Photo shows Eric Berti, consul general of France in the Hong Kong and Macao Special Administrative Regions, in an interview with Xinhua on June 14, 2017. (Xinhua/Wang Shen)
HONG KONG, June 23 (Xinhua) -- Hong Kong "can be very proud of itself" for its achievements during the past 20 years, and "these achievements will take us to Hong Kong," Eric Berti, consul general of France in the Hong Kong and Macao Special Administrative Regions (SARs), said.
"We have about 800 French companies currently present in Hong Kong, 30 percent of which are big companies. We also have a growing French community here, which has doubled to over 20,000 people since 2008, Berti said in a recent interview with Xinhua. "It shows the capacity of attraction of Hong Kong."
In retrospect of Hong Kong's development since its return to China in 1997, Berti first referred to "great achievements" in the fields of trade and finance, and then focused on the SAR's important role in linking China and the rest of the world.
"For foreign companies, especially for French companies, it is very important to be able to settle here for the wide Chinese market," he said. "So for us, Hong Kong is both an important market and a place where you can find rule of law, good infrastructure and good services, and can be based to conquer Asia."
To China, Hong Kong is also a place of great importance, Berti said. "It is a super-connector, as (HKSAR Chief Executive) CY Leung often mentioned. It is really a link between Western countries and China."
The French diplomat praised Hong Kong as "the best of two worlds, of both China and the West," and attributed it to the success of the "one country, two systems" arrangement.
"Definitely the concept of one country, two systems' has been a great success in the last 20 years," he said. "It is a success for Hong Kong because it retains its own judiciary, currency ... It allows all the exchanges (between China and the West) and allows Hong Kong to have a great autonomy within Chinese sovereignty."
Berti, who assumed office as the consul general in September 2015, said that he was impressed by Hong Kong as far back as 20 years ago on his first trip to the city. "The first time I came to Hong Kong was in 1997, just weeks after the handover ... I could stay one day here, and I was very impressed by the dynamism of the city."
He recalled concerns at that time in the West about Hong Kong's development after its return, but said that "when you look back 20 years later, you can see that most of the concerns have not been realized, because the region developed well, meet the challenge, cross crises in a very stable way, and kept growth."
The word "dynamism" was repeatedly used by the consul general during the interview to describe various aspects of Hong Kong, including finance, trade, city management, culture and art.
"I must say I am very impressed by Hong Kong for its efficiency. It is a city of 7.3 million inhabitants on a small surface because a large part of the region is kept as nature ... and (it has) the capacity to organize the community with a very efficient transportation system," Berti said. "It is a very dynamic city, which has always been very important to it as an economic hub."
He added that Hong Kong "is also becoming an art center, welcoming cultures from various countries."
While being a dynamic metropolis, Hong Kong has also succeeded in keeping some of its specific lifestyle and traditions, Berti said, citing horse-racing as an example. "Horse-racing is a long-lasting tradition in Hong Kong and remains very dynamic now. I like on Wednesday evening and on Sunday to go to the races," said the consul general, who has a photo taken at one of Hong Kong's racecourses showcased at his office in the Central District.
"The relationship between France and Hong Kong has lasted from the mid 19th century ... We have companies of all the sectors in Hong Kong, including finance, retailing, logistics, restaurants, and so on," Berti said, adding that the two sides are also looking for new opportunities for cooperation, and France is "very optimistic about the future of this relationship."
The French diplomat pointed to the Belt and Road Initiative as a potential opportunity for cooperation. The Belt and Road "is a very interesting initiative. It gives a wide perspective for the future for both China and Western countries. Definitely France will be part of it," he said, adding that France and Hong Kong can combine their strengths in fields such as finance and port logistics, as well as their wide network of companies in other countries, to develop this initiative.
On the challenges Hong Kong may face in its future development, Berti said that the main challenge may be competition from surrounding cities, "so Hong Kong must improve innovation." He proposed further cooperation between France and Hong Kong in developing new capacities such as FinTech.
On Hong Kong's prospect and its relations with the Chinese mainland, Berti said that Hong Kong is able to adapt to new environment, and "it is a good thing for both places that China takes advantage of Hong kong to develop the country and Hong Kongalso benefits from the wide Chinese market and exchanges with the mainland."