MAINTAIN PROSPERITY AND STABILITY IN HONG KONG
October 3, 1984
I am very happy to see so many of you attending our National Day celebrations, and I believe Hong Kong has a bright future. Among those who have come for the celebrations are people from different walks of life and with different political views. This shows that you all favour China’s resumption of the exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong and the agreement reached between the Chinese and British governments. It follows that we all have the same important prerequisite, love for the motherland and for Hong Kong, and that we all share the same goal, to maintain prosperity and stability in Hong Kong over the next 13 years and after. With our joint efforts, I am sure our goal will be achieved. After 1997 those of you who are 60 or 70 will not be as energetic as you are today. There are many young people among us here; they have an advantage over us in this respect. As for me, I should love to be around in 1997, to see with my own eyes China’s resumption of the exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong.
Some people are worried that China’s policy may change once we are no longer around. I appreciate their trust in elderly men like me. But today I should like to assure you that China’s policy will not change; nobody can change it, because it is right and effective and enjoys the support of the people. Since it is backed by the people, anyone who tries to change it will meet with the people’s opposition. It is certain that the contents of the Joint Declaration will not change. And our Central Government and the Central Committee of the Communist Party always live up to their international obligations; that was true even during the years of turmoil. Acting in good faith is a Chinese tradition, not something invented by our generation. It is an essential quality of our magnificent old country. Ours is a great and proud nation. A great nation should preserve its dignity and adhere to the principles it has formulated. In the agreement we stated that no change would be made for 50 years, and we mean it. There will be no changes in my generation or in the next. And I doubt that 50 years after 1997, when the mainland is developed, people will handle matters like this in a narrow-minded way. So don’t worry, there won’t be any changes.
Besides, not all changes are bad. Some of them are good, and the question is what should be changed. China’s takeover of Hong Kong is a change, isn’t it? So we should not be afraid of all changes. If there are any, they will only be changes for the better, for the greater benefit of the prosperity and development of Hong Kong, not changes detrimental to the interests of the people there. Changes like that should be welcomed by all of us. If some people say there will be no changes whatever, don’t believe them. We cannot say that every aspect of the capitalist system in Hong Kong is perfect. Even when we compare the developed capitalist countries, we find that each has both strengths and weaknesses. If we make Hong Kong develop on a sounder basis — wouldn’t that be a change? People in Hong Kong will welcome this change and indeed demand it. There is no doubt about that. We are making some changes too. The most important thing, the thing that we will not change, is the socialist system. The “one country, two systems” policy is a great change, and so is our rural policy. In a few days we shall hold a plenary session of the Central Committee of the CPC to discuss reform in the cities. That reform will also be a change, and an earthshaking one. The question is whether these changes will lead to good results or bad. So we should not reject all changes; if we did that, we should never make progress. This is a question of people’s way of thinking.
Other people are afraid of intervention. Again, we should not fear all interventions; intervention in some cases may be necessary. The question is whether it is good or bad for the interests of the people of Hong Kong and for prosperity and stability there. Now it seems that there will be good order in Hong Kong for the 13 years from 1984 to 1997 and for another 50 years after that. I am confident of this. But we should not think there are no potentially disruptive forces. These forces may come from any direction. If there are disturbances in Hong Kong, the Central Government will intervene. If intervention puts an end to disturbances and brings about order, should we welcome or reject it? We should welcome it. That is why we need to make a concrete analysis of everything.
I have also spoken about the need for participation in the administration of the affairs of Hong Kong during the transition period of 13 years, and participation is also a kind of intervention. Of course, I don’t mean participation by Beijing, but by people in Hong Kong. The Central Government supports their participation. It is unimaginable that a new team of administrators should suddenly take over on the morning of July 1, 1997. They would be unfamiliar with everything, and wouldn’t that cause disorder? Or if not disorder, at least confusion? During the last six or seven years of the transition period, a group of young and capable people from different trades and professions should be selected to participate in the Hong Kong government to administer affairs, including financial affairs. Things cannot go well unless they participate, because if they don’t, they will not become familiar with affairs in Hong Kong. In the course of their work we shall have the opportunity to identify professionally competent people to use for the administration of Hong Kong after 1997. There is only one requirement for participants: they must be patriots, that is, people who love the motherland and Hong Kong. After 1997 the administrators will adhere to the capitalist system, but they must not do anything that is detrimental to the interests of the motherland or of the compatriots in Hong Kong. So we cannot indiscriminately oppose all types of participation and intervention.
