign nationals have mistaken it for another country. But its actual status has always been imprinted on the heart of the Chinese nation. An integral part of China from ancient times, Hong Kong was forcibly ceded and then leased to the British in the 19th century under three humiliating and unequal treaties between the weak and incompetent Qing Dynasty's imperial court and the much more powerful British Empire.
Little wonder that no sooner had Hong Kong finally broken off from its century-old colonial rule, on July 1, 1997, when the formal ceremony of Hong Kong's handover to China was held in the territory, than Chinese across the globe were filled with joy. To them, this epoch-making event symbolized both an end to the nation's disgraceful past and the beginning of a new and promising era for the well-being of the former British colony.
In the eyes of many Chinese around the world, the successful return of Hong Kong is credited largely to the original and forward-looking conception of the late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping. It was Deng who had devised the "one country, two systems" approach, a political system never before adopted in the history of mankind but proved to be highly applicable and effective, as the experience of Hong Kong suggests, and it was also him who had initiated a number of guiding principles for the territory after the takeover.
These included the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, "Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong," "a high degree of autonomy in Hong Kong," and the retention of the territory's social, economic and legal systems, as well as the lifestyle of local citizens. All these, along with the mature political wisdom and dedication shown by the liaison teams of both Chinese and British governments, paved the way for a smooth handover of Hong Kong to China. They also guaranteed lasting local stability and prosperity after 1997.
Since Hong Kong's return to the embrace of its motherland, contacts and cooperation between the mainland and Hong Kong have been strengthened in great measure, including the joint endeavors made during the SARS epidemic in the spring of 2003, and the implementation of CEPA (Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement) from 2002 to the present, which has brought the two economies even closer. While earning huge benefits for both sides, these efforts have resulted in faster economic and social development in the territory, and are expected to help the people of Hong Kong feel more confident about their own future.
Deng once said that China's policy toward Hong Kong, namely that of "one country, two systems," will remain unchanged for 50 years. Sure enough, indications are that it will not be changed in the foreseeable future as long as the territory stays on course toward a stable and prosperous future. If change does come, it would only be for the better.
(Beijing Review June 2007)