Bracing for a sixth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, President Xi Jinping attended the ceremony for the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to the motherland on July 1, and delivered an important speech on the occasion, which has been the topic of discussion in many study forums, workshops, and symposiums organized by various organizations in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
These kind of top-down study groups are common on the Chinese mainland, as the Communist Party of China is a learning party that emphasizes all Party members should seek guidance from the higher leadership. This study trend is a new beginning of patriot governance, and it is expected to be a new culture of Hong Kong.
In his speech, President Xi emphasized “four musts and four aspirations” for Hong Kong. The four hopes are:
1. Strive to improve governance.
2. Keep strengthening the momentum of development.
3. Take solid steps to address difficulties in people’s lives.
4. Jointly uphold harmony and stability.
President Xi enumerated “strive to improve governance” as his first aspiration, which is also that of Hong Kong residents. Because of the remnants of social divisions and COVID-19, Hong Kong is facing huge socioeconomic challenges.
The special administrative region government, led by Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu, has the mission to bring Hong Kong back to normality. This is a tough mission that hinges on the new governing team’s capability to improve the SAR’s governance.
There is a so-called honeymoon period for any new government, which may last from three months to a half-year. To strive to improve the governance, Lee and his team have to show determination. During its first month in office, the new government is working hard on policy implementation, which shows the public that the new administration is determined to improve its governance.
For example, on public health policy, the new secretary for health, Professor Lo Chung-mau, suspended the route-specific flight suspension mechanism on July 7, a mechanism that has been complained about for a long time. As the quarantine hotels in Hong Kong are in short supply, many people cannot rebook a hotel room after their flight tickets are suddenly canceled.
The result is that many people need to postpone their travel for a very long time till they can book a new quarantine hotel room, or they even had to cancel their trip to Hong Kong.
Besides the suspension of this mechanism, the Shenzhen Bay Port has also increased the quota to 2,000 people per day for cross-boundary travelers. Also, a Humanistic Care channel has been created for people with special needs to apply, e.g., elderly over 70, youth under 14, pregnant women, etc.
Meanwhile, the Transportation Department has also come up with some new proposals. First, it proposed that taxi drivers can put no more than two phones in front of them, and they should not touch the phones when they are driving. Second, it is studying the feasibility of requiring all bus passengers to use the seatbelts available in their seats.
All those policies will help part of Hong Kong residents and solve the problems for some people. Lee emphasizes that if we solve a problem a day, then after a year, more than 300 problems in Hong Kong will be solved. The SAR government should keep proposing new ideas to tackle existing problems, and the most important is to implement effective policies or measures. The government can only enhance the governance by implementing suitable policies to tackle problems, and there is no alternative way.
In conclusion, the new SAR government led by Lee fully understands the importance of making good use of the honeymoon period. It is trying its best to make full use of this opportunity to show its determination to improve the governance in Hong Kong. Lee already indicates that his government will be results-oriented, and the proactive approach of the SAR government has already kicked off.
Of course, the SAR government has not yet touched the biggest issues of Hong Kong, i.e., the land shortage, housing problem, youth issues, etc. Those problems cannot be solved in a short period of time.
What the Hong Kong people need in this honeymoon period is that the new government shows its eagerness to do a better job and to enhance the life of Hong Kong residents. Judging from its performance in its first month of operation, I am confident that the new administration will achieve the aspirations of President Xi, which are also the hopes of Hong Kong residents.
The author is the Deputy Secretary General of One Country Two Systems Youth Forum, a member of New People’s Party Central Committee, a board member of the Hong Kong Association of Young Commentators and a former district councilor.
The original article was published on China Daily (July 26th, 2022)