Culture binds HK, Singapore

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam

On behalf of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government, I welcome the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music Orchestra to Hong Kong. These talented young musicians are the stars of this evening and like all of you in the audience, I look forward to their splendid performance at tonight’s concert.

 

I understand that the orchestra is taking part in its first foreign tour, having performed last night in Macau, and now in Hong Kong. The orchestra’s tour is, of course, part of Singapore’s 50th anniversary of independence celebrations. I have been privileged to be part of the festivities – having attended the National Day Dinner in Hong Kong and during my official visit to Singapore in July – and fortunate to see and experience, first-hand, the pride and joy that Singaporeans have for their nation and its remarkable achievements. As you all know, we are celebrating our National Day tomorrow and we are proud of what our country has achieved in recent decades, and the very successful state visit of President Xi Jinping to the United States last week.

 

The world knows full well of the economic miracle of Singapore – its rise as a country and as a regional and global economic powerhouse. Singapore’s emergence as a cultural force is equally impressive. And the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music, just 12 years old, an excellent tertiary music institution, is certainly part of that creative spirit – a magnet for talented young musicians from Asia and around the world.

 

Embracing culture

Hong Kong, like Singapore, has heard the music, and has embraced the promise of culture. We have the dedicated Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts (HKAPA), which just marked its 30th Anniversary last year, offering diverse academic programmes from post-secondary Diploma up to Master’s Degree levels in various disciplines of the performing arts.

 

The students of HKAPA’s School of Music are the cultural ambassadors for Hong Kong. Each year, through their various orchestras and ensembles, such as the Academy Symphony Orchestra, the Academy Chinese Orchestra and the Contemporary Music Ensemble, they give around 300 performances, quite a number of which, by the way, take place in overseas venues. I hope they can perform in Singapore in the not so distant future. At the same time, Singaporean artists and performing arts groups conduct masterclasses at the HKAPA from time to time. For example, the Singapore Chinese Orchestra, one of Singapore’s flagship arts groups, will be collaborating with the HKAPA’s School of Music next month.

 

Indeed, Hong Kong is home to more than 1,000 arts groups. They put on over 8,000 shows each year, here and around the world.

 

Meaningful connections

Last month, the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra toured Finland and Estonia – the same orchestra that participated in “MoonFest” last year at the Esplanade in Singapore. Our Hong Kong Sinfonietta will perform at the Esplanade in February next year.

 

It’s much the same with theatre, dance, film, art – culture in general – that Hong Kong and Singapore are joined together, finding and embracing meaningful connections through culture. It was just over two months ago that the Hong Kong Fringe Club put together “Spotlight Hong Kong in Singapore”. The three-day programme offered everything from big-band jazz and flash mob dancing to award-winning short films and documentaries. The featured opening-day symposium, titled “Creative Cities, Creative Minds,” speaks eloquently of our cultural ties.

 

Culture can bind Hong Kong and Singapore no less powerfully than trade and investment ties.

 

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam gave these remarks at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music Orchestra Concert in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Singapore’s independence.

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HK world’s China financial centre

Chief Executive CY Leung

Saudi Arabia is Hong Kong’s third largest export market in the Middle East. Our bilateral trade has grown, on average, 5% a year between 2010 and 2014. Last year, it was worth US$1.5 billion. In the first half of 2015, total trade between is up 15%, year on year.

 

They’re even more encouraging when you consider that last year US$1.1 billion worth of trade between Saudi Arabia and Mainland China was routed through Hong Kong.

 

And there’s much more to look forward to. I see ample opportunities for co-operation between Hong Kong and Saudi Arabia ahead. For example, our infrastructure and real estate services sector is internationally recognised for its experience in high-rise residential and commercial building construction, including engineering consulting, contracting and project management. From the Mainland of China to the Middle East, Hong Kong professionals are offering their quality services and winning the applause from the local communities. Saudi companies can certainly look to Hong Kong for construction and infrastructural management expertise, for example.

 

And there’s more. Hong Kong is the world’s China financial centre, and China’s international financial capital. We are the “super-connector” between the rest of China and the rest of the world. That means helping Mainland enterprises “go global” with their services, products and their capital, while enabling overseas companies – including those from Saudi Arabia – to find Mainland markets. And the Mainland and overseas companies naturally mix and match in the two-way platform of Hong Kong for profitable opportunities.

 

Whether looking for investment capital, or for a base to oversee regional operations, I invite more Saudi companies to turn to Hong Kong. Our business-friendly environment has attracted nearly 7,600 overseas and Mainland companies. They set up in Hong Kong for more good reasons than I have time to articulate.

 

Certainly, our low and uncomplicated tax regime is a big plus for business. So, too, is Hong Kong’s independent judiciary and our staunch adherence to the rule of law – to ensuring a level business playing field for all. Our multicultural, multi-talented pool of services professionals – in finance, accounting, law, architecture, engineering management and more – is another Hong Kong advantage.

 

Information and capital flow freely in Hong Kong. That’s why, in January, the Washington-based Heritage Foundation named Hong Kong the world’s freest economy – for the 21st year in a row. That’s why, earlier this month, Hong Kong topped the Vancouver-based Fraser Institute’s annual “Economic Freedom of the World” report.

 

Those everyday strengths, and our ever-deepening economic integration with Mainland China, help power Hong Kong’s global success. Together, they give us the experience, the expertise and the singular connections to serve as the fundraising and financial management hub for China’s new “Belt and Road” initiative.

 

This forward-looking programme was designed to promote people to people economic co-operation from Asia through Africa, the Middle East and into Europe. Indeed, it has the potential to become a driving force of the world’s economy long down the road. And I’m sure Saudi Arabia, with its strategic location between East and West, also has much to gain in this “Belt and Road” initiative.

 

Alongside trade, the initiative is sure to boost financial co-operation, given the number of Islamic countries along the linked corridors of the “Belt and Road” and its 60-plus economies. That means opportunity for Hong Kong and for Saudi Arabia.

 

Indeed, this past year, Hong Kong issued two sukuk. Both were well received – in Saudi Arabia, throughout the Middle East and around the world. They showcased Hong Kong’s capabilities in sukuk issuance. They underlined, as well, the confidence international investors have in Hong Kong. The confidence Hong Kong and Saudi Arabia together share.

 

On this encouraging note, I look forward to even closer co-operation between Saudi Arabia and Hong Kong.

 

Chief Executive CY Leung gave these remarks at the national day reception for Saudi Arabia.

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NGO’s work dovetails with Gov’t policies

Secretary for Labour & Welfare Matthew Cheung

The story of Christian Action is a touching and impressive one. It tells of how a welfare non-governmental organisation has successfully moved with the times and developed an array of quality services in keeping with Hong Kong’s fast changing socio-economic landscape.

 

Let me begin by paying warm tribute to Christian Action, which I have known since its inception. Established in 1985, Christian Action, previously known as Hong Kong Christian Aid to Refugees, has been providing a wide range of quality services for needy groups. These include new arrivals from the Mainland, ethnic minorities, low-income families, disadvantaged youths, refugees and foreign domestic helpers residing in Hong Kong, as well as orphans living in Qinghai on the Mainland.

