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CS's speech in New York


Follows is the full text of a speech by the Chief Secretary for Administration, Mr Donald Tsang, at a lunch at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, New York, September 10, 2001 (NY time):

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you, Nicholas [Ambassador Platt], for the very kind introduction. As always, it is fun to be back in New York, among friends at this grand old dame they call the Waldorf. It just wouldn't be the same if I didn't come here to speak to you during my annual visit to the capital of capitalism. It is an event I always enjoy and look forward to. Thank you, once again, for having me back.

This time around, though, it is a little different. As Nicholas just mentioned, I have a new job in Hong Kong. I'm the same old Donald wearing my old bow tie, but not the same old Donald because I've got a new job. Our new Financial Secretary Antony Leung has taken over responsibility for all things economic. I am sure he will provide you with some penetrating insights and updates during his visits to the Big Apple in the years ahead. He is an extremely capable and well-qualified man for the job, and I am sure you will like him.

My task, however, is a tad tricky because I'm following on from Anson Chan, whose intelligence, charm and beaming smile are familiar to many of you. I know that Anson is well-liked and held in high regard here in the United States. I share those feelings. We are, in fact, chips off the same block. It was an honor to have served with her during some of the most crucial years in Hong Kong's history. And it was a great personal honor for me to have been asked to continue to serve the people of Hong Kong as head of the public service and the Chief Executive's principal adviser. I am enjoying my job immensely.

Today, I want to speak about 'challenge and achievement' - the twin sisters who have characterized Hong Kong's remarkable development as an economy and a society. In every decade since the 1940s, Hong Kong has faced and overcome enormous challenges, some of which threatened our very existence. But in every instance, the resourcefulness and determination of Hong Kong people has turned adversity into advantage into achievement. This is our pedigree. And this is, in large part, the reason why a small, crowded city of less than 7 million people is today the world's 10th largest trading economy. We have been able to accept change for what it is - inevitable; and exploit change for what it brings - opportunity. But what of the future? Where to now for Hong Kong?

Well, we have set ourselves a goal, and I can tell you it is a big one. That is, to become the world city of Asia. We want to play the same role in Asia as New York does in America and London does in Europe. We want to be the most cosmopolitan, vibrant and open society in Asia, where opportunity abounds and quality is premium. And we want to enhance and strengthen our position as a major city in China by leveraging all of the advantages we enjoy as a Special Administrative Region. This is the challenge. Now how do we achieve that goal?

First of all, we must and we will stick to the basics that Hong Kong people hold dearly. We must remain a free, open and plural society, firmly rooted in the rule of law upheld by a respected and world-class judiciary. We must continue to provide a level playing field for business, where acumen and ability count rather than contacts and corruption. We must stay true to our belief in economic freedom, and the free flow of goods and capital, freedom of the press and the free flow of news and information. And we must maintain a clean and efficient civil service that facilitates, rather than dictates, economic development by providing the hard and soft infrastructure needed for business to get down to business. These are the basic ingredients of a world city. These are the foundations upon which Hong Kong has built its success and must continue to build its future.

Second, we must work hard to make a success of 'One Country, Two Systems'. I can tell you that Hong Kong's promised high degree of autonomy has been a promise kept. Our national leaders have scrupulously honored this commitment with their hands-off approach. This has been acknowledged in reports on Hong Kong by the US State Department, the British Government and the European Commission. But actions speak louder than words. Recent decisions in Hong Kong on sensitive issues such as Falun Gong, the Li Shaomin incident, residency rights of Mainland children born in Hong Kong, and daily media coverage on topics from Taiwan to Tibet amply illustrate the faithful implementation of 'One Country, Two Systems' and 'Hong Kong people running Hong Kong'.

The Hong Kong Administration believes that balancing the interests of two different systems within one country is part and parcel of the concept, the concept created by Mr Deng Xiaoping, the concept of 'One Country, Two Systems'. And it is something we need to be prepared for. There are inevitably times when we need to give weight to the set of values that Hong Kong people espouse. That set of values are very unique to Hong Kong and you will find a very rare commodity in our part of the world, in East Asia. But these are exactly the set of values we need to preserve. I don't see that as a bad thing.

