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Global Times

Xi commends Lee for advancing HK on right track, ushering in new atmosphere

Global Times

By Chen Qingqing and Zhao Juecheng Published: Dec 23, 2022 07:14 PM

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday met with Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu, who is on his maiden duty visit to Beijing, and gave full recognition to his courageous and pragmatic work in leading the city government in safeguarding national security, reviving the vitality of the economy and enabling Hong Kong to display a new atmosphere of patriots administering Hong Kong.

Since Lee assumed the position of CE, he has led the HKSAR government with courage and in a pragmatic manner, firmly safeguarding national security, helping revive the city's economic vibrancy, responding to concerns of the public, studying, communicating, and implementing the spirit of the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), which the central government fully recognized, Xi said at the meeting.

Hong Kong has demonstrated a new atmosphere under the principle of "patriots administering Hong Kong," and is advancing with solid steps on the right track of One Country, Two Systems, Xi told Lee.

The meeting came after Premier Li Keqiang met Lee on Thursday during the latter's annual duty report trip to the capital. The Chinese premier also gave credit to Lee for his work of leading the HKSAR government in responding to the public's needs, fixing the deep-rooted economic and social problems in the city and helping Hong Kong regain its economic vitality.

Lee was elected as the sixth-term CE of the HKSAR government in May, which was also the first CE election since the implementation of electoral reform that aims to ensure only patriots administering Hong Kong.

After restoring order from chaos, it's also high time that Hong Kong starts a new chapter of development, and in his first policy address in mid-October, Lee highlighted the need to improve local governance, enhance the city's competitiveness as an international business hub and fix its social and economic woes.

The 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China has made comprehensive arrangements for the development of the cause of the Party and the country. One Country, Two Systems is a great innovation of socialism with Chinese characteristics and the best institutional arrangement for ensuring sustained prosperity and stability in Hong Kong and Macao after their return to the motherland, Xi said during the meeting.

The central government will fully, faithfully and resolutely implement the policy of One Country, Two Systems, and fully support the CE and the SAR government in exercising law-based administration. The central authorities will fully support Hong Kong in giving full play to its unique advantages, conducting extensive international cooperation, and better integrating itself into China's overall development, thus making new and greater contributions to the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, he added. Hong Kong will have a promising future and great prosperity on the new journey in the new era, Xi said.

"John Lee has performed well in his role as CE and earns high recognition from President Xi. This is firm support for Lee's governance," Chu Kar-kin, a veteran current affairs commentator based in Hong Kong and a member of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies, told the Global Times on Friday.

Although Lee only officially took on his role as CE in July, he has led reforms and economic development in Hong Kong on the right track, Chu said, adding that Hong Kong people are happy and more than satisfied with his performance.

Xi also met with Chief Executive of the Macao Special Administrative Region (SAR) Ho Iat Seng on Friday, who is on a duty visit to Beijing.

Xi also gave full recognition to Ho's work in leading the Macao SAR government in steadily advancing the amendment of the law on safeguarding national security in Macao, appropriately handling the revision to local gaming laws and a new round of gaming concession tendering, and making solid progress in the building of the Guangdong-Macao in-depth cooperation zone in Hengqin.

The central authorities will fully, faithfully and resolutely implement the One Country, Two Systems policy, and support the Macao SAR in giving full play to its advantages, striving to break new ground of "one country, two systems" practice with Macao characteristics, and making new and greater contributions to building a modern socialist country on all fronts, Xi said.

Performance fully recognized

Experts from both Hong Kong and the mainland believe that since Lee took office about half a year ago, there has been a new and positive political atmosphere in the city, and it has been impressive for Lee and his team to fully implement the political principle of only patriots administering Hong Kong. At the same time, he has made some explorations in practicing One Country, Two Systems and handling domestic and external affairs, some experts said.

For instance, Lee made a policy address and attended the APEC meetings, actively discussing the reopening of the border between Hong Kong and the mainland, Li Xiaobing, an expert on Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan affairs from Nankai University, told the Global Times on Friday.

"Also, the controversy sparked by the case of Jimmy Lai also brought up a new challenge for Lee's governance, and he immediately took action and asked for the legal interpretation of the central government," Li Xiaobing said.

"All these moves showed that the CE grasped the essence of the One Country, Two Systems, underscoring that the HKSAR government has been making efforts in pushing forward the city from being well-governed to prosperity," the expert said.

During the annual duty report trip, a number of matters topped the agenda, with the reopening of checkpoints between the mainland and Hong Kong expected to be discussed. Lee's annual work report also focused on the city's restoration of social order following implementation of the national security law for Hong Kong and post-COVID economic recovery.

Lau Siu-kai, a consultant from the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies who is also a senior policy advisor on Hong Kong affairs, told the Global Times on Friday that when Xi asks the HKSAR government to plan the city's future, the city should integrate its own development into the country's overall development plan, especially when the country has been exploring more regional cooperation and economic activities in the Asia-Pacific region.

"In face of the US-led Western containment, it's important to seek more partners in the non-Western world. Hong Kong can use its own advantages under One Country, Two Systems to explore more international cooperation for the country," Lau said.

Focus on orderly reopening

During the meeting between Premier Li and Lee on Thursday, Li said authorities should push forward the border reopening between the mainland and Hong Kong in line with epidemic optimization and adjustment measures, and the relevant parties should accelerate discussions and coordination to push forward the resumption of normal activities.

Tam Yiu-chung, a member of the NPC Standing Committee from Hong Kong, told the Global Times in a recent interview that the border reopening between the mainland and Hong Kong is believed to be in sight, and called for authorities to be ready so as to avoid chaos when it does happen.

Hong Kong Satellite Television reported on Wednesday that starting from January 3, 2023, the Chinese mainland will no longer redirect inbound travelers to quarantine facilities, and the current quarantine policy will be optimized to only three days of home quarantine.

When asked about whether China will further adjust its epidemic measures for cross-border arrivals on January 3, Mao Ning, spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, told a routine press conference on Thursday that China will further optimize and facilitate cross-border travel in accordance with the epidemic situation.

With the border reopening set to take place in the future, cooperation between Hong Kong and various provinces and cities in the mainland will be more pragmatic and comprehensive, which will also be a new trend in the practice of One Country, Two Systems and a new opportunity for Hong Kong, Li Xiaobing noted.

"The Greater Bay Area construction is a main part of One Country Two Systems. For example, the Qianhai area in Shenzhen and Hengqin area in Zhuhai have made positive explorations in helping tackle the economic imbalance between Hong Kong and Macao," Li Xiaobing said.

"With the impact of the epidemic being further reduced, more opportunities will be unleashed and 2023 will be a year for further integration of Hong Kong and Macao into the mainland," the expert said.

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