HK connects global scientists

Chief Executive CY Leung

We are lucky to be able to welcome scientists from all over the world, as well as experts from industry and the investment world. Your diverse interests reflect a flourishing global focus, and fascination, with stem-cell research.


Your presence also underlines Hong Kong’s unique role as the “super-connector” between the rest of China and the rest of the world. This role is well accepted in the financial services sector, in trade and logistics, and more recently in professional services. Now we believe we are able to also connect up scientists inside and outside China. We believe we can provide the perfect platform for collaboration among Hong Kong, Mainland Chinese and international scientists in laboratories, in classrooms, in companies and at conferences.

One of the cornerstones of our “super-connector” role is the dual advantages of “one country” and “two systems”. When you work with Hong Kong, you are definitely working with China. But Hong Kong offers you so to speak the benefits of practising “the other system”.


Research, development abound
As part of China, for 10 years now, Hong Kong has been hosting 16 Partner State Key Laboratories. Ten are conducting research in biomedical science. The Guangzhou Institutes of Biomedicine & Health are also collaborating with local universities on stem-cell and regenerative-medicine research.


Inside Hong Kong, biomedical start-ups in Hong Kong are expanding. Indeed, they have become one of the key players in our biomedical science network.


As for Hong Kong Government, we’ve been promoting biomedical science on various fronts. Since its establishment, four years ago, our Health & Medical Research Fund has supported 12 projects related to stem-cell research.


These projects address a wide range of health concerns, from cancer and Parkinson’s disease, to stroke and cardiovascular conditions. We believe their work will lead to a greater understanding of the basic biology and clinical application of stem cells.

We’re also making good progress in clinical trials. Our two medical schools are among the best in the world in clinical medicine. Since early 2014, my Government has also supported the establishment of two phase-one, clinical-trial centres – at Queen Mary Hospital and the Prince of Wales Hospital – to conduct preliminary clinical trials for new drugs.

The Hong Kong Science Park is an important contributor to the development of biomedical science in Hong Kong. Biomedical technology is one of the Science Park’s five technology clusters, counting some 80 biomedical companies.

They specialise in a great variety of disciplines in the biotech field, including medical devices and diagnostics, therapeutic and personal care, regenerative medicine and Chinese medicine. The dedicated Incu-Bio Programme for biotech start-ups and the Biotech Support Centre are also in place to support the industry.

Up-to-date regulations

In promoting biomedical science, it’s not only about research capabilities. A conducive and up-to-date regulatory framework is equally important. On drug safety, we revised the Pharmacy & Poisons Ordinance earlier this year to align the statutory definition of “pharmaceutical products” with international practices.

From the essential details to the big picture, the point is clear: Hong Kong academia, industry, business and government support stem-cell research and regenerative medicine. For all it’s capable of, and for what we believe it can one day realise for society – in preventing and curing disease and injuries, in building businesses, designing advanced technology and, of course, enhancing the quality of life of people.


Chief Executive CY Leung gave these remarks at the Hong Kong & Guangzhou International Conference on Stem Cell & Regenerative Medicine.

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Gov’t backs sports development

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam

With the completion of the final phase last year and official opening by the Chief Executive yesterday morning, the redeveloped Hong Kong Sports Institute is now able to provide better and wider support to our elite athletes, up to a total of about 1,100 at the moment. Besides providing world-class training facilities and environment, the HKSI also strengthens its sports science and sports medicine services for elite athletes, including athletes with disabilities. It also houses a Hostel for 370 athletes and a Sports Residence for 148 visitors. I understand that some of our guests from overseas attending this Forum are staying at the Institute. I am sure you will be satisfied with the facilities here.

Some of you may remember that there was a somewhat substandard velodrome on the site where the new Main Building is now located. Instead of putting a new velodrome in the HKSI premises, the Leisure & Cultural Services Department has built an indoor Hong Kong Velodrome in Tsueng Kwan O. This facility was opened in December 2013 and I am pleased to note that it will host its first international cycling competition event next month.


Amazing performance
I hope our local sports community will not dispute that I am a staunch supporter of sports development in Hong Kong, including sports for people with disabilities. Apart from a public service commitment to do my job well, this is because of my great admiration for our athletes who, through their hard work, perseverance and never give-up spirit, have time and again amazed people of Hong Kong by their world-class achievements. These dated back to Lee Lai-shan winning a windsurfing gold medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics; cyclist Wong Kam-po fetching gold medals in three Asian Games, and Lee Wai-sze obtaining an Olympics cycling bronze medal in 2012; and more recent accolades of Shek Wai-hung winning Hong Kong’s first-ever gold medal in gymnastics in the 2014 Incheon Asian Games; Wu Siu-hong, after recovering from a major illness, winning the men’s champion in the 51st Bowling World Cup in Las Vegas last month; Angus Ng Ka-long defeating the world champion Lin Dan in Yonex-Sunrise Hong Kong Open last month; and Marco Fu Ka-chun who just won the snooker European Tour at Gibraltar Open last week.


