|The New U.S. -
Hong Kong Agenda
Mr. Richard Boucher, U.S. Consul General for Hong Kong, was the Foundation's
guest speaker on 25 September 1997. This is a summary of his remarks.
With the handover then almost two months past, Mr. Boucher felt that it was a good time to
take stock of the U.S.-Hong Kong relationship and set out an agenda for the future. The
U.S.-Hong Kong relationship was a broad fabric with many interwoven threads. The
relationship had not been adversely affected by the handover.
The U.S. had different interests and concerns in relation to Hong Kong from those
characterising its relationship with China, and dealt with the two relationships
separately. In accordance with the 1992 U.S.-Hong Kong Policy Act, except in respect of
foreign affairs and defence, the U.S. maintained autonomous policies in respect of Hong
Kong. Mr. Boucher saw this separate relationship continuing for the foreseeable future.
Hong Kong was an outstanding example of economic success, almost a textbook case of the
benefits of free trade and open financial markets. These merits were reinforced by low
taxation and clean government. Hong Kong was an important role model for the region,
especially for China. Hong Kong needed to maintain these characteristics, and go on being
Following the transfer of sovereignty, the U.S. would expect Hong Kong to continue
acting autonomously. This was particularly important on trade, where Hong Kong would have
to continue to ensure that goods described as "Made in Hong Kong" were in fact
made in the territory. Observance of international trading rules would also be essential
if Hong Kong were to be allowed access to sensitive technology. On software piracy, the
Hong Kong authorities had recently started to take effective action, and would have to
follow this through to establish a credible regime.
As an open financial centre, Hong Kong was always in danger of becoming a centre for
money-laundering. The U.S. was concerned to see that effective measures to combat this
were in place.
Democracy and human rights had an important place on the U.S.-Hong Kong agenda. This
was because they were important in themselves, and because they were also important for
business, the U.S. having substantial business interests in Hong Kong. A
democratically-elected legislature was an important check and balance on the executive,
and improved the quality of government policy-making. U.S. representatives had expressed
concern on the formation of the Provisional Legislature to Hong Kong's Chief Executive,
Mr. C.H. Tung, during his recent visit to the U.S. At the same time, it was recognized
that the pace of democratisation was a matter for Hong Kong people to decide. Mr. Tung had
been very cordially received.
Although the U.S. would not support any particular party in Hong Kong, he would like to
see all parties represented in politics as each had a contribution to make. In addition to
effective legislative oversight, Mr. Boucher also stressed the importance of a free press
and freedom of information. These elements were vital to business, especially business in
the financial sector. Mr. Boucher hoped that the Chinese authorities would also see the
importance of free information flow. For example, if continuing investment in red chips
and H shares was expected, there was a vital need for more information on these companies.
Mr. Boucher noted that self-censorship was a concern, but felt that it should not be
overstated at this stage. The Hong Kong press had just covered the 15th
Communist Party Congress, for example, with voluminous and often critical commentaries.
However, he had noticed avoidance of certain topics over the last couple of years.
Mr. Boucher said that the U.S. was interested in the progress of Mr. Tung's initiatives
on housing and education. These were major areas of importance for U.S. business in Hong
Kong. Another area of U.S. interest was the environment, which recent events in the region
such as the effect on Malaysia of Indonesian fires, showed was a cross-border issue.
Mr. Boucher said that the U.S. was pleased to see Hong Kong people exercising their
autonomy vigorously. In the international arena, it was helpful to hear Hong Kong's voice
raised in favour of free trade and open financial markets. For example, Hong Kong's
support had been useful during the APEC talks last year on information technology. He
would like Hong Kong to continue to do this.
The above summary does not necessarily represent the views of the Hong Kong