Turning challenges into opportunities

Chief Executive CY Leung

It is true that the global economy has had its ups and downs over the past year or so. Much, indeed, remains uncertain. In particular, Britain’s exit from the European Union has triggered off substantial volatility in the financial markets.

 

That said, I have every faith and confidence in Hong Kong’s businesses and investors in turning challenges into new opportunities. Our Government and financial regulators had been prepared for the possibility of Brexit. Stringent stress tests were conducted. Sufficient liquidity is in the system. The Hong Kong dollar exchange rates and interest rates remain stable. And we will continue to monitor the situation closely.

 

The resilience of our financial system reflects the strong foundation of the Hong Kong economy. We are in the right neighbourhood – Asia fairs generally better than other regions. In 2015 to 16, the Hong Kong Government collected record-high profits tax, without increasing the tax rate, amounting to $140 billion – a good indicator of business performance in general. And thank you for paying your tax.

 

Hong Kong is also the world’s most competitive economy, according to the latest World Competitiveness Yearbook by Switzerland’s International Institute for Management Development. In the World Investment Report released just last week, the United Nations Conference on Trade & Development placed Hong Kong second in global foreign direct investment inflows, which saw a year-on-year surge of over 50%.

 

Our financial sector continues to be in a strong position. Last year, Hong Kong’s stock market raised $260 billion through IPOs, ranking first globally. More than 1,800 companies are now listed in Hong Kong. That includes companies from the Mainland of China and overseas, all attracted to Hong Kong by our market liquidity, access to global investors and investment opportunities.

 

For this, we certainly have the “one country, two systems” arrangement to thank. As part of China, we enjoy preferential access to the Mainland market – and so the “one country” advantage. At the same time, we are an international city with a separate social, economic and legal system, using English and Chinese as our official languages – therefore the “two systems” advantage. These advantages combined, we have become the “super-connector” between the Mainland of China and the rest of the world. And we “super-connect”.

 

Certainly in capital markets. For one, the Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect is exemplary of our “super-connector” role. A similar link with Shenzhen is in the works. We will strive to launch the Shenzhen-Hong Kong Stock Connect within this year, as announced by Premier Li Keqiang earlier in March.

 

We “super-connect” in the currency futures market as well. This February, the open interest of physically delivered US dollar-renminbi currency futures reached a record-high of 32,000 contracts. This financial offering, I am pleased to say, was the world’s first deliverable renminbi currency futures product quoted, margined and settled in renminbi. Last month, the HKEX launched new renminbi currency pairs against the Japanese yen, the Euro and the Australian dollar to facilitate currency hedging.

 

Turning to the commodities market, Hong Kong’s offerings expanded following the launch last December of the London Nickel Mini Futures, the London Tin Mini Futures and the London Lead Mini Futures.

 

All these, and a great deal more, are testament to the HKEX’s contribution in enhancing Hong Kong’s status as an international financial centre.

 

And we are seizing every opportunity to strengthen and expand our role. That certainly includes the country’s Belt & Road Initiative. As Zhang Dejiang, Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, said at last month’s Belt & Road Summit, Hong Kong stands to play a key role in Belt and Road developments, being China’s global financial centre and the world’s China financial centre.

 

With one of the world’s largest stock markets, Hong Kong will continue to be the go-to centre for Mainland Chinese and regional companies looking to raise capital when they “go global”.

 

As the world’s largest offshore renminbi business hub, and one of the global centres for asset management, risk management and corporate treasury functions, Hong Kong has much to offer – in enabling capital flows, promoting the renminbi’s internationalisation, as well as investment and financing for countries along the Belt & Road.

 

Yes, we are exploring new horizons. At the same time, the Hong Kong Government will continue to ensure that our regulatory system is up to date, efficient and user-friendly.

 

Chief Executive CY Leung gave these remarks at the Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing 16th Anniversary Cocktail Reception on June 28.

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Real estate sector to expand

Chief Executive CY Leung

For half a century, the Hong Kong real estate development industry has helped create a modern, efficient, safe and pleasant built environment – one that nestles between the harbour, the hills, the green belts, the country parks and the heritage sites.  

 

This story, as the video said, is a never ending one. We have to sustain our efforts – joint efforts – by the Government, the development industry and the people in addressing the increasing needs of the people. Indeed, at the core of our many social woes lies space shortage, be they shortage of space for old people’s homes, for student hostels or for nurseries, not to mention public and private housing units.