I am sure with the wonderful facilities at the redeveloped HKSI and the Hong Kong Velodrome, and the leadership at the SF&OC (Sports Federation & Olympic Committee of Hong Kong), the Hong Kong Paralympic Committee & Sports Association for the Physically Disabled, the Hong Kong Sports Institute and the various NSAs (National Sports Associations), Hong Kong athletes will be able to scale newer heights not only in the coming Rio Olympics but also for many years to come.

Role models
Nurturing young people is a priority policy area of this term of the HKSAR Government. In my view, sports has an instrumental role to play. Our athletes are outstanding role models for our younger generation. I hope to see more athletes, both competing and retiring ones, participating in sports training and career talks in schools to share their experience with students. I believe this is the best way for them to express gratitude to society.  

The Hong Kong SAR Government will continue to support the development of sports through co-operation with all stakeholders – within and beyond the sports sector. I am confident that, with our concerted efforts, Hong Kong athletes will continue to excel in the sporting arena, and Hong Kong will continue to make remarkable achievements, regionally and internationally.

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam gave these remarks at the International Exchange Forum & Open Day of the Hong Kong Sports Institute.

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Gov’t protects maids’ rights

Secretary for Labour & Welfare Matthew Cheung

With the advent of Christmas and New Year holidays, it is the annual peak season of outbound travel. Some foreign domestic helpers (FDHs) in Hong Kong also choose to renew family ties by taking home leave at this time.


One of my colleagues told me that her FDH, who has served her family for over 13 years, would like to make a home visit this Christmas in addition to the usual in-between-contract home leave. As her helper has been serving the family diligently, my colleague decided to pay her passage as a Christmas gift. I firmly believe that she would be rewarded with even better service from her helper by adopting such employee-friendly practice.


Since FDHs were first admitted to Hong Kong in the 1970s to meet the acute shortage of live-in domestic helpers here, the number of foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong has been constantly increasing.


Over the last decade, the FDH population has increased by over 50% from some 223,000 (in end-2005) to over 341,000 (in end-November 2015), accounting for nearly 9% of our total labour force.


The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is fully committed to safeguarding the rights of FDHs in Hong Kong and has stepped up its efforts on various fronts to enhance their protection in the past two years. These efforts are paying good dividends as can be reflected in the statistics of enforcement and employment claims.


The overwhelming majority of Hong Kong employers treat their FDHs well, and most FDHs enjoy a harmonious relationship with their employers. Living under the same roof, most of these FDHs help to take care of the elderly or children. There is every incentive for employers to build a harmonious relationship with their FDHs. Unfortunately, it takes only a few black sheep to tarnish the image of our whole community and undo our good work.


The six-year jail term imposed recently on an employer convicted of physically abusing an Indonesian domestic helper vividly demonstrates the importance that the HKSAR Government attaches to protecting FDHs. Our community will not tolerate any abuse of FDHs and the authority will act relentlessly to ensure justice will be done. FDHs who feel aggrieved should come forward and report their cases to the authorities which will take follow-up enforcement action promptly.


Reining in employment agencies


We have taken steps to tighten the regulation of employment agencies (EAs). Since April 2014, the Labour Department (LD) has increased manpower to police the inspection of EAs. The number of inspections of EAs has risen from the previous 1,300 inspections per year to 1,800 inspections per year, representing a 38% increase. LD will introduce a Code of Practice for the industry, spelling out the good practices and malpractices and acts to be avoided. We will consult the relevant stakeholders including FDH unions and EAs when the draft is ready in the first quarter of 2016.


With more FDHs willing to come forward to report their cases and act as prosecution witness, we have successfully prosecuted 12 EAs (including nine on overcharging job-seekers) so far in 2015, compared with the conviction of four EAs (including one on overcharging) in 2014. LD will continue to take stringent enforcement actions against EAs which violate the laws.


Besides, so far in 2015, LD secured 12 convicted summonses against FDH employers for offences under the Employment Ordinance, and one of the convicted employers was sentenced to four months’ imprisonment in addition to a fine of $10,000.


In light of the problem of indebtedness facing many FDHs which should be tackled at source and before they set foot in Hong Kong, we have stepped up government-to-government collaboration with FDHs’ home countries.


International collaboration


I personally met the Minister of Manpower of Indonesia and the Secretary of Labor & Employment of the Philippines respectively in August this year during their working visits to Hong Kong. Arising from the meetings, it was agreed that both governments would continue the high-level contacts of senior officials of both sides, as well as work together to enhance the transparency of the training and placement fees charged and strengthen the monitoring over recruitment agencies.


At the working level, inter-departmental regular liaison mechanisms with both the Indonesian and Philippines Consulates General (CGs) have been set up respectively since 2014, under which the HKSAR Government and the two governments discuss matters requiring mutual attention concerning FDHs; exchange information about EAs, employers and FDHs for follow-up enforcement action and coordinate promotional efforts.


