After several difficult rounds of negotiations, the heads of states of the United States and Mainland China have finally agreed to restart trade negotiations on the basis of equality and mutual respect. With the Mainland's reiteration of its determination to further open up its markets and expand imports, future opportunities will abound. As such, there is a pressing need for the SAR Government to forge a social consensus and join hands to overcome difficulties, while refocusing on economic development.
In fact, the Mainland is keen to provide a more open trade environment, as this will narrow the gap with developed countries. The passing of the new Foreign Investment Law during the Two Sessions earlier this year is of great significance. The law makes clear provisions on a number of the issues that foreign investors are most concerned about – such as expropriation and compensation as well as protection of intellectual property.
With CEPA being a key channel for Hong Kong businesses to invest in the Mainland, Hong Kong investors enjoy more concessions and protection than foreign investors do under the Foreign Investment Law. This will further encourage Hong Kong people to develop their businesses in the Mainland and expand their markets.
Nevertheless, while the reform and opening up of the country has become more mature and people's livelihoods are improving, Hong Kong residents have been dogged by the upheaval relating to the extradition amendment bill over the past few months, witnessing violent confrontations and disputes one after another.
Hong Kong is well known as a society that upholds the rule of law, and as an international financial centre. Regardless of our position or political stance, we must not challenge the rule of law and risk damaging Hong Kong's reputation.
The wounds caused by social division cannot be healed in a short period of time. Thus, it is imperative for the Government to take concrete actions to restore public confidence. For instance, efforts should be focused on economic and livelihood issues, including improving the business environment. On the other hand, as the recent unrest has drawn international attention, Hong Kong's reputation is inevitably impacted. As such, we need to shout out loud to the world that Hong Kong is still a free, open and law-abiding society.
Tremendous opportunities are arising from the national development. We should value and grasp these opportunities, or Hong Kong will lose its competitiveness built on decades of hard work.
I hope all of us can place the overall interest of Hong Kong as our top priority. We should refocus on promoting economic development and improving people’s lives, so as to narrow differences and facilitate the implementation of policies. Let’s move forward together amid adversity.