 

In short, Christian Action serves the unserved, marginalised, disadvantaged, displaced, abandoned and underprivileged.

 

Over the past 30 years, Christian Action has worked closely with the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government on the welfare and labour fronts and has made a sterling contribution. I greatly value our partnership and am most appreciative of Christian Action’s unfailing support, unstinting co-operation and strong sense of commitment and professionalism.

 

Christian Action is a key player under the Partnership Fund for the Disadvantaged and the Child Development Fund. It is also a major training body for the Employees Retraining Board. In fact, Christian Action was among the pioneering training bodies when the ERB came into existence.

 

Three-way partnership

To promote a tripartite partnership among the business sector, non-governmental organisations and the Government in helping the needy, the Government set up the $200 million Partnership Fund for the Disadvantaged in 2005 under the Social Welfare Department.

 

We have injected an additional $400 million into the Fund this year. Of this, $200 million is set aside for encouraging collaboration amongst the business sector, NGOs and schools to launch after-school learning and support projects and facilitate the whole-person development of students from grassroots families.

 

We expect 20,000 primary and secondary students to benefit from the scheme in the current school year. The scheme will also free up several thousand mothers to join the labour force.

 

Christian Action has successfully completed seven projects under the Partnership Fund for the Disadvantaged so far, with the eighth still in full swing. These projects target new arrival families, low-income families, single-parent families and ethnic minorities with the aim of preventing social exclusion.

Helping disadvantaged children

To enhance the longer-term development of disadvantaged children and reduce inter-generational poverty, the $300 million Child Development Fund was set up by the Labour & Welfare Bureau in 2008.

 

Over the years, CDF projects have benefitted some 7,000 children, including ethnic minorities, children with disabilities and those living in tiny cubicle apartments or sub-divided units. To boost the fund’s capacity and ensure its sustainability, the Government has injected an additional $300 million into the fund and this will benefit another 9,700 new participants.

 

I am most grateful for the strong support that Christian Action has rendered the Child Development Fund since its launch. Christian Action has so far operated 11 projects in Kwun Tong, Sai Kung and Yuen Long, benefitting altogether 1,235 children.

 

Through the three major project components, namely personal development plans, the mentorship programme and targeted savings, the fund encourages children to plan for their future and to develop an asset-building habit.

 

Employment assistance

Since 2001, Christian Action has also been actively assisting the Social Welfare Department in implementing employment assistance programmes to help able-bodied Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme recipients overcome work barriers, enhance their employability, secure employment and become self-reliant.

 

On the manpower training side, Christian Action is a major partner of ERB in providing quality training courses and services, particularly for social groups with special needs, such as mature persons, new arrivals and ethnic minorities.

 

Since August 1994, when it was made an ERB training body, Christian Action has served about 220,000 trainees. This accounts for about 12% of the total number of ERB trainees. Over the years, Christian Action has received various awards from ERB in recognition of its good work and dedication.

 

Building cohesive society

What Christian Action is doing fits in perfectly well with the objectives and commitment of the Hong Kong SAR Government in building a caring, compassionate and cohesive society.  Indeed, poverty alleviation and enhancement of elderly care rank highly on the current-term Government’s policy agenda.

 

Total recurrent spending on social welfare alone in this financial year (2015-16) is estimated to reach $59.7 billion, representing a significant 18.4% of overall Government recurrent expenditure, just after education (22%) and ahead of medical and health services (16.4%). This speaks volumes about the importance that the Government attaches to helping the vulnerable and disadvantaged, as well as to addressing the needs of a fast ageing community.

 

On its 30th anniversary celebration, I offer my warmest congratulations to Christian Action and wish it continued success in the many years ahead.

 

Secretary for Labour & Welfare Matthew Cheung gave these remarks  at the Christian Action 30th Anniversary celebration ceremony.

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HK plays unique Belt-Road role

Financial Secretary John Tsang

Hong Kong and Dusseldorf have a good deal in common. Your glittering Rhine reminds me of Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour. Indeed, our two global cities began as humble fishing villages before turning to trade, industry, logistics and telecommunications, before attracting a world of business.

 

And now there’s even more to bring us together. We celebrated the formal launch of Cathay Pacific Airways’ direct passenger flights between Hong Kong and Dusseldorf. Direct flights make business and leisure travel much easier. And I’m confident they will boost exchanges between us – in business, people, ideas, culture, travel and beer, too.

 

Excellent reasons for us to be here today, to be looking to Dusseldorf as we redouble our business and trade focus on Germany.

 

This year, of course, is a special year. Next week, Germany celebrates its 25th anniversary as a reunified nation. The challenges you have overcome as a nation reunified, after decades of division, are monumental. Germany today is an undisputed global economic powerhouse, accounting for some 20 percent of the EU’s GDP.

 

So, yes, it’s comforting to know that Hong Kong and Germany enjoy close, mutually beneficial economic relations. Last year, our bilateral trade was worth some 14 billion euros, making Germany our largest trading partner in Europe.

 

German exporters make good use of Hong Kong’s gateway role to reach huge markets in Mainland China and across Asia. In 2014, 10 billion euros worth of trade between Germany and the Mainland was routed through Hong Kong.

 

And there’s much more, for all of us, down the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. Launched by the Mainland in late 2013, the initiatives target more than 60 economies linking Asia, Africa, the Middle East and, yes, Europe.

 

Belt-Road advantages

The Belt-Road is designed to expand transcontinental connectivity, to promote economic, political and cultural development in vast areas of three continents. And I believe it can be the force that drives the global economy in the coming decades.

 

The enthusiastic response to the establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) underscores my optimism. The AIIB will be the key financial institution supporting infrastructure development, much needed in countries along the Belt-Road. And it’s obvious that many nations see the promise it offers.

 

Germany, the economic dynamo at the heart of Europe, is well positioned to take part. Located at the western end of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the Chongqing-Xinjiang-Europe International Railway, Germany is the essential connection between the Belt to the east and the rest of Western Europe to the west.

 

Dusseldorf has much to gain from the Belt & Road, given its central location, its convenient ocean, road and air transport, its mature highway system and easily accessible shipping on the Rhine.

 

I’d like to explain how Hong Kong can serve and support German business, how we can help you capitalise on the wealth of opportunities that will emerge from the Belt-Road over the next few years and through this 21st century.

 

The Belt-Road will trigger soaring investment in infrastructural facilities. It will deepen financial integration and expand the flow of trade and the building of people-to-people bonds on an unprecedented scale.

 

And Hong Kong will help make it happen, thanks to the unique advantages presented by our “one country, two systems” arrangement, under which Hong Kong maintains its own social and economic systems, while being part of China.

 

Economic freedom

Take our financial system. Hong Kong has its own currency which is different from the Mainland Renminbi and is fully convertible. Capital from the Mainland and from all over the world flows freely in and out of Hong Kong on a fair and equitable basis.

 

Indeed, less than two weeks ago, Hong Kong was once again named “the most economically free jurisdiction in the world” by Canada’s Fraser Institute, in its annual “Economic Freedom of the World” report. And earlier this year, the Washington-based Heritage Foundation named Hong Kong the freest economy in the world – for 21 years in a row.

