Photo taken on March 17, 2016 shows Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing (R) attending a news conference to announce his CK Hutchison Holdings company's annual results in Hong Kong, south China. Li had an exclusive interview with Xinhua News Agency lately as the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong's return to China is drawing near. (Xinhua/Qin Qing)
by Xinhua writer Yan Hao
HONG KONG, June 24 (Xinhua) -- Hong Kong's wealthiest man Li Ka-shing said "one country, two systems" has provided the region with "front row seats" in the country's development, enabling it to participate in various national development plans.
Ahead of the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong's return to China, the 88-year-old billionaire, in the capacity of Chairman of CK Hutchison Holdings and CK Property Holdings, shared his perspectives on the implementation of "one country, two systems" in an exclusive interview with Xinhua.
Before the return, Li Ka-shing served as a member of the Drafting Committee of the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and Preparatory Committee for the HKSAR. He witnessed Hong Kong's journey into a new era under "one country, two systems."
Hong Kong's return to China is an important landmark in our history, Li said, adding that the smooth transition eased the concerns of many people about theone country, two systems' as it allowed for the fostering of a mutual symbiotic relationship.
The "one country, two systems" principle epitomized the creativity and flexibility of the Chinese leaders, he said. Before 1997 when Chinese and British governments were in negotiations on Hong Kong's future, some foreign companies showed pessimism about Hong Kong's economic and social development after the return. However, Li was more optimistic about Hong Kong and the whole country and increased his investments.
"One country, two systems" not only ensured the stability of Hong Kong after the return, it also created time and space for its people and businesses to thrive and evolve with a stable social foundation and structure in an increasingly competitive environment, said Li.
Li said "one country, two systems" offers Hong Kong "front row seats" in the country's development, helping it understand the country better and participate in various national development plans.
With policy dexterity, both Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland could stay competitive, enjoy multiple returns in a high economic growth age, said Li.
Commenting on Hong Kong's economic development during the past two decades, Li said Hong Kong's economy has been symbiotic and intertwined with the mainland.
"Hong Kong is rooted in China, the ebb and flow of daily needs, unique opportunities as well as our role as a financial bridge for China are all safeguarded under the 'one country, two systems'," he said.
"One country, two systems' is a profound concept. If we cherish freedom and opportunities, we need to be mindful of the essence of mutual tolerance and respect under 'one country, two systems', " Li said.
"It is Hong Kong people's duty to be engaged and to have faith, to develop our unique system together into a vibrant and civil society," he noted.
Born in Chaozhou in southern China's Guangdong Province, Li Ka-shing moved to Hong Kong in the 1940s and started his businesses from manufacturing plastics. According to Bloomburg's billionaires index, Li now remains to be the wealthiest man in Hong Kong and ranks the 22nd around the world.
He said many policies of the central government have been proven very successful in three decades of reform and opening up, which unleashed tremendous productivity and boosted immense growth.
Hong Kong's business sector has always valued every-blueprint for reform and had actively participated in them, he added.
Now the Belt and Road Initiative, in combination with innovation and past infrastructure investment, will certainly become another conduit of growth, Li noted.
Over the years, Hong Kong's overreliance on finance and real estate has been a concern about its future development. Some people worried that there was not enough space for the development of other industries.
In Li's view, high growth returns in the future will be innovative and tech-centric, and the government needs to make more efforts in boosting investment and promoting education and reform.
"This is the same for both the mainland and Hong Kong," he said.
The fifth term of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government led by Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor will be sworn in on July 1.
Li believed that the incoming SAR government will push forward more effective policies to advance social development and economic diversification.
A flourishing "one country, two systems" civic habitat requires human mind and spirit to interweave with responsibilities and reason, as well as the importance of self-discipline, he said.
The renowned tycoon who will celebrate his 89th birthday next month has kept a young mind with visionary investment choice and swift response to the latest achievement of the world's science and technology.
AlphaGo, an artificial intelligence computer program, has become a tech-star since last year for defeating all human masters in the board game Go, which used to be considered impossible for computer programs in decades.
Li Ka-shing's Horizons Ventures was one of the early-stage investors of DeepMind, the London-based artificial intelligence company which created AlphaGo.
"Actually, Hong Kong has many unique foundations to support innovation and technology, " Li said during the interview, "which have not been well tapped over the past several years."
High housing price, the personal development of Hong Kong's young generation and Hong Kong's social mobility has been a major concern to both the government and society.
As an exemplary figure for operating start-ups, Li said Hong Kong has advanced significantly since 1997. "With new technology and mindset, we need to gear up for the future. Learning to think differently is more important than ever."
He believed that the clear winners will be those who know how to marry a high degree of creativity and discipline. "We must make good use of creativity and imagination," Li said, citing the Analects of Confucius: "it is the individual who can carry forward progress and development, not the other way around".
Asked about what kind of life attitude the young generations should uphold towards the future development, Li Ka-shing said "opportunities favor those with ambitions."
Li quoted Albert Einstein to encourage Hong Kong's young people: "Never give up on what you really want to do. The person with big dreams is more powerful than one with all the facts."