Letters from leaders of Hong Kong's political parties and government departments.
Dear residents of Hong Kong,
July 1st, 2017 will be the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to the Motherland. I remember 20 years ago on this date I saw the rainy festivities on TV and witnessed the historical moment of Hong Kong being reunited with our Nation. At the time I had just graduated from university and was working as an accountant in one of the Big Four Accounting Firms. As red chip state-owned enterprises from China started to get listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange, I was personally involved in this work and often had to work through the night. Because I participated personally in this process, I felt deeply that if China does well, so will Hong Kong, and that Hong Kong had a unique role to play in China’s reform process. As a native Hong Kong person, born and bred right here under the Lion Rock, I love Hong Kong, and that is the reason why I went on the path of serving our society.
Let’s recap the 20 years that “One Country, Two Systems” has been implemented in Hong Kong and has truly achieved results that will make anyone proud:
First, Hong Kong was peacefully returned to the bosom of our Motherland. In the 20 years since, under the banner of “One Country, Two Systems”, Hong Kong has seen stable economic growth and growing democratic participation while the basic lifestyle of Hong Kong people did not change. The horses still thunder down Happy Valley, and Lan Kwai Fong still dances to everything from Aaron Kwok to Lady Gaga to K-pop.
Second, Hong Kong remains the freest and most cosmopolitan city. Finances, information, speech, products and people can more or less all move freely in and out of Hong Kong.
Third, the judicial system of Hong Kong continues to be excellently run. Hong Kong is a city that looks to the outside world. As such, in the past two decades the Asian Region has faced the Asian Financial Crisis and the entire world has experienced economic uncertainty. Similarly, Hong Kong has not been immune from these ups and downs in various areas, but especially in the economy. Every time there is a low ebb, we are able to survive because of the unstinting spirit of self-reliance and diligence that comes from being imbued with the spirit of being under the Lion Rock. We rely on Hong Kong’s advantages under “One Country, Two Systems” and the fact that our nation has supported Hong Kong through its own policies.
Thus we should deeply cherish the only place that runs on "One Country, Two Systems" in the entire world. If it were not for “One Country, Two Systems” and the guarantees of the Basic Law, Hong Kong would not have been able to be the freest city in the whole Nation, and our judicial system would not have been able to survive. If not for the advantages of “One Country, Two Systems” and China’s unstinting support, the development of Hong Kong would have lagged behind the times.
Therefore, we really cherish “One Country, Two Systems” and we see that this is the best system for the past, present and future for both our Nation and Hong Kong.
Of course, any new system being implemented will have its difficulties and challenges, and “One Country, Two Systems” is no exception. Hong Kong has some people who beat the drum of localism and demand so-called “self-determination”. This was especially noticeable during recent years when some people created groups promoting so-called “Hong Kong independence” and unsettled the entire city. Some people have insulted the people of our Nation while being sworn in as Legislative Councilors. Some Legislative Councilors have gone to the stage of participating in activities promoting so-called “Taiwanese independence” and made a farcical statement of “mutual support” of each other. All of these
actions are extremely irresponsible. The main thesis of “One Country, Two Systems” is that it affirms Hong Kong’s return to the Motherland and to promote the reunification of our Nation. If, during its implementation, “One Country, Two Systems” became an excuse for Hong Kong to cut itself off from China, such a system cannot exist and we can wave any chance of further development goodbye. Therefore, the HKSAR government and the various sectors in society cannot just let such irresponsible actions be, but everyone must condemn and resist these rabble rousers firmly.
“One Country” will always exist, and “Two Systems” is a way to create a system. Whether this system can continue to exist will depend on whether we have the heart to protect it. The DAB has set out as one of our main ideas to firmly defend “One Country, Two Systems”, and we hope that the majority of Hong Kong residents will stand with us in this grand and noble endeavor as we firmly reject all the junk notions of “Hong Kong independence”, “self-determination” and other kinds of separatism. We will defend and protect “One Country, Two Systems” and make this system that had never been seen or used before in human history into a success. Thank you very much.
Dear Hong Kong Citizens,
As you may have noticed, the grade one historic building in Tuen Mun known as the Hung Lau has been put into the spotlight recently due to the damages that it has sustained by developers. The attitude and efficiency the H.K. government exhibited (after the damages were known) was totally unacceptable, and calls into question how effective our current heritage conservation policy is in protecting historic monuments.
The Hung Lau, which means "Red House" in Cantonese, is historically important as it is said to be linked to Dr. Sun Yat-sen during the Chinese republican revolutionary days. Yet, trees surrounding the Hung Lau were chopped down, parts of the walls surrounding the building were torn down, even the water supply was cut off forcefully in February. I visited the site with Tuen Mun local residents as soon as I knew about these damages, and saw no sign that such work would stop. I wrote to Secretary of Development Eric Ma immediately, requesting him to declare the Hung Lau a ‘proposed monument’ under the Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance. On 1st of March, Antiquities Advisory Board, abbreviated as AAB, stated that it would not declare the building a ‘proposed monument’, and that it would only declare it as such, only if it should sustain any further damages in the future, a decision I find ill-informed and completely unreasonable. On 8th of March, multiple windows of Hung Lau were damaged and only then did the Antiquities and Monuments Office declare it a ‘proposed monument’. The way how things turned out not only showed how incapable the government is when protecting historic monuments, it also shows how little significance is attached to heritage conservation.
When a building that has not been declared a monument is about to be demolished, such work could only take place after permission from "Building Department" or "Lands Department" under the "Building Ordinance" (Cap12) and "Buildings Ordinance (Application to the New Territories) Ordinance". However, as seen in the case of the Hung Lau, when damages were reported and demolishing work started to take place, the only action taken by the authorities was Building Department issuing a Notice and putting it in an obvious spot, which fails to act as a deterrent. Lessons learnt from past examples have also shown the unavoidably repeated fate of demolition even if the monuments were given a grade one status, like that of Queen’s Pier and Star Ferry Pier. It is also worth mentioning that Ho Tung Gardens and the Complex of King Yin Lei at Stubbs Road were also granted a "proposed monument" status after they were damaged, which further demonstrates the government’s incapability of protecting ungraded historical buildings.
The Chief Executive appoints the chairman and members of the board of AAB (Antiquities Advisory Board), which explains why its members are all his supports and confidants, making the Broad as a consultative panel full of politicians and businessmen. Only four members of the board have archaeological and historical backgrounds, the rest of them are from fields such as planning, accounting, politics and information and technology. This undoubtedly questions the legitimacy of AAB Antiquities Advisory Board. Moreover, under such leadership, discussions inside Antiquities Advisory Board are inevitably driven by development and business interests. Heritage conservation is an important step towards achieving sustainable development, but such goal seems more difficult to achieve when the effectiveness of Antiquities Advisory Board is hampered by the way the CE appoints its members.
To ensure that buildings with historical significance are protected, the Historic Buildings Grading System should be added into the jurisdiction of the Antiquities and Monuments Ordinance, This would prevent private property owners from tearing down any buildings of historical value, and ensure that buildings that are not declared a monument could also be protected. In addition, the Antiquities and Monuments Office should increase its transparency and accountability by allowing public participation and the nomination of representatives from the corresponding fields. Lastly, the government should also consider setting up an Architectural Heritage Fund that is responsible for conserving historic buildings and monuments.
Even though the Hung Lau is currently declared a ‘proposed monument', the building is only safe for a year. Thus, I hope the building will be declared a monument, so that the public can know more about the building and its history in the future. Like many fellow citizens, I also hope the publicity this series of events has generated can help raise the public’s awareness to Hong Kong’s heritage conservation policy.