 

China’s major international financial centre, and one of the world’s financial capitals, Hong Kong has the experience, the expertise and the connections to serve as the fundraising and financial management hub for the Belt-Road. Our financing options range from public offerings and loan syndication to private equity funds and the raising of funds through Islamic finance.

 

We have the seventh largest stock market in terms of market capitalisation and rank second, globally, in equity funds raised through initial public offerings.

 

Renminbi hub

Hong Kong is also the world’s largest offshore Renminbi business centre. We can provide international investors with Renminbi services ranging from cross-border trade settlement to bond issuance. As trade and other economic activities along the Belt-Road expand, so, too, will the demand for Renminbi trade settlement. Hong Kong can respond to that demand. After all, we’ve been handling the lion’s share of Renminbi trade settlement since its beginnings in 2009.

 

Our Renminbi debt market has grown rapidly in recent years as well. It provides a reliable channel for companies looking to issue Renminbi bonds to meet project funding needs. Last year, the issuance of Renminbi bonds in Hong Kong amounted to some RMB200 billion – a year-on-year increase of 70%.

 

We expect the growth potential of Shariah-compliant financial services to be equally promising, given the large Muslim population living along the Belt-Road. Hong Kong is well positioned to take advantage of those opportunities.

 

In fact, the Hong Kong Government successfully issued two sukuk over the past year, demonstrating the viability of our sukuk issuance and the confidence international investors have in Hong Kong, in our economic fundamentals and in our financial expertise.

 

The long list of infrastructure projects anticipated under the Belt-Road initiative will also boost demand for asset and risk management services.

 

Hong Kong’s wealth and asset management business has soared in recent years. And I’m confident we’re well positioned to serve as a global centre for asset management, risk management and corporate treasury activities.

 

Hong Kong boasts a wide variety of insurance services and derivative products as well. They offer sound reason for German companies to manage their risks by setting up captive insurers in Hong Kong.

 

Strategic partner

Hong Kong’s deep pool of world-class services professionals, in finance, accounting, law, architecture, engineering management and more, is another strength. Beyond financial capital and expertise, they have the international experience to lead consultancies, construction projects, and the operations and management of Belt-Road infrastructure projects.

 

Moreover, our legal professionals work with a world of business every day. They conduct due diligence, ensure contract enforcement and help resolve disputes. And they do so under a system supported by the twin foundations of the rule of law and an independent judiciary. Hong Kong is the ideal centre for resolving potential commercial disputes arising from business collaboration.

 

Hong Kong was built on trade, and we remain one of the world’s great trading economies. Our geographical location, at the southern gateway to Mainland China, gives us unparalleled trade opportunities. Our free-market focus, simple and low tax rate and free flow of information and capital are everything business needs to thrive in Hong Kong, in the Mainland and throughout Asia.

 

In short, Hong Kong is well equipped to be your strategic partner as you venture into the vast markets of the Belt-Road. In fact, Hong Kong is already home to more than 600 German companies, more than half of which base their regional operations in Hong Kong.

 

I invite you to join them, to join the world in Hong Kong, your fast lane to the future.

 

Financial Secretary John Tsang gave these remarks at the WirtschaftsWoche Hong Kong Dialogue in Dusseldorf on September 25.

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Basic Law upholds rule of law

Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma

The Court of Final Appeal has served Hong Kong since July 1, 1997. It was established under the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China.

 

As early as 2001, through the initiative of Chief Justice Andrew Li, the Judiciary began to correspond with the Government regarding a possible relocation of the Court of Final Appeal to the present premises. When it was finally determined that the Legislative Council would move to its present site, the relocation of the Court of Final Appeal became possible. I am grateful to the Government for the continuing support it has given to the Judiciary and the unfailing commitment it has shown to ensure that the Judiciary’s needs have been met and are met. I also take this opportunity to express the Judiciary’s and my own personal gratitude to Chief Justice Andrew Li, who has been the main impetus in making the Court of Final Appeal what it is today.

 

The relocation of Hong Kong’s highest court from Battery Path to Jackson Road is entirely apposite and it is of considerable significance. This building, apart from a period during the Second World War and from 1985 to 2011 when it was used by the Legislative Council, has all along been used as law courts – it was the Supreme Court of Hong Kong. It was, however, not the first site of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court in Hong Kong started operations on October 1, 1844 at premises located at the corner of what is now D’Aguilar Street and Wellington Street. In 1846, it moved to the top of Battery Path, then to a site on Queen’s Road (near Pedder Street) in 1848 where it remained until the opening of the present building in 1912.

 

The building was designed in a neo-classical style by the well-known English architects Sir Aston Webb and Edward Ingress Bell, who were the Crown Agents’ chosen architects. This partnership was also responsible for the design of the principal façade of Buckingham Palace, the Victoria Memorial in front of the Palace and the Admiralty Arch on the Mall in London. The dome of this building is said to be modelled on the great dome of St Paul’s Cathedral in London. Although the design of the building would probably have followed an orthodox design of the time, novel features were introduced such as the Chinese style pitched roofs, this style being more practical for Hong Kong from a weather proofing aspect. This design concept remains.

 

At the west-facing entrance of this building is a foundation stone laid on 12 November 1903 by the Governor, Sir Henry Blake, although the courts were not to begin operations in it until 1912. Historical accounts indicate that this site could not have been an easy one on which to construct a building. The land is reclaimed land. The water table being high (this is still the position today), the ground was similar to marshland. The foundation work took three years to complete (from 1900 to 1903), requiring the manual driving of some 1,500 fir piles. 

 

Construction of the building was to take another eight years, affected by cost overruns. There were disputes between the Government and the contractor (Chan A Tong, whose name is engraved on the foundation stone I have earlier mentioned). These disputes had to be resolved by arbitration. There was also a shortage of local granite. The building is constructed predominately of granite and the imposing façade facing west required high-quality granite. This was in short supply in the early 20th century since increasingly grand buildings were being constructed in the Central district at the time.

 

This brief historical account of the construction of the building indicates that construction projects in the early 20th century bore much resemblance to the construction projects of today: cost overruns, delays, litigation and eventually a successful dispute resolution.

 

The war years

The Supreme Court was formally opened on November 15, 1912 by the Governor, Sir Frederick Lugard, and the Chief Justice, Chief Justice Pigott. The symbolic value of the new court building was not lost in the words used on the occasion. Sir Frederick referred to “the Justice which shall stand firm though the skies fall”. The Chief Justice talked about the building remaining a “pyramid to commemorate the genius of the Far East”. After the opening, the work of the courts in Hong Kong then continued. 

 

The population more than doubled between 1900 and 1921, and this doubled again by the time the Second World War broke. Trade trebled between 1900 and 1920. Just as the work of the courts increased, so the legal profession grew as well. The Hong Kong Bar welcomed the first lady barrister in 1932, Lo Soon Kim Teo (she having become Singapore’s first lady barrister three years earlier). Among others, Lo Hin Shing and Thomas Tam stood out, as did Leo D’Almada e Castro.