I am glad that through these enhanced efforts, there has been increased awareness of their own rights and obligations and mutual respect by both FDHs and the employers as reflected from the statistics on employment claims received.


In the past five years before 2014 (i.e. 2009 – 2013), LD handled an average of over 3,000 claims involving FDHs per year. In 2014, the number of claims fell to 1,913. So far in 2015, the number dived further to 1,341 (as at end-November 2015). This may be due to our increasing publicity and promotional efforts. Of the claims handled in 2014 and (in the first 11 months in) 2015, about 75% were resolved / settled through conciliation.


Knowing your rights


LD has also stepped up publicity and education towards both FDHs and their employers.


To ensure FDHs are aware of their rights and benefits, we have sought the assistance from the relevant CGs to arrange screening of the publicity videos on FDH rights at FDHs’ home countries before their departure for Hong Kong. A non-governmental organisation has been engaged by the HKSAR Government to distribute information packs containing government pamphlets and guidebooks on their employment rights upon their arrival at the Hong Kong Airport.


LD officers have been proactively joining the CGs’ briefings for the newly-arrived FDHs to brief them on their rights. We also organise seminars and set up information kiosks regularly in the popular gathering places of FDHs during their rest days, and place advertisements with messages about their employment rights and channels for seeking assistance, etc. in local Filipino and Indonesian newspapers. We have also produced a handy card in the mother languages of FDHs on their employment rights and complaint channels for distribution to the FDHs.


In addition, we have produced Announcements in the Public Interest for television and radio and other publicity materials to remind employers about their obligations, e.g. paying wages on time and appealing to them to treat FDHs well. To reach out to the employers, a flyer setting out the employment obligations of employers have been inserted in the recent water bills for distribution to all Hong Kong households.


In the face of our ageing population and manpower shortage, we will continue to count on FDHs to help look after young children or elderly members in our families. It is in our interest and incumbent on the HKSAR Government to ensure that FDHs are fully protected and respected.


Secretary for Labour & Welfare Matthew Cheung posted this article on his blog.

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HK an art hub

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam

Hong Kong has emerged as an international art auction hub in recent years, thanks to the staging of various international art fairs as well as Hong Kong’s home-grown art fairs like Fine Art Asia. Their huge success exemplifies Hong Kong’s position in the global art market. Through the enthusiasm and passion of the same team behind Fine Art Asia, I am delighted to see the introduction of Ink Asia, the first ever international art fair specialising in contemporary ink art. This is a brand new event with a specific focus on ink art, showcasing a wide array of exquisite ink art pieces presented by around 50 world-renowned galleries. It also brings together international art collectors, dealers and connoisseurs to promote this important part of contemporary oriental art at a global level. The emergence of Ink Asia 2015, which I hope will have its annual edition from now on, will no doubt widen the spectrum of the art fair business in Hong Kong.     


In recent years, ink painting and contemporary ink art has attracted significant international interest from collectors, curators and renowned museums overseas. As an international cultural metropolis with a distinct identity enriched by its cultural diversity and a solid foundation in new ink painting, Hong Kong can play an active role in promoting ink art. Ink Asia 2015, in Hong Kong, serves as a timely platform for various art professionals to explore the limitless possibilities of ink art and to foster cultural exchange and mutual appreciation of this art form by expanding the dialogue between the traditional aesthetic and contemporary interpretations of ink.


The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government has been keen to promote a dynamic and vibrant art scene in Hong Kong. Since the 1960s, the Hong Kong Museum of Art and its predecessor have been actively promoting ink painting. Indeed, the New Ink Painting Movement was nurtured by the Museum’s efforts. In collaboration with leading artists and art organisations, grand exhibitions of renowned masters including Wu Guanzhong, Liu Guosong, Huang Yongyu, Lin Fengmian, Ding Yanyong and Lu Shoukun were staged at the Museum since the early 21st century. These exhibitions drew considerable attention in the international art scene.


We will keep up our efforts in promoting a diversified art scene in Hong Kong. As far as the promotion of ink art is concerned, both M+, the flagship museum being constructed in the West Kowloon Cultural District, and the Hong Kong Museum of Art will play a vital role. While M+ will collect and present ink art with an international perspective and in a global context, the Museum of Art will target presenting ink art in connection with its historical linkage to traditional Chinese art and in the context of Hong Kong’s art development. With these promising developments, as well as focused art fairs like Ink Asia, I am confident that Hong Kong would become the ideal location for ink art to reach out a wider audience not only locally, but also internationally.


Chief Secretary Carrie Lam gave these remarks at the Ink Asia 2015 opening ceremony on December 17.

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Belt-Road the new driving force

Financial Secretary John Tsang

The Federal Open Market Committee of the US Federal Reserve, as everyone has expected, decided last night to raise interest rates by 0.25 percentage points, the first rate hike in nearly a decade. This is an indication that the FOMC is confident that the US economy would continue to grow but the outlook of other advanced economies is not exactly rosy. Export-dependent Asia has seen an almost across-the-board slowdown due to sluggish demand from these advanced economies in the West. A strong US dollar and weak demand will have an adverse impact on the many emerging economies that rely heavily on oil and commodity exports.