 

Hence the massive land production and development projects in the pipeline.  Among the key projects to be developed over the next 30 years are the new development areas in Kwu Tung North, Fanling North, Hung Shui Kiu, Tung Chung New Town Extension, Kai Tak Development and East Lantau Metropolis. These new development areas are being planned and built to much higher standards. We shall also take the opportunity to incorporate smart city concepts and facilities.

 

We are pressing ahead, too, with transport infrastructure. Major projects to be completed in the next 10 years include the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge, Tuen Mun-Chek Lap Kok Link, Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link, South Island Line (East), Kwun Tong Line Extension, and Shatin to Central Link. Upon completion of the railway projects, more than 70% of the population will be within the railway catchment areas. We have also announced the new Railway Development Strategy, recommending the implementation of seven new railway projects by 2031. These projects will open up new development opportunities, enhance accessibility and create value.

 

Beyond Hong Kong, it is no secret that this Government encourages and supports the growth of our external economy. This is the only way to sustain our economic development, and to satisfy employment, career and income aspirations of our young people.

 

About four years after the 1988 amendment of the Chinese Constitution and the first land sale on the Mainland, Hong Kong real estate projects started to shape the skyline north of the boundary. There we showcase our collective expertise in planning, architecture, interior design, marketing, construction and building management. In many ways, Hong Kong sets the standards on the Mainland. And these Hong Kong standards have secured our standing in the eyes of the people in the Mainland. The Mainland market, meanwhile, has provided an outlet for Hong Kong’s capital, and numerous job opportunities for Hong Kong executives and professionals.

 

The success of the Hong Kong real estate development industry on the Mainland can be replicated elsewhere. I know from personal experience that government and business leaders of many ASEAN and Belt and Road countries are keenly interested in our ability to optimise space planning and development. In particular, our ability to integrate railway and real estate projects has left a deep impression on many – it creates value and brings convenience to local communities. Emerging markets are indeed challenging – but perhaps no more challenging than the Mainland market in the early 1990s.

 

So I see numerous opportunities for the Hong Kong real estate development industry, not only locally, but also in the Mainland and overseas. I see it as a major sector of our external economy.

 

Chief Executive CY Leung gave these remarks at the 50th anniversary ceremony of the Real Estate Developers Association of Hong Kong.

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Social enterprises thriving in HK

Acting Chief Executive John Tsang

In the past few years, Hong Kong has become a magnet for start-ups and incubators from all over the world, many of them reflecting our innovation and technology-based agenda.

 

But as we seek innovation through the use of and in the application of technology, we must not lose sight of innovation’s potential to drive our social enterprises.

 

The social enterprise sector in Hong Kong is alive and well. The number of social enterprises has more than doubled in the last seven years, to some 570 today.

 

Numbers aside, there is growing diversification in the sector – in their funding sources, their operating models and their business models. The nature of these enterprises ranges from those that seek to address poverty and social isolation to those that tackle environmental issues, food waste, housing, employment and more.

 

The Hong Kong Government, let me assure you, is committed to promoting social enterprise development. Indeed, some two-thirds of those 570 social enterprises are government funded.

 

While the Government can provide the necessary financial support, we look for innovation, expertise as well as passion of the many organisations participating in these ventures, in designing and providing the right services for the right people.

 

Over the years, many of Hong Kong’s social programmes have been developed, not through public agencies, but by engaging not-for-profit organisations and private companies to deliver these services.

 

Many of these new services are effective in meeting the needs of the people because they are on the same wavelength as those of the target beneficiaries in the design and delivery of services intended for them.

 

I also see opportunity for cross-fertilisation between our social entrepreneurs, the talent emerging from our universities and the funding schemes we have established, to drive innovation and investment in science and technology.

 

Together, government initiatives and private innovation will help ensure that social and environmental impact is built into all our investment decisions. And that can only mean better prospects for the people of Hong Kong and the world in which we live.

 

Acting Chief Executive John Tsang gave these remarks at the Open Day & Grand Opening of Sonova Studio, Playtao Dreamland Education Lab and Convoy Life Investment Centre of Social Ventures Hong Kong on June 19.

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SJ opens Prosecution Week

Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen

Prosecution Week was first held in 2012, with the view to promoting public understanding of how our criminal justice system works, including areas such as the role of public prosecutors as well as the fundamental principles pursuant to which our prosecutors operate. Thanks to the efforts and hard work of the colleagues of the Prosecutions Division, Prosecution Week has since become an annual event, and indeed one of the important annual events, of the Department of Justice. This year marks the fifth anniversary of the Prosecution Week and is also the first time the official opening of the Prosecution Week is held at this newly renovated complex known as the Justice Place.

