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Motion on “Valedictory Motion”

MR ERIC LI: Mr President, "Borrowed time, Borrowed place": a familiar phrase to us all before the signing of the Sino-British Joint Declaration in 1984. Clearly, the return of Hong Kong to China is, and has always been, inevitable. The question is, how do we, the people of Hong Kong today, perceive our departing temporary Sovereign?

In a historical context, Britain might have been the "borrower"; but the fact is, that many of our fathers, our grandfathers and great grandfathers chose to migrate here. To them, Hong Kong under British rule, was more than a prosperous harbour; it was a safe haven which self-reliant people could call home and where they could raise their children in peace and with hope for a better future.

British merchants might have been motivated by profit only, when building their business empires in the colony; but they also created ample business and career opportunities in the process and established a valuable network with China's distant outside world. Early British Governments might have neglected long term improvements to our housing, welfare and other livelihood problems; but such an environment strengthened our spirit of self-help. Too little democracy might have come too late; but we are blessed with an exceptionally strong team of apolitical civil servants who are trained to administer Hong Kong professionally. Successive British Governments might have offered us more bold promises than tangible deeds; but a growing number of self-assured local politicians have earned international repute while articulating the case for Hong Kong.

The remarkable history of Hong Kong created our unique pluralistic political culture and a thriving, almost legendary, economy. Although it still sometimes hurts to be reminded that we were often considered second class British citizens, we are extremely proud to be Hong Kongers. As far as many of us are concerned, we already enjoy a high degree of "autonomy", "freedom" and "independence" under British rule without the need to draw up specific constitutional rules and a national boundary.

It would be hypocritical to say that the British Government provided us with all the ingredients of success. China has also played an at least equally important role. But it is also true that, because of the British presence, we learned and developed our own skills. These skills we used for fishing, farming, trading and eventually for achieving financial security. Much more recently, we applied our minds and accumulated skills to democracy, human rights and self administration. It will take us a little time to assimilate this relatively new knowledge and mould it into our own unique, pluralistic culture. But success is never likely to be far from sight. There is no denying, in any case, that British traditions and practices have already become very much part of our own local heritage and of our sense of values. We have a deeply rooted desire to live as free men, to decide our own fate and to set our own political agenda. This agenda will reflect the true aspirations and vision shared by the people of Hong Kong. To respect Hong Kong today, is to let us conduct our own affairs and fend for ourselves.

On the eve of British rule, this city of proud people bids farewell to the British Government. We draw great satisfaction from the success achieved so far and our new national identity allows us to stand tall, to face the future with confidence and dignity. Despite difficult beginnings, I sincerely hope that, when looking back at the 150 years of British rule, the people of Hong Kong, as well as the people of Great Britain, will choose to focus on the good fortune and mutual benefits derived during that period.

Mr President, history is still in the making. The departure of the British Government does not mark an end to be forgotten but rather the beginning of a new chapter in Hong Kong's history. While Hong Kong reunifies with China, Britain, in a sense, is also faced with the challenge of reunification with the rest of the European Community. We both have a separate but significant role to play in the wider international community. The contribution to our people and to the world community will be far greater if we look ahead positively and if we strengthen existing natural ties with genuine friendship, care and mutual support.

May God bless the Queen and her people at this time of fond farewell. May He give us all the courage and wisdom we need to guide Hong Kong and Great Britain. May we always live and work together in peace and total harmony.

Mr President, I shall deliver the speech to the second part of the motion in my mother tongue.

MR ERIC LI (in Cantonese): In any part of the world, to lead a decent and worry-free life is the most modest wish of people. The shocking dispute over the 1994 political reform package might not have gained as much attention in our community as a World Cup football match.

The climax of unification activities was triggered, surprisingly, by a triple trio pool with a prize of nearly $700 million. People just sat comfortably at home "watching football match, horse-racing and dreaming of making a fortune". We can see that the people of Hong Kong are already living in bliss.

If we need not confront the authorities, if we need not take unnecessary political risks, our stability and prosperity will sustain.

I wish the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region continued stability and prosperity. If this Council, like the rest of Hong Kong people, sees placidly the great wheel of history move, then we will be able to set aside our differences and show our support.

Every Member of this Council is fully aware that if our people are to keep their way of life, the concepts of "one country, two systems" and "Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong" have to be materialized successfully. From now on, the fate of Hong Kong is inseparable from our motherland's. We are in the same boat to stay through thick and thin.

To win the triple trio, we have to pray to the heavens. Even knowing that chances are slim, our passion is never dampened. With the opportunity arising from the reunification with China, Members of this Council should have a better understanding of the new situation. China is relieved to see that the historical issue of Hong Kong has been settled satisfactorily and at the same time, Britain has a new Labour Government with new personnel and new practices. While Hong Kong is entering a new era, the three of us ─ China, Britain and Hong Kong ─ can work together for a harmonious victory for all three parties.

I strongly believe that this tripartite victory can bring about a much larger prize than the triple trio pool. Mr President, as there is still a little time left, I would like to pass a few words to my colleagues. I do not want to bid sad farewell because we will not be parted for more than a year. I hope we will come together again in 1998.

Mr President, these are my remarks.


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