BEIJING, July 1, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived at West Kowloon Station in Hong Kong by train on Thursday afternoon, launching his visit to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the city's return to the motherland.
This is also Xi's first publicly announced visit outside the Chinese mainland since the COVID-19 epidemic started in early 2020. This visit will be of great significance as observers expect that Xi will point out in his speech the direction of the city's future development, especially after the implementation of the national security law for Hong Kong and electoral system reform helped restore stability in the city.
Observers in Hong Kong and the mainland believed that Xi's visit to Hong Kong amid an increasingly complex geopolitical environment sends a clear message to Hong Kong and to the world that the "one country, two systems" principle is beneficial to the country and to the city, and will be unswervingly upheld for the long term.
Carrie Lam, the outgoing chief executive of the HKSAR, and Luo Huining, director of the central government's liaison office in Hong Kong, welcomed Xi and the first lady Peng Liyuan on the station platform. They were surrounded by local residents and students waving Chinese national flags, flowers and banners with the words "Warmly welcome President Xi to attend the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the city's return to the motherland and the inaugural ceremony of the sixth-term government of the HKSAR."
Inside the station, a lion dance was held and the atmosphere of excitement was palpable.
Xi extended congratulations and best wishes to Hong Kong compatriots as he gave a short speech inside the station. He said he has always been concerned about Hong Kong and his heart is always with Hong Kong compatriots.
"It has been five years since my last visit to Hong Kong," Xi said upon arrival at the West Kowloon high-speed rail station.
Over the past five years, I have been all along concerned about and caring for Hong Kong, and my heart is always with Hong Kong compatriots, Xi said.
'A brighter future will beckon'
In the recent period, Hong Kong has withstood many severe tests and overcome many risks and challenges. After many storms and hardships, Hong Kong has been reborn and shown vigorous vitality, Xi said, noting that the reality proves that the "one country, two systems" principle has strong vitality that will ensure the long-term prosperity of the city and benefits of Hong Kong compatriots.
"A brighter future will beckon, if we forge ahead with perseverance," said Xi, noting that as long as the principle is upheld unswervingly, Hong Kong will surely have an even brighter future and make new, greater contributions to the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.
"It's expected that with the care of Xi and the central government, the practice of 'one country, two systems' will be stable and sustainable in Hong Kong, and the city's status and importance in the country will be more prominent with its prosperity and stability much guaranteed," Lau Siu-kai, the vice-president of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies, told the Global Times on Thursday.
Accompanied by Lam, Xi met with some 160 people from various sectors of Hong Kong and representatives of the disciplined services at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre on Thursday afternoon. The President also visited the Hong Kong Science Park to inspect Hong Kong's innovation and technology development while his wife Peng Liyuan visited the Xiqu Centre of the West Kowloon Cultural District.
Chan Yung, vice-chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, who was also among the 160 representatives, told the Global Times that Xi's visit greatly boosts the confidence of Hong Kong people, especially after the city has been battling the epidemic for two years.
China adjusted its quarantine policy for close contacts and international arrivals ahead of Xi's visit. Chan, who also served as a deputy director for Chief Executive-elect John Lee's campaign office, said he believed it's a positive signal for Hong Kong's economic recovery, as many are expecting the resumption of mainland-Hong Kong exchanges.
Xi's choice to go to Hong Kong by high-speed rail demonstrates the development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, which shows a major achievement of the practice of "one country, two systems" in the area, Li Xiaobing, an expert on Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan affairs at Nankai University, told the Global Times on Thursday.
Being a key part of China's high-speed rail network, the entire line of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link entered into service on September 23, 2022. The line is 141 kilometers long, of which 115 km is on the mainland and 26 km is in the Hong Kong SAR.
While Hong Kong is still in the aftermath of the fifth wave of its COVID-19 epidemic and Macao is witnessing sporadic cases, and the current international situation is bringing about more uncertain factors, Xi's visit to the SAR shows his and the central government's trust in and concerns about Hong Kong, Li noted.
During a meeting with Lam, Xi said the central government acknowledged her work over the past five years, as she made significant contributions to leading the HKSAR government to govern according to the law, uniting all sectors in society to stop violence, fighting COVID-19 outbreaks and integrating Hong Kong into national development while safeguarding sovereignty, security, development interests and the city's stability as well as prosperity.
The implementation of the national security law for Hong Kong and the electoral reform brought order back to the city and giving an opportunity for the city to select qualified leaders and competent patriots.
While the ups and downs of the past few years have led to doubts among some people about whether China will continue upholding the "one country, two systems" principle, Xi's visit set the fundamental tone on this issue, serving as a political vow, Tian Feilong, a legal expert at Beihang University in Beijing, told the Global Times on Thursday.
SOURCE Global Times