Handover + 100 days: a Hong Kong update
Leader Tung outlines economic plan
October 8, 1997
Web posted at: 3:36 p.m. EDT (1936 GMT)
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HONG KONG (CNN) -- In a speech outlining his vision of Hong Kong's future, Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa emphasized economics, paid little attention to politics and said China has not interfered during its first 100 days of ruling the former British colony.
He also called for closer ties with China, and implied that Hong Kong still needs to learn more about its motherland.
"Hong Kong has finally broken free of the psychological constraints of the colonial era," Tung said during a two-hour speech on Wednesday to his Cabinet and Hong Kong's unelected provisional legislature.
"Hong Kong's reunification with China requires us to accept one fact. Hong Kong and China share fundamental interests," he said.
But in his first major policy address as Hong Kong's leader, Tung made clear his top priority was vigorous action to maintain its economic competitiveness.
Election date announced
He also reaffirmed his commitment to open, law-based government, and announced that new legislative elections open to all parties will be held May 24.
The government had previously said only that elections would be held in May to replace the unelected body installed by China when it regained Hong Kong on July 1. China dissolved the last legislature elected under British rule because China objected to the election rules.
Hong Kong's largest party, the Democrats, who lost all their legislative seats with China's takeover, said they were dissatisfied with Tung's speech. Former legislator Emily Lau told CNN she was insulted.
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"He didn't mention human rights," said party chairman Martin Lee.
The Democrats also complain that Tung's controversial plans to roll back the number of eligible voters for legislative elections and reduce the influence of pro-democracy political parties will make it hard for them to make a strong comeback in May.
But analysts say Tung's strategy is based on a belief that most of Hong Kong's citizens will accept what amounts to tradeoff.
"Hong Kong people believe as long as livelihood issues are maintained, they don't care much about the political reform controversy," said Sonny Lo of the Hong Kong Transition Project.
Multi-billion dollar economic plan
As evidence of that, most of Tung's speech dealt with local economic issues, such as whether more cheap international labor should be imported and how to hold down prohibitive real estate prices.
"Competitiveness" was one of his most frequently used words, reflecting concerns that other fast-growing cities in the region might threaten Hong Kong's status as a regional financial center.
Tung announced an infrastructure-building bonanza that would put new railways and roads on Hong Kong's map and beef up economic ties with the mainland to make the city the economic powerhouse of southern China.
His ambitious plan sees all Hong Kong people in decent housing in 10 years, boosts welfare for the elderly, promotes family values and Chinese culture, raises education standards, and puts every home, business and school on the Internet in a highly networked, computer-literate society.
Together, the initiatives would cost Hong Kong $11.37 billion over the next five years.
Hong Kong Bureau Chief Mike Chinoy andReuters contributed to this report.