Prior to 1997, the central government was concerned about the attitudes of the sizeable expatriate community in Hong Kong toward the handover and seemed anxious that these could be negative. I had a private meeting in Beijing with Madam Zhu Lin, wife of then-premier Li Peng - the meeting was about tobacco control on the Chinese mainland but she lost no time in asking me about the expatriate mood. She seemed pleasantly surprised that I was able to reassure her that every expatriate I knew in Hong Kong recognized that the time had come for Hong Kong to be returned to China, none was leaving the colony because of the handover, and also we all wanted to make it work. I said I certainly did not expect any unrest to emanate from the expatriate community and that proved to be the reality.

Over the past 20 years, the mainland has done much for Hong Kong, all the more remarkable given the two very different systems of government.

First of all, some fundamentals about 1997. Perhaps the most remarkable was that Hong Kong was granted the 50-year "One Country, Two Systems" status at all.

Secondly, the transition in 1997 was peaceful and bloodless. There was a joke going round at the time that the hundreds of journalists who descended on Hong Kong to cover the handover were all on their knees in St John's Cathedral praying "Let there be blood" as there seemed no controversy to report! The main and, in Scotland, controversial report on the handover in The Scotsman newspaper, which interviewed my Scottish family, was that sports historians in China had just announced that they had historical proof from ancient pottery and tapestries that China had invented golf. The article, almost as an afterthought, noted in a sentence by the way, the Hong Kong handover was at midnight last night!

I remember driving home after celebrating the handover at the Hong Kong Club in Central, and the Eastern Harbour Crossing tunnel operator leaned out of his booth, desperately wanting to say something in English. After struggling to find words, he finally said, with a great beam "Welcome!" I shall never forget that poignant moment, and that is how I have felt ever since.

Thirdly, "One Country, Two Systems" has mostly worked extraordinarily well. Hong Kong retains a legal system which closely mirrors the British one, a holdover from the colonial era, but one which prizes transparency and due process and is largely welcomed by the populace. Hong Kong has also been allowed to keep its own administrative, educational, religious and health systems.

The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), a non-government watchdog formed in 1974, long preceding the mainland's recent crackdown on corruption, was able to continue its work as before. Not only that, a retired deputy ICAC commissioner has been invited to share his anti-bribery expertise with senior mainland officials on numerous occasions.

A few specific examples from the early days as to how the central government has helped Hong Kong: In 1999 Beijing granted the Hong Kong government's controversial request to interpret the Basic Law in a way that avoided a feared massive influx of people from the mainland.

In 2001, the Beijing municipal government offered incentives to Hong Kong firms to invest in projects in the capital.

In 2002, quotas on mainland tour groups to Hong Kong were scrapped and Beijing promised to consider letting mainland investors trade in Hong Kong stocks.

The same year, premier Zhu Rongji said Beijing was ready to support Hong Kong with its massive foreign reserves if necessary.

In 2003, throughout the SARS epidemic, the mainland donated medical and healthcare supplies to combat the disease; Beijing signed the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA); travel restrictions on mainland residents wishing to visit Hong were relaxed; and the astronaut Yang Liwei, the first Chinese citizen sent into space by the country's space program, made a priority goodwill visit to Hong Kong just weeks after his return to earth.

In 2004, Beijing bought Hong Kong government bonds. The size of the purchase is not disclosed but was estimated at HK$1 billion in 2004 figures. An exhibition of photographs on the life of Deng Xiaoping opened, and "pro-democracy" politicians were invited. Guangzhou invited Hong Kong firms to help build facilities needed to host the Asian Games in Guangzhou in 2010. In August, Beijing expanded CEPA, and Hong Kong companies were invited to invest in projects in the infrastructure of the Olympics in 2008.

Equestrian events were staged in HK at the 2008 Summer Olympics - admittedly to the benefit of all sides, particularly the horses.

In my own field of public health, there has been ongoing and expanding cooperation at every level with the Chinese mainland.

And so it continues. It is often underestimated or forgotten that the mainland has done much for Hong Kong. Yes, there are complexities of this unique arrangement, but the mainland-Hong Kong combination has already outdone other reunified jurisdictions.

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