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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Remarks at Consul General's Residence
Hong Kong, June 29, 1997
As released by the Office of the Spokesman in Hong Kong
July 1, 1997
U.S. Department of State

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This is amazing. I have never had a background like this. Thank you very much, Richard. It is great to be here and very good to see all of you in this incredible place. Members of Congress, members of the American business community in Hong Kong and distinguished guests and Madeleine, Richard's daughter. I recently, actually, got a letter from a little girl whose name was Madeleine Albright and she said that she had been watching TV with her mother and when it was announced that Madeleine Albright was Secretary of State she was somewhat taken aback.
I am delighted to be here with you on what is clearly a historic occasion. The message I bring on behalf of President Clinton is that America cares about Hong Kong and will continue to care long after this week's fireworks are finished, the cameras are turned off and the partying is done. We care because America has an enormous stake in Hong Kong's future: from our vast commercial interests, to the benefits of law enforcement cooperation, to port calls by our Navy, to Hong Kong's example as a success based on the freest economy in the world.
Midnight Monday marks both an end and a beginning. Through the efforts of our Consul General and the staff and through the frequent high-level visits by members of our Executive Branch and by members of Congress and through our day-to-day diplomacy, we will continue to be deeply engaged in Hong Kong on the official level, and you, America's largest overseas business community, will help ensure that we remain engaged on a people-to-people basis also.
It is said accurately that Hong Kong is the glittering jewel in Asia's economic emergence. But it owes its success not to the glitter of gold but to the gold of principle. The ability of journalists to tell it like it is, of legislators to raise their voices in dissent, of business people to know that their agreements will be honored and of residents to know that the courts are fair and the civil service accountable to all, not just a handful of powers that be.
The rule of law is what has allowed Hong Kong to scrape the sky. It is upon the continuation of the rule of law that its future aspirations depend and as we look ahead, we see many grounds for confidence: an educated, enterprising, and dynamic people; a sound legal framework in the form of the Sino-British Declaration and the 1990 Basic Law; a positive British legacy of effective, independent, and transparent government institutions; a decision by Congress to continue normal trade relations with the People's Republic of China; and repeated pledges by leaders in Beijing to meet their commitments to make the concept of one-country-two-systems work.
If we are anxious as well as hopeful it is because we know that not everyone will define success in the same way. For example, the United States did not support Beijing's decision to arrange appointment of a provisional legislature. We believe it was unnecessary, unjustified, and contrary to the democratically-expressed popular will. Monday night I will attend the ceremony marking the return of Hong Kong to China, which we and the people of Hong Kong clearly support. But I will not stay to observe the swearing-in of the new legislature. My decision not to attend this part of the ceremony is intended to deliver a clear political message: that the United States is, and will remain, a friend to democracy in Hong Kong and elsewhere.
We expect officials both in Beijing and Hong Kong itself to respect the freedoms of the Hong Kong people and we will be watching closely to see if free and fair elections for a new legislature are conducted as promised at an early date. As we had planned from the outset, the United States Consul General, Mr. Boucher, will attend the swearing-in of the new government, which includes not only the legislature but the new Chief Executive and others with whom we will be doing business regularly after July 1st. This does not, as some suggest, dilute the message of American support for democracy. On the contrary, it recognizes that America will be active in pursuing its interests, including its interest in the well-being of Hong Kong people long after the handover has occurred.
Hong Kong is one of the world's most dynamic societies. Incomes are high, crime is low, and with a population of just 6.3 million, it has become the world's eighth largest trading economy. After so many years of foreign rule it has retained its Chinese character, but with an international flavor that has truly made it unique. It is essential, therefore, that Hong Kong's open investment regime be maintained, its currency and customs and budget remain independent, its political life remain varied and free and its people allowed to go about their daily business under rules that were made not elsewhere but here in Hong Kong. To paraphrase Robert Frost, "No one there is that does not like Hong Kong."
The PRC recognizes its enormous economic and diplomatic stake in the region's post-transfer prosperity. The outside world -- from Tokyo to Taipei to London to Los Angeles -- sees Hong Kong as a powerful model for the principles of openness that are required for economic and social progress worldwide and Hong Kong's new leaders will understand that they must reach out and include the entire Hong Kong community if they are to build a future even more astonishing and successful than the past.
You, the representatives of America in Hong Kong, will play a key role in building that future. Through your enterprise, your values, and your willingness to speak out, we count on you to represent us well. In the months ahead, I am sure that you will not be shy about contacting Richard Boucher and other officials here in Hong Kong and I hope that you will continue to advise on how best to make American influence felt. I wish you the best of success as you make that extraordinary passage from the near side to the far side of midnight, roughly thirty-three hours from now. Thank you all very much.

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