Xi's remarks voice HK hope for harmony
In his speech on Tuesday, Xi reiterated his concerns for Hong Kong's situation, stressing that the city's prosperity and stability are not only desired by its residents, but also by people on the Chinese mainland.
"Without a harmonious and stable environment, how can there be a home where people can live and work happily?" Xi asked.
Xi's remarks were well-received in the city. Lau Siu-kai, vice-president of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies－the nation's leading think tank on Hong Kong affairs－said the New Year's speech made to a global audience showed the central government's concern for Hong Kong, which has been divided by protests for more than half a year.
In past weeks, the scale and intensity of the violence has eased, yet there is no sign of it ceasing, Lau said. Noting such a situation may continue into the beginning of 2020, Lau said ending the violence remains the most urgent task for Hong Kong.
As the worst of the situation has passed, Lau also held that more efforts could be put into reviving the city's hard-hit economy and mending its deep social rifts.
The protracted turmoil landed a blow to the city's economy in 2019. Hong Kong's GDP fell by 2.9 percent in the third quarter from a year earlier, marking the first yearon-year decline since the global financial crisis of 2009.
It also sounded an alarm for the city's education sector because of the high participation rate of youngsters, especially children, in the anti-government activities.
According to the Hong Kong Police Force, more than 6,000 people have been arrested during the six months of protests, originally over an extradition bill, with over one-third of them students. One in six of those arrested have been minors.
Wong Kwan-yu, president of the Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers, said the education sector should not turn a blind eye to teachers and students who were involved in violent protests and indulged in illegal acts. He called for joint efforts by all sectors to get the city back on the right track.
Wong said a "harmonious and stable environment" and "living and working happily", as mentioned by Xi, were exactly what Hong Kong residents were longing for and would be good for the city's youth as well.
After the monthslong social unrest, all the people hoped the city could restore order and return to peace as soon as possible, Wong said.
Tam Yiu-chung, Hong Kong's member of the National People's Congress Standing Committee, highlighted the significance of the Hong Kong community's concerted efforts in maintaining the city's stability.
He emphasized that ending violence and restoring order remain the most urgent task for Hong Kong.
"At the new beginning, I hope every Hong Kong person puts the city's overall benefits first. Otherwise, it will bring no good to any of us," Tam said.
In 2020, Tam said he also hoped the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government could learn a lesson from the political crisis and be more committed to connecting with the public.
Besides handling the aftermath of the protracted social unrest, he also hoped the government could ramp up efforts to improve people's livelihoods and address deep-seated social problems.
Steven Ho Chun-yin, a Hong Kong lawmaker, said while the city faced unprecedented challenges, he hoped it could solve its problems in the new year under the "one country, two systems" principle and with a high degree of autonomy.
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