Chief Executive CY Leung
This past year was full of opportunities and challenges. Politically, we had the historic opportunity to move towards the selection of the Chief Executive by universal suffrage. The local community devoted a great deal of time and energy to this issue. Some people, however, were unwilling to accept the principles laid down in the Basic Law and the relevant Decision of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress; they misjudged the bottom line of the Central Authorities.
In the end, 40% of the Members of the Legislative Council (LegCo) voted against the package of proposals for universal suffrage. Since it was not endorsed by a two-thirds majority of LegCo Members, the proposals came to nothing. Moreover, the unlawful occupy movement, which lasted 79 days, posed sustained and serious threats to social order and the rule of law. The general public resolutely disapproved of the unlawful acts, and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government and the Police Force exercised the highest degree of patience and restraint. Today, I would like to express again my respect and thanks to my political team, to my colleagues in the civil service, including the Police Force, and to the general public.
With universal suffrage voted down, Hong Kong has missed a valuable opportunity for democratic development. Nevertheless, in the process of constitutional reform, the local community did affirm the basic constitutional principles governing Hong Kong and the necessity of abiding by the Basic Law and other legal provisions in managing our affairs.
Capitalise on opportunities
Although constitutional reform took up a considerable part of our time and efforts over the past year, the HKSAR Government did not overlook its work to boost the economy and improve the livelihood of the people of Hong Kong. On the economic front, opportunities and challenges existed side by side. The development of our country and the advantages of both "one country" and "two systems" continue to provide favourable conditions for Hong Kong's economic development, to the envy of many.
Notable developments over the past year include the official launch of Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect, the mutual recognition of funds between the Mainland and Hong Kong, with effect from today, and the early realisation of basic liberalisation of trade in services between Hong Kong and Guangdong Province.
Our economic partners abroad also pay great attention to Hong Kong's role as a "super-connector". In April, I attended the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Leadership Forum in Malaysia. There, I had bilateral meetings with the leaders of six ASEAN member states to promote economic and trade co-operation between Hong Kong and ASEAN countries, as well as talks on the free trade agreement with ASEAN.
Last month, I went to Toronto in Canada and Chicago in the United States to attend major promotional events organised by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council. I met more than 2,000 Canadian and US political and business leaders. They showed keen interest in Hong Kong's roles and advantages, and expressed full confidence in Hong Kong's political, social and economic situations.
According to the World Investment Report, released last week by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, Hong Kong ranked second last year in global foreign direct investment inflow and outflow. Our inflow of US$103 billion and outflow of US$143 billion ranked behind only Mainland China and the United States respectively. The fact that Hong Kong, a city, placed second - behind only the two largest economies in the world - underlines our status as a "super-connector".
Thanks to our "one country, two systems" arrangement, Hong Kong will also serve as a bridge between Mainland China and the rest of the world in the Mainland's emerging "One Belt, One Road" initiatives. Our world-class trading, logistics, business and professional services and financial sectors can play the triple roles of investor, intermediary and supporter.
The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) is another important Mainland initiative. Here, too, Hong Kong can help, in areas such as project financing, bond issuance, investment, financial management and foreign-exchange management. We can also provide legal, engineering, accounting and other professional services for the planning and implementation of AIIB infrastructure projects. This will bring about more development opportunities for our professional and financial services.
While rewarding opportunities abound, we are also facing a host of challenges. With intense external competition, we must strive to remain relevant. In some areas, such as innovation and technology, Hong Kong is clearly lagging behind and must act fast to catch up. The slackening economic growth of Mainland China and the European debt crisis will also have an impact on Hong Kong. In recent years, some have played down the importance of economic activity and development, or even damaged Hong Kong's reputation, turning a blind eye to the social consequences of a weakened economy. We must stay alert.
The purpose of boosting the economy is clear. We do it to improve people's livelihood. Two of our major livelihood issues today are housing and poverty.
The Long Term Housing Strategy, announced last December, is the Government's first long-term strategic document on housing since 1998. It sets out housing supply targets for the next 10 years. The efforts made by the current-term Government since taking office to increase housing land supply have begun to show results. According to our forecast, the completion of private domestic units next year will reach a 10-year high, exceeding the average annual production of the past decade by 72 per cent. This should begin to alleviate the shortage that has built up over a prolonged period of time. The HKSAR Government will continue to increase housing land supply through rezoning. I hope that all sectors, as well as the local communities concerned, will support these efforts.
Our poverty alleviation work has also begun to bear fruit. We have set a poverty line, and are working to reduce Hong Kong's poor population. At present, the overall poor population has dropped below 1 million. In the years ahead, we will continue to do our best to alleviate poverty in Hong Kong.
As the experience of some European democracies shows, democratic systems and procedures are no panacea for economic and livelihood issues. For nearly two of the three years since this Government took office, we have spent much of our energy on constitutional reform. Now that universal suffrage for the election of the Chief Executive has been rejected, the Government needs the support and co-operation of the entire community, if we are to boost the economy and improve the livelihood of the people of Hong Kong. If a handful of LegCo Members continue to resort to filibustering in avoidance of a democratic vote, and if individual members of the public deliberately abuse administrative and judicial procedures to stall the development of our society, little can be achieved - however hard the Government and the community at large may try.
In the 18 years since the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, we have worked together to overcome many difficulties, many challenges. We have also worked together to capitalise on numerous opportunities. As long as we set aside differences and work for the long-term interest of Hong Kong, in a pragmatic and proactive manner, I am confident we can build a more prosperous, stable and harmonious Hong Kong.
Chief Executive CY Leung gave this speech at the reception in celebration of the 18th anniversary of the establishment of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
Department of Commerce
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