The conflicting monetary policies among the Federal Reserve and other major central banks can also induce further volatilities in the global financial markets.


Clearly, the world economy is in dire need of a new and strong driving force in the 21st century. And I believe the ambitious concepts of the “Belt & Road” initiative, spearheaded by President Xi, can be that much-needed force, through the promotion of co-operation in terms of policy co-ordination, facilities connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration and people-to-people bonds among the 60-plus economies spanning Asia, Europe and Africa.


The widespread interest in, as well as the enthusiastic response to the establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, or the AIIB, underlines that belief.


I say this is the right place because Hong Kong, with our unique advantages under the “one country, two systems” framework, has all it takes, from our world-class market infrastructure, our unparalleled business network to our robust legal system, for realising fully the enormous possibilities presented by the “Belt & Road” initiative.


This grand vision will engender stronger economic and trade activities in our region, as well as soaring investment in infrastructure, such as railways, highways, ports, power plants and whatnot. As an international financial centre and the world’s largest offshore Renminbi business centre, Hong Kong has the experience and we have the expertise as well as the connections to serve as the fundraising and financial management hub for the “Belt & Road” initiative.


In that regard, we should not underestimate the potential of the promising market of Islamic financial services, given the large Muslim population living along the “Belt & Road”. Hong Kong has issued two highly successful Shariah-compliant sukuk in the last two years. This is a clear demonstration of our capabilities in this specialised financial offering as well as the confidence international investors have in Hong Kong’s economic fundamentals.


With a deep pool of talented professionals in the fields of accounting, law, architecture, engineering management and what else, Hong Kong can also contribute to and benefit from the large number of consultancies as well as from the management and operation of infrastructural projects that may arise.


For Hong Kong to capitalise totally on the wealth of opportunities of the “Belt & Road” initiative, we need to move proactively on the G2G level to strengthen our ties with the economies along the “Belt & Road”, and to gain a better understanding of the political, economic and cultural make-up of the many emerging markets dominating the landscape along the “Belt & Road”.


Financial Secretary John Tsang gave these remarks at the Academia International Conference on Hong Kong & the World under the Belt & Road Initiative on December 17.

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Elderly care gov’t priority

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam

The Government has launched the territory-wide “Appreciate Hong Kong” Campaign, with a view to encouraging the public to appreciate Hong Kong more – a beautiful, energetic, caring and efficient city – and a home which belongs to us and nurtures us with numerous opportunities. Apart from literally appreciating the city where we live, the campaign also means showing gratitude for Hong Kong, understanding Hong Kong and adding value to Hong Kong. I am pleased to note that the AS Watson Group will shortly announce an elderly-related project in support of the “Appreciate Hong Kong” Campaign. May I extend my gratitude to the group for enriching the campaign’s programme.


Care for the elderly is one of the policy priorities of this term of the Hong Kong SAR Government. One of our major goals is to encourage active ageing. At present, there are more than 200 subvented elderly centres throughout the territory, offering various support services and activities to the elderly at district level, with a view to facilitating their participation in and contribution to the community. The Elder Academy Scheme seeks to encourage the elderly to lead a fruitful life through lifelong learning, while the Opportunities for the Elderly Project and the Neighbourhood Active Ageing Project encourage the elderly to actively take part in community affairs and volunteer services. 


Indeed, caring for the elderly is not something new to the AS Watson Group. Over the years, the group has developed various initiatives on caring for the elderly. For example, the “Operation Warm” programme held in 2015 has mobilised volunteers to visit singleton and low-income elderly. Home appliances were provided to these needy elderly persons. The group is also a keen supporter of the Senior Citizen Card Scheme operated by the Social Welfare Department. Currently, more than a million Senior Citizen Card holders enjoy special offers for particular products at over 370 stores under the group, including supermarkets and electrical appliance stores. 


Finally, I would like to thank the group again for its service and care to the community throughout the years. I am sure I can count on the group’s continuous support in promoting the well-being of our senior citizens.


Chief Secretary Carrie Lam gave these remarks at AS Watson Group 175th anniversary cocktail reception.

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HK offers unique Belt-Road benefits

Chief Executive CY Leung

The Silk Road Chamber of International Commerce’s establishment speaks, unequivocally, of the promise we all see in China’s bold and enterprising Belt & Road initiative.


This visionary, long-term plan is designed to boost economic, trade, cultural and people-to-people ties between the Mainland of China and more than 60 countries spanning three continents.


Belt & Road benefits

Among the Belt-Road’s main goals is promoting big-ticket infrastructural development, from highways and railways to maritime and aviation transport, as well as telecommunications and energy projects.


