HONG KONG • Chinese President Xi Jinping has asked the people of Hong Kong to have belief in the motherland and its strong support for them, saying China has made great strides since it undertook reform and opening-up.
At a banquet on the eve of the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong's return to China from British colonial rule, he noted that China had gone from "managing to stand on its feet to becoming prosperous and strong", thanks to close to 40 years of reform.
It is now the world's No. 2 economy and its leading manufacturer and trader in goods, he said.
He added China has the world's largest foreign exchange reserves and contributed more to global economic growth than any other country while its scientific and technological strength is rising.
"Our circle of friends is growing," he said, noting that the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank has 80 approved members.
"An increasingly prosperous motherland serves as a source of strength for Hong Kong to overcome difficulties and challenges," he said, adding that "it also presents a reservoir of opportunities for Hong Kong to break new ground, foster new driving force and create new space for development".
"When our country does well, Hong Kong will do even better," he said.
He also exhorted Hong Kongers to have confidence in themselves.
"The key to Hong Kong's success lies in its people's love of the country and Hong Kong, and their perseverance, pursuit of excellence and adaptability," he said.
Hong Kongers "have the ability and wisdom to administer Hong Kong well and achieve development and progress", he added.
Mr Xi also urged them to have confidence in their city and its many favourable conditions and strengths, including its free and open economy, internationally recognised legal, accounting and regulatory systems, a full-fledged service sector, and an efficient and clean government.
In an acknowledgement of the importance of the "one country, two systems" principle in helping Hong Kong act as a bridge between China and the world, he said it gave the city "an institutional advantage" enabling it to serve as a testing ground for the country's new initiatives.
At an earlier event, he exhorted the city's elites to give support to the new Chief Executive Carrie Lam and her government.
Ms Lam was elected by a committee of 1,200, and is expected to have difficulty governing a divided society riven by economic inequality and political differences.