Following is a speech by the Secretary for Commerce and Industry, Mr CHAU Tak Hay at the Hong Kong Jewellery and Jade Manufacturers Association's 35th Anniversary and Charity Ball tonight (September 23):
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I have great pleasure to be here to celebrate with you the 35th anniversary of the Hong Kong Jewellery & Jade Manufacturers Association. I understand that tonight is also a fund-raising event for the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals, which makes this an even more meaningful occasion.
The appreciation for jewellery and jade among ladies is perfectly understandable, for there is no denying that they work magic in adding glamour and elegance. What we tend to forget is that in ancient China, the wearing of precious stones, and jade in particular, was actually very much a manly fashion. There used to be a Chinese saying: "In olden times jade was part of every gentleman's wardrobe" 「古之君子必佩玉」. Jade was treasured not only for its beauty, but more for its purity and perfection. And the strive for moral purity and perfection was considered one of the highest ideals of a gentleman. As the Book of Rites （禮記） says, a gentleman would compare his own virtues to the purity of the jade he wears: 「君子比德於玉」.
Indeed I think purity and perfection are not only the most important qualities of jade, but of all jewellery products. Even the slightest blot or tint will greatly reduce the value of diamonds and pearls. So is the case with gold. The craft of making fine jewellery is therefore an art demanding great attentiveness, perseverance and skill.
And that it is this relentless pursuit of perfection together with exquisite craftsmanship and ability to respond to the latest trends that has kept our jewellery industry ahead of our competitors in the world market.
Hong Kong is now the global leader in the production of pure gold and jade jewellery. We are also one of the great centres for diamond trading and pearl distribution. Even at the height of the Asian financial crisis in 1998, Hong Kong remained one of the top exporters of precious jewellery that year, ranking seventh in the world. Indeed the jewellery industry was one of the first sectors to emerge from the economic crisis. There was a remarkable 25% surge in the total export value of jewellery products in 1999.
You have also long been an important foreign currency earner for Hong Kong. In terms of total revenue from tourists visiting Hong Kong, spending on jewellery ranked second in both 1998 and 1999. This reflects the high esteem that Hong Kong jewellery products enjoy among visitors from around the world. .
I am sure that you will not rest on your laurels. I am a firm believer in the vitality and resilience of our traditional industries even as Hong Kong embraces the New Economy. Every industry, however 'old' it may be, will remain dynamic and promising as long as it maintains the courage and creativity to innovate and the foresight to adopt new technologies.
I am glad to see that this is exactly what our jewellery and jade profession is doing. You have never stopped upgrading your gem-setting and design skills and the technology content of higher-end products. And as e-commerce becomes increasingly popular, you have lost no time in tapping the cyber market by setting up online showrooms. All this attests to the drive and business acumen of your industry, which will stand you in good stead amidst all the changes around us.
On the part of the Government, we, as always, attach great importance to the development of the jewellery and jade industry. We are particularly committed to encouraging innovation and the application of technology, which is essential to enhancing our competitiveness. Since 1994, close to $30 million has been granted by the Government to finance projects that facilitate the upgrading of the jewellery industry's technology level.
I would also like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the Jewellery & Jade Manufacturers Association for your contributions since your establishment in 1965. Among many other important endeavours, you have done much in enhancing the development of Hong Kong's jewellery industry by providing an essential jadelite and gemstone identification service and the introduction of various training courses for craftsmen in the trade. Your Association and your industry have had 35 very successful years. I am sure that you will be even more successful in the next 35 years.
Ladies and gentleman, I wish you a most enjoyable evening. Thank you very much.
End/Saturday, September 23, 2000