It will, as well, deepen financial integration among participants, expanding their trade and broadening their cultural ties. And not for a year or even several years, but for decades to come. Indeed, many see the Belt-Road initiative as the single most promising economic driver of this 21st century.


In choosing Hong Kong as its base, the Chamber has demonstrated both national and international vision. Indeed, it makes a welcome and compelling statement about the promise of Hong Kong in the Belt-Road’s future.


Simply put, there is no better place than Hong Kong to seize the opportunities presented by the Belt-Road initiative.


Unique advantages

We are uniquely powered by the “one country, two systems” arrangement. When you are in Hong Kong, whether as a financial services provider, a professional, an investor, a trader or indeed a university student, you are in China. But you are in a part of China that practices, so to speak, “the other system”. In other words, we offer you advantages of China that no foreign city can match, and “the other system” at the same time that no Mainland Chinese city can offer. The combined advantages of “one country” and “two systems” make us the super-connector between the rest of China and the rest of the world.


Hong Kong is the most international city in China. We have long and extensive government-to-government, business-to-business and people-to-people contacts with other parts of the world. We are an immigrant society. We have open borders and more importantly open minds. We welcome not only business partners. Indeed we welcome equally competitors from whom we have a lot to learn. Further, the Government of Hong Kong does not own businesses to compete with the private sector.


The more than 7,900 Mainland and international companies that have set up offices here in Hong Kong will tell you that and many other advantages that we offer.


Free trade deal

Consider, for example, CEPA, Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement, our free-trade agreement with the Mainland of China. CEPA provides preferential treatment to Hong Kong service providers, regardless of nationality; it also offers tariff-free treatment for Hong Kong products. Foreign companies need only set up a base in Hong Kong or partner with a Hong Kong company to enjoy the very same benefits.


A new CEPA arrangement, signed just last month, liberalises trade in services between Hong Kong and the Mainland. Working with Hong Kong, companies from all over the world can gain the same access. CEPA is your ticket to the massive Chinese consumer market and its fast-rising middle class.


Put it all together, and Hong Kong has the experience, the expertise and the connections to serve as the Belt-Road’s fundraising and financial-management hub. Our financial offerings range from public offerings and loan syndication to private equity funds and the raising of capital through Islamic finance.


Global finance centre

Our stock market is the world’s seventh largest in market capitalisation, and we rank second, globally, in equity funds raised through initial public offerings (IPOs). Hong Kong is ranked first in terms of IPO funds raised up to end-November 2015.


Hong Kong is also the world’s largest offshore renminbi business centre. As trade and other economic activities proliferate along the Belt-Road, demand for renminbi trade settlement will also rise. Hong Kong’s renminbi trade-settlement system is well placed to respond to that demand.


Our renminbi debt market, for example, has grown rapidly in recent years. It offers companies a reliable channel for issuing renminbi bonds to meet project funding needs. Last year, renminbi bond issuance in Hong Kong totalled some RMB200 billion. That, by the way, is a galvanising year-on-year increase of 70%.


The good news is that our renminbi prowess is about to become even more valuable. That’s thanks to the IMF and its decision to include the renminbi in its Special Drawing Rights basket, alongside the dollar, the Euro, the pound and the yen.


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


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 and the operation and management of infrastructure and construction projects.


Sound infrastructure

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 commercial disputes.


The Belt-Road will catalyse the movement of people and goods, boosting demand for reliable logistics services. In this, Hong Kong is also well served.


Indeed, Hong Kong boasts the world’s fourth busiest container port, providing some 350 services a week to more than 500 destinations worldwide. Our 700 shipping-related companies offer a wide range of services, from ship management, broking and chartering to finance, marine insurance, legal, arbitration and many other support services.


Our airport has been the busiest cargo hub for the past five years, and the third busiest airport for international passengers after Dubai and London Heathrow since 2013.


Hong Kong has long been a global centre for talent, notably in trade, finance and business. Hong Kong also brings together talent – from all over the world – in such areas as research, technology and arts and culture.


In short, Hong Kong has what the Belt & Road needs to fuel its promising future.


Chief Executive CY Leung gave these remarks at the First Silk Road International Investment Forum & Silk Road Chamber of International Commerce inauguration.

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R&D pact a new milestone

Secretary for Innovation & Technology Nicholas Yang

Last year Hong Kong and Israel signed a memorandum of understanding with the aim to fostering the economic development of both Hong Kong and Israel through the promotion of technology development.


The Innovation & Technology Commission and MATIMOP, which is the Israeli Industry Centre for R&D of the Office of the Chief Scientist in Israel, have since been working closely together to design a joint R&D co-operation programme. Under this programme Hong Kong and Israeli companies engaged in R&D collaboration can apply for government funding for their joint R&D projects.


I am glad the efforts are now bearing fruit.


The launch of the Hong Kong-Israel R&D Co-operation Programme is indeed very timely. It follows the establishment of the Innovation & Technology Bureau. We certainly look forward to this programme’s contribution to Hong Kong’s innovation and technology development, particularly in re-industrialisation and human capital, because we know the Israelis are very smart.


