PEARL OF THE ORIENT: Hong Kong has maintained its prosperity and made sustained progress after its return to China in 1997 (CFP)
The success of the "one country, two systems" policy in Hong Kong proves it was not only the best solution for returning Hong Kong to China 17 years ago but is also the best arrangement for the long-term prosperity and stability of the region, according to a newly published white paper of the Chinese Government. The report, titled The Practice of the "One Country, Two Systems" Policy in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, was released on June 10 and is the first such paper on China's Hong Kong policy.
"[The paper] has several important chapters, including comprehensive detailing of the progress made in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), efforts made by the Central Government in ensuring the prosperity and development of the HKSAR, as well as a full and accurate understanding of the 'one country, two systems' policy and its implementation," said HKSAR Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying on June 10 during a press conference in Hong Kong.
The "one country, two systems" solution was put forward by late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in the early 1980s in an effort to realize the peaceful reunification of China.
According to Deng, the concept of "one country, two systems" means there is only one China, with the mainland adhering to a socialist system while Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan may retain their capitalist systems for a long time to come.
Following this principle, the Chinese Government successfully returned Hong Kong to China through diplomatic negotiations with the British Government, and resumed the exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong on July 1, 1997.
Since its return to China, Hong Kong has maintained steady economic growth. From 1997 to 2013, its gross regional product (GRP) grew by 3.4 percent annually in real terms. The local per-capita GRP increased by a total of 39.3 percent, calculated in U.S. dollars, during the same period.
According to statistics for 2013 from the International Monetary Fund, Hong Kong's GRP and per-capita GRP, ranked 35th and seventh respectively when compared to the rest of the world and calculated by purchasing power parity.
"Hong Kong has maintained a sound business environment, and is generally recognized as one of the world's freest economies," says the white paper.
The Chinese mainland has provided "solid backing" for Hong Kong's prosperity and stability over the years, including during the Asian financial crisis in 1997, the fight against SARS in 2003 and the global recession in 2008.
A series of economic partnership agreements, including the Mainland and Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) that was put into effect on January 1, 2004, now allows the Chinese mainland to give a zero tariff treatment to all products originating from Hong Kong.
Currently, the mainland is the largest trading partner of Hong Kong, while Hong Kong is among the mainland's most important trading partners, a key market for mainland products and the mainland's largest off-shore financial center.
Trade volume between Hong Kong and the mainland reached HK$3.89 trillion ($502 billion) in 2013, 3.5 times that of 1997.
The Chinese Central Government has also taken measures to consolidate Hong Kong's position as a leading offshore market for Chinese yuan, and has encouraged the listing of mainland enterprises on the stock market in Hong Kong.
By the end of 2013, around 129 million mainland residents had visited Hong Kong under the Individual Visitors Scheme. According to estimates by the HKSAR Government, the scheme contributed to a 1.3-percent increase for Hong Kong's GRP in 2012 alone, and helped create more than 110,000 jobs.
While comprehensive progress has been made on all fronts in Hong Kong, the practice of "one country, two systems" has come to face new circumstances and new problems.
"The implementation of the Basic Law of the HKSAR has faced hurdles due to the fact that some people are confused or biased in their understanding of the 'one country, two systems' policy and the Basic Law," said Zhang Dinghuai, Deputy Director of Contemporary Chinese Politics Research Institute at Shenzhen University, Guangdong Province. The Basic Law, formulated in accordance with the Constitution of the People's Republic of China, provides the HKSAR with the equivalent of a constitutional law.
The white paper clarifies that China's Central Government has comprehensive jurisdiction over all local administrative regions, including the HKSAR, and the high degree of autonomy of the HKSAR stems solely from the central leadership's authorization. "The high degree of autonomy of the HKSAR is not full autonomy, nor a decentralized power. It is the power to run local affairs as authorized by the central leadership," says the document, which explicitly denies there is any "residual power" for Hong Kong.