«Letter to Hong Kong» the Chief Executive

June 18 , 2007

Just because you are here

Fellow citizens,

      This year, we celebrate the 10th anniversary of Hong Kong's reunification with the motherland. Ten years is a significant period of time. Looking back over the past decade, Hong Kong people will have different thoughts and recount different experiences. So today, I would like to share with you my own feelings about these past 10 years.

      My feelings are a mix of joy and grief. The past decade has been full of challenges. As Premier Wen Jiabao puts it, since our return to the motherland 10 years ago, Hong Kong has taken a truly extraordinary path. We have encountered unprecedented difficulties : the Asian financial turmoil, avian influenza, SARS, to name a few. None of these were resolved by referring to previous experience, or by following quick-fix solutions. The journey has been long and tough, but ultimately we weathered all these crises.

      I remember the stress, the sadness and, at times, the total exhaustion brought about by these challenges. But, I also remember our society overcoming these difficulties, and the maturity of Hong Kong people in dealing with them. At times, we were in the depths of despair but as our sorrow subsided we came to know ourselves better and to cherish our traditional values more - to care more about our friends, our family and our community.

      I remember even more deeply the heroes of SARS. Few people in Hong Kong really set out to become heroes - we are wary of those who glorify human virtue or sing their own praises. Rather, Hong Kong people tend to keep a low profile and just get on with doing their jobs. But, in times of crisis, many in society naturally come forward to help. They do not make a fuss of it. But their actions in the face of adversity are truly heroic.

      We will never forget Doctor Tse Yuen-man. She volunteered to work in the SARS wards to save the lives of her patients but, unfortunately, she lost her own life after contracting this deadly disease. Dr Tse and all the medical staff who fought bravely against SARS are true heroes of Hong Kong. I hope we can remember the lessons learnt from all the challenges of these past ten years. But, we must never forget the sacrifices of those who lost their lives because of their selflessness and dedication. Their actions revealed the brightest side of humanity. We should all strive to sustain and uphold the ideals they pursued.

      Our "unusual path", of course, has included the successful implementation of 'One Country, Two Systems'. Two systems, two ways of life, two currencies, two sets of laws, and even two sets of values within one country. At first, many people were rather skeptical about this concept. But today, let's ask a few questions: Does Hong Kong enjoy a closer relationship with the Mainland? Do we have a stronger sense of national identity? Do we still embrace our unique systems, way of life and core values? I believe our answers to all of these questions would be a resounding "yes".

      We communicate and co-operate with the Mainland every day for business, travel and cultural exchanges. Surveys have shown our sense of national identity is the strongest it has been. At the same time, we are strongly committed to protecting our core values and way of life. We firmly believe we must maintain all our unique characteristics if we are to sustain economic success, give our people better lives, and contribute more to the nation's development. And, because this is the case, we can truly say that the implementation of 'One Country, Two Systems' has been a success. We can certainly strive to do even better; but we can also say that our achievements in implementing this unprecedented undertaking have been truly remarkable.

      Reflecting on the past also prompts us to think about our future. The path we have taken over the past 10 years has been about exploration: an exploration of systems, attitudes, values and visions.

      Children born in 1997 have grown up amidst our joys and sorrows. These children and I both have a part to play in shaping our next ten years. I hope we do not simply see a repeat of the past decade. "Never settle for mediocrity, strive for excellence" is a mantra I hold for myself, and my administration. I believe it is a philosophy that also strikes a chord with many Hong Kong people.

      In my new term, I will continue to work with everyone to build a more open government; to develop a constitutional system that is more democratic; to lift the economy to new heights; to improve our quality of life; and, to promote a caring and supportive culture in society. It is my wish for children born in 1997 to be even prouder of their city and home when they reach 20.

      As small and inconspicuous as it is on a world map, Hong Kong is a city with a big heart. Our people are our lifeblood and our most valuable asset. Countless individuals have given their best to make Hong Kong the prosperous, vibrant, inclusive, open and highly civilised city it is today.

      I am sure Hong Kong will become even more successful in the next 10 years, just because you - the people of Hong Kong - are here.

  Donald TSANG Yam-kuen  
Donald TSANG Yam-kuen,
Chief Executive