III. Comprehensive Progress Made in Various Undertakings in the HKSAR
Since the establishment of the HKSAR, the government of the Special Administrative Region has, with energetic support from the central government and the mainland, rallied people of all walks of life in Hong Kong, worked hard and overcome difficulties, made full use of the advantage of the policy of "one country, two systems," maintained overall social, economic and political stability, promoted the development of all undertakings and made new achievements one after another.
-HKSAR residents' fundamental rights and freedoms are fully protected. Hong Kong residents enjoy basic rights and freedoms in accordance with the law, which are under the full protection of the Constitution, the Basic Law and the local laws. The Constitution and the Basic Law safeguard the HKSAR residents' fundamental rights and freedoms at the constitutional level. The HKSAR provides further protection to residents' rights and freedoms by enacting the Sex Discrimination Ordinance, Race Discrimination Ordinance, Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance, Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) Ordinance, Minimum Wage Ordinance and other ordinances. A multitude of organs, including the Equal Opportunity Commission, Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data, Office of the Ombudsman, Legal Aid Department, Independent Police Complaints Council, Legal Aid Services Council, Women's Commission and Commission on Poverty, have been set up by the HKSAR government to help promote and protect HKSAR residents' fundamental rights and freedoms.In addition, the Basic Law explicitly stipulates that Chinese citizens who are residents of the HKSAR shall be entitled to participation in the management of state affairs according to law. In accordance with the assigned number of seats and the selection method specified by the NPC, the Chinese citizens among the HKSAR residents elect deputies of the region to the NPC to participate in the work of China's supreme organ of state power. The HKSAR has held in succession four such elections and 36 deputies were elected each time by the broadly representative Conference for Electing Deputies of the HKSAR to the NPC. The Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) always values the participation of Hong Kong compatriots. Aside from specially inviting Hong Kong personages, other CPPCC groups also include representatives from Hong Kong. The 12th CPPCC National Committee had a 124-member Hong Kong group, and 16 other CPPCC groups had 82 members from Hong Kong.
-The democratic political system has been steadily promoted. Before the return of Hong Kong to China in 1997, the United Kingdom designated governors to enforce colonial rule over Hong Kong for more than 150 years. Since 1997, the HKSAR government and the legislature have been composed of local residents. The chief executive of the HKSAR is appointed by the Central People's Government on the basis of the results of elections or consultations held locally; the legislature of the HKSAR is established by elections. The Basic Law of the HKSAR explicitly stipulates that the chief executive and all the members of the Legislative Council must be elected by universal suffrage, making universal suffrage a legal objective. Since the establishment of the HKSAR, the central government and the HKSAR government have unswervingly and steadily promoted Hong Kong's democratic political system, featuring the election methods for the chief executive and the Legislative Council, according to the Basic Law and relevant decisions of the NPC Standing Committee.
The election of the chief executive of the HKSAR has become increasingly democratic. Candidates for the first chief executive were elected by a 400-member Selection Committee, while candidates for the second, third and fourth chief executives were elected by the Election Committee, the membership of which in the meantime had grown from 800 to 1,200. Members of the Election Committee came from the four major sectors of "industry, commerce and finance," "the professions," "labor, social services, religious and other sectors" and "members of the Legislative Council, representatives of district boards and Heung Yee Kuk, HKSAR deputies to the NPC, and representatives of HKSAR members of the National Committee of the CPPCC" in equal proportions. Such a composition is an expression of equal participation and broad representativeness.
The election of the Legislative Council is becoming more and more direct. The first Legislative Council formed in 1998 had 20 members elected directly by geographical constituencies, 30 members by functional constituencies, and ten members by the Election Committee. The second Legislative Council formed in 2000 had 24 members elected directly by geographical constituencies, 30 members by functional constituencies, and six members by the Election Committee. The third and fourth Legislative Councils formed respectively in 2004 and 2008 both had 30 members elected directly by geographical constituencies, and 30 members by functional constituencies. The membership of the fifth Legislative Council elected in 2012 expanded to 70, including 35 members elected directly by geographical constituencies and 35 members by functional constituencies. The additional five members elected by functional constituencies were nominated by district boards, and elected by voters who had enjoyed no right to vote under functional constituencies.
The timetable has been set for universal suffrage. The 31st Session of the Standing Committee of the Tenth NPC made a decision on December 29, 2007 "that the election of the fifth chief executive of the HKSAR in 2017 may be implemented by the method of universal suffrage; that after the chief executive is selected by universal suffrage, the election of the Legislative Council of the HKSAR may be implemented by the method of electing all the members by universal suffrage," thus setting a timetable for the selection of the chief executive and all members of the Legislative Council by universal suffrage. From December 4, 2013 to May 3, 2014, the HKSAR government initiated a five-month public consultation on the election of the chief executive in 2017 and that of the Legislative Council in 2016, starting the relevant procedures for introducing universal suffrage.
-The HKSAR has maintained steady economic growth. From 1997 to 2013, Hong Kong's Gross Regional Product (GRP) grew by 3.4 percent annually in real terms, and its per-capita GRP increased by a total of 39.3 percent calculated in US dollar. According to the 2013 statistics of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Hong Kong's GRP and per-capita GRP, respectively, ranked the 35th and 7th in the world, as calculated by purchasing power parity.
