Chinese President Xi Jinping will attend a meeting on Friday to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the return to the motherland of Hong Kong, whose development Xi says has always been in his heart.
"Hong Kong's development has always pulled at my heartstrings," said Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, upon his arrival in Hong Kong five years ago for the special administrative region's 20th anniversary.
Over the years, Xi has repeatedly demonstrated his concern for the development of Hong Kong, as well as the well-being of the over 7 million Hong Kong residents. He has initiated projects integrating Hong Kong into the national development, interacted with the youth of Hong Kong and encouraged entrepreneurs to pursue their dreams on the mainland.
Under Xi's leadership, the central authorities have rolled out a series of major policies and measures to help Hong Kong maintain stability and prosperity under the framework of "one country, two systems."
On Friday, the president will also attend the inaugural ceremony of the sixth-term government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), which Xi expects to bring refreshing changes to the governance of Hong Kong.
Xi has said that Hong Kong is at a crucial stage on its path to further prosperity.
Hong Kong has witnessed rapid development since the Chinese government resumed the exercise of sovereignty over it on July 1, 1997.
From 1997 to 2021, Hong Kong's GDP grew from 1.37 trillion Hong Kong dollars (174.59 billion U.S. dollars) to 2.86 trillion Hong Kong dollars. It has weathered challenges including the Asian financial crisis, the SARS epidemic and the international financial crisis, and consolidated its status as an international financial, shipping and trade center.
Under Xi's leadership, the central authorities have promoted infrastructure connectivity and rolled out policies and measures to further expand the space for Hong Kong's development.
A fine example of infrastructure connectivity is the mega-bridge at the Pearl River estuary connecting Hong Kong, Macao and the Chinese mainland.
During his trip to Hong Kong in 2017, Xi visited the construction site of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge. In October 2018, he announced the bridge's opening and inspected it.
The opening of the bridge marked a new stage in the development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area.
The Greater Bay Area, which aims to become a world-class bay area and city cluster, is a significant national project conceived and promoted by Xi. In just a few years, it has become one of the most open and economically vibrant regions in China.
A growing number of young people from Hong Kong are turning to the mainland for entrepreneurial prospects, as the bay area development has brought about new opportunities.
Mark Mak Hin-yu, co-founder of a robotics company, said his company has its headquarters in Hong Kong but has transferred part of the operations, including hardware assembly and technical testing, to the mainland, capitalizing on the opportunities brought about by the bay area's development.
China's 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) gives Hong Kong support in building itself into an international center for innovation and technology, a center in the Asia-Pacific region for international legal and dispute resolution services, a regional center for intellectual property trade, and a center for cultural and art exchanges with other countries.
Laura Cha Shih May-lung, chairperson of the Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited and a veteran in Hong Kong's financial sector for more than three decades, has full confidence in the sector's future development.
"Being a relatively small economy with a population of just over 7 million, Hong Kong would not have developed into the international financial center it is now without the strong backing of the mainland's continuous development," she said.
Improving the livelihood of Hong Kong people has been a top priority for Xi.
"Teenagers want to grow up happily. Young people want to bring out the best of their talent. People in mature years want to be successful, and the seniors want to enjoy their golden years," Xi said when he visited Hong Kong in 2017, explaining the relations between development and people's well-being.
Xi would always find time to interact with the public during his visits to Hong Kong. In 2008, Xi, then Chinese vice president, visited ordinary Hong Kong families, sat down with them and chatted about their everyday life. In his 2017 trip, President Xi watched an episode of Cantonese opera performed by children and encouraged them to inherit the fine traditional Chinese culture.
Over the years, Xi has overseen the implementation of various favorable policies for Hong Kong compatriots on the mainland, which cover a wide range of areas, from education and employment to healthcare and travel.
For instance, since September 2018, eligible people from Hong Kong have been able to apply for residence permits on the mainland, which grant them access to the rights to work, social security and housing provident fund.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Hong Kong, Xi was very concerned about the lives and health of local people and has instructed on multiple occasions to give Hong Kong full support in fighting the virus.
The mainland has sent anti-epidemic materials, dispatched health workers, and helped build isolation and treatment facilities, as well as ensured the steady supply of daily necessities to aid Hong Kong's fight against the epidemic.
"The motherland is always Hong Kong's strong backing. Difficulties at hand can surely be overcome," Xi has said.
Xi has stressed a full and accurate understanding of the "one country, two systems" principle and faithful implementation of it. As he has said, "one country" is like the roots of a tree and for a tree to grow tall and luxuriant, its roots must run deep and strong.
The central authorities adopted a raft of policies and measures in an effort to address both the symptoms and the root causes of relevant challenges Hong Kong faced.
The implementation of the national security law in Hong Kong was one such significant measure. It was followed by improvements to the electoral system. These have provided Hong Kong with a solid institutional guarantee to overcome immediate difficulties, achieve good governance, and ensure lasting peace and stability.
Under the new electoral system, Hong Kong has successfully held elections for the Election Committee, the seventh-term Legislative Council and the sixth-term chief executive. An increasing number of competent and patriotic people have entered the governing structure.
With these measures in place, social stability has been restored. For Hong Kong people and foreign residents alike, this means a safer living environment and more predictable business environment.
"The key to Hong Kong's success lies in its people's love of the motherland and Hong Kong, and their perseverance, pursuit of excellence and adaptability," Xi has said.
In 2018, Xi met Eric Kuo, a young Hong Kong entrepreneur, at a pilot free trade zone in Guangdong Province.
"I was deeply touched by President Xi's encouragement and grew more determined to start my own business on the mainland," Kuo said. His hi-tech company has quickly expanded, raking in annual revenue of over 10 million yuan (about 1.5 million U.S. dollars) last year.
More opportunities are emerging for Hong Kong's young people on the mainland, as they are receiving greater assistance from job hunting to business establishment.
"An increasingly prosperous motherland serves as a source of strength for Hong Kong to overcome difficulties and challenges; it also presents a reservoir of opportunities for Hong Kong to break new ground, foster new driving force and create new space for development," Xi said in his trip for the HKSAR's 20th anniversary five years ago.