The Chief Executive, Mr Tung Chee Hwa, today (Wednesday) spelled out plans to position Hong Kong as Asia's premier international city for the 21st century, including major initiatives in education, the environment and urban renewal.
Delivering his annual Policy Address to the Legislative Council, Mr Tung said: "I hope this will build a stronger sense of common purpose and that everyone will join hands in building Hong Kong into a prosperous, attractive and knowledge-based, world-class city."
He pointed out that Hong Kong, other than being an important city of China, should also be developed into a world-class city - the New York and London of Asia.
Speaking on Hong Kong's strengths, Mr Tung said: "Our per capita income is on a par with other affluent economies. Our infrastructure is comprehensive. The rule of law is secure, and we have well-established regulatory and management systems. All of these are highly prized by many multi-national corporations.
"However, we still need to make progress in other areas if we want to see Hong Kong develop into a knowledge-based society and scale new economic heights, and become a place that we take greater pride in calling home," he added.
On education, the Chief Executive said Hong Kong needed to embrace "life-long learning" with a curriculum and extra curricula activities that provide a well-rounded education, developing students' intelligence and creativity and fostering their ability to acquire knowledge throughout their lives.
Initiatives to upgrade educational standards include:
* Advancing by two years (to September 2002) the requirement that all new kindergarten principals complete the Certificate of Kindergarten Education course. By 2004 all pre-service training programmes for primary and secondary school teachers will be upgraded to degree level.
* The percentage of primary students enjoying whole-day schooling will almost double from today's 32 per cent to 60 per cent by 2002.
* From 2000, there will be an objective mechanism to ensure that language teachers attain the benchmarks to teach in the relevant languages.
* A five-year $120 million-programme by the University Grants Committee to develop areas of excellence in information technology, biotechnology and economics and business strategy.
* A soon-to-be-announced scheme to admit talented Mainlanders to help broaden Hong Kong's economic base.
Mr Tung said that while the Government was committed to nurturing local talent through an improved education system, it would continue to attract talented people from all countries to make Hong Kong even more competitive.
In relation to establishing a world-class city, Mr Tung said this required more than simply cleaning up litter and enforcing environmental laws, "it requires a fundamental change of mindset", with everyone working in partnership to achieve sustainable development.
Leading the way, the Government is introducing a series of measures to help bring air and water pollution under control. The measures include:
* Reducing respirable particulates from the present vehicle fleet by 60 per cent by 2003 and 80 per cent by 2005.
* Introducing comprehensive measures for diesel vehicles, such as replacing diesel taxis and minibuses with LPG vehicles and installing particulate traps or catalytic converters for other diesel vehicles.
* Providing $1.4 billion in grants to diesel vehicle owners to encourage the changes needed. And taking stronger action against smoky vehicles.
* Expanding pedestrian zones and encouraging the use of less polluting modes of transport.
* Actively co-operating with the Guangdong authorities on formulating long-term preventive measures on air pollution, and to improve the quality of water from Dongjiang.
* Spending $9 billion in the next five years on other sewerage works, in addition to the expenditure on the Strategic Sewage Disposal Scheme.
On improvements to the urban environment, Mr Tung announced that an Urban Renewal Authority would be established next year to replace the Land Development Corporation. The proposals will be in a White Bill to be released later this month.
The authority will have powers to "assemble land for redevelopment" and be responsible for bringing forward completion of all priority redevelopment projects in 20 years, instead of the previously estimated 30 years.
Among other urban renewal projects are:
* making land available along the waterfront for open plazas, landscaped areas, promenades and walkways; better protection for historic buildings and archaeological sites; and a comprehensive conservation policy and enlarged country parks for Lantau Island.
"For Hong Kong citizens to enjoy better education, more comfortable housing, a more beautiful environment, better health and more job opportunities, much needs to be done by the Government and the community as a whole. We still need to overcome many difficulties, but I am confident that we can tackle any challenge," Mr Tung said.
The Chief Executive emphasised that since reunification there had been no change to Hong Kong's economic and legal systems. The way of life had remained much the same and the freedoms, including that of speech and assembly, had been safeguarded.
"The rule of law, in which I firmly believe, is fundamental to our success. It is precisely because of the full implementation of the Basic Law after the reunification that we have been able to continue to practise and develop the common law system in Hong Kong," Mr Tung added.
End/Wednesday, October 6, 1999