Hong Kong has maintained and enhanced its status as an international financial, trade and shipping center. As an important international banking center, Hong Kong boasts the world's sixth-largest securities market and fifth-largest foreign exchange market. Hong Kong ranks high in various lists of international financial centers. As the world's ninth-largest trading economy, Hong Kong has regular trading ties with almost every country and region in the world. Hong Kong is one of the world's largest container shipping ports and fourth-largest ship-registration center. The Hong Kong International Airport is one of the world's busiest. Its air freight volume has led the world for many years, and its passenger transport volume ranks fifth.
Hong Kong's robust industries have been strengthened even further. Trade and logistics, tourism, finance, and professional services and support services for industry and commerce continue to play an important role as Hong Kong's four pillar industries. In 2012, these four sectors employed 47.2 percent of Hong Kong's total working population, and their added value accounted for 58 percent of Hong Kong's total GRP. Hong Kong also focuses on the cultivation and development of the cultural and creative, innovation and technology, testing and certification, and environmental protection industries.
Hong Kong has maintained a sound business environment, and is generally recognized as one of the world's freest economies. For many years, it has ranked high in the World Bank's evaluation of business environments of 185 economies. In its World Investment Report 2013, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) ranked Hong Kong the third in the world in attracting foreign direct investment (FDI). For many years, Hong Kong has been listed among the world's most competitive economies by the World Competitiveness Yearbook compiled by the International Institute for Management Development based in Lausanne, Switzerland.
-Social programs have been further enhanced. Hong Kong leads the Asia-Pacific region in education, as the HKSAR government continues to increase its investment in education, the biggest government expenditure item. During the 2014-2015 fiscal year, the HKSAR government's current budgetary spending on education reached HK$75.37 billion. Since the 2008-2009 school year, Hong Kong has implemented 12-year free education in public schools. The University of Hong Kong and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology are among Asia's top-ten universities, according to the Times Higher Education Asian University Rankings 2013. The University of Hong Kong was the 43rd according to the World University Rankings 2013-2014. Hong Kong continues to rank high in the global test of the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2012, which reflects the quality of primary education.
Hong Kong continues to provide quality medical and health care services. During the 2014-2015 fiscal year, the HKSAR government's budget for expenditure on medical and health care is HK$52.4 billion, accounting for 17 percent of the government's recurrent expenditure. All Hong Kong residents enjoy equal access to affordable public medical services. By the end of 2012, Hong Kong had more than 35,500 beds in various medical institutions. The infant mortality rate dropped from 4 per thousand in 1997 to 1.6 per thousand in 2013, which is among the world's lowest. In 2013, the life expectancy of Hong Kong's male and female residents was 80.9 years and 86.6 years, respectively, which are among the world's highest.
Cultural and sports activities are flourishing in Hong Kong, where the Chinese and foreign cultures intermingle. The HKSAR government encourages the diverse development of Hong Kong's culture and promotes cultural exchanges. Four unique Hong Kong cultural events were added to the third batch of the State-level Non-material Cultural Heritage List, namely, Yu Lan Ghost Festival, Tai Hang fire dragon dance, Tai O dragon boat parade, and Cheung Chau Jiao Festival. Hong Kong hosted the equestrian events of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, and the fifth East Asian Games in 2009. Hong Kong athletes have excelled themselves in events such as windsurfing, table tennis, cycling and martial arts during the Olympics, World Championships and Asian Championships.
Hong Kong's social security service has been continuously improved. During the fiscal year 2014-2015 the HKSAR government's budget for social welfare reached HK$61.9 billion, 3.03 times as compared with the HK$20.4 billion during the fiscal year 1997-1998. Hong Kong has put in place a multilayer and diversified social security and welfare service system. Hong Kong has more than 400 social service agencies, and the number of registered social workers has increased from 8,300 at the end of 1998 to more than 18,000 today. The HKSAR government actively promotes the construction of public housing, moves low-wage residents into public housing, and provides financial aid to those who purchase housing units. Around half of Hong Kong's residents live in housing provided or funded by the government. Among them, more than 2 million live in rented public housing, and over 1 million have purchased housing units with government financial aid.
-Hong Kong's international exchanges and its international influence have further expanded. Hong Kong's international exchanges have been broadened. By June 2013, Hong Kong, as a member of a Chinese government delegation or in other appropriate capacities, had participated in 41 events held by inter-governmental international organizations, and joined 37 inter-governmental international organizations whose membership is not limited to sovereign states. As a member of a Chinese government delegation or in other appropriate capacities, Hong Kong has attended more than 1,400 international meetings; using the name of "Hong Kong, China" it has attended more than 20,000 international meetings not limited to states. It has also hosted or co-hosted more than 1,000 international meetings. The HKSAR has visa waiver agreements with 42 countries, and 150 countries or regions provide visa-free entry or grant visas upon arrival to HKSAR passports holders. Hong Kong has civil air transport agreements, agreements on avoidance of double taxation, agreements on investment promotion and protection, and agreements on criminal justice assistance with many countries. The HKSAR government has economic and trade offices in 11 places, such as Geneva, London, Tokyo, New York and Berlin. Six international organizations, including the European Commission, have representative offices in Hong Kong.
Outstanding Hong Kong professionals have taken important positions in international organizations. Supported by the central government, Chan Fung Fu-chun, former director of health of the HKSAR, was elected director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO) in November 2006, and was reelected in May 2012. She is the first Chinese to head an inter-government international organization since the founding of the United Nations. Shun Chi-ming, director of the Hong Kong Observatory, was elected president of the Commission for Aeronautical Meteorology of the World Meteorological Organization in February 2010.