Written by Ambassador (ret.) Piet Steel, Chairman of Europe – Asia Center and Consul General of Kingdom of Belgium to Hong Kong (1993 and 1997)
As Consul General of Belgium in Hong Kong between 1993 and 1997, I was a privileged witness of the years leading to the reunification of Hong Kong with the People’s Republic of China. These were bonding years for me with the people of Hong Kong and its growing expat community, allowing me to get a deep understanding of the political, economic and social stakes behind the reunification.
Since I left Hong Kong in 1997, I continued to travel to the Territory as Chairman of the Belgium Hong Kong Society and vice-Chairman of the Federation of Hong Kong Business Associations Worldwide. At each visit I was comforted in my opinion that Hong Kong’s destiny and future were closely interconnected with the further political and economic developments in China.
And that is what has happened since. On July 1st we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong, an “inalienable part of the People’s Republic of China” as internationally recognised in Article One of the Basic Law.
This anniversary deserves to be honoured as an historic milestone in China’s millenary past. This is an occasion that couldn’t leave anyone who stands for peace and justice indifferent.
The 25 years of “one country, two systems” have, admittedly, had their share of challenging moments, but overall the formula conceived by the paramount Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping and agreed upon with the British colonial power, to peacefully make Hong Kong part of China again, has proven to be successful and has demonstrated the extraordinary political foresight and vision of the then political leadership.
News about the imminent demise of Hong Kong is a recurrent feature in the Western media, but the City today remains as vibrant as ever. Neither two serious health crises, nor grave financial turbulences, nor political strife, nor violent riots have shaken Hong Kong’s sterling foundations of stability and prosperity.
Branded as one of the most diverse and dynamic cities in the world, Hong Kong has rightly upheld and fostered its unique position of a natural, vital and multicultural gateway to and from China, the rest of Asia and beyond.
Hong Kong is Asia’s World City. Its stellar attributes of openness, ingenuity, entrepreneurial and cosmopolitan mind-set, hard work and steely diligence, are firmly rooted in the spirit and temperament of its people. As residents of a Special Administrative region in China, they will doubtless continue to strive for keeping their prominent place in Asia and the world.
It is in the interest of China, Europe and the world to have a stable Hong Kong as a financial and technological powerhouse, playing a significant part in the consolidation of a multipolar global order.
I wish Hong Kong and its people every success in the years to come. Hong Kong for ever!