Chinese national flags and Hong Kong Special Administrative Region flags are displayed outside a shopping center in Hong Kong, June 28, 2017 to mark the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong's return to the motherland. (AP Photo / Kin Cheung)
BEIJING - The world watched on July 1, 1997 as the Union Jack was lowered over Hong Kong and the five-star red flag of China raised in its stead. British colonial rule came to an end and a new dawn broke over Hong Kong, as it was returned into the welcoming arms of the motherland.
Today, as the world turns its attention to the metropolis 20 years on, what does it see? A Hong Kong more dynamic than ever before, and one thriving under "one country, two systems."
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) has been run under the guidelines of "one country, two systems," "Hong Kong people governing Hong Kong" and a high degree of autonomy.
On one hand, the central government has effectively exercised overall jurisdiction over the HKSAR in accordance with the Constitution and the HKSAR Basic Law, which includes areas such as appointing chief executives and principal officials in successive HKSAR governments and exercising diplomatic power.
It is the People's Liberation Army Hong Kong Garrison which fulfills the nation's duty to defend this vital corner of an enormous nation.
On the other hand, the city's capitalist system and way of life have remained as unchanged as possible, and the laws which govern the daily lives of ordinary citizens, remain basically the same.
Horse racing, ballroom dancing and stock trading, the three "remarkable capitalist characteristics" pledged to be retained for at least 50 years, are as popular as ever.
The Basic Law ensures the HKSAR has a high degree of autonomy and enjoys executive, legislative and independent judicial power, including that of final adjudication.
World Bank data show that Hong Kong's indicator of the rule of law, a core value of Hong Kong society, has jumped from behind 60th in the world in 1996 to 11th place in 2015, well ahead of some major Western countries.
Hong Kong's economy has grown by an average of 3.2 percent each year since 1997, quite remarkable for an economy which was essentially already "developed" 20 years ago.
Only by ensuring that the principle of "one country, two systems" be steadfastly applied without being bent or distorted, could the long-term prosperity, stability and development of Hong Kong be maintained
Among 63 economies, this year's edition of the International Institute for Management Development (IMD) World Competitiveness Yearbook ranked Hong Kong as the most competitive followed by Switzerland, Singapore and the United States. It is the second year in a row that Hong Kong has occupied the top spot.
These accomplishments have come amid Asian and global financial crises and the SARS outbreak -- choppy waters indeed, which Hong Kong navigated only through the support of the central government.
The last 20 years have fully proven that "one country, two systems" is not only the best solution to the Hong Kong question left over from history but also the best institutional arrangement for the long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong after its return to the motherland.
Only by ensuring that the principle of "one country, two systems" be steadfastly applied without being bent or distorted, could the long-term prosperity, stability and development of Hong Kong be maintained.
"One country, two systems" has been a success of epic proportions. Giving full play to the institutional advantage of "one country, two systems" and taking advantage of the opportunities offered by the nation's development have been and will always be a major engine for Hong Kong's development.
The Mainland and Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement, stock and bond connect programs between the mainland and Hong Kong are clear signs of success and commitment to success.
China is now embarking on an array of development initiatives which the HKSAR could contribute and benefit from, such as the Belt and Road Initiative, the internationalization of the renminbi, and the building of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area city cluster.
Hong Kong could dovetail itself with the country's major national development initiatives and needs to unleash its formidable potential.
With unity and endeavor, the glory of national rejuvenation awaits the compatriots of the HKSAR and motherland, reunited forever.