 

The War years in Hong Kong are visible by the unrepaired bullet holes on the pillars of the building. They are most apparent at the east-facing side of the building. From 1942 to 1945, the building was used by the Japanese military police. Post-War, business in the courts increased dramatically, none more so than in the 1980s. Our building, which had witnessed many historical incidents and undergone numerous challenges, succumbed to subsidence in the late 1970s with the construction of the Mass Transit Railway. After briefly resuming as a court building from 1982 to 1984, it was used by the Legislative Council for 26 years from 1985 to 2011.

 

The conversion of the building from its use by the Legislative Council to functioning courts (there are two courts) has taken the best part of four years. The Judiciary is grateful in particular to the Architectural Services Department which has been responsible overall for this project. The challenges in this conversion exercise have been numerous. The objective has not only been to convert the premises into fully functioning modern courts, with all necessary technology, but also to restore some of the old features of the building as far as has been practicable. Thus, much of the old teak flooring has been restored, and some of the original ceramic floor tiling has been salvaged and is once again visible. The false ceilings constructed during the Legislative Council days have been removed to reveal the original ceilings. The former prisoners’ cells can be seen in the library area, with the former gantry (the “Bridge of Sighs”) leading to the First Floor courts made accessible again. I hope that in time as many members of the public as possible will be able to enjoy visiting this heritage building.

 

Rule of law

I mentioned earlier the considerable significance of this building reverting to the Judiciary. The significance lies in what the building represents to the community. And what is represented is the rule of law in Hong Kong.

 

Whether one is a long-term historical observer of Hong Kong or only of recent events here, there is one common feature: that Hong Kong has always faced challenges. In facing these challenges, Hong Kong has always regarded the existence of the rule of law to be crucial in providing the necessary stability amidst change. This is reflected in the Basic Law.

 

The Basic Law implements the basic policies of the Central Government regarding Hong Kong. One of the principal themes of the Basic Law is the maintenance and continuation of those institutions that have contributed to Hong Kong’s success over the years. Obviously of importance among such institutions is the rule of law. Those components of the rule of law which are of particular relevance to Hong Kong – indeed to all common law jurisdictions of which Hong Kong is one – comprise first, the due recognition of rights and fundamental freedoms, not just for oneself but also for others (respect for one’s rights, respect for the rights of others and equality of all persons before the law); secondly, the existence of an independent Judiciary to enforce these rights and fundamental freedoms. These themes are recognised throughout the Basic Law. 

 

The reference in Article 2 of the Basic Law to “independent judicial power” means judicial independence and this is repeated in two other articles. The term “judicial power” means the responsibility of the courts to adjudicate disputes impartially and according to law. The maintenance of laws previously in force in Hong Kong, including the common law and rules of equity, is another recurring theme in the Basic Law. The reference to the common law is an important one. The common law, with its emphasis on fairness, justice, and the adherence to legal principle and the spirit of the law, has served Hong Kong well over the years and will continue to do so. 

 

Decisions of the courts may sometimes not be to everybody’s liking – whether they be private individuals, political and other groups, or even the Government – but it is not the role of the courts to make popular decisions. The function of the courts is to adjudicate on disputes according to the law and its spirit, and judges are to discharge their responsibilities in accordance with their judicial oath, namely, to do so “honestly and with integrity … without fear or favour, self-interest or deceit”. The courts and judges also do this openly, with very limited exceptions. Open justice is a key feature in Hong Kong’s system of law.

 

Looking to the future

I have mentioned earlier the restoration of this magnificent building, but this is not to look to the past. She represents the future in Hong Kong. I am frequently in contact with young persons in Hong Kong. One recurring theme among them is the wish that Hong Kong will continue to prosper and to develop even further than it has. They all recognise the need for the continuation of all those facets and institutions that have served Hong Kong well. It is afterall their home. The rule of law provides the social stability that is the foundation of a content and prosperous society. This building is the symbol of the rule of law in Hong Kong and this institution remains as strong as it has ever been in our community. For our part, the courts and judges will always discharge their daily responsibilities with this firmly in mind.

 

Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma gave these remarks at the Ceremonial Opening of the Court of Final Appeal Building at 8 Jackson Road, Central, on September 25.

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New prize advances civilisation

Acting Financial Secretary Prof KC Chan

The “world” covers a lot of ground. So, too, does “civilisation”, which generally refers to an advanced stage of human social development. In that, of course, we have come a good long way. In technology, certainly, the world has largely become the “global village” media sage Marshall McLuhan famously promised – if that’s the right word – more than half a century ago.

And while we are making progress in many other areas, we have much still to accomplish if we are to realise “civilisation” in all its full and many layered meanings. In this life-long, age-long, earth-long, pursuit, we are helped by governments, by international associations and organisations, and by the bestowing of prizes and awards for special achievement. 

Probably the best known of these is the Nobel Prize, annually recognising academic, cultural and scientific advances at the highest levels. But, in truth, there are a great many awards out there. And they honour excellence in disciplines inclusive and exclusive, great and small, universally celebrated and wonderfully obscure.

When it comes to awards, the sectors, industries, associations and people of Hong Kong do their part, and more. And in so many ways. When it comes to advancing civilisation, I’m reminded of the Shaw Prize, with its focus on research excellence in astronomy, life science and medicine, and the mathematical sciences. The Shaw Prize – as you are, no doubt, aware – was initiated by legendary Hong Kong entrepreneur and philanthropist Run Run Shaw.

And there’s Noel Croucher. The man who helped found the Hong Kong Stock Exchange also established the Croucher Foundation – some 36 years ago. It annually recognises outstanding accomplishments in science, technology and medicine.

Today, I’m pleased to say, we acknowledge the foresight and generosity of another notable Hong Kong businessman and philanthropist, Dr Lui Che-woo. Last year, he set up the $1.3 billion GEG Charitable Foundation, to expand on his already substantial contributions to education, locally and internationally. And now, with today’s launch of the Lui Che Woo Prize, Dr Lui’s munificence embraces the macrocosm. The universal. The world writ large.

Not all that surprising, to be sure. Not from a man who has an asteroid named after him: the Lui Che Woo Star, International Code 5538. A man shaped by the terrible hardships of war, a businessman whose post-war rise mirrored Hong Kong’s own, whose singular achievements over the years, and the decades, speak of Hong Kong’s economic success at the very highest levels.

The establishment of the prize that bears Dr Lui’s name promises a worldwide and welcome recognition for the winners. Much more than that, however, it presents the clear and compelling prospect of advancing human civilisation. Year after year. I have no doubt that there are many – in Hong Kong and around the world – who can’t wait to take up that welcome challenge. Dr Lui Che-woo’s welcome challenge.
 

Acting Financial Secretary Prof KC Chan gave these remarks at the launch ceremony of the Lui Che Woo Prize for World Civilisation on September 24.

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Belt-Road to boost ties

Financial Secretary John Tsang

Bilateral trade between Hong Kong and Poland has shown impressive growth in recent years. Our trade soared by more than 12% a year, on average, between 2010 and 2014. Last year, total trade between us amounted to US$1.4 billion.

