Press ahead with integration
Enhance tests to combat epidemic
8 November 2020
Full national support for Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability
In the proposals for formulating the nation’s 14th Five-Year Plan and the Long-Range Objectives Through the Year 2035, it is mentioned that lasting prosperity and stability are to be maintained in Hong Kong. While stressing the full and faithful implementation of the principles of “One Country, Two Systems”, “Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong” and a high degree of autonomy, the proposals uphold that Hong Kong be administered in strict accordance with the law, and uphold the Constitution and the constitutional order in the HKSAR established by the Basic Law. The proposals also include policy directions for the Central Authorities to exercise overall jurisdiction over the HKSAR, implement the legal system and enforcement mechanism for the HKSAR to safeguard national security, safeguard the sovereignty, security and development interests of the nation and the social stability of the HKSAR, and resolutely prevent and curb interference by external forces.
The enactment of the National Security Law (NSL) at the state level has brought about remarkable results in improving Hong Kong’s ability to safeguard national sovereignty, security and development interests, strengthening the framework of “One Country, Two Systems” and restoring stability in the city. So long as we steadfastly implement the NSL and all sectors of the community stand united, we can ensure the smooth and long-term successful practice of the “One Country, Two Systems” policy and maintain lasting peace, prosperity and stability in Hong Kong.
Enhancing awareness of the country and national identity
The HKSAR Government attaches great importance to enhancing Hong Kong people’s awareness of the country and their national identity, especially cultivating in youngsters a proper sense of the nation, its people and its history. Following the implementation of the NSL, schools are tasked with the responsibility of strengthening national security education to help students gain a correct understanding of the country and its relationship with Hong Kong, strengthen their sense of national identity and enable them to grasp the spirit of the rule of law. Schools should also enhance students’ knowledge of national affairs, the Chinese culture, as well as the Constitution and the Basic Law, with a view to laying a strong foundation for our future talent to contribute to the prosperous and stable development of Hong Kong. I conveyed this message clearly in my speech when I attended the 25th Teachers’ Day and Commendation Certificate Presentation Ceremony in my capacity as Acting Chief Executive last week.
The Constitution and the Basic Law form the constitutional basis of the HKSAR and provide the strongest safeguard for the long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong. As the fundamental law of the state, the Constitution is the “root” and “origin” of the HKSAR, and the cornerstone of “One Country, Two Systems”. In fact, the HKSAR was established in accordance with Article 31 of the Constitution. Hence, the HKSAR Government has every responsibility to develop a comprehensive understanding of the Constitution and the Basic Law among the general public. Fostering students’ sense of national identity has long been a key learning goal of primary and secondary education and is what school education is supposed to achieve. As an ongoing initiative to promote Basic Law education and to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the promulgation of the Basic Law, the Education Bureau (EDB) issued a circular memorandum titled “Commemoration of the 30th Anniversary of the Promulgation of the Basic Law: Learning and Teaching Resources and Programme Highlights” on September 14. The circular memorandum gave a detailed account of an array of promotional activities and learning and teaching resources, including the “Basic Law Education: School-based Events Calendar” and a list of suggested activities. As December 4 is the National Constitution Day, the EDB issued another circular memorandum two days ago, which consolidated the background and reference information on the National Constitution Day as well as suggestions on learning and teaching activities, for schools to take the opportunity to enhance students’ understanding of the Constitution and the Basic Law. Schools are encouraged, having regard to their specific school context and circumstances, to arrange school-based educational activities as appropriate to promote thorough understanding of the Constitution and the Basic Law among students, thereby fostering in them a sense of national identity.
Pressing ahead with integration
As our country is gradually emerging from the shadow of the epidemic, its economy and society have seen a swift recovery, with enterprises resuming business and production and people’s life returning to normal. China’s economy registered a year-on-year growth of 4.9% in the third quarter of this year, a sharp rebound from the negative growth of 6.8% in the first quarter. Recent statistics revealed by economic indicators, such as the total value added of industrial enterprises, the Index of Services Production, the total retail sales of consumer goods, the total value of imports and exports of goods and the investment in fixed assets, suggested that the Mainland economy would strengthen further in the fourth quarter, demonstrating its strong resilience, potential and vitality. They also highlighted our country’s capacity to maintain steady economic development and inject a strong source of positive energy into the global economy amid an extensive downturn.
