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Hong Kong Leader Visits Kennedy School

By Juliet Spies-Gans, Contributing Writer

Hong Kong political leader Donald Tsang enumerated the virtues of the city state’s autonomy in relation to mainland China in a speech he called “A Tale of Two Systems,” delivered last night at the Kennedy School.

As chief executive and president of the Executive Council of the Government of Hong Kong, Tsang has been involved in establishing the current relationship between Hong Kong and China.

This relationship relies on both a separation and coordination between the two states—it is a system that situates these countries as distinct, yet symbiotic, Tsang said.

“It allowed the city to return to China while retaining its own sense of individuality,” Tsang said. “It allowed the different way of life in Hong Kong to be preserved and flourish.”

In July of 1997, control of Hong Kong was handed over from the British to the People’s Republic of China. But due to what is now known as the “mini-constitution,” or Basic Law of Hong Kong, the region has independence from mainland China in terms of most of its financial, legal, political, and social decisions.

Tsang asserted the importance of the China-Hong Kong collaboration, citing that the spread of money, people, and ideas as helping to further the economic and social progress in these states. In fact, bilateral trade between mainland China and Hong Kong has close to tripled since the autonomy of the latter was established.

Hong Kong’s independence is also leading to a revival of cultural heritage and interests, Tsang said. As he put it, his government is trying to enact education reform as well as promote the “touch and inspiration of art.”

Along with the restoration of sovereign identity, he said billions of dollars are being funneled into building roads and railways to the mainland, further connecting the states to one another.

This process is integral for what Tsang sees as the duty of his citizens in aiding the future of their home. He concluded his talk by calling upon the people of Hong Kong to heed his words.

“I have the conviction in the responsibility of every man and woman in every circumstance ... to try to live peacefully with our neighbors,” Tsang said. “That is the backbone upon which our prospects depend. History has not ended. Each generation has the possibility to write new chapters. Keep writing.”

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Harvard Kennedy School