Receiving Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who was in Beijing briefing state leaders on her work, President Xi Jinping recognised the "good results" achieved by the SAR government in governing Hong Kong. Meanwhile Premier Li Keqiang took the initiative to mention that Hong Kong is a free port and a separate customs territory when talking about Hong Kong's economic situation, which brought to mind a recent US report recommending a review of Hong Kong's status as a separate customs territory. Hong Kong has become embroiled in the struggles between China and the US. With such dramatic changes in the external circumstances, it is obvious that the central government is paying close attention to how the developments will affect Hong Kong. Given the treacherous unpredictability of international politics, there is nothing the SAR government can do if foreign countries blow Hong Kong affairs out of proportion. However, the government can still, within the demarcations and framework laid down by "One country, two systems", take the initiative to present a narrative of Hong Kong to the international community and set the record straight.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of Reform and Opening Up. Both Xi and Li expressed the hope that Hong Kong can seize the opportunity offered by a new stage of the country's Reform and Opening Up, realise the new development, and make new contributions. When Carrie Lam briefed Xi on her work last year, Xi mentioned that the key to the implementation of "One country, two systems" is the SAR government's strict adherence to the Chinese constitution and the Basic Law. By saying so, Xi combined "organically" the central government's full jurisdiction over Hong Kong and Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy. In contrast, this year Xi and Li did not mention the issue of national security again. From the very beginning Xi recognised the SAR government's "unwavering espousal of the principles of 'One country, two systems' and the Basic Law". This shows that the central government believes that the Hong Kong independence movement has been kept in check and Hong Kong's political situation has become relatively stable, which allows room for looking forward to the future on the strength of the past instead of looking at shortcomings.
The central government regards Carrie Lam's work fairly highly. It commended Lam's leadership style as well as the governance of the SAR government, such as its "painstaking planning for Hong Kong's long-term development" and "active participation in the construction of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area". It is noteworthy that Li mentioned that "amid the complex global situation, Hong Kong, as a free port and separate customs territory, has maintained steady economic growth, which has not been easy."
Article 116 of the Basic Law states that the HKSAR shall be a separate customs territory. The United States-Hong Kong Policy Act adopted by the US in the 1990s also confirms such a status. However, as the struggles between China and the US escalate, Hong Kong's status as a separate customs territory has suddenly been targeted by the US.
For a long time Hong Kong was in the comfort of some tranquil external political circumstances. It deserves attention whether the SAR government is psychologically prepared and has the people familiar with foreign affairs amid rapidly deteriorating international situations. One of the four hopes expressed by Xi was that Hong Kong "can do a good job of presenting the narrative of Hong Kong successfully implementing 'One country, two systems'." Given the SAR government's lack of experience in this regard, it will be a great challenge for it to accomplish the task.