 

I’m confident that trade and co-operation between us will continue to expand in the coming years. That’s thanks, in part, to the ambitious concepts of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, launched by President Xi Jinping of China in 2013. The linked initiatives put the 60-plus economies along the Belt-Road in the international spotlight as never before.

 

The Belt-Road was created to expand transcontinental connectivity, to promote economic, political and cultural co-operation from Asia through Africa and on to Europe. I believe it has the potential to become the driving force of the world economy in this 21st century.

 

The widespread interest in the establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the AIIB, underlines that belief. In good time, the AIIB will become the key financial institution supporting Belt-Road infrastructural development, and more.

 

Poland clearly recognises the immense business opportunities presented by the initiative. Your country was the only Central European country on the list of the AIIB’s founding members. The region’s largest economy, Poland has the potential to reap the massive benefits that this initiative would bring.

 

You enjoy a unique location on the Belt-Road, with all freight-train routes connecting China and the European Union flowing through Poland. And the two cargo train routes now connecting Poland and Mainland China offer fast and safe transport options for business. The Silk Road will make such connections even more important as trade, construction and co-operation between Asia and Europe expand.

 

Through the Belt-Road, we expect to see soaring investment in infrastructural facilities, deepening financial integration, expanding trade and the building of people-to-people bonds on a global scale.

 

Hong Kong can help make it happen, thanks to the unique advantages presented by our “one country, two systems” arrangement. Among many other things, the arrangement allows Hong Kong to maintain our own social and economic systems. For example, Hong Kong has its own currency which is different from the Mainland Renminbi and is fully convertible. And capital, from the Mainland as well as capital from all over the world, including Poland, flows freely in and out of Hong Kong on a fair and equitable basis.

 

Hong Kong is China’s international financial centre and we are also one of the world’s financial capitals. We have the experience, the expertise and the connections to serve as the fundraising and financial management hub for the Belt-Road.

 

Financing options offered in Hong Kong range from public offerings and loan syndication to private equity funds and the raising of funds through Islamic finance.

 

We run the world’s seventh-largest stock market in terms of market capitalisation, and we rank second, globally, in equity funds raised through initial public offerings.

 

Hong Kong is also the world’s largest offshore Renminbi business centre. Our Renminbi services range from cross-border trade settlement to bond issuance. As trade and other economic activities along the Belt-Road expand, so, too, will the demand for Renminbi trade settlement. And Hong Kong’s Renminbi trade settlement system is well placed to respond to that demand.  After all, we have been handling the lion’s share of Renminbi trade since its beginnings in 2009.

 

Our Renminbi debt market has grown rapidly in recent years. It provides a reliable channel for companies issuing Renminbi bonds to meet project funding needs. In 2014, the issuance of Renminbi bonds in Hong Kong totalled about RMB200 billion, a year-on-year increase of 69%.

 

The growth of Islamic financial services should be equally promising, given the large Muslim population living along the Belt-Road. This past year, Hong Kong issued two Shariah-compliant sukuk, demonstrating our capabilities in this specialised financial offering, as well as revealing the confidence that international investors have in Hong Kong’s economic fundamentals.

 

Asset and risk-management services will also be needed once the Belt-Road projects start their engines. Hong Kong’s wealth and asset-management business, I’m pleased to note, has soared in recent years.  Indeed, Hong Kong is ideally positioned to act as a global centre for asset management, risk management and corporate treasury functions.

 

Hong Kong also boasts a wide variety of insurance services and derivative products. They offer sound reasons for Polish companies to manage their risks by setting up captive insurers in Hong Kong.

 

Our pool of world-class professionals is deep and talented, with expertise in finance, accounting, law, architecture, engineering management and more. They have the experience to lead consultancies, construction projects, and the operation and management of infrastructure projects under the Belt-Road.

 

Our legal professionals work with a world of business every day. They conduct due diligence, ensure contract enforcement and help resolve disputes, all done under the rule of law and our independent judiciary. That makes Hong Kong an ideal centre for resolving potential commercial disputes in business collaborations.

 

Logistics is also powering Hong Kong’s future as an international business centre. Indeed, Hong Kong boasts the world’s fourth busiest container port, providing some 350 services a week to more than 500 destinations worldwide.

 

About 700 shipping-related companies call Hong Kong home.  They offer a wide range of services, from ship management, broking and chartering to finance, marine insurance, legal, arbitration, and other support services.

 

The Maritime Silk Road will create fresh demand for shipping services. With its many seaports on the Baltic coast, Poland is strategically set to become a hub connecting other inland destinations in Europe. Polish logistics companies will find it advantageous to establish a presence in Hong Kong, using our maritime services to tap into the Belt-Road markets.

 

In Hong Kong, air cargo is king. Hong Kong International Airport has been the busiest air cargo airport in the world for more than 15 years. Last year, it handled some 4.4 million tonnes of cargo, running about 1,100 flights a day.

 

From Hong Kong, you can reach all major Asian economies within four hours’ flight time. Half the world’s population is just five hours away. And we are planning for the future in the form of a third runway. It will increase our airport’s handling capacity to some 100 million passengers and 9 million tonnes of cargo a year by 2030.

 

In all, Hong Kong is home to about 14,000 logistics companies. Most serve the trade between China and the world. All provide customised supply-chain solutions.

 

Hong Kong’s free-port policy and our efficient customs clearance, rule of law, strong intellectual property protection and level business playing field provide formidable support for our logistics sector, regardless of individual nationalities.

 

Tourism, too, will rise in the world of the Belt-Road. And Hong Kong is ready for the future, expanding our cruise tourism market, promoting cruise itineraries in the region.  This will lay a foundation for the development of long-haul sailing from Mainland China all the way to Europe.

 

Beyond our pillar industries – trading and logistics, financial services, professional services and tourism – we see opportunity as a regional training hub in upgrading the quality of human resources and developing talent for the emerging economies.

 

And I believe that new markets will open up for our technology and creative sectors, including the film and cultural industries, education and healthcare services as well as product testing and certification.

 

Take advantage, too, of Hong Kong’s deep Asian ties. Consider, for example, CEPA, Hong Kong’s free-trade agreement with Mainland China. CEPA provides preferential treatment to Hong Kong service providers, again regardless of nationality, as well as tariff-free treatment for products of Hong Kong origin. Working with Hong Kong, Polish companies can gain the same access to the markets of the Mainland – your ticket to the massive Chinese consumer market that is becoming more middle-class in their preferences and consumption behaviour.

 

We are also strengthening Hong Kong’s trade and economic relations with our Asian neighbours, negotiating free-trade agreements and Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements. These serve to enhance the confidence of companies looking to invest in Asia and Hong Kong. They also help protect business people in Hong Kong making investments in the region.

 

Hong Kong has what you need in a strategic partner for the 21st century. We welcome Polish investment and talent to come to Hong Kong, where you can take advantage of our low taxes, our world-class business environment and our reassuring legal framework.

