July 1 this year not only marks the 21st anniversary of the return of Hong Kong to China, but also Hong Kong Special Administrative Region's first female chief executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor's first year in office, during which she strived for closer Hong Kong-mainland ties.
In her inauguration speech delivered on July 1 last year, Lam promised to uphold the "One Country, Two Systems" principle and strengthen ties between Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland.
Lam's remarks were echoed by Chinese President Xi Jinping, who delivered a speech in Hong Kong on the same day, at the ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong's return to China.
Xi stressed that "any attempt to endanger national sovereignty and security, challenge the power of the central government and the authority of the Basic Law of the HKSAR or use Hong Kong to carry out infiltration and sabotage activities against the mainland is an act that crosses the red line, and is absolutely impermissible."
Speaking of the prospect of Hong Kong's future development, Xi confirmed that the SAR has been integrated into the "grand journey of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation" since its return to the motherland 20 years ago.
The president vowed to continue to support Hong Kong to play significant roles in key projects initiated by the central government.
With the strong support from the central government, projects that are crucial to Hong Kong's closer integration with the mainland have gained solid progress under the administration of Carrie Lam in the past year.
Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area
The idea of building a Greater Bay Area was put forward in China's 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020) and written into the government work report last year.
The area incorporates the Hong Kong SAR, the Macao SAR and nine cities in south China's Guangdong Province, with a total population of more than 66 million and an annual GDP of over 1.5 trillion US dollars.
On July 1, 2017, a framework agreement on the development of the Greater Bay Area was signed by top officials from relevant regions, including Carrie Lam, officially ushering in the era of the Greater Bay Area.
Since then, Carrie Lam has been a staunch advocate of the plan.
At the Bo'ao Forum for Asia this April, Lam said the future of the Greater Bay Area will depend on its ability to innovate and connect with the outer world.
She stressed that Hong Kong could make great contributions in these aspects thanks to the "One Country, Two Systems" principle, as it has a free economy and a fine legal system, which could easily provide a business environment at par with international standards, and help facilitate international corporations and support mainland enterprises in their quest to go global.
On May 16, Lam visited two cities in the area— Guangzhou and Huizhou, exploring opportunities to cooperate with the mainland to boost innovation and technology, as well as to tap into the potential of better using the vast land areas in Huizhou.
She emphasized that each region of the Greater Bay Area has its own advantages, hence the cooperation among them should be complementary.