Published: 01:06, June 29, 2023 | Updated: 10:37, June 29, 2023
Proactive governance key to HK’s development
By Henry Ho

The incumbent Hong Kong Special Administrative Region administration led by Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu is set to enter its second year on July 1, embracing more proactive governance and charting out a resounding road map for Hong Kongs development. 

In his election manifesto, Lee set key performance indicators to underline the results-oriented approach of his administration. After almost three years of a COVID-19-induced hiatus, Hong Kong is back and better than ever as it has reinvigorated its global standing and economic activities, while longstanding livelihood-related issues, including the housing shortage and land supply, are being tackled.

Hong Kong has made strides to resume to normalcy since the HKSAR government lifted quarantine restrictions to reconnect the city to the world at large and resume normal travel with the Chinese mainland amid stringent anti-pandemic regimes. The anti-pandemic policies implemented by the previous administration were sometimes depicted as indecisive. Hong Kong took significant steps forward by shortening its compulsory quarantine period for overseas arrivals from seven days to three days last August, switching to 0+3 zero days of quarantine plus three days of medical surveillance later on. All anti-COVID measures for visitors were finally scrapped earlier this year. Local health officials should be credited for easing the COVID rules in a cautious manner and monitoring COVID infection trends, ensuring that the citys public health system would not be overstretched by possible spikes in caseloads. As Hong Kong has reconnected to the rest of the world, the local economy has started to revive and regain momentum. With a range of sectors recovering since Hong Kong resumed travel with the mainland and other places, the local economy has been given a strong shot in the arm.

Also, a positive executive-legislature relationship has been taking shape in the city, as demonstrated by the solidarity between the two branches of government recently. In April, Lee led a delegation of over 80 lawmakers to visit the mainland side of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area and met with officials in Guangdong province. The groundbreaking trip signified the positive interaction and collaboration between the executive and the legislature something which has rarely been seen over the past 26 years since Hong Kongs return to China. In the past, radical opposition lawmakers mounted malicious filibustering and disrupted the chambers order in a bid to hamper the Legislative Councils operations and paralyze the governments functions. With improved executive-legislature ties, LegCo has effectively scrutinized and passed various bills from the government. Last month, the chief executive initiated a new interactive and consultative question-and-answer session at LegCo to discuss crucial issues with lawmakers and set his teams policymaking priorities, which are conducive to the administration formulating policies to better serve the needs of residents.

Beyond dealing with the politics of vested public interests, the HKSAR government has leveraged policy innovation to map out initiatives to resolve the housing problem. In his maiden policy address, Lee vowed to build 30,000 light public housing (LPH) units with basic utilities in five years. The LPH units made up of prefabricated modules will be built on several land sites in downtowns and the New Territories areas which have not been developed yet. The LPH program will help ease the plight of those families living in subdivided flats in squalid and poor conditions. Xia Baolong, director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of State Council, has stressed that Hong Kong must wipe out subdivided flats and caged homes by the time the nation celebrates the 100th anniversary of its founding in 2049. Given the current long line for public housing in the city, the HKSAR administration should strive to increase supply with more workable solutions.

The recently established Chief Executives Policy Unit Expert Group will be of great help to the HKSAR government in furthering the citys integration into overall national development. Dozens of members with various backgrounds, including business, think tanks, professionals and other sectors have been invited to provide new ideas to the chief executive. I am pleased to serve as one of the members in the Research Strategy Expert Group to advise the chief executive and the administration.

On Friday, the expert group held its first meeting in which all members were eager to express their opinions on how high-quality development could accelerate the citys integration into the countrys blueprint. As the founder of a think tank, I look forward to sharing our research findings with other fellow members and helping the government come up with forward-thinking policies.

On national security issues, the HKSAR government has to step up vigilance against any hidden threats to Hong Kong amid rising geopolitics. The implementation of the National Security Law for Hong Kong and the revamp of the citys electoral system have kept the subversives and saboteurs at bay. But as emphasized by Xia during his six-day trip in Hong Kong in April, the city still needs to remain vigilant against national security risks amid rising geopolitical tensions. The HKSAR government is going in the right direction as it strives to complete the legislation according to Article 23 of the Basic Law this year at the soonest. Hong Kong has a constitutional duty and practical needs to legislate according to Article 23.

Its paramount that the HKSAR government will step up efforts to promote sustainable economic growth and social progress under a proactive, results-oriented and solution-driven approach. Hong Kong residents have high demands and expectations for Lee and his administration.

The author is a member of the Beijing Municipal Committee of the Chinese Peoples Political Consultative Conference, and founder and chairman of the One Country Two Systems Youth Forum.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.