 

The Belt-Road will be built on collaboration, on deepening the bonds between nations, economies and cultures. On the rewarding future it can offer the companies, and the people, of Hong Kong and Poland. All of us

 

Financial Secretary John Tsang gave these remarks at a business luncheon in Warsaw on September 23.

via Moroccan Trader Belt-Road to boost ties

Belt-Road to bring soaring investment

Financial Secretary John Tsang

At first glance, Budapest and Hong Kong seem worlds apart. That said, they do share some similarities. The views to Buda and Pest, rising in the hills along the Danube, remind me of Hong Kong and Kowloon, and Victoria Harbour’s stunning divide of those two faces of Hong Kong. And both cities are graced with elements of East and West, embracing all that modernity can offer, while maintaining rich architectural and cultural traditions.

 

Our bilateral trade looks pretty good too. Last year, total trade exceeded US$1.8 billion, up more than 16% over the 2013 totals. It’s worth noting that the last time a Hong Kong Financial Secretary visited Hungary was in 1999, and our trade then was valued at US$190 million – which means that, since then, our bilateral trade has increased almost tenfold.

 

The Hungarian trade community has been making good use of Hong Kong’s gateway role to reach the huge markets of Mainland China and across the Asian region. In 2014, some 20% of the total trade between Hungary and the Mainland was routed through Hong Kong. That was worth US$1.8 billion – about the same as the total trade between Hong Kong and Hungary last year.

 

The reopening of the Consulate General of Hungary in Hong Kong in late 2013 is testimony to the increasing importance we place on our bilateral relations. And I know that the re-established consulate has been working hard and effectively under the able leadership of a young and energetic Consul-General, to promote trade and investment between our two economies. Indeed, the trade figures reflect that good work.

 

I am confident that trade and co-operation between us will continue to expand in the coming years. That’s thanks, in part, to the ambitious concepts of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, launched recently by President Xi Jinping in 2013. The linked initiatives put the 60-plus economies along the two corridors in the international spotlight as never before.

 

The Belt-Road was created to expand transcontinental connectivity, to promote economic, political and cultural co-operation from Asia through Africa and on to Europe. I believe that it has the potential to become the world economy’s driving force in this 21st century.

 

Broad participation in the establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the AIIB, underlines that belief. In good time, the AIIB will become the key financial institution supporting Belt-Road infrastructural development, and more.

 

Hungary certainly seems to see the promise of the Belt-Road. In June, Hungary became the first European country to sign an MOU with Mainland China to promote trade and co-operation under the Belt-Road.

 

Your strategic location – on the eastern border of the Schengen Area – and long-standing relations with China put Hungary in an ideal position to play an active role.

 

Through the Belt-Road, we expect to see soaring investment in infrastructural facilities, deepening financial integration, expanding trade and the building of people-to-people bonds on a giant scale.

 

Hong Kong can help make it happen, thanks to the unique advantages presented by our “one country, two systems” arrangement. Among many other things, the arrangement allows Hong Kong to maintain our own social and economic systems.  For example, Hong Kong has its own currency which is different from the Mainland Renminbi and is fully convertible. And capital, from the Mainland as well as capital from all over the world, flows freely in and out of Hong Kong on a fair and equitable basis.

 

Hong Kong is China’s international financial centre and we are also one of the world’s financial capitals. We have the experience, the expertise and the connections to serve as the fundraising and financial management hub for the Belt-Road.

 

Hong Kong’s financing options range from public offerings and loan syndication to private equity funds and the raising of funds through Islamic finance.

 

We run the world’s seventh-largest stock market in terms of market capitalisation, and we rank second, globally, in equity funds raised through initial public offerings.

 

Hong Kong is also the world’s largest offshore Renminbi business centre. Our Renminbi services range from cross-border trade settlement to bond issuance. As trade and other economic activities along the Belt-Road expand, so, too, will the demand for Renminbi trade settlement. And Hong Kong’s Renminbi trade settlement system is well placed to respond to that demand.  After all, we have been handling the lion’s share of Renminbi trade since its beginnings in 2009.

 

Our Renminbi debt market has grown rapidly in recent years. It provides a reliable channel for companies issuing Renminbi bonds, so-called dim sum bond, to meet project funding needs. In 2014, the issuance of Renminbi bonds in Hong Kong totalled about RMB200 billion, a year-on-year increase of 69 per cent.

 

The growth of Islamic financial services should be equally promising, given the large Muslim population living along the Belt-Road. This past year, Hong Kong issued two Shariah-compliant sukuk, demonstrating our capabilities in this specialised financial offering, as well as revealing the confidence that international investors have in Hong Kong’s economic fundamentals.

 

Asset and risk-management services will also be needed once the Belt-Road projects start running. Hong Kong’s wealth and asset-management business, I’m pleased to note, has soared in recent years. Indeed, Hong Kong is ideally positioned to act as a global centre for asset management, risk management and corporate treasury functions.

 

Hong Kong also boasts a wide variety of insurance services and derivative products. They offer sound reasons for international companies to manage their risks by setting up captive insurers in Hong Kong.

 

Our pool of world-class professionals is deep and talented, offering expertise in finance, accounting, law, architecture, engineering management and more. They have the experience to lead consultancies, construction projects, and the operation and management of infrastructure projects under the Belt-Road.

 

Our legal professionals work with a world of business every day. They conduct due diligence, ensure contract enforcement and help resolve disputes, all done under the rule of law and our independent judiciary. That makes Hong Kong an ideal centre for resolving potential commercial disputes in business collaborations.

 

Logistics is also powering Hong Kong’s future as an international business centre. Indeed, Hong Kong boasts the world’s fourth busiest container port, providing some 350 services a week to more than 500 destinations worldwide.

 

About 700 shipping-related companies call Hong Kong home.  They offer a wide range of services, from ship management, broking and chartering to finance, marine insurance, legal, arbitration, and other support services.

 

The Maritime Silk Road will create fresh demand for shipping services. As one of the largest intermodal logistics centres in the Central European region, Hungary is a hub for goods travelling east from major European seaports, as well as goods going west from rising manufacturing outsourcing hot spots. Hungarian logistics companies will find it advantageous to establish a presence in Hong Kong, using Hong Kong and our maritime services to tap into the markets of the Belt-Road.

 

In Hong Kong, air cargo is king. Hong Kong International Airport has been the busiest air cargo airport in the world for more than 15 years. Last year, we handled some 4.4 million tonnes of cargo, running about 1 100 flights a day.

 

From Hong Kong, you can reach all major Asian economies within four hours’ flight time. Half the world’s population is just five hours away. And we are now planning for the future – in the form of a third runway. It will increase our airport’s handling capacity to some 100 million passengers and 9 million tonnes of cargo a year by 2030.

 

In all, Hong Kong is home to about 14,000 logistics companies, most serving the trade between China and the world. All provide customised supply-chain solutions.

 

Hong Kong’s free-port policy and our efficient customs clearance, rule of law, strong intellectual property protection and level business playing field provide formidable support for our logistics sector, regardless of individual nationalities.

 

Tourism, too, will grow in the Belt-Road world. And Hong Kong is ready for that, expanding our cruise tourism market, promoting cruise itineraries in the region. This will lay a foundation for the development of long-haul sailing – from Mainland China all the way to Europe.