Israel is at the forefront of science and innovative technology development, and it is one of the few places in the world where everyone will always look to find the latest and the best ideas.


Hong Kong’s strengths in technological R&D are our excellent technology infrastructure, robust legal system and intellectual property protection regime, as well as our world-class tertiary institutions and outstanding R&D talents. Our business community, well recognised for its creative ideas and acute business sense, is connected and attuned to the markets in this region and especially the Mainland of China. When the business and technology communities of both Hong Kong and Israel join forces they will no doubt generate sparkles that will shine in the global technological landscape.


The Hong Kong-Israel R&D Co-operation Programme marks a new milestone in our endeavour to forge closer ties in the private sector, creating new opportunities, and, perhaps the most important of all, make new friends and partners.


Secretary for Innovation & Technology Nicholas Yang gave this speech at the reception for the official launch of the Hong Kong-Israel Research & Development Co-operation Programme.

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HK: natural Belt-Road trade hub

Financial Secretary John Tsang

It is indeed my great pleasure to join you all here today for the annual Christmas luncheon of the Hong Kong Exporters’ Association, and of course, for the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Association.


I know something about the big 6-0. Some say, turning 60 means your favourite TV station is now the weather channel, and turning 60 means that your parties, your really rowdy parties, never wake up the dog, let alone the neighbours, and also your all-time-favourite rock songs are now elevator music.


That’s one version. But to me personally, and I guess to many of you here today as well, reaching the milestone of 60 is actually quite a nice experience. Like many others, I still enjoy going to work every day, meeting different people, trying out new things, attending various functions organised by business chambers and associations, and enjoying lovely luncheons like today. And I rarely watch the weather channel.


To the business sector and also community at large, the Association’s achievements in the past 60 dynamic years, in fact, represent the triumphs of Hong Kong. So for the Association, it is indeed sweet 60, and it is worth much celebration.


The Hong Kong Exporters’ Association, as we saw the slides, was established a few years after the Hong Kong Cotton Spinners’ Association, which is a reminder of our post-war textile roots. And if those beginnings were coloured by dark days, Hong Kong manufacturing and Hong Kong exporting soon took off, fueled by an abundance of inexpensive labour, available capital, relevant experience, world-beating flexibility and inexhaustible energy, determination and ambition.


Export numbers

Most of that, I’m pleased to say, is still very much the reality that we have today with our export sector; with trading in general. The numbers bear that out. Hong Kong’s total export value last year reached $3.7 trillion, a year-on-year increase of 3.2%. That is not bad at all given the weak general economy. According to the WTO, we were the world’s ninth- largest trading entity and the ninth-largest exporter in merchandise trade in 2014. As trade goes, so goes Hong Kong.


Altogether, our import-and-export trade industry counts about 100,000 companies, and employs nearly half a million people. That, by the way, accounts for the largest share of our total employment. And we want to keep it that way, which is why the Government is keen to ensure appropriate support for this industry, in particular when we are expecting a difficult time ahead.


Indeed, the global economic outlook is not exactly rosy. While the US economy is expected to see moderate growth this year, other advanced economies are faltering. Export-dependent Asia has also seen an almost across-the-board slowdown. Against this global backdrop, Hong Kong’s exports of goods are expected to remain weak in the near term.


Our merchandise export performance was disappointing in recent months, reflecting flagging global demand and its dampening effect on regional trade flow. For the first 10 months of 2015, the value of goods exports dropped 1.7% year-on-year, while the value of goods imports decreased by 3.6% over the same period.


Industry support

Facing the many stern challenges ahead, we have put in place a host of supporting measures for the export sector, in particular for the SMEs who are virtually the backbone of our trade.


This year, we’ve added a number of enhancement measures to the SME Export Marketing Fund that helps SMEs through export promotion activities. These include relaxing grant use conditions and expanding the Fund’s scope to cover media and e-platform activities.


We have also extended the application period of the special concessionary measure under the SME Financing Guarantee Scheme to the end of February 2016. The programme helps companies get loans in the commercial market.


Two years ago, the Hong Kong Export Credit Insurance Corporation introduced the Small Business Policy, under which policyholders enjoy a waiver of the annual policy fee and a premium discount of up to 20%. The scheme has been well received. At the end of September this year, more than 1,500 applications had been approved, with the insured business value amounting to some $6.2 billion.


This year, the Corporation enhanced its insurance services to SMEs. The maximum liability of the Small Business Policy has doubled, to $10 million per policy, with an additional HK$5 million for pre-shipment coverage. The Corporation has also launched a Trade Association Referral Programme, under which Association members are entitled to benefits – if you submit proposals before next March and eventually become policyholders.


Boosting competitiveness

We are also stepping up our efforts on the government-to-government level to help Hong Kong companies to launch into new markets, through bilateral agreements signed with other economies as well as trade promotion campaigns undertaken by the TDC.