Those of you used to the Federal system of government know and understand that tensions invariably arise between the States and the Federal Government. It is so common place that it hardly rates a second thought. Yet a similar situation in Hong Kong is often regarded with far less nonchalance. From where I sit, I see it is a natural and positive progression of the relatively new and evolving relationship between the Hong Kong SAR and our sovereign under the broad framework of the Basic Law. I, for one, think we have done remarkably well in developing this relationship and making 'One Country, Two Systems' work.

Having said that, the voices of criticism we most often hear about our autonomy or our development come not from outside Hong Kong but from within Hong Kong. The government is either not doing enough to protect two systems, or not doing enough to promote one country. Newspaper columnists, politicians, TV hosts and the men and women on the street are all quick to air their views and opinions in our lively media. And while it's my job to engage or even cross swords with some of our critics, I wouldn't have it any other way. That is, after all, a hallmark of the pluralistic society in which we live. Hong Kong people are always ready to express an opinion about this or that. That's one of the great things about Hong Kong. This willingness to speak out has, I believe, been central to success of protecting our autonomy and finding the right balance between One Country and Two Systems.

It is no doubt that who we are and what we stand for has come into sharper focus since the Handover in 1997. Making a success of 'One Country, Two Systems' is a hard enough task in itself. But we have had to deal with not one, but a number of momentous changes in the past four years that would have tested the mettle of even the most resilient society and economy. The Asian financial crisis plunged us into our worst recession in living memory. This in turn exposed serious structural weaknesses in our economy, which have required major, ongoing reform. The slowdown in the global economy, in particular here in the US, will affect Hong Kong's short-lived economic recovery and is presenting us with yet another challenge. All of these changes to our political and economic landscape have generated a certain degree of anxiety within our community. They have led to a great deal of soul-searching. And they have forced us to define, really for the first time, what we hope to achieve as a society, and as an economy in the years and decades ahead.

This brings me to my third point. We must have a clear vision of what we actually want to achieve. In May this year, the Chief Executive launched a major, long-term program that will help to bring greater domestic and international attention to our strengths and advantages. We call it Brand Hong Kong. The Brand program will provide international audiences with a much clearer understanding of what Hong Kong offers as Asia's world city, as well as our unique advantages as a major city in China.

The core values of Hong Kong which the program encapsulates are : progressiveness, freedom, stability, opportunity and high quality. These values underpin our brandline 'Asia's world city'. And you may have already noticed the energetic and vibrant dragon, which we have chosen as our visual identity. And I think in front of you there's a badge there, this is one we hold dear. When you see this you know you are seeing a Hong Kong person, someone who supports Hong Kong. For instance it's like seeing the maple, you know it's a Canadian and something else, another animal is from Down Under.

Our extensive research - which involved more than 11,000 people world-wide - showed that Hong Kong was held in high regard internationally. But not everyone has a strong grasp of the dramatic changes that have made Hong Kong one of the world's most modern and dynamic cities.

Our banking and finance, communications, tourism and transport sectors are already world-class. We are doing more to ensure they remain that way. Hong Kong also plays a role as a manager and co-ordinator of global economic activity. It has a highly-productive, entrepreneurial workforce with some of the best infrastructure anywhere.

An important asset - and one which we are doing more to nurture - is the strong business and cultural links with our hinterland, the Pearl River Delta. This is one of the most affluent and fastest growing regions in China, with a combined population of about 50 million within a 100 mile radius of Hong Kong. To give you some comparison, that's about the same as all the people living in New York State and the surrounding states of Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Vermont. Look at it that way and you can understand why we are excited about the potential opportunities on our doorstep.

What we are trying to do is improve the flow of people, goods and vehicles between Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta. On an average day, 31,000 vehