A marvelous 13 years and a marvelous road—an interview with Choi Koon Shum, chairman of Chinese General Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong
Hong Kong Special Administrative Region witnessed the 13th anniversary of its reunification on July 1. Currently, in order to commemorate the important moment for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China, as well as himself, Choi Koon Shum, chairman of Chinese General Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, has been busy preparing for the celebration.
"Hong Kong has traversed an extraordinary road during the past 13 years. We could not have overcome the various difficulties we faced without the Hong Kong spirit of working hard and fighting positively, as well as the support from our motherland," said Choi during his interview with Xinhua News.
A marvelous 13 years
July 1997 has special significance for Choi. He witnessed his 40th birthday that month. He also attended the Hong Kong Handover Ceremony that July and witnessed the historic moment of reunification.
The flag of China, accompanied by the regional flag of Hong Kong, slowly rose at the Extension to the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC) on July 1, 1997. “I did not sleep the entire night of June 30, because I was so excited to be involved in the ceremony,” said Choi.
The people of Hong Kong did not foresee the approaching destruction of the Asian financial crisis while Choi and the rest of Hong Kong were enjoying the happiness of Hong Kong’s reunification. “The Asian financial crisis hit Hong Kong around October 1997. I remember the short-term loan interest in Hong Kong banks rose sharply to more than 70 percent, and even ultimately to 100 percent, and therefore people could not do business. That was the first time I saw this situation,” he said, “At that time, many people believed Hong Kong was walking in a dark tunnel and there was no hope.”
At that time, the Hong Kong stock market and Hong Kong dollar were hit hard and international financial speculators had threatened to turn Hong Kong into a "super ATM." However, with the central government's policy of "maintaining Hong Kong's prosperity and stability at all costs," the Hong Kong Government finally succeeded in smashing the international speculators' plan on August 28, 1998, and maintained Hong Kong's financial stability.
After the Asian financial crisis, Hong Kong successively survived the burst of the dot-com bubble in 2000, the SARS epidemic in 2003 and the global financial tsunami in 2008. Choi said all of these crises have an impact on Hong Kong's economy, and the region has gone through an unusual development process during the past 13 years. In the end though, it was always able to hold on and recover quickly from downturns.
In Choi's opinion, three reasons explain why Hong Kong can overcome these difficulties. First, its relatively strong economic base; second, its high adaptive capacity and the "Hong Kong Spirit" embodied by those people of Hong Kong who work hard and strive to do great things. As for the third important reason, he said, "It is because Hong Kong has been getting great support from the central government since it returned to the motherland. We can say that the central government will give Hong Kong anything it needs."
When SARS broke out in 2003, Hong Kong's economy fell rapidly. The central government immediately launched the "Arrangement for Establishing Closer Economic and Trade Relations between the Chinese Mainland and Hong Kong," and opened up the individual visit programs for mainland residents to Hong Kong and Macao, to help the region recover quickly economically. "Without the Chinese mainland as its strong backer, Hong Kong would find it difficult to solve these problems through these years, let alone enjoy today's stability and prosperity," said Choi.
Taking the Hong Kong stock market as an example, the total market value of the listed companies in the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in 1997 was 3.2 trillion Hong Kong dollars while the number at the end of April this year approached 18.1 trillion Hong Kong dollars. In 2009, the first public equity financing on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange amounted to nearly 244 billion Hong Kong dollars, ranking first in the world.