Chief Executive-elect John Lee and incumbent leader Carrie Lam predicted a bright future for Hong Kong at a forum on Thursday ahead of the 25th anniversary of the city’s return to China, expressing gratitude to the Beijing government and quoting from its leader.

Hong Kong has “many, many strong, positive and favourable elements” for its continuing success, Lee said at the forum, which was organised by the state-owned company Bauhinia Culture Group.

Chief Executive-elect John Lee speaks at the Bauhinia Culture International Forum on June 16, 2022. Photo: GovHK.

He said the city enjoyed advantages including a strong governing team, “responsive social networks” and competitiveness as an international business centre.

“The “one country, two systems” principle and the Basic Law that enshrines it have brought forward notable successes over this past quarter-century,” he added.

The incoming leader will take the reins on July 1, a date that marks 25 years since the former British colony was returned to China.

Lee – the sole candidate – won the small-circle chief executive election last month on a platform that promised a “results-oriented” governing approach.

Chief executive-elect John Lee and his wife. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Both Lee and Lam quoted Chinese President Xi Jinping in their speeches.

“As President Xi said on the occasion of the Hong Kong SAR’s 20th anniversary,” Lee said, “‘It is important to put people first, help them overcome difficulties, especially address prominent economic and livelihood issues that people are concerned with. And truly increase their sense of contentment and happiness.'”

There are rumours that Xi will visit Hong Kong again to swear in Lee on July 1, but no official confirmation.

Lam, meanwhile, referenced a remark that Xi once made likening “One country” – of Hong Kong’s “One Country, Two Systems” framework – to the roots of a tree that “must run deep and strong for a tree to grow tall and luxuriant.”

Chief Executive Carrie Lam speaks at the Bauhinia Culture International Forum on June 16, 2022. Photo: GovHK.

“I agree wholeheartedly,” she said.

Lam also said that Hong Kong saw challenges such as the 1997 Asian financial crisis, the Umbrella Movement in 2014 and the “violence and riots in 2019 undermining national security.”

“It was only with the timely intervention by the Central Government that a number of concrete actions were taken at the constitutional level to save the day,” she said, referring to Beijing’s top lawmakers passing a national security law in 2020.

The legislation criminalised subversion, secession, foreign interference and terrorism in the wake of the anti-extradition protests and unrest. A law imposed by Beijing the following year sharply reduced democratic representation in the legislature.

Hong Kong, Lam added, has become “politically more stable,” economically more solid, culturally more diverse, technologically more advanced and environmentally more sustainable during her five-year term in office.

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Hillary Leung

Hillary has an interest in social issues and politics. Previously, she reported on Asia broadly - including on Hong Kong's 2019 protests - for TIME Magazine and covered local news at Coconuts Hong Kong.