 

Justice is the notion that we all cherish, and that we all have the right and duty to defend. For good reasons, the theme chosen for this year’s Prosecution Week is “Justice‧Independence‧Impartiality”. I thank the Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr Keith Yeung, SC, and our other colleagues in the Prosecutions Division for coming up with this theme, which is most appropriate for achieving the purpose of organising the Prosecution Week.

 

The importance of the rule of law cannot be disputed. What is more important is what should be done to uphold the rule of law. In this regard, one of the aspects which commands importance and deserves attention is naturally the proper administration of criminal justice. The criminal justice system affects all of us in the society. Without an appropriate criminal justice regime and an effective operation thereof, law and order could not be maintained, those who deserve to be protected would be deprived of the necessary protection, and those who deserve to be punished would walk free.

 

Quality and professional prosecution, in turn, is pivotal in achieving the proper administration of criminal justice. The three notions highlighted in this year’s theme – justice, independence and impartiality – are, among others, the essential notions of a fair, robust and professional prosecution regime.

 

Indeed, the fundamental concepts which are crucial in ensuring the proper administration of criminal justice are deeply entrenched in the legal system of Hong Kong. Not only does the Basic Law of the Hong Kong SAR continue the common law tradition and thereby preserve the relevant common law safeguards, it contains express stipulations which provide the constitutional guarantee for the proper administration of criminal justice.

 

The most often cited provision in the Basic Law in the context of criminal prosecution, I believe, must be Article 63. Indeed, as often cited as it is important, Article 63 provides the constitutional guarantee that the Department of Justice “shall control criminal prosecution, free from any interference”. This provision in the Basic Law is the guiding spirit of all criminal prosecution, and is proved to be of particular importance when controversial cases arise. The more controversial a case may be, the more important it is to remain independent and to be seen to be independent. This is the reason why from time to time, not only do my colleagues exercise their independent power of analysis, we engage outside independent counsel for advice so that there cannot be any doubt about our steadfast adherence to Article 63 of the Basic Law.

 

Apart from Article 63, other provisions which are relevant include Article 28 which specifically provides that no Hong Kong resident shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful arrest, detention or imprisonment. Article 35, on the other hand, states that Hong Kong residents shall have the right to confidential legal advice, access to the courts, choice of lawyers for timely protection of their lawful rights and interests or for representation in the courts, and to judicial remedies.

 

There is of course also Article 39 of the Basic Law, which stipulates that the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) as applied to Hong Kong shall remain in force and shall be implemented through the laws of the Hong Kong SAR. As you would appreciate, ICCPR provides the basis for provisions contained in the Hong Kong Bill of Rights, which are set out in the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance (Cap. 383).

 

Various provisions contained in the Bill of Rights are also relevant to the proper administration of criminal justice. Examples include Article 5(1) of the Bill of Rights which provides that “Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be subject to arbitrary arrest or detention. No one shall be deprived of his liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedure as are established by the law.”

 

Article 10 of the Bill of Rights stipulated that “All persons shall be equal before the courts and tribunals. In the determination of any criminal charge against him, … everyone shall be entitled to a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law.”

 

Article 11(1) of the Bill of Rights codified the common law presumption of innocence and states that “Everyone charged with a criminal offence shall have the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law.”

 

The provisions that I just mentioned are examples of some of the concepts which are fundamental to our criminal justice system. These provisions, together with other concepts and safeguards, remain deeply rooted in Hong Kong’s legal system, and are instrumental in ensuring the proper administration of criminal justice. The Department of Justice will remain vigilant in ensuring that these core concepts are adhered to, so as to ensure that the criminal justice system in Hong Kong would continue to work well under the “one country, two systems” principle.

 

In his opening address made just now, the DPP mentioned about the unfortunate incidents where public prosecutors were subject to wholly unjustified abuses. On my part, I entirely agree to the observations made by the DPP. May I also add that a respect for the rule of law includes a respect for the system, which means that we should respect the different roles played by the different stakeholders. The public prosecutors have their duty to discharge, and so do the judges. Even if one does not agree to the stance of the prosecutors or the rulings or decisions made by judges, one should express their views in the proper manner instead of resorting to abuse or even personal attacks. Such wholly unjustified conduct, which unfortunately has surfaced recently, is the very antithesis of the rule of law and should never be endorsed, let alone encouraged.

