“The spirit of Hong Kong” will help the city find its way back to the social stability essential to its long-term prosperity, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said in an opening speech at the fourth Belt and Road Summit.
“My fervent hope is that we can bridge our divide,” Lam said. “By steadfastly upholding the One Country, Two Systems principle and the Basic Law, and through the concerted efforts of the government and the people of Hong Kong, we can find our way back to reasoned discussion, to the social stability essential to the long-term stability and prosperity and well-being of us all.
“Hong Kong, after all, has been built, and rebuilt, time and again, on our indomitable resilience. Call it the spirit of Hong Kong, and know that it will see us through. It will ensure that we also find our place – and help you find yours – along the Belt and Road,” she said.
The connectivity and cooperation promoted by the Belt and Road has become increasingly prominent in today’s complex social and business environment, Lam said, adding that Hong Kong – China’s most competitive and international city – will play a significant role in complementing this strategic direction.
Hong Kong can create opportunities in capacity building, green finance, professional services and business matching, she said.
Protests were sparked in Hong Kong after the city’s government sought to amend the extradition bill in early June so certain individuals can be tried on the mainland. However, the move generated intense public opposition and police have become embroiled in the crisis, slammed for using excessive force against protesters while the latter have been strongly criticized for clashes with officers and vandalizing public facilities.
On September 4, Lam announced that her administration would completely withdraw the bill but protests have continued, as other key demands have yet to be met.
Hong Kong’s Financial Secretary, Paul Chan Mo-po, who spoke at the opening of the two-day summit on Wednesday, said the ongoing social unrest has not affected the city’s core competencies, which include its rule of law, freedom of speech, a simple and low-tax economic system, plus an independent judiciary and a free-flow of capital, goods, information and people.
Chan said the Hong Kong government would continue its dialogue with the public and eventually overcome the challenges.
Nearly 5,000 participants from over 60 countries and regions have attended the Belt and Road Summit, which is being held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center. The participants include business leaders and state officials, investors and project owners, academics and researchers, heads of non-government groups and international institutions.
The main theme of this year’s summit is “Creating and Realizing Opportunities.” It suggests that Hong Kong is perfectly positioned to serve as a gateway for the Belt and Road scheme and its many prospects and possibilities.
Xie Feng, commissioner at China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs office in Hong Kong, said the Belt and Road plan is a necessary path. Hong Kong should set aside disputes in its society and grab the opportunity to contribute to the Belt and Road Initiative, he said. If the opportunity is lost, there will not be another one, he added.
The One Country, Two Systems policy is the biggest advantage for the development of Hong Kong, but China has also reserved a “priority seat” for the city to take a leading role in both BRI and the Greater Bay Area scheme.
Hong Kong should make use of the foundation of “One Country” policy and the advantages of “Two Systems” to benefit from new rounds of economic reform and opening-up in China, he said.
With a special status and many unique advantages in talents, professional services and global commerce, Hong Kong is an important international finance, trade and logistics hub, Wang Bingnan, China’s Vice Minister of Commerce, said.
Hong Kong can benefit from the new opportunities in China and enjoy faster growth within the country’s development plan, he said. The Commerce Ministry will continue to support Hong Kong’s participation in the Greater Bay Area, he said, which is a core part of the Belt and Road Initiative.
China will further open up for Hong Kong’s service sectors under the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) framework and allow Hong Kong to take part in cooperation agreements between China and Belt and Road countries, Wang said.