Hong Kong will be administered by people in Hong Kong — that will not change. The administrators will be elected by the people there and then appointed by the Central Government; they will not be sent by the Central Government. Of course, some of them should be on the Left, but as few as possible; some should be on the Right; and preferably a larger number should be middle-of-the-roaders. In this way, people from different sectors of society will be satisfied. In handling all these affairs, the Central Government will concentrate on those that affect the overall interest and not concern itself with lesser matters.
So, some people are worried about a change in China’s policy and others about intervention. Are there still others who are worried about something else? Some people are worried about possible disturbances in Hong Kong. If there are any disturbances, there will have to be intervention. Not only the Central Government but also the people in Hong Kong will have to take action. There are bound to be people who make trouble, but we must not let them get the upper hand.
When I talked with some British guests, I said I hoped that certain problems would not arise in Hong Kong during the transition period. One was that British capital would take the lead in withdrawing from the territory, and another was that there would be great fluctuations in the value of the Hong Kong dollar. If the reserves are depleted and the Hong Kong dollar depreciates, there will be unrest. So how can we not be concerned about the reserves during the transition period? There is also the problem of land. If all the land is sold and the proceeds are used for administrative expenses, that would shift the burden onto the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region after 1997. In that case, could we afford not to intervene? When I talked with the British, I listed five points, and they expressed their willingness to cooperate with us on them.
I said that China had the right to station troops in Hong Kong. I asked what else could demonstrate that China exercised sovereignty over the territory. The Chinese troops in Hong Kong would have another role also — to prevent disturbances. Knowing that there were Chinese troops present, people who intended to incite disturbances would have to think twice about it. And even if there were disturbances, they could be quelled immediately.
With regard to the Sino-British Joint Declaration, not only do we know that we shall abide by it, but we are also convinced that the British will do the same, and we are still more convinced that our Chinese compatriots in Hong Kong will do so too. However, we should keep in mind that there are bound to be people who do not want to abide by it strictly. There will be certain factors that might cause disturbances, disorder and instability. To be honest, these factors will not come from Beijing, but we cannot exclude the possibility that they exist inside Hong Kong or that they will come from certain international forces. International reaction to the Joint Declaration has been favourable. When people talk about possible changes, they always speculate about the possibility that Beijing will change its policy, never about the possibility that others will change theirs. So long as our compatriots in Hong Kong unite and choose good political figures to administer the territory, they should not be afraid of changes, and they can prevent disturbances. And even if there are disturbances, they will be minor ones and can be dealt with easily.
After 1997 Taiwan’s institutions in Hong Kong will be allowed to remain. They will be allowed to disseminate their “Three People’s Principles” and to criticize the Communist Party — that won’t bother us, because the Communist Party cannot be toppled by criticism. However, they should take care not to create disturbances in Hong Kong or to create “two Chinas”. We believe that, being Chinese, they will stand on the side of our nation and help safeguard its general interests and dignity. Under the conditions that will prevail there after 1997, they can be allowed to carry out their activities and conduct propaganda, so long as they conform to these requirements.
In short, we shall meet with many new things after the signing of the agreement. We used to say that we should familiarize ourselves with new situations and solve new problems. Here, we are confronted precisely with new situations and new problems. Frankly, we cannot be certain about what will happen in the future, but if problems arise, we shall find reasonable solutions to them. So when you return to Hong Kong, please make these views known to the five million people there in all fields of endeavour.
It is my hope that our compatriots from Hong Kong and Macao will visit more places and see more of our country to witness the changes. We have a slogan, “Long live the great unity of the Chinese nation!” Right? So long as we all stand on the side of the Chinese nation and help safeguard its general interests, all of us, regardless of our different political views and including those who criticize the Communist Party, can unite. I hope that our compatriots in Hong Kong will unite and pool their efforts to safeguard the prosperity and stability of the territory, so as to contribute to a smooth transfer of government in 1997.
(Excerpt from a talk with Chinese visitors from Hong Kong and Macao attending the National Day celebrations in Beijing.)