Hongkongers have more freedom and are richer under Chinese rule than they were when city was British colony, says top Beijing official

Tony Cheung

Hongkongers have more democracy and are better off financially under Chinese rule than they were when the city was a British colony, a top Beijing official said on Wednesday.

Luo Huining, director of the central government’s liaison office in Hong Kong, said mainland China had been more supportive of Hong Kong’s economic development than the colonial government since the 1997 handover.

Luo made the remarks at a pro-Beijing group’s event commemorating the 23rd anniversary of the city’s return from British rule, alongside the city’s leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.

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He said since the handover, Hong Kong had grown together with mainland China, while previously Britain had benefited enormously from its colony.

“Public data revealed that Britain’s economic plunder from Hong Kong was astronomical, amounting to HK$22.1 billion in military expenses alone for the British garrison troops between 1950-1997,” he said.

“After the handover … the central government imposed no levies on the special administrative region, nor did it request the SAR to pay for the PLA Hong Kong Garrison troops.”

Luo said that to support Hong Kong’s economic growth, Beijing had rolled out a raft of favourable policies over the past two decades.

“[We have] helped Hong Kong successfully fend off two international financial crises,” he said. “In the battles against the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) and the Covid-19 pandemic, the mainland spared no effort in securing medical and daily supplies for Hong Kong.”

Luo also said that under the British, Hongkongers were second-class citizens in terms of political rights.

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“There were no democratic rights to speak of … [But] after the handover, Hong Kong compatriots became the masters of the special administrative region, and are now enjoying unprecedented democratic rights and freedoms,” he said.

Luo was speaking hours after the government revealed the full text of Beijing’s sweeping new national security law, which has turned out to be tougher than expected, with a set of rules to be overseen and enforced by a new mainland agency with the power of the state behind it to take over some cases and operate in the city without falling under local jurisdiction.

He said for the vast majority of Hong Kong residents, including foreigners in the city, the law would be a guardian that protected their rights, freedoms and peaceful way of life.

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