 

Beyond our pillar industries – trading and logistics, financial services, professional services and tourism – we see opportunity as a regional training hub in upgrading the quality of human resources and developing talent for the emerging economies.

 

And I believe that new markets will open up for our technology and creative sectors, including the film and cultural industries, education and healthcare services as well as product testing and certification.

 

Take advantage, too, of Hong Kong’s deep Asian ties. Consider, for example, CEPA, Hong Kong’s free-trade agreement with Mainland China. CEPA provides preferential treatment to Hong Kong service suppliers, again regardless of nationality, as well as tariff-free treatment for products of Hong Kong origin. Working with Hong Kong, Hungarian companies can gain the same access to the markets of the Mainland – your ticket to the massive Chinese consumer market that is becoming more middle-class in their preferences and consumption behaviour.

 

We are also strengthening Hong Kong’s trade and economic relations with our Asian neighbours, negotiating free-trade pacts and Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements.  These serve to enhance the confidence of companies looking to invest in Asia and Hong Kong. Similarly, they help protect business people in Hong Kong when making investments in the region.

 

We welcome Hungarian investment and talent to come to Hong Kong, to take advantage of our low taxes, our world-class business environment and our reassuring legal framework.

 

The promises of the Belt-Road – and your business future – begin in Hong Kong.

 

Financial Secretary John Tsang gave these remarks at a business luncheon in Budapest on September 22.

via Moroccan Trader Belt-Road to bring soaring investment

Palace Museum training centre opens

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam

It gives me great pleasure to be back at the Palace Museum to witness the inauguration of the IIC International Training Centre for Conservation and the launch of its first training programme. 

 

Last September, Hong Kong hosted the IIC Biennial Congress for the first time in Southeast Asia. Under the theme “An Unbroken History: Conserving East Asian Works of Art & Heritage”, some 500 specialists and scholars from 30 countries and regions gathered in Hong Kong to exchange their professional knowledge and share the latest research findings in the field of cultural heritage conservation. 

 

We are pleased that Hong Kong has served as the platform for IIC and the Palace Museum to explore deeper collaboration, culminating in the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the two organisations in promoting research and exchange of expertise and training in conservation internationally. Within a short span of 12 months, this exciting initiative has come to fruition and we are here today to share the joy of this remarkable achievement.

 

Shared vision

The birth of the IIC-ITCC signifies the strong commitment and shared vision of both parties to enhancing the professionalism and collaboration on heritage conservation at the international level. I would like to pay special tribute to Dr Shan Jixiang, who was awarded the prestigious Forbes Prize last year, in initiating the partnership. I also applaud Ms Staniforth, Dr Shan Jixiang and their team for their exemplary leadership in delivering this ground-breaking initiative. Special thanks go to the Palace Museum for taking the lead and serving as the training ground for nurturing conservation expertise for the benefit of the region and the world at large.

 

As an internationally reputable professional body, IIC is renowned for its commitment to advancing knowledge, practice and standards in conservation throughout the world vide its publications and academic conferences. With a view to promoting professional excellence and public awareness, IIC supports promising students and conservators in their pursuits of conservation endeavours, and awards outstanding contributions and achievements in the field. 

 

Given IIC’s competitive edge in conservation expertise and the Palace Museum’s unparalleled wealth in national treasures, the tie and collaboration between these two internationally-renowned institutions will undoubtedly offer a superb opportunity for conservators to acquire the latest expert knowledge, broaden their horizons, as well as to expand their network in the field. IIC-ITCC will serve as a hub for connecting conservators from the East and the West where sharing of knowledge, experience and addressing of varied challenges in their professional obligations can take place. Our future generations will surely benefit from the concerted effort of the two partnering institutions in IIC-ITCC today.

 

Meaningful collaboration

I take pride in Hong Kong’s role in this meaningful collaboration and I very much look forward to continuing this collaborative journey with the Palace Museum and IIC in the years ahead. Taking this opportunity, I am pleased to share another piece of good news with you. Building on the co-operation with the Palace Museum since 2012, Hong Kong will sign a Letter of Intent on Staff Professional Development and Exchange with the Palace Museum later this afternoon. It symbolises that the synergy of Hong Kong museums and the Palace Museum will scale new heights in the years to come. 

 

Blessed with the unique relationship between the Palace Museum and the Leisure & Cultural Services Department of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government, we have been able to bring the exquisite national art treasures of the Palace Museum to Hong Kong through an array of thematic exhibitions over the years for appreciation by the general public. As exemplified by the “Western Scientific Instruments of the Qing Court” exhibition currently on display at the Hong Kong Science Museum, the Palace Museum has generously loaned out 120 select relics for the exhibition, which has in effect attracted an impressive visitation of some 170,000 people within a short span of three months. I am sure our collaboration will further deepen in the years to come.

 

 

Heritage preservation

Similar to other cultural metropolis, Hong Kong has a diverse and vibrant cultural scene by virtue of its networks which extend wide and far, spanning from Mainland China to across the continents. The HKSAR Government attaches great importance to the promotion of arts and culture and strives to render an environment that is conducive to art development and heritage preservation. In line with this vision, we are committed to developing the West Kowloon Cultural District and superstructure works on the museum for contemporary arts – M+ – will commence later this month. In addition, works are underway to embark on the major renovation and expansion of the Hong Kong Museum of Art and plans are in hand to enhance our other museum facilities. 

 

Apart from supporting the missions of our museums, we have also accorded priority to the preservation of the diminishing intangible cultural heritage as a means to recapture the cultural significance and merits of our past. Also, we have been pressing ahead in these years to preserve the identified historic buildings through schemes of revitalisation and adaptive re-use. Striking a continuous balance between heritage preservation and sustainable development, forthcoming revitalisation projects will not only integrate into the everyday life of the city, but encompass the elements of creativity, potency and vigour in transforming the heritage buildings into unique and distinctive cultural landmarks in their respective domains.

 

I sincerely invite IIC members and all of you to visit Hong Kong again to witness the transformation of the cultural scene in the coming years. Hong Kong treasures its links with IIC and will be pleased to forge closer collaboration with conservation practitioners from around the world.

 

On the auspicious occasion of the 90th anniversary of the Palace Museum, may I wish the museum every success in its future endeavours. Lastly, may I wish the inaugural training programme a resounding success and every one of you a fruitful stay in Beijing.

 

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam gave these remarks at the International Institute for Conservation of Historic & Artistic Works International Training Centre for Conservation inauguration and 2015 training programme opening ceremony in Beijing.

via Moroccan Trader Palace Museum training centre opens

Trade, tax pacts could boost HK-Aus ties

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam

Hong Kong is home to some 90,000 Australians – not to mention a happy party of koalas, wallabies and laughing kookaburras. They’re part of the new Adventures in Australia exhibit at Hong Kong Ocean Park, our world-class entertainment, conservation and education theme park. The good news is that the transplanted wallabies have been busy. I’m pleased to tell you that Ocean Park is now home to the first red-necked joey ever born in Hong Kong.

 

The flow – certainly in people – is two-way. Nearly 80,000 individuals of Hong Kong origin live in Australia. That includes nearly 40,000 right here in New South Wales.

