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Deng's Pledge Is Being Maintained
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The late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping pledged to keep Hong Kong's three capitalistic characteristics - horse racing, dancing and stock exchanges - intact for at least 50 years after its return.

This pledge is being upheld as the Special Administrative Region marks the 10th anniversary of its return to the motherland.

Today, more Chinese mainland residents are playing the Hong Kong stock markets, attending its horse races and visiting Lan Kwai Fong, Hong Kong's top entertainment center.

For over a century, horseracing has thrilled Hong Kong people. Race days are held on most Wednesdays and weekends from September to June.

During the season, many can be seen burying their heads in newspapers at teahouses studying the form of horses.

"After Hong Kong's return, horse racing has not only been retained, but has grown with the support of the central government and Hong Kong people," said Kim K.W. Mak, executive director of the corporate development department of the Hong Kong Jockey Club.

Mak said the jockey club is now striving to provide its best facilities for the coming 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. It will host the equestrian events.

The club manages two racecourses - Happy Valley and Sha Tin - attracting more than 2 million racegoers each racing season.

The club's betting turnover, exceeds HK$16.3 billion every fiscal year. It contributes 1.3 percent to GDP, and 10 percent of the government's tax revenue.

It is also one of the 10 biggest employers in Hong Kong, employing more than 5,000 full-time workers and 20,000 part-time staff on race days.

As the largest charity organization in Hong Kong, the club was a major donor to the anti-SARS campaign in the spring of 2003.

Today, the people of Hong Kong enjoy stability in every aspect of their lives.

"We don't see any difference in our way of life after 1997," said Wong Yim-fat, a fishmonger in Hong Kong.

"Though there have been hard times, we have come through it, believing things can only get better."

Wong now plays the stock markets and has had some luck with the Hang Seng Index rising from 15,196 points in July 1997 to about 21,685 today.

"Actually, as masters of our own society, we feel there is more freedom and opportunities following Hong Kong's return," Wong said.

Wong said he is happy with his decision to remain in Hong Kong after its return and not seek to emigrate as some of his friends and relatives did.

"Many of my friends who have emigrated have come back, after finding out that things have not changed," Wong said.

Before 1997, many Hong Kong people were uncertain about its future and left for other countries.

Official figures from Hong Kong Customs show that more than 300,000 people moved to America, Australia and Canada between 1990 and 1997. Ten years later, many returned because of Hong Kong's stability and prosperity.

Renee Chu, an assistant computer officer at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, was one of those who left before 1997.

Following her parent's wishes, Renee left for Australia in 1990 when she was still a middle school student.

"At that time, they were concerned about Hong Kong's future and wanted us to receive a better education abroad," she told Xinhua News Agency in a recent interview.

After graduating from university, Renee returned to Hong Kong in 2000 as it offered better job opportunities.

Hong Kong was hit by an economic downturn and an outbreak of SARS after 1997, but that did not stop the Chu family from returning.

"There are always good and bad times for a place," Renee said.

"My parents return to Australia from time to time," Renee said, "but their stays have become shorter. They now spend more time in Hong Kong and the mainland."

Most Hong Kong people were able to gain residency abroad because of their technological skills and investments.

While Hong Kong has retained its attraction for locals, it has also lured more people to its shores.

Official statistics show that the number of overseas people in Hong Kong - Indians, Filipinos and British - account for 71,000 out of a population of 6.9 million.

The culture of tolerance can be seen in the busy streets. There are restaurants and shops from all nations.

"Hong Kong is really a very tolerant and free-spirited city. The cultural tolerance and perfect mixture is reflected in the diversity of our international visitors," said B.C. Lo, vice-president of public affairs, Hong Kong Disneyland.

Hong Kong, however, has undergone some subtle changes too.

This is evident in the choice of passport.

Ten years after Hong Kong's return to the motherland, many Hong Kong people have abandoned their British National (Overseas) or BNO passports in favor of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) passport.

According to Hong Kong Immigration Department sources, in the past 10 years, as many as 4 million, or 60 percent of Hong Kong's population of permanent residents, have applied for HKSAR passports, and the number is growing.

The HKSAR government has managed to obtain visa-free access to as many as 134 countries or regions. BNO passports enjoyed visa-free access to only 114 countries. The passports are still valid.

The safety ensured by Chinese embassies and consulates as well as a sense of nationalism have also been key factors in the popularity of HKSAR passports.

Wong Yim-fat is of those who think HKSAR passports are not only more convenient, but also offer consular or embassy protection from the Chinese government in times of distress.

"While holding a BNO passport, you felt like a second-class citizen," Wong said. "But a HKSAR passport gives you all the privilege that a Chinese citizen enjoys."

According to Lu Xinhua, commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the HKSAR, not only Hongkongers have enjoyed an uplift in their international status, but also the HKSAR government.

During the past 10 years, the HKSAR government has joined more than 50 international, intra-government organizations and 200 international treaties with the proper identity of Hong Kong, China.

"Under the Basic Law, we have tried our best to help exchanges between the HKSAR government and the international community, in order to forge its long-term prosperity and stability," Lu said.

(China Daily June 21, 2007)

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