 

Before I conclude, I would like to take this opportunity to express our special thanks to the Bar Association, the Law Society, and our colleagues from the other government departments and bureaux as well as the various law enforcement agencies, for their support both to the work of the Department of Justice generally and also specifically for their support to the Prosecution Week programme over the years.

 

Last but certainly not least, I very much want to express my utmost gratitude to the DPP and all the other colleagues in the Prosecutions Division for their contribution, not only with regard to organising the Prosecution Week programme, but also in respect of the work they have done in the discharge of their duties as public prosecutors over all these years. Their unfailing dedication amidst an upsurge in workload, whether as a result of an increase in the number of cases that have to be handled or the complexity of the issues that required to be dealt with, is particularly commendable.

 

On this note, may I now formally declare the commencement of the Prosecution Week 2016.

 

Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen gave these remarks at the opening ceremony of Prosecution Week 2016 on June 17.

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Dental health needs co-operation

Acting Chief Executive John Tsang

The degree of tooth loss in Hong Kong, I was told, is among the best in the world. This is an achievement that would not have been possible without the Hong Kong Dental Association (HKDA) and its community-wide promotion of dental hygiene. And I am glad to say that I am happily keeping all 32 of mine, I think, thanks to the good work of my dentists.

 

The HKDA has also championed Government-funded community dental programmes, as well as public-private collaboration schemes, among the dental profession here, especially our private practitioners. The public-private programmes provide care for those with special dental needs.

 

They include the Loving Smiles Service, which offers subsidised dental care for low-income people with intellectual disabilities, and the Community Care Fund Elderly Dental Assistance Programme, which provides dentures and other related dental services.

 

Hong Kong is a rapidly ageing society. And we are acutely aware that demand for dental-care services will only continue to grow.

 

That, of course, poses significant demands on our resources and on the development of dental practitioners.

 

It is an issue that can only be addressed by our further co-operation. The Government and the dental profession must work together, taking full advantage of modern technology and new care models to meet the anticipated increase in demand for dental services in the coming years.

 

Acting Chief Executive John Tsang gave these remarks at the 38th Asia Pacific Dental Congress.

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HK promotes RMB expansion

Financial Secretary John Tsang

Last year was a challenging one for global commodities markets. As Jim Rogers once said: “commodities tend to zig when the equity markets zag”. There was certainly that – plenty of zigging and zagging in the face of a sluggish global economy and volatile financial markets.

 

Total LME volume was about 170 million lots last year, down 4.3% from 2014, while the year-end open interest of the LME futures market stood at 2.3 million lots, up 2% over 2014.

 

The international outlook remains worrying for the remaining half of 2016. The good news is, as the global economy struggles to gather momentum under the “new normal”, Asia, particularly the Mainland of China, will continue to be a key source of growth.

 

Indeed, while the IMF recently lowered again its forecast for global growth this year to 3.2%, it predicted that emerging and developing Asia will contribute about 60% of the world’s GDP growth this year.

 

That trend will continue, with growth expected to average 6.3% a year over the next five years, markedly higher than the 3.7% forecast for the world over the same period.

 

China’s 13th Five-Year Plan got going in March this year, targeting innovation-driven economic growth of at least 6.5% a year from now through 2020. In the first quarter of this year, the Mainland’s economy expanded by 6.7%. I believe most of the advanced economies around the world would cheerfully settle for half or even a third of that.

 

And there are more promises down the road. I am talking about the Mainland’s Belt & Road Initiative, a visionary strategy spanning some 65 countries in three continents that count for two-thirds of our planet’s population. A grand initiative about boosting integration, connectivity, trade and investment, as well as people-to-people bonding.

 

Clearly, the Belt & Road Initiative has enormous potential. As companies in economies along the Belt & Road corridors, including those in the Mainland, “go global”, they will inevitably generate demand for a wide range of financial services, from financing to IPO, and from international investment and trade settlement to asset and risk management.

 

Just last month, Hong Kong hosted the inaugural Belt & Road Summit. There, Chairman Zhang of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress made clear that the Central Government was counting on Hong Kong to play a significant role in the implementation of the initiative.

 

In particular, he highlighted Hong Kong’s wide-ranging prowess as an international financial centre, in enabling capital flow, in promoting the internationalisation of the renminbi and, of course, in offering comprehensive financial services for the Belt & Road projects.

 

Last year, Hong Kong ranked first in equity funds raised through IPOs. And according to the UN World Investment Report, Hong Kong ranked second in global FDI in 2014, with record amounts of inflows at US$103 billion and outflows at US$143 billion.

 

We are now the world’s largest offshore renminbi business centre, as well as the largest renminbi bond market outside the Mainland.

