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20 Years in My Eyes
 NO. 28 JULY 13, 2017

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong's return to the motherland. In the past 20 years, Hong Kong has made remarkable achievements in many aspects. Every individual in Hong Kong has his or her own story to tell. Ten residents in Hong Kong shared their stories of the past years and talked about their expectations for the future.

Chan Mo-po, Financial Secretary of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region

Although Hong Kong has had ups and downs, on the whole, it is much better than it was 20 years ago.

Its regional GDP has grown by 80 percent since 1997. Even though Hong Kong's economy as a share of the nation's total has shrunk, it is very normal as our country has developed at a surprising speed.

In the past 20 years, Hong Kong's role in the development of the country has undergone subtle changes. When the mainland adopted the reform and opening-up policy in the late 1970s, Hong Kong was its main source of investment. Foreign enterprises that intended to invest in the mainland also needed to route through Hong Kong. Currently, foreign companies can directly invest in the mainland.

Hong Kong is more experienced in risk management and its legal system is more in line with that of foreign countries. These are the advantages of Hong Kong, with which we are planning to develop the city into a prime venue for commercial arbitration.

Hong Kong can play an important role in aligning Chinese and international standards in building the China-proposed Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road, collectively known as the Belt and Road Initiative, though the main goal is to introduce Chinese standards in overseas markets.

In addition, Hong Kong can serve as a funding hub for the Belt and Road Initiative. The Hong Kong Monetary Authority has set up an infrastructure investment office.

Under the premise of controllable risks, Hong Kong can also function as a testing ground for the internationalization of the renminbi. We can help investors from the mainland to invest in overseas markets and in the meantime attract foreign capital to the financial market of the mainland.

Although the four pillar industries—trade and logistics, tourism, finance, and professional and other productive services—have made great contributions to Hong Kong's economy, future development will definitely be more diversified. We should provide more development opportunities for the innovation and technology sector.

Ann Hui, movie director

In 1997, I made the movie Eighteen Springs based on the eponymous novel by Eileen Chang. In the same year, I made a documentary, As Time Goes By, reflecting the concerns and worries of social elites in Hong Kong on their identification after the return.

Quite a few Hong Kong directors have been very successful in cooperating with mainland movie makers over the past 20 years. Their communication and cooperation have brought many opportunities and nice surprises. It is very important to have clear and thorough understanding of each other.

In 2007, I made a low-budget movie, The Way We Are, with the investment of only HKS1.2 million ($153,722). To my surprise, this movie, which is in Cantonese and reflects local life in Tin Shui Wai in the New Territories, has won acclaim from the mainland audience.

Emotions have no boundaries—the more local it is, the more touching it can be. I am very optimistic about the future of Hong Kong movies.

Eddy S. H. Li, President of the Chinese Manufacturers' Association of Hong Kong

My first factory on the mainland opened in Shenzhen in 1984 soon after I started my own business in the early 1980s.

After the low-value-added and labor-intensive processing industries were gradually relocated to the mainland over the past few years, Hong Kong has been able to focus on developing high-value-added products and services that require precise expertise.

Before 1997, many of my friends immigrated to foreign countries for fear that Hong Kong would regress and the lifestyle of Hong Kong people would change after the return. But in recent years, more and more people have come back.

A great change is that the exchange and communication between Hong Kong and the mainland have been largely intensified. Many young people in Hong Kong have moved to the mainland for study and entrepreneurship, and more Hong Kong women have married men from the mainland.

Before 1997, we had to go to the Middle East and Europe to explore the watch market. After the return, we have had access to the huge mainland market. Now the Belt and Road Initiative and the construction of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area have brought new business opportunities for us.

For Hong Kong, the future is very promising. What has never changed is the advantage of "one country, two systems."

John Slosar, Chairman of Swire Pacific Ltd.

The investment of Swire Group both in Hong Kong and on the mainland has proven to be successful in the past 20 years.

In the mid-1990s, many newspapers in Hong Kong were full of pessimistic predictions regarding the future of Hong Kong as the return was approaching. Almost nobody had expected that Hong Kong could grow to be a global financial hub 20 years later. This achievement owes to the cooperation of Hong Kong and the mainland on economic development.

Hong Kong remains a highly free port city with the integration of various cultural aspects. The implementation of the principle of "one country, two systems" has played an important role in maintaining the vitality of Hong Kong.

The return of Hong Kong to China has brought many opportunities for its development and the business of our group has improved correspondingly. In the future, we will continue our investment in Hong Kong in sectors including real estate, beverage and civil aviation.

I have been living in Hong Kong for 37 years. It is my home now and I will definitely stay here longer. I believe we will have more opportunities and make more achievements in the following 20 years.

Kwok Yiu-kei, middle school teacher

Our school holds a flag-raising ceremony once every month.

