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Published: 21:36, January 20, 2023
Hong Kong is leaping into the Year of the Rabbit
By Kenneth Li
Published:21:36, January 20, 2023 By Kenneth Li

Traditionally, Lunar New Year, often called Spring Festival, represents the desire for family reunions and prosperity. Residents of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region received two timely gifts on the eve of the Year of the Rabbit — quarantine-free travel between the HKSAR and the Chinese mainland, which resumed early this month, and cancellation of the quarantine mandate for COVID-19 positive patients starting from Jan 30.

Quarantine-free cross-boundary travel is indeed a piece of good news for many cross-boundary families who have been separated since the lockdown three years ago. Their long-awaited reunion dreams have finally come true with the border reopening being implemented on a phased basis to ensure smoothness.

The scrapping of isolation requirements for those infected with COVID-19 from Jan 30 will certainly boost economic activities further, allowing Hong Kong to return to normality quicker. It is expected that the remaining few pandemic control measures such as the requirements to wear a face mask and to present a negative PCR nucleic acid test result for cross-boundary travel and inbound flights will also be lifted soon.

Earlier, the city hosted a string of large-scale international activities such as the Hong Kong Masters snooker tournament, Hong Kong Fintech Week, the Hong Kong Sevens rugby tournament, the Global Financial Leaders’ Investment Summit and the Asian Financial Forum, showing the world that we are back in business as Asia’s world city.

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Now, with gradual normalization of the cross-border flow of people and goods between Hong Kong and the mainland, plus an anticipated lifting of the remaining pandemic control measures, the HKSAR is resuming its prime role as a “bridge” connecting the Chinese mainland and the rest of the world.

The city has reached a critical stage of moving from order to prosperity, however, its return to normality and reconnection with the outside world must not jeopardize national security

The three-year anti-pandemic lockdown may have brought many things to a standstill, but dirty politics, however, still prevail, posing new challenges to Hong Kong in a post COVID-19 era.

Having learnt a painful lesson from the “black-clad” riots staged by anti-China forces in 2019, which almost toppled the city, the country is taking no chances in ensuring that the reconnection of Hong Kong with the world will not be exploited again by unfriendly foreign powers which always look for opportunities to use the HKSAR, a gateway to the Chinese mainland, as a bridgehead to import a “color revolution”.

Hong Kong has walked from chaos to order since political turmoil struck, thanks to promulgation of the National Security Law for Hong Kong (NSL), and a subsequent overhaul of the city’s electoral system and implementation of the “patriots administering Hong Kong” principle. Such bold measures have eliminated atrocities from the streets as well as violent and destructive filibustering in the legislature, bringing back much-needed proper governance. Without these measures, Hong Kong could not have restored rule of law and order, let alone fight against the pandemic.

Western media have constantly criticized that the NSL is choking the freedom of Hong Kong people. However, they never mention the fact that the national security laws of many Western democracies are much tougher than those of Hong Kong. Why can’t Hong Kong have a law that protects the lives and property of its residents in the wake of the brutal riots, when lawless protestors attacked residents who simply disagreed with their political stance and damaged public facilities and private shops? 

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Obviously, the ultimate goal of the protestors was to overthrow the HKSAR government and that involved the paramount issue of national security, on which no country, whatever its political system, would compromise.

Hong Kong has an excellent track record of good governance and rule of law that is recognized by the international community. Most importantly, facts speak louder than words. Numbeo, a database website that specializes in evaluating global crime, recently announced its Safety/Crime Index 2023. Hong Kong ranks sixth among 142 countries and regions, one place higher than last year. It signifies that Hong Kong is still an ideal place for investment, working and living.

The city has reached a critical stage of moving from order to prosperity, however, its return to normality and reconnection with the outside world must not jeopardize national security. Those painful lessons must not be repeated.

Nevertheless, given that anti-China external forces have never stopped smearing Hong Kong by constantly enacting and revising various “punitive” laws, or hyping so-called “human rights” reports to blacken and penalize Hong Kong, the Chinese government cannot take this lightly.

The State Council recently appointed Zheng Yanxiong as director of the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and a national security adviser to the Committee for Safeguarding National Security in the HKSAR. He took over the director’s duties from former head Luo Huining, who has retired.

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Before taking up the new post, Zheng had served as head of the Office for Safeguarding National Security of the Central People’s Government in the HKSAR since July 2020. His profound knowledge of and experience in national security, combined with Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu’s strong background in public security, will surely form a strong shield against the subversion and sedition activities of anti-China forces in Hong Kong.

Speaking to reporters for the first time as Liaison Office chief, Zheng said he is committed to bridging communication between the HKSAR and the Chinese mainland. “I will work hard to be a man who understands Hong Kong, loves Hong Kong and strives for the best for Hong Kong … In Hong Kong, I will speak more of Beijing’s words. In Beijing, I will speak more of Hong Kong’s words.” 

He encouraged Hong Kong people to develop a new driving force and give full play to its unique advantages. “Hong Kong has the ideal time, location and social conditions, which are incomparable. As long as it is not chaotic and does not go in the wrong direction, its development will be very promising and will have everlasting prosperity.” 

In his Spring Festival address, Zheng again stressed that Hong Kong stands at a new historic starting point in the practice of “one country, two systems” and should grasp the opportunities offered by the mainland to take the city to new heights of development. 

“The mainland’s vast hinterland, consumer market and inexhaustible innovation power have provided a giant platform for Hong Kong residents to pursue their dreams. When Hong Kong advances in parallel with the motherland and aligns its future with the great cause of national rejuvenation, numerous opportunities will lie in wait for the city to achieve prosperity, and its confidence will abound in surmounting challenges.” 

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Before ending his address with his best wishes to the people of Hong Kong, Zheng said that a safe and stable society precedes everything; and that without that, prosperity cannot be achieved. 

“A harmonious and stable social environment is essential to the growth of career and business. It is imperative that we treasure the hard-won social order; steadfastly uphold the constitutional order of the HKSAR laid down by the nation’s Constitution and the Basic Law; resolutely safeguard the country’s national sovereignty, security and development interests; vigorously promote mainstream values that highlight the love of the country and Hong Kong, and that are in keeping with the policy of ‘one country, two systems’ so as to forge powerful synergy for unity and enterprise. When the underlying potential of Hong Kong is given full play, no challenges and difficulties are insurmountable going forward,” he said. This is the honest advice of the central government, which we should think about deeply. 

The author, a Hong Kong-based freelance writer, is an adviser to the Hong Kong Association of Media Veterans.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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