 

As economic and trade ties between the Mainland and the Belt & Road economies grow stronger, the renminbi will become even more widely used worldwide.

 

The IMF’s decision last November to include the renminbi in the SDR basket of currencies confirmed the renminbi’s status as a global currency.

 

The continued internationalisation of the renminbi will, no doubt, present new opportunities for Hong Kong in renminbi trade settlement and related financial services.

 

And we also should not underestimate the potential of and opportunities arising from Islamic finance, given the large Muslim population living in the Belt & Road region.

 

Hong Kong has put together two well-received sukuks since September 2014, demonstrating our capability to support Islamic financial products that meet specialised financing needs. So we are no one-trick pony here.

 

Hong Kong’s wealth-management and asset-management business is also looking good, growing exponentially in recent years. Indeed, Hong Kong is ideally positioned to enable the flow of capital from the Mainland in a risk-controlled manner, serving as the asset-management centre for the Mainland’s outbound capital.

 

The mutual recognition of funds arrangement between the Mainland and Hong Kong, in operation since (last) July, will only enrich the variety of renminbi fund products offered in the Hong Kong market.

 

Hong Kong is also Asia’s premier location for corporate treasury centres. We have what it takes to manage treasury activities denominated in renminbi.

 

To enhance the competitiveness of our corporate treasury services, a new legislation has been passed last month to provide interest deductions under profits tax for intra-group financing business of corporations under specific conditions.

 

Financial Secretary John Tsang gave these remarks at LME Week Asia 2016.

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Belt-Road brings opportunities

Acting Chief Executive Carrie Lam

I just came back from a nine-day official trip to the United States, one of the main purposes of which was to update US officials, businesses and think tank representatives on Hong Kong’s latest developments. On most of the Q&A sessions following my speech, roundtable discussions and bilateral meetings, the Belt & Road Initiative was mentioned. This is of course no surprise as the Belt & Road Initiative is perhaps the 21st century’s most ambitious multilateral undertaking. Encompassing more than 60 countries spanning Asia, Europe and Africa, it aims to foster mutually rewarding progress among Belt & Road countries on policy, economic and cultural fronts.

 

The Initiative offers unprecedented opportunities to all territories, Hong Kong included. Indeed, that was what Mr Zhang Dejiang, Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, told the audience at the inaugural Belt & Road Summit on May 18 this year organised by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government with the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the National Development & Reform Commission, the Ministry of Commerce and the People’s Bank of China.

 

Chairman Zhang, in his keynote speech, expressed clear support for Hong Kong to participate in the Belt & Road Initiative. He outlined four areas in which Hong Kong can contribute: first, in building a platform of comprehensive services; second, in facilitating capital flows, Renminbi internationalization, and the development of an investment and financing platform; third, in promoting cultural exchanges; and fourth, in deepening co-operation with the Mainland to explore markets along the Belt & Road.

 

In each of these four areas, Hong Kong can leverage on its unique advantages of “one country, two systems”. The arrangement enables us to maintain our internationality, while deepening integration and connection with the Mainland of China. Hong Kong is, I would say, the best intermediary between the Mainland of China and the rest of the world.

 

Starting with services. Hong Kong’s professional services are on par with the best in the world. Our professionals in accounting, legal and arbitration, consultancy, and many other sectors, are highly-regarded for their professional ethics, competence and global outlook. In entering a new business environment, investing in large projects, handling commercial disputes, or dealing with property rights and investment protection – Hong Kong professionals are ideal service providers for both Mainland Chinese and Belt & Road enterprises.

 

Located at the heart of Asia and doorstep of the Mainland of China, Hong Kong is, naturally, a transportation and logistics hub. Not only are our airport and container port among the world’s busiest, but our services in maritime, port and railway industries are also first-rate.

 

Financial services are, of course, one of Hong Kong’s greatest strengths. As an international financial centre and the world’s largest offshore Renminbi business centre, Hong Kong has the capital, products, and expertise to meet the growing demand for financial services along the Belt & Road. These include offshore Renminbi services, asset management, insurance and infrastructure financing. Speaking of which, we are now in discussions with the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank on joining the institution as a non-sovereign territory. This will certainly boost Hong Kong’s role in financing Belt & Road infrastructures.

 

Beyond economic relations, Hong Kong welcomes cultural exchanges with Belt & Road countries. Thanks to our cosmopolitan character and the presence of many community organisations in Hong Kong, we are well-placed to develop people-to-people bonds along the Belt & Road. We encourage more interaction between our peoples, especially youngsters like our students here, and support community organisations to reach out to Belt & Road counterparts.