 

We like to visit Australia, too. Last year, Hong Kong was Australia’s ninth-largest inbound market, with 202,000 visitors, up 10% over arrivals in 2013. New South Wales, I should add, was the destination for nearly half of those Hong Kong visitors. At the same time, we welcomed some 600,000 Australians to Hong Kong in 2014.

 

Business as much as pleasure seasons our relations. Some 550 Australian companies call Hong Kong home. A further 1,000 Australian businesses keep representative offices in Hong Kong. They take in just about every sector you can think of. Prominent in the financial and professional services, Australian companies in Hong Kong are also active in transportation, construction, design retail and, of course, food and beverage.

 

A good many of Hong Kong’s most popular restaurants, pubs and sports bars are Australian. And I can assure you that, over the next six weeks or so, they will be particularly, shall we say, buoyant, given the opening, later today, of the Rugby World Cup at Twickenham Stadium. And the patrons may well be enjoying wine and beer from Australia – good news, too, for your beverage companies.

 

Flourishing two-way trade

All that good business keeps the Australian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong hopping, so to speak. The Hong Kong AustCham represents the largest Australian business community outside Australia and has done a great deal to enhance the bilateral trade relations between the two places.

 

Our trade statistics reflect that robust co-operation. Last year, Hong Kong-Australia bilateral trade, in goods and services, was worth more than A$8.5 billion. That’s up 5.4% over the previous year. The uptake was contributed largely by a 9% increase in Australian merchandise exports to Hong Kong.

 

Australian business looks to Hong Kong for investment opportunities, as well. At the end of 2014, Hong Kong was Australia’s sixth-largest source of investment, bringing in a total of A$77 billion.

 

I am pleased to note that Australia, just three months ago, signed a free trade agreement with Mainland China, subject to parliamentary endorsement. I am confident it will provide Hong Kong with more business and investment opportunities. And I believe, too, that an Australia-Hong Kong FTA would bring our business co-operation to even higher levels.

 

Taxation pact would boost business

To facilitate further investment flows, a double taxation agreement between us would also serve as a boost for our respective businesses. And I look forward to an early commencement of negotiations in this regard.

 

After all, our relations are strong and secure because of the many things we share. That, of course, includes our legal systems, which are based on common law, our use of English as an official language, and our unwavering reliance on diversity, accountability and economic freedom.

 

In that regard, Hong Kong, earlier this year, was again named the world’s freest economy by the Washington-based Heritage Foundation. That makes 21 years in a row. We are proud of that recognition, and we are determined to maintain it in spite of severe competition in the region.

 

Add a simple, and low, tax system, free flow of information and capital, and world-beating communications and infrastructure, and you know why Hong Kong remains the business and trade hub of Asia.

 

HK gateway to China

Indeed, the Hong Kong market counts nearly 70 million eager consumers. That’s taking in Hong Kong’s more than 7 million residents, along with the nearly 61 million visitors we welcomed last year – most, to be sure, from Mainland China. That makes Hong Kong China’s window to the world.

 

No less important, Hong Kong remains the world’s gateway to Mainland China. Despite the Mainland’s recent economic challenges, its economy is still growing at a rate most of the world would envy. And Hong Kong is at the heart of it. At the end of 2013, inward direct investment from the Mainland to Hong Kong totalled A$570 billion, accounting for nearly one-third of the total inward direct investment in Hong Kong. And outward direct investment from Hong Kong to the Mainland reached A$690 billion, accounting for nearly half the national total for Mainland China.

 

As Hong Kong’s economic integration with the Mainland deepens, we will continue to expand our super-connector role – helping a world of companies find markets on the Mainland. We will also continue to use our free trade strengths, expertise in professional services and our international connectivity, to support the Mainland’s opening up to the world.

 

I encourage Australian investors to make good use of Hong Kong as the shortest route to the markets of China and throughout the Asian region.

 

Universal suffrage goal

Given the close links between Hong Kong and Australia, it is no surprise that some of you may be following closely the constitutional development in Hong Kong. As I’m sure you are aware, it was the goal of the Hong Kong SAR Government to secure our legislature’s support to the proposals to implement universal suffrage in the selection of the Chief Executive in 2017. And I can personally assure you that pressing ahead with democratic development in accordance with the Basic Law is also the most sincere wish of the Central Authorities.

 

I had been personally working on this very important subject for Hong Kong for 20 months since October 2013 as the Chairman of the task force on constitutional development. This past June, however, despite the support expressed by the majority of Hong Kong people after two rounds of extensive public consultations, our proposals for selecting the next Chief Executive by universal suffrage did not manage to secure the two-thirds majority approval required under the Basic Law.

 

We had hoped to make history in Hong Kong, enabling all eligible voters, some 5 million in total, to choose our next Chief Executive by one person, one vote. And it is most regrettable that this hope is now dashed.

 

Divergent views respected

I understand, of course, that our community has a wide range of views on constitutional development. After all, Hong Kong is a pluralistic and open society. And we respect the different views expressed by different sectors of the community.

 

Communication, the seeking of common ground, is the only way forward, if we are to select our Chief Executive through universal suffrage that is constitutionally and legally sound, that responds to political realities, and that is fair and reasonable to all concerned.

 

The veto of the proposals by the Legislative Council will mean that the method for selecting the Chief Executive in 2012 will continue to be applicable in 2017, in other words, selection of the Chief Executive by a 1,200-member election committee. And the Hong Kong SAR Government will focus on developing the economy and improving people’s livelihood in the remainder of its current term.

 

Once again, I would like to express my gratitude to our organisers – the Asia Society Australia, and supporters – the Art Gallery of New South Wales and VisAsia Council – for their interest and gracious hospitality.

 

Society to celebrate anniversary

On a related note, the Asia Society will celebrate its 60th anniversary next year. And I understand that the Asia Society Australia and the Asia Society Hong Kong centres are planning a joint photo exhibition in honour of that anniversary.

 

Established in 1990 by a group of Hong Kong community leaders, Asia Society Hong Kong Centre has played an important role in enriching Hong Kong’s cultural and intellectual life, especially since the commissioning of its new permanent home in Admiralty, Hong Kong at the Old Victoria Barracks, former explosives magazine site in February 2012.

 

As the former Secretary for Development responsible for heritage conservation, I supported this major undertaking of the Asia Society Hong Kong Centre. Through careful conservation, restoration and adaptive re-use, this heritage site was successfully transformed into a cultural, artistic and intellectual hub in Hong Kong and offers a broad variety of programmes in the form of lectures, performances, film screenings and exhibitions to the community.

 

For those of you who have yet to visit the Hong Kong Centre, I hope you could take advantage of the 60th Anniversary to come to the exhibition in Hong Kong. Our Sydney Economic & Trade Office will be more than happy to recommend to you a list of other revitalised historic buildings worth visiting.

 

Finally, I look forward to expanding the flourishing ties that define Hong Kong-Australia relations – and at every level. Together, I know we can make a difference.

 

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam gave these remarks at an Asia Society Australia breakfast briefing in Sydney.

via Moroccan Trader Trade, tax pacts could boost HK-Aus ties