Many schools have formed their flag-raising teams after Hong Kong's return to the motherland as part of their efforts to enhance students' identification with our nation.

Now there are about 500 middle schools in Hong Kong. Except for some private and international schools, most are sponsored by the government and the classes are mainly taught in Cantonese and English.

The birth rate in Hong Kong in recent years has fallen gradually and the number of new students has decreased. The number of students taking diploma exams decreased from 62,000 in 2015 to 57,000 in 2016 and this year, it further decreased to 52,000, the lowest in history.

Some schools will have to be closed due to the lack of students. The new Chief Executive, Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, has promised to increase educational resources. I hope we don't have to worry about employment in the future.

Li Xiaojia, Chief Executive of HKEX Group

In the past 20 years, the capital market in Hong Kong has boomed and Hong Kong has developed from a regional financial center to an international financial hub.

The value of Hong Kong's stock market has increased by more than seven-fold, in addition to a two-fold growth in the number of companies listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange and a four-fold growth in the average daily stock trading volume.

In 1993, Tsingtao Brewery became the first enterprise from the mainland to be listed in Hong Kong. The number of Hong Kong-listed mainland companies had increased from 101 at the end of 1997 to 1,002 at the end of 2015. They accounted for 51 percent of all publicly traded companies in Hong Kong and 63 percent of the local stock market value.

In the following years, Hong Kong will transform from a funding hub to a global wealth management center, a leading offshore risk management center and a global asset pricing center for the mainland. The implementation of the principle of "one country, two systems" holds the key to achieving this goal.

So Shung-lim, owner of Kung Wo Bean Curd Factory

Kung Wo Bean Curd was founded by Lok Bang in 1893. Before the return, Lok's family intended to transfer the business. I took it over without hesitation.

I made the decision because I was confident in Hong Kong. People need to eat anyway. As long as the food is good, business will not be bad.

Hong Kong's economy has developed rapidly over the past 20 years and Kung Wo's business has been getting better, especially after individual mainland tourists were allowed to visit Hong Kong in 2003.

I will stay with this business till I'm 65 at least. My daughter is interested in taking over after that. We follow and keep the spirit of older-generation Hong Kong people— working hard and pursuing perfection.

Man Siu-lun, engineer

I am from a village in the New Territories, adjacent to Shenzhen in Guangdong Province. Even though I have moved to Hong Kong Island, I come back to the village regularly, walking in the farmland and breathing fresh air. It is like a retreat from the busy and bustling urban life.

In the 1980s, there were only a few new houses in the village and the houses had just one or two floors. My family was the first to build a three-storey house. In the past decade, more three-storey houses have been built.

After Hong Kong's return to China, the government has been endeavoring to improve the living conditions for native residents in the New Territories. Currently, we have modern toilets and wider roads in the village.

In the past 20 years, many people who moved to other countries before 1997 have come back to Hong Kong. Many of my contemporaries have also returned after studying overseas.

Kwok Tso-tai, helmsman

I have been working on Star Ferry (a passenger ferry service from Hong Kong Island to Kowloon) for almost 20 years and witnessed the changes in the service. In 2006, the old Star Ferry Pier in Central moved to a new location. I was the pilot of the last ferry on the old route. After the boat berthed at the bank, the passengers took pictures with me and waved their hands. I felt like I was a star.

Something has never changed though. When I served on the route from Hung Hom to Central and Wan Chai, a small boy of about 3 or 4 years old was a frequent passenger with his father. Gradually we became familiar and he sometimes bought breakfast for me. After the line stopped service, the boy, who has grown up, takes the ferry at the Tsim Sha Tsui Pier.

It feels very good to see these familiar passengers are always here and this is the charm of being a seafarer on the ferry. It has never changed.

Pui Kwan-kay, Vice President of the Sports Federation and Olympic Committee of Hong Kong

"One country, two systems" has been a great success in Hong Kong since its return to the motherland. In the past 20 years, Hong Kong has made steady progress in many aspects, including economy, sports, health and poverty relief.

On every July 1, the Hong Kong Jockey Club holds a horse-racing ceremony. With a history of more than 100 years, horse racing has been a recreation in Hong Kong and part of local people's life. This tradition has remained unchanged after the return.

I have taken part in many sports events and witnessed the progress and achievements of Hong Kong in sports development.

The sports exchange and cooperation between Hong Kong and the mainland have been intense. The mainland has provided great support and help for Hong Kong. Athletes from Hong Kong have been granted many resources and training opportunities, such as joining training camps of national teams. Many elite athletes and coaches from the mainland have been introduced to Hong Kong.

In 2008, Beijing successfully hosted the Summer Olympic Games, which also offered Hong Kong a golden opportunity to become an Olympic City, hosting the equestrian competition. This has greatly enhanced Hong Kong's image as an international sports city.

(With additional reporting from Hong Kong edition of China Today)

Copyedited by Dominic James Madar

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