STARKVILLE, Miss.--East met West at Mississippi State University on Wednesday afternoon when the Hong Kong commissioner for economic and trade affairs in the U.S. visited campus.
At his presentation "U.S.-Hong Kong: Partnerships from Strength to Strength," Donald Tong went over the advantages for Americans, especially Mississippians, of continuing and expanding existing collaborations already in place with Hong Kong.
Hong Kong-based consulting group Sozo Group Ltd. is facilitating job creation in the Southeast, said CEO Raymond Cheng, and Hong Kong leaders want to encourage more Americans to get excited about visiting Hong Kong, Tong said.
Not only did Tong go over Hong Kong's history -- a British colony until 1997 when it became part of the People's Republic of China -- he emphasized that the region operates under a "one country, two systems" philosophy, which allows Hong Kong autonomy and its citizens the privilege to maintain the civil rights characteristic of British Common Law.
"Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, (and) freedom of the press remain intact," Tong said. "We embrace a pluralistic society where human rights are respected. Rigorous media continues to freely comment and criticize on all aspects of society, including the Hong Kong government. Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and other popular social media are assets unfettered."
Capitalism and free enterprise are promoted and advanced throughout the region, Tong said. The Heritage Foundation has ranked Hong Kong as the "World's Freest Economy" for 19 consecutive years, and it's the eighth richest economy in the world, according to Forbes Magazine's 2012 "15 Richest Countries."
Tong invited MSU students to visit Hong Kong because not only do Americans not need a visa to visit, it's a liberal and professional region with many shops and very low unemployment rates, he said. Degree-holding job seekers are welcomed, and English is one of the two official languages, along with Cantonese.
"Once you can get a permanent job (in Hong Kong), and for those degree holders, you have spent much money -- you must have to get the degree -- we will welcome you with open arms," he said.
Numerous opportunities for business and innovation abound because of Hong Kong's simple tax structure, Tong explained. No sales tax is charged except for tobacco or alcohol; only profits and salaries are taxed at maximum rates of 16.5 percent and 15 percent, respectively.
"Just don't work too hard -- the problem is finding the time to spend your money," Tong said.
The Office of Research and Economic Development and MSU International Institute sponsored his campus presentation.
Tong's MSU visit was just one stop on a two-day tour of Mississippi.
On Wednesday morning in Jackson, he met with Gov. Phil Bryant and Brent Christensen, executive director of the Mississippi Development Authority. While in Jackson, he also spoke to the Executive Lecture Forum, which is coordinated by MSU's Radvanyi Chair in International Security Studies.
Wednesday night in Starkville, he met with local business leaders and elected officials.
On Thursday, Tong is scheduled to meet with MSU faculty and staff; tour several research facilities; and visit East Mississippi Community College's Mayhew campus for a luncheon sponsored by the Golden Triangle Development Link.
To learn more about MSU's international initiatives, visit www.msstate.edu.