Emerging from pandemic, vibrant and lovable HK returns, guarded by NSL, defying Western noise
Published: Jun 30, 2023 08:46 PM Updated: Jun 30, 2023 11:45 PM
Hong Kong residents participate in celebrations held for the 26th anniversary of Hong Kong's return to the motherland at Victoria Park on June 30, 2023. Photo: VCG

Hong Kong residents participate in celebrations held for the 26th anniversary of Hong Kong's return to the motherland at Victoria Park on June 30, 2023. Photo: VCG

"A vibrant and lovable Hong Kong has returned!" When officials and local residents hailed the significant changes that the city has experienced over the past three years since the implementation of the National Security Law (NSL) for Hong Kong, the COVID-19 pandemic and the electoral reform, some Western politicians continued badmouthing the city's stability and future prospects ahead of the 26th anniversary of the city's return to the motherland, which is widely seen as meaningless moves that won't stop Hong Kong from moving toward a bright future.

The city has been adorned with China's national flags and flags of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), creating a sea of red. To celebrate the 26th anniversary of the city's return to the motherland, the HKSAR government and various companies have launched promotion activities such as free entry to some public facilities and free transport rides, according to local media reports.

Hong Kong is gradually extricating itself from the mire of political whirlpools, and the familiar and lovable Hong Kong of the past has returned, Zheng Yanxiong, director of the central government's liaison office in the HKSAR, said at an event on Friday celebrating the anniversary. Zheng said he is pleased to see that the city has been governing in an orderly and effective manner, with legislative and judicial bodies performing their duties according to the law, and the governance team working diligently and pragmatically. "The new style of governance is evident to all."

Since the implementation of the NSL for Hong Kong on June 30, 2020, the political environment in the city has fundamentally changed as the law has helped to restore stability and social order, guaranteeing freedom. Over the past three years, the HKSAR government has established local law enforcement institutions in accordance to the law, pushed forward the national security education and taken effective measures to safeguard the national security.

When Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered an important speech on the 25th anniversary of the city's return to the motherland, he pointed out a clear direction for the city's future, injecting confidence and momentum for its development.

Over the past year, the city has also gradually walked out of the shadow of COVID-19, resumed cross-border travel with the Chinese mainland, which speeded up its full-scale recovery and accelerated its integration into the country's overall development. Some local media also said that this year's anniversary will be a double celebration as it will be the first since the city's emergence from COVID-19.

A snapshot of Hong Kong Photo: VCG

A snapshot of Hong Kong Photo: VCG

New vitality

2023 could be seen as the inaugural year of "patriots governing Hong Kong," as it is the first year in which the Legislative Council and the HKSAR government are genuinely elected and operating under the new reformed system, which is also a critical year for assessing the overall effectiveness of the new system and its social acceptance, Tian Feilong, a legal expert at Beihang University in Beijing, told the Global Times on Friday.

"With the principle of only 'patriots governing Hong Kong' winning wide recognition, the local governance is result-driven on which the central government has a strong guidance and supervision," Tian said.

Also, the major chapter of the practice of the One Country, Two Systems in Hong Kong is about the city's development and its role as a "super connector" between the mainland and the rest of the world, experts said.

Michael Li, vice honorary secretary of the Hong Kong Chinese Importers' & Exporters' Association, told the Global Times on Friday the city enjoys the advantages in talent and capital flow under the One Country, Two Systems. Amid the US' containment against China, companies could choose to list on the Hong Kong market to further explore the overseas market.

The smoother talent mobility can further promote scientific research development. Supported by policies, scientific research in Hong Kong has developed rapidly in the past five years, strongly backing industrial growth, the industry representative said.

"Hong Kong is also vigorously attracting outstanding talents from the mainland to develop here. Under the background of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area and the implementation of the NSL for Hong Kong, mainland companies' confidence in Hong Kong businesses will further increase, enhancing talent mobility," Li said.

After three years of pandemic closures, Hong Kong is making a new start, showing renewed vitality, the HKSAR Chief Executive John Lee was quoted as saying in media reports on Thursday.

Lee said he is cautiously optimistic about the full recovery of Hong Kong's economy. Funds and investments are returning from overseas, and he believes the data for the third quarter will reflect this more accurately. "Hong Kong is a place that welcomes any technological development," the official said, urging foreign companies to make a correct assessment based on Hong Kong's advantages.

'Meaningless moves'

Despite that local residents are enjoying a joyful atmosphere in celebrating the city's anniversary, some Western politicians continued slandering the NSL for Hong Kong and badmouthing the city's future, which is considered as ulterior and meaningless moves by officials, experts and local residents.

US Senate issued a joint statement on the anniversary of the city's return and the anniversary of the implementation of the NSL for Hong Kong on Thursday, saying that the central government and HKSAR government "continue their campaign of repression in a once vibrant and international city." The statement also attacked the city's judicial system, hyping on the case of anti-government media tycoon Jimmy Lai.

The UK Parliament also debated on Wednesday the NSL for Hong Kong on the occasion of the anniversary.

The Office of the Commissioner of the Foreign Ministry in Hong Kong expressed strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition on Friday toward some statements made by US and UK politicians, saying that the statements and the debate blatantly attack and smear the law, vehemently discredit the successful practice of One Country, Two Systems in Hong Kong, and openly excuse anti-China disruptors in Hong Kong, seriously trampling on international law and the basic norms of international relations.

Lau Siu-kai, an expert from the Research Strategy Expert Group of the Chief Executive Policy Unit, told the Global Times on Friday that those Western politicians are displeased with the return of stability and order to Hong Kong, and the collapse of the anti-China and chaos-inciting forces they had nurtured.

"They feel powerless now on Hong Kong affairs, and can only resort to verbal and written condemnations," Lau said.

The bad impact of the US-led Western forces on the Hong Kong affairs has also been diminishing as the NSL for Hong Kong and electoral reform formed a strong defense line for the city, helping it fend off the external interference. Still, more efforts are needed to address potential risks, especially when the means of endangering national security have been changing rapidly with the internet, local officials said.

The HKSAR government will definitely enact the legislation of Article 23 of the Basic Law this year or by next year at the latest, since there's a need to guard against national security risks, Lee was quoted as saying in recent media reports.