As you know, more than 50% of our total exports are destined for the Mainland, our largest trading partner. CEPA, our free-trade arrangement with the Mainland, certainly helps fuel those exports. Some 1,800 products now enjoy zero tariff preference, thanks to CEPA, and the total export value of the goods under CEPA exceeds $73 billion, with tariff savings of more than RMB5 billion. And, rest assured, we shall continue to explore other ways to enhance the competitiveness of Hong Kong products in the ever-expanding Mainland market.


I am glad to report that our regional exports to the ASEAN region, a massive market covering 10 nations and a total population of over 600 million people, are also growing. In the first three quarters of this year, Hong Kong exports to ASEAN increased by 8.4%, year-on-year. And, during that period, our exports to Vietnam alone soared by 18%.


I’m confident that our exports to ASEAN will continue to expand when our free trade agreement comes into force. The FTA covers trade in goods and related issues, trade in services, investment, economic and technical co-operation, as well as dispute resolution. The fifth round of negotiations between Hong Kong and ASEAN finished just a few days ago here in Hong Kong, with the final three rounds, three rounds left, scheduled to take place next year.


Trade road

And there’s more – much more – down the export trade road for Hong Kong, thanks to the visionary and far-reaching Belt & Road initiative, championed by President Xi. The Belt & Road initiative is designed to deepen co-operation in policy co-ordination, in facilities connectivity and unimpeded trade, financial integration, and people-to-people bond among 60-plus countries spanning Asia, Africa and Europe.


The development of the Belt & Road initiative will certainly increase the volume and intensity of international trade and investment flow among the economies along the twin corridors of “the Belt” and “the Road”. It will also expand two-way traffic in and out of Mainland China.


Hong Kong is the natural financial, business and trade hub of the Belt & Road. And to ensure our place in the fast lane of the Belt & Road, the Government will continue to work with our trade partners in concluding bilateral as well as plurilateral trade and investment agreements. We also have plans to streamline our customs-clearance arrangements, and strengthen co-operation with economies along the Belt & Road on border control issues.


Ladies and gentlemen, please rest assured that we shall continue to do everything that we can to enable trade and investment, and to ensure that you and your business can take full advantage of the promise of the Belt & Road initiative, and continue to thrive for the next 60 years or more.


My congratulations to the Hong Kong Exporters’ Association for your success over the past six decades. And again, thanks for inviting me to lunch.


I wish you all happy holidays, and a prosperous and successful 2016.


Financial Secretary John Tsang gave these remarks at the Hong Kong Exporters’ Association Diamond Jubilee & Christmas Luncheon 2015 on December 7.

via Moroccan Trader HK: natural Belt-Road trade hub

Cultural exchange boosts connectivity

Secretary for Home Affairs Lau Kong-wah

Hong Kong is located in the heart of Asia and is well positioned to play our part in facilitating cultural exchange at a regional and global level. Our city is characterised by stark contrast and diversity. Here, you can appreciate architecture from skyscrapers to historical temples; transportation from efficient underground metro systems to trams with more than 100 years of history; and delicacies from local dim sum to special cuisines from the far-off corners of the world.


One may easily associate Hong Kong with “an international financial trading centre” or “a hustle and bustle city”, and may still perceive that Hong Kong people are too business-oriented or practical to talk about art and culture. This might be the case in the past but things are changing rapidly in recent years, and changing in a positive way in our art scene. This is evident by the burgeoning number of big and small private galleries in our CBDs or even in some alleys in the less well-known parts of Hong Kong.


We also see ever expanding arts fairs in terms of number and scale, which have become important fixtures in the arts calendar regionally and globally. Hong Kong is now one of the world’s largest art auction markets and our cultural exchange with other parts of the world is also growing in terms of width and depth.


We firmly believe that, through cultural exchange and co-operation, we will be able to understand and appreciate each other’s culture better and our friendships and connectivity will be strengthened. The forum this year is also very timely as our Central Government is taking forward the Belt & Road initiative.


Expanding connectivity

This grand and visionary initiative will expand connectivity, with a view to promoting economic, political and cultural co-operation among 60-plus economies.


Through the Belt & Road initiative, we expect to see opportunities in expanding trade, finance and the building of people-to-people bonds on a global scale. Hong Kong, sharing the same language and cultural origins with Mainland China while benefiting from our long-standing connectedness with the rest of the world, still strives for an even broader, deeper, and more cultural co-operation by cultivating connectivity through promoting extensive cultural, academic and personnel exchanges. With our unique advantages, Hong Kong has all it takes to expand friendship and enrich the development of Asian culture and arts among countries along the Belt & Road.


The theme of this year’s forum, Community-wide Support: the Foundation for Vibrant & Sustainable Cultural Growth, is relevant to our era, which attaches great importance to engagement. Arts and culture should be fostered, administered, and appreciated under a “bottom-up” approach with the suitable catalyst provided by the Government and the eventual participation of the community at large. We believe what is fundamental to forming a solid foundation for vibrant and sustainable cultural growth is the provision of the necessary infrastructure to cater for a bigger demand within the community.  