With the state’s determination to further open up the economy, there comes a golden opportunity for Hong Kong’s economic development. Hong Kong people have all along been versatile and flexible, being good at seizing every opportunity. So long as we continue to keep abreast of the times and capitalise on our advantages to play a more active role in, specifically, building an international hub for innovation and technology and consolidating our position as an international financial centre, Hong Kong can certainly better integrate into the national development by playing an active part in the development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area and assuming a pivotal role in international co-operation under the Belt and Road Initiative. This will definitely be an important driving force behind our resumed economic growth.
Mr Han Zheng, Vice Premier of the State Council, met with the Chief Executive last Friday during her visit to Beijing. It is noteworthy that he reiterated the Central Authorities’ full support for Hong Kong and stressed that Hong Kong should grasp the new opportunities offered by the state’s new stage of development, make full use of its unique advantages in building the state’s new framework for development, actively integrate into the national development to find a better positioning and write a new chapter for Hong Kong’s development.
Sustaining the fight against the epidemic and enhancing testing capacity
Despite having ample opportunities for development, Hong Kong is facing many challenges, with the prime task being the fight against the pandemic. Testing is an integral part of the strategy for preventing and fighting the virus. The Government will strengthen virus testing and further enhance testing facilities and services.
The four community testing centres1 that will come into operation in mid-November will provide testing services priced at $240 per test. This is a major breakthrough, as it is no easy task to make available relatively affordable virus testing services within such a short span of time. The significant drop in the price is mainly due to the introduction of a number of larger testing service providers into Hong Kong as a result of both Government facilitation and market forces. In early 2020, the daily testing capacity of the private sector was less than 1 000 specimens. It has now been increased to tens of thousands of specimens. Besides, the Government has set up community centres for specimen collection, which has greatly reduced the venue cost for service providers.
On disease surveillance, which includes case detection and contact tracing, the Department of Health (DH) and the Hospital Authority (HA) have been conducting tests for ongoing epidemiological surveillance and investigation. The current testing capacity of public testing services has been enhanced to over 7 000 specimens per day. Testing services from local private laboratories will be procured when necessary to enhance the public testing capacity.
Regularising testing for targeted groups
Since mid-July, the Government has rolled out testing for individual high-risk groups2 through the Targeted Group Testing Scheme (TGTS) with funding support from the Anti-epidemic Fund. Given that the TGTS has now been regularised, certain groups will undergo repeated testing having regard to risk considerations. Thus far, over 600 000 specimens have been tested under the TGTS, of which 84 cases were confirmed positive following confirmatory test by the DH’s Centre for Health Protection, representing a positive rate of about 0.01%. This demonstrates that the TGTS has been instrumental in identifying patients and containing the spread of the disease in the community.
Free testing for teachers and staff in kindergartens and primary and secondary schools
The EDB will launch the TGTS for all teachers and staff in kindergartens as well as primary, secondary and special schools tomorrow (November 9). Free COVID-19 tests will be arranged in batches for voluntary participation, while tests for all staff of special schools’ boarding sections will be stepped up to once every three weeks, with a view to safeguarding the health of both staff and students. I call on schools to give full support and encourage all teachers and staff as well as the staff of special schools’ boarding sections to proactively take part in the testing, so as to create a safe and hygienic learning environment on campuses.
Facilitating easy collection of specimen packs by the general public
The duration for distribution of specimen collection packs have been increased at 46 General Out-patient Clinics (GOPCs) from yesterday onwards and the specimen collection hours have also been extended since last Thursday. In addition, vending machines have been set up for distributing specimen packs on a pilot basis at three GOPCs, namely Sai Wan Ho GOPC, Ap Lei Chau GOPC and Yuen Long Jockey Club Health Centre. The HA will closely monitor their utilisation and, if circumstances and operation allow, vending machines will be set up at more clinics to facilitate easy collection of specimen packs by the general public. The clinics may then focus their manpower on the delivery of normal services.
It is encouraging to see our country’s success in combating the pandemic and its speedy economic recovery. The HKSAR Government will keep doing its utmost to take more precise, prudent and stringent control measures in the hope that the mutual conversion of “Health Codes” among Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao can be launched as early as possible. With mutual exemption of the compulsory quarantine requirement upon entry to the other side on the basis of mutual conversion of “Health Codes” and mutual recognition of nucleic acid test results, cross-boundary travel between Hong Kong and the other two places can be resumed in a gradual and orderly manner, hence facilitating the revival of the local economy.
1The four centres are located at Quarry Bay Community Hall, Henry G Leong Yaumatei Community Centre, Lek Yuen Community Hall in Sha Tin and Yuen Long Town East Community Hall.
2They include staff of residential care homes for the elderly, residential care homes for persons with disabilities and nursing homes, frontline catering staff, market tenants and staff, taxi/public light bus drivers, property management staff and hotel staff.