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In memory of Vice Premier Qian Qichen

I was greatly saddened in the past few days by the passing of Vice Premier Qian Qichen, though I was not totally unprepared for the news.

I began to participate in the preparatory work for Hong Kong's return to China during the latter stage of the Sino-British talks on Hong Kong's future in 1984. Later, under the clear leadership of Vice Premier Qian, a smooth transition was achieved and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) was established. Memories of this arduous journey are still vivid in my mind. 

Vice Premier Qian began to lead the work on Hong Kong's return to China in 1988. He successively chaired the Preliminary Working Committee (PWC) for the HKSAR Preparatory Committee and the HKSAR Preparatory Committee (PC), which were established in 1993 and 1996 respectively to provide direct leadership for and take full charge of the preparatory work for the establishment of the HKSAR on behalf of the Central Government. During that time, I served as the Convenor of the Sub-Group on Administrative Affairs of the PWC and subsequently one of the Vice Chairmen of the PC, working under Vice Premier Qian's direct leadership. Vice Premier Qian's gentle manner, sharp political acumen, capable leadership and great calmness have left a deep impression on me.

Vice Premier Qian had dedicated himself to recovering Hong Kong, achieving national unity and upholding national dignity. He devoted himself completely to this work until the midnight of June 30, 1997. Even now, I remember clearly how Vice Premier Qian was deeply moved when he looked up to the rising five-star red national flag at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, and how joyful he was at the Ceremony to Celebrate the Establishment of the HKSAR. Today, as we prepare for the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong's return to China, we shouldnever forget the contributions Vice Premier Qian made to the smooth transition of Hong Kong.

In late 1996, I took on the role of Chief Scrutineer in the First Term Chief Executive Election. During the counting of votes, as the polling staff were exhausted, there was a problem with the number of votes counted.  Everyone was rather nervous.  There was a photo capturing the different facial expressions of Vice Premier Qian, Vice Chairman Lu Ping and I while we looked at the problem, from which we can again have a glimpse of the calm character of Vice Premier Qian.

As Chief Scrutineer, one of my duties was to sign the Chief Scrutineer's report. A day before the Election, I bought a Hero fountain pen from the Chinese Merchandise Emporium Ltd in Central. I used it to sign the report and asked Vice Premier Qian to give it to Mr Tung Chee Hwa as  a memento. Whoever contributed to Hong Kong's return to China is a hero.

A year or two after Hong Kong's return to China, Vice Premier Qian passed by Hong Kong on his way back to Beijing after visiting South Africa. He gave a talk to some of the Secretaries of Departments, Directors of Bureaux and Non-official Members of the Executive Council in a villa in Stanley. The talk was an in-depth yet easy-to-understand analysis of China's diplomatic situation, which is still fresh in my memory.

In March 2003, Vice Premier Qian retired at the advanced age of 75, but he continued to contribute to the country by sharing his valuable diplomatic experiences. "I would like to write down in plain language my personal experiences of those events ... I call it 'Ten Episodes in China's Diplomacy'". In the book, there are a number photos of Vice Premier Qian taken on important occasions. The first one was taken in 1997 while he was delivering a speech at a banquet in Hong Kong. This says a lot about the importance Vice Premier Qian attached to Hong Kong.

I have read through the book "Ten Episodes in China's Diplomacy" twice and have bought some copies for giving out to my Hong Kong friends  who care about our country and diplomacy.

Although Vice Premier Qian has left us, his dedication to realising national unity as well as implementing "one country, two systems" and the Basic Law will always be remembered.

This article is dedicated to the memory of the greatly respected Vice Premier Qian.

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17 May, 2017