Cultural investment 

The West Kowloon Cultural District is our long-term investment in this regard to meet the long-term infrastructure and development needs of Hong Kong’s arts and culture. The 40-hectare site fronting our iconic Victoria Harbour is beginning to take shape gradually. Starting from 2017, performing arts venues of different types and scales will open in phases.


Meanwhile, the site is currently utilised for short term cultural programmes which bring arts and culture to the community. At the West Kowloon Cultural District, we see growing popularity among the younger generation and families with small children for a relaxing outing at the harbourfront to enjoy the outdoor performances and public forums.


The Cultural District will soon offer perfect venues for the local arts scene and sizeable open space for the public to enjoy. We need more community support to further our vision for arts development in Hong Kong.


Nurturing talent 

We are also aware of the need to nurture the growth of our cultural groups and encourage community participation. To promote district-based arts, the Government has carried out the Community Arts Subvention Scheme, which provides annual subsidies to each district-based arts association.


We have also various subsidies for art groups of varying size and stages of development. Recurrent subventions are regularly disbursed to fuel Hong Kong’s nine flagship performing arts groups, as well as through the Hong Kong Art Development Council to small and medium arts groups. 


While Hong Kong has evolved into a modern metropolis, we are blessed with a rich intangible cultural heritage. The Government has been supporting community organisations in holding events that preserve and promote our local cultural heritage.


Just a few months ago, the Hong Kong Culture Festival was successfully held, which offered a wide range of intangible cultural heritage activities including martial arts, lion dance, Hakka unicorn dance, Cantonese opera and Taoist music. The festival aims to raise public interest in and awareness of our culture and traditions.


Many intangible cultural heritage activities often involve the respective communities, which help to pass on the knowledge and skills required for organising the events to the next generation.


By now, many of the intangible cultural heritage events are not only celebrated by the local community groups but also the wider public. Notably, the Cheung Chau Jiao Festival and Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance are widely promoted by the Tourism Board and attract high attendance by tourists.


New funding modes


The theme of this year’s forum also reminds me of a famous quote, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much”. Cultural developments require substantial resources. It is therefore a constant challenge for us to figure out different modes to finance the arts and culture.


We have earmarked $300 million for launching a new Art Development Matching Grants Pilot Scheme. Under this scheme, private donations and sponsorships secured by eligible local arts organisations will be matched with our grants on a dollar-for-dollar basis. Subject to funding approval, we plan to announce the details of the Pilot Scheme early next year.


Finding common ground


We believe that arts and culture should be allowed to grow organically for it to be truly vibrant and sustainable. Arts and culture can shape a distinctive temperament for individual cities and countries. At the same time, arts and culture are the cornerstones of humanity and also allow us to better understand and respect each other and find new common ground. 


Today I am very happy to have shared with you the measures the Hong Kong Government has been doing to mobilise the collective efforts of different sectors in the community for the continuous growth of arts and culture. I am trying to throw out a minnow to catch a whale and am looking forward to hearing the experience of all participating delegations.  


Before I pass on to other distinguished delegations to share their insights on the topics, please allow me to briefly introduce the two establishments which our guests will be visiting this afternoon during the cultural programme – the Asia Society Hong Kong Center, and the Hong Kong Maritime Museum. Both of them are very relevant to the theme of this forum.


The Asia Society Hong Kong Center was established in 1990 by a group of Hong Kong community leaders and financed entirely with local funding through membership dues, fundraising events, and contributions from individuals, corporations and foundations. Through careful conservation, restoration and adaptive re-use, this heritage site at the heart of our CBD was transformed from a former explosives magazine site into a cultural, artistic and intellectual hub in Hong Kong three years ago. It now offers a broad variety of programmes in the form of lectures, performances, film screenings and exhibitions to the community. It is a real-life example of how the private sector can contribute to the promotion of arts and culture.


The other venue our guests will be visiting is the Hong Kong Maritime Museum, which showcases Hong Kong’s maritime heritage and historical development. The Museum is one of the examples of private-public partnership on the provision of a cultural facility. It was established with funding by the Hong Kong shipping community and the Government has provided financial support. I hope you all enjoy visiting these two places later today.


The Asia Cultural Co-operation Forum today provides us with an invaluable opportunity and platform to exchange ideas and share views in furtherance of the partnership among various sectors of the community for the development of culture and arts. I would like to extend my gratitude to all of you in advance for sharing your valuable experience, and may I wish you all a rewarding discussion in today’s forum. And to our honourable ministers and distinguished representatives, I wish you all a joyful and fruitful stay in this cultural metropolis.


Secretary for Home Affairs Lau Kong-wah gave these remarks at the Asia Cultural Co-operation Forum 2015 – Asian Cultural Ministers’ Panel Discussion on December 7.


via Moroccan Trader Cultural exchange boosts connectivity