 

Hong Kong looks forward to unleashing the full potential of our intermediary role – to attract capital, investment and technology to the Mainland of China; and to explore Belt & Road markets hand in hand with Mainland enterprises, especially those from neighbouring provinces and regions.

 

Acting Chief Executive Carrie Lam gave these remarks at the 3rd International Forum on the Belt & Road organised by the International Academy of Belt & Road.

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Courts uphold rule of law

Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma

The institution of Senior Counsel, originating as it does in Hong Kong from the English tradition of Queen’s Counsel, is an established feature of the Common Law. For me, it is representative of those features of the Common Law that stand out: independence, impartiality, a pursuit of justice and above all, the promotion of the rule of law. The Bar strongly and visibly advocates these important features of our community. The leaders of the Bar are the Senior Counsel. One of the tangible indicators of the existence of the rule of law in a community is the standard and reputation of the Bar, and within the Bar, of its leaders. Accordingly, it is from the ranks of Senior Counsel that appointments have been made in recent years from the legal profession to the High Court.

I recognise instantly that the provision of legal services also has a business side to it. The Law Society, for its part, has as a significant part of its functions, the promotion of legal services as a business. But that is not the facet of legal practice which I would like to highlight today.

The rule of law has, as a fundamental objective, the pursuit of justice. This involves the concept of justice according to the law and its spirit. The spirit of the law involves an adherence to principles of integrity and independence. In a world now often critical of established institutions and the work they do, one must be steadfast to apply the law in an even handed and principled manner, and to be seen to be doing just that. Hong Kong’s courts now face more than any other time in their history challenges which sometimes assume significant political and social dimensions. Recent events, even those of the past few weeks, have demonstrated a polarisation of views within the community on the work of the courts. I take this opportunity to reiterate the approach of the courts – the same as that of lawyers – namely, that legal issues and disputes are resolved by an application of the law and her spirit, and nothing else. The statue of Themis (one of the Delphic Oracles, representing justice) standing on the top of this court building, proudly blindfolded, is a lasting testament to the independence of approach needed to resolve legal disputes. This is saying the obvious but it seems that now more than ever the community needs to be reassured of this.

I return therefore to one of the responsibilities of lawyers and a reminder that as leaders of the Bar, Senior Counsel do assume the mantle of ensuring that there is no undermining of the fundamentals comprising the rule of law. The law is not only what you want it to be, it is there for everybody and includes a respect for other people’s rights. I know our new Senior Counsels will, as other leaders have done in the past and continue to do so, recognise their enhanced role upon taking silk.

Ms Anna Lai has served the community as a police officer and now in the Department of Justice. She has always discharged her responsibilities to the best of her ability, and has done so fairly and without fear or favour. She is devoted to her work and to the interests of Hong Kong. She is extremely highly regarded by all her peers and colleagues, and rightly so.

Like Ms Lai, Mr Richard Khaw is a person of the highest integrity. Others will speak of his considerable professional abilities. I would like, however, to emphasise his community spirit. He takes a great interest in educating young people in Hong Kong to appreciate the rule of law. He devotes much time in the Mainland giving talks about the Common Law and its operation in Hong Kong.

Mr José-Antonio Maurellet, born when I was just starting practice at the Bar myself, is a staunch supporter of the Bar, of its ideals and of the true role of the advocate. Mr Maurellet began practice at the Bar about the same time as I left it. Through the years I have seen a young, enthusiastic lawyer mature into an experienced and skilful advocate, and more than that, one who without doubt acknowledges the wider role played by barristers in the community.

Historically, the very best commercial lawyers have also been great public law figures – Lord Mansfield, Lord Bingham of Cornhill to name two. I do not know why this should be so; perhaps it is the need for integrity and equity in commercial affairs as being essential to the maintenance of confidence that readily translates to the concept of justice in public law. Mr Alexander Stock, whose father Mr Justice Stock NPJ sits on the Bench today, is a commercial practitioner of the highest quality but is also recognised as a strong public lawyer.

There can be no controversy about this year’s appointments to the rank of Senior Counsel. Their appointments are welcomed by all. They will each distinguish themselves in the years to come. I take this opportunity to congratulate them again. Themis, like us all in this Court, is proud of them.

 

Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma gave these remarks at the Ceremony for the Admission of the New Senior Counsel.

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Urgent need for urban renewal

Acting Chief Executive John Tsang

The Government has a significant stake in the Urban Renewal Authority, having injected US$1.3 billion into it initially, to get it up and running.

The URA also enjoys land-premium waivers for its redevelopment and rehousing sites. As of March, the total amount of land premium waived for the 33 URA projects had reached US$1.9 billion.

As a clear demonstration of our continued support and commitment to urban renewal, the Government has more than doubled its financial support for the URA over these 15 years.

I agree that 15 years is not a long time in the context of urban renewal. Indeed, in many cases, a redevelopment project’s full impact on the local community will only be seen, and felt, decades later, after its completion.

The URA’s greatest achievement must be the benefit that it brings to people and also their living conditions. The very purpose of urban renewal and redevelopment.

And from the beginning, the URA has advocated a “people-first” philosophy. And we have emphasised, time and again, that urban renewal should not be driven by a “slash and burn” mindset.

While we updated our urban renewal strategy in 2011, we continue to advocate a “people-first, district-based and public participatory approach”. The mode of operation is bottom-up and community-centred, engaging stakeholders early on in the process.

This approach has admittedly engendered new challenges. On the one hand, the diverse interests of owners, tenants, business operators and related concern groups need to be addressed, bearing in mind the community’s rising demand for preserving local characteristics and even greater public participation.

And on the other hand, there is added urgency in arresting urban decay, given that our buildings are ageing rapidly. At present, there are 6,600 private buildings that are at least 50 years of age in Hong Kong, and this number will increase by 560 a year over the next decade.

How to gain the support of relevant stakeholders while moving ahead on urban renewal has become a priority for us.

Equally complex is tackling urban renewal in a sustainable manner. How do we achieve a balance between preservation and redevelopment in regenerating a dilapidated area?

Is redevelopment or rehabilitation more effective in upgrading our built environment? Should owners or taxpayers shoulder urban renewal’s substantial costs? And what is the role of the market in promoting urban renewal? These rhetorical questions need to be answered.

Hong Kong, like all other cities, of course, is more than buildings and structures rising, fading and falling. It is also the manifestations of its inhabitants and such intangibles as memory, history, emotional experience and cultural identity.

It is important for us to integrate these wide-ranging dimensions seamlessly and innovatively, creating space and value for the betterment of Hong Kong, and for our citizens’ pride and ownership in our community.

Acting Chief Executive John Tsang gave these remarks at the “Bringing Innovations to Urban Renewal” International Conference organised by the Urban Renewal Authority on June 10.

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HK excels in combined advantages

Chief Executive CY Leung

We, Hong Kong, see France as our long-standing friend. French presence in Hong Kong goes back more than 150 years. Today, more than 12,000 French nationals are living and working in Hong Kong, according to the Consulate’s register. They are joined by about 800 French companies, taking up just about every sector and industry, from banking and financial services to a wealth of retail and brand offerings.

 

You need not take my word on that. Just a few months ago, the French newsweekly Le Point published a four-page article called “Hong Kong, the new French village”. The story had this to say about Hong Kong’s attractions: “French people appreciate Hong Kong’s many advantages for doing business, the lack of red tape, the feeling that anything is possible, the strong French community with its shops and restaurants, and the quality of life offered by its beaches and beautiful nature close to the city.”

 

Indeed, Hong Kong is one of the best places to live in, and to do business. We are a global city that flies the flag of free trade. For the past 22 years, the Washington-based Heritage Foundation has named Hong Kong the world’s freest economy. That explains the strong bilateral trade between France and Hong Kong. Last year, our merchandise trade reached 8.5 billion euros, and France was our fourth largest trading partner in the European Union.

 

It certainly helps that the Hong Kong Government does not own businesses. You do not have the Government or government-owned enterprises as your competitors. There is an open and level playing field for all. Indeed, about a week ago, Switzerland’s International Institute for Management Development ranked Hong Kong as the world’s most competitive economy. We offer you the rule of law, intellectual property rights protection, English as one of the official and commonly used languages, open society and international lifestyle. And we offer unique connectivity to the Mainland of China.

 

By this I refer to our unique, combined advantages of “one country” and “two systems”. Under “one country”, we enjoy preferential access to the vast market of the Mainland of China, and first-mover advantage in the Mainland’s economic liberalisation. Under “two systems”, we maintain our cosmopolitan character and connection to the international community. We are, in short, a “super-connector” between the Mainland and the rest of the world.

 

Hong Kong’s global intermediary role is at the heart of Hong Kong’s future. Certainly in finance, as China’s international financial capital and the world’s China financial capital. In 2014, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority and Bank of France signed a memorandum of understanding to enhance co-operation in renminbi business. We look forward to further collaboration, in renminbi business, asset management, insurance, and other financial services.

 

And in professional services, as well. Hong Kong professionals in accounting, legal, dispute resolution, contract management, consulting, engineering and many other sectors are world-class. In entering a new business environment, investing in large infrastructure projects, handling commercial negotiations, you will find that our professionals are ideal service providers. Our services in maritime, aviation, railway and port management are in wide demand as well, as I told our Toulouse friends at a business luncheon the day before yesterday. Do look to Hong Kong when you think of growing your business – in France, China, Asia, or just about anywhere else.

 

But Hong Kong’s super-connector role, Hong Kong’s economy, does not end here. We are moving up the value chain, as France and the rest of the world are. First and foremost on our agenda is innovation and technology. We are developing I&T as a new economic sector, to provide more, better and diversified jobs for Hong Kong people. For our young people.

 

And that is a big reason why we are here. For France is, of course, a global leader in I&T.

 

I would say I&T is a natural outgrowth of our fascination with technology – with gadgets and screens of all sizes. The GfK Connected Consumer Index, for example, ranks Hong Kong top among 78 countries and eight world regions. Ours are the world’s most connected consumers, from smart phones, tablets, to videogame consoles, connected cars and alike.

 

Technology infrastructure aside, Hong Kong has a sophisticated capital market, robust intellectual property protection, and a large pool of research talents. And we are close to the Mainland of China – a huge consumer market and, perhaps, the world’s biggest and most efficient production base. So we are in good shape to move in the I&T direction.

 

Among our efforts was the establishment of the Innovation & Technology Bureau and the Academy of Sciences in Hong Kong last year, to give direction and focus to Hong Kong’s I&T future. We followed up this year with a variety of I&T policies and programmes, backed by a massive financial commitment of 2 billion euros. We will upgrade and expand I&T infrastructure, fund start-ups together with private venture capital funds, encourage mid-stream applied research, and develop Hong Kong as a smart city.

 

Our efforts are paying off. Last year, the number of start-ups in Hong Kong increased by 50%, year-on-year. Tech hubs are springing up – including the much welcomed French Tech set up earlier this March. Our innovations and research breakthroughs have gained international recognition and won major awards in world exhibitions. Last year, the world-renowned medical and life-science research institution, Karolinska Institutet of Sweden, announced the establishment of their first overseas regenerative medicine centre in Hong Kong. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, too, announced the launch of their first overseas Innovation Node in Hong Kong.

 

It is an encouraging start. But we can do much more, much faster, by learning from our friends.

 

This morning, after meeting the Prime Minister, we visited Usine IO. I was impressed by its flourishing programme of hardware prototyping and its fast-expanding start-up culture. We also went to Oncopole yesterday, a cancer research facility, before touring Paris-Saclay – the extraordinary research and education cluster south of Paris.  Our students were particularly excited when visiting CentraleSupélec, the renowned research and education institution in engineering sciences.

 

As Hong Kong grows apace in I&T, I am sure there is good opportunity for bilateral co-operation – in business, and in education. Just over a week ago, our Science Park, in partnership with a French network of green and social start-ups, launched an incubation and entrepreneurship programme for Hong Kong youngsters. CentraleSupélec has also signed agreements with two of our universities to launch degree and exchange programmes.

 

At present, more than 370 French students are studying or on exchange programmes in Hong Kong. We welcome more to come – our universities are among the world’s best, with English as the medium of instruction. We are increasing non-local student quotas, launching fellowships, and giving out more grants for joint research programmes.

 

And I certainly hope that our friendship extends beyond campuses. Hong Kong, after all, is a community where East meets West – rooted in Chinese traditions, and enriched by cultures of other worlds, France included. For 24 years, Hong Kong’s French community has put together Le French May, one of Asia’s largest and most popular arts festivals. This year’s Le French May counts more than 120 programmes and reaches over a million people.

 

Hand in hand with Le French May is Le French GourMay, which spotlights fine French wine and cuisine. Indeed, Hong Kong people can’t seem to get enough of either, given all the French restaurants and cafes in Hong Kong. Given, too, that more than 62% of Hong Kong’s wine imports last year came from France. We can certainly drink to that.

 

Chief Executive CY Leung gave these remarks at a luncheon with French businessmen hosted by the Hong Kong Economic & Trade Office, Brussels, and the Hong Kong Trade Development Council in Paris on June 9.

via Moroccan Trader HK excels in combined advantages