Chinese President Xi Jinping has said Hong Kong people need to “believe in themselves, in Hong Kong, and in the country.”

In a keynote speech at a banquet held in his honour on Friday night, Xi said that the implementation of the “One Country, Two Systems” principle has been “like a young sprout growing up strong under the wind and rain,” in the past 20 years. Xi is on a three-day visit to Hong Kong to celebrate 20 years since its return to Chinese rule.

He said several indicators of the effective running of Hong Kong’s system have improved significantly compared to 20 years ago, including democratic politics, the legal system, economic progress, the city’s competitiveness, and life expectancy.

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Xi Jinping.

“[Hong Kong] would be able to achieve these things without the central government and the motherland’s support, but mainly it was the result of the unity and work of the SAR government and Hong Kong compatriots,” he said. “I give my appreciation to Hong Kong compatriots and all those who made contributions.”

Xi said Hong Kong people have to believe in themselves.

“Chinese people are marvellous. We have a long 5,000 years of continuous history,” he said. “In most of recorded history, Chinese people have been ahead in many areas such as economy, society, culture, and art.”

He said that Chinese people have caught up to the rest of the world under the rule of the Communist Party. Hong Kong’s development, he said, was achieved through the “hard work of generations of Hong Kong compatriots.”

“Hong Kong people have the ability and wisdom to manage, build and develop Hong Kong, and can continue to contribute to the country’s development and the world.”

Xi Jinping meeting representatives of different sectors with Leung Chun-ying. Photo: GovHK.

Xi also urged Hong Kong people to believe in the city’s systems.

“Hong Kong is the platform of the entry and exit of the country’s funds,” he said. “If Hong Kong consolidates and increase its advantages, it can surely maintain and attract talent, grasp the opportunities that come from globalisation and regional cooperation, and promote local innovation and entrepreneurship… to write a new story of development under the Lion Rock, a new legend of prosperity.”

After Xi’s speech, the website of the mainland-Hong Kong bond connect showed that the north-bound market – funds transferred from Hong Kong to China – will start next Monday.

Xi urged Hong Kong people to believe in the country.

See also: HKFP’s full coverage of the 20th Handover anniversary

“Whether in the past, present or future, the country has the strong backing of Hong Kong,” he said. “China has made a great leap from standing up, to becoming rich and becoming strong.”

An increasingly prosperous China is a source of strength for Hong Kong, he said. “If the country is doing well, Hong Kong will do even better.”

But his speech did not mention potential democratic development in Hong Kong.

Letters expressing concerns

Civic Party lawmaker Dennis Kwok said he and Democratic Party leader Wu Chi-wai met with Huang Liuquan, deputy director of the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office, for 15 minutes before the banquet.

Dennis Kwok Wing-hang. File Photo: Stanley Leung/HKFP.

Several pro-democracy lawmakers were invited to attend the banquet.

They gave three letters to Huang, which expressed concerns over declining confidence in “One Country, Two Systems,” restarting political reform and jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo. Hongkongers have been calling for Liu’s full release after news broke that he was ill with terminal liver cancer earlier this week.

Huang was quoted by Kwok as saying he will express their views to central government leaders, and that they should have confidence in “One Country, Two Systems,” but did not respond to questions on Liu.

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.