Today, we are meeting on this solemn and joyous occasion to both celebrate the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong's return to the motherland and hold the inaugural ceremony of the fifth-term government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
First of all, on behalf of the Central Government and the people of all ethnic groups across the country, I wish to extend our cordial greetings to all the people in Hong Kong and our warm congratulations to Madam Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, the newly inaugurated fifth-term Chief Executive of the HKSAR, principal officials of the fifth-term HKSAR government and members of the Executive Council. I also express our heartfelt thanks to all our fellow Chinese, both at home and abroad, and foreign friends for their good wishes and support to Hong Kong.
Meeting here on the shores of Hong Kong, which have stood the test of time and seen profound changes, we are filled with thoughts and emotions, as we reflect on the extraordinary journey we have taken to get where we are today.
The destiny of Hong Kong has always been intricately bound with that of the motherland. After modern times, with a weak China under corrupt and incompetent feudal rule, the Chinese nation was plunged into deep suffering. In the early 1840s, Britain sent an expeditionary force of a mere 10,000 troops to invade China and got its way in forcing the Qing government, which had an 800,000-strong army, to pay reparations and cede the island of Hong Kong to it. After the Opium War, China was repeatedly defeated by countries which were far smaller in size and population. Kowloon and "New Territories" were forcibly taken away. That page of Chinese history was one of humiliation and sorrow. It was not until the Communist Party of China led the Chinese people to victory in a dauntless and tenacious struggle for national independence and liberation and founded New China that the Chinese people truly stood up and blazed a bright path of socialism with distinctive Chinese features. Thanks to close to four decades of dedicated efforts since the launch of the reform and opening-up policy in the late 1970s, we have entered a new era in the development of the Chinese nation.
It was against the historical backdrop of reform and opening-up that Mr. Deng Xiaoping put forward the great vision of "One Country, Two Systems", which guided China's diplomatic negotiations with the United Kingdom that led to the successful resolution of the Hong Kong question, an issue that was left over from the past. Twenty years ago today, Hong Kong returned to the embrace of the motherland. This ended past humiliation and marked a major step forward toward the complete reunification of China. Hong Kong's return to the motherland has gone down as a monumental achievement in the history of the Chinese nation. Hong Kong has since then embarked on a journey of unity and common development with the motherland.
Time flies fast! It has been 20 years since Hong Kong's return to the motherland. According to China's tradition, a man enters adulthood at the age of 20. So today, we are celebrating the coming of age of the HKSAR, which has grown exuberant like a bamboo or a pine tree. Looking back at the HKSAR's growth, we can proudly conclude that thanks to the support of the motherland and with an international vision and an innovative spirit, Hong Kong has in the last two decades continued to develop itself as a modern metropolis. The practice of "One Country, Two Systems" in Hong Kong is a success story recognized by all.
Since its return to the motherland, Hong Kong has joined the remarkable journey toward the great renewal of the Chinese nation. As a special administrative region directly under the Central Government, Hong Kong has been re-integrated into China's national governance system since the very day of its return. The Central Government exercises jurisdiction over Hong Hong in accordance with China's Constitution and the Basic Law of the HKSAR, and corresponding systems and institutions have been set up for the special administrative region. Hong Kong's ties with the mainland have grown increasingly close, so have its interactions and cooperation with the mainland. The people of Hong Kong have played an active part in China's reform, opening-up and modernization drive and made their unique and important contribution to this endeavor. They have ever stronger confidence in China's development and national renewal, and share with the people on the mainland the dignity and honor of our great motherland.
Since its return to the motherland, Hong Kong has maintained prosperity and stability. Hong Kong has kept its distinct features and strengths. Its allure of being a vibrant metropolis where the East meets the West has remained as strong as ever. Under the practice of "One Country, Two Systems", Hong Kong has retained its previous capitalist system and way of life, and its laws have remained basically unchanged. The people of Hong Kong, now masters of their own house, run their local affairs within the purview of autonomy of the HKSAR. The people of Hong Kong enjoy more extensive democratic rights and freedoms than at any other time in its history. Having withstood the impact of the Asian financial crisis, the SARS epidemic and the global financial crisis, Hong Kong has emerged stronger as an international financial, shipping and trading center; and it has been consistently rated by many international institutions as one of the freest economies and most competitive regions in the world. Hong Kong has made substantial advances in various programs, increased external interactions and raised its international profile.
What has happened in Hong Kong fully demonstrates that the concept of "One Country, Two Systems" provides the best solution to the historical question of Hong Kong and the best institutional arrangement to ensure Hong Kong's long-term prosperity and stability after its return. "One Country, Two Systems" has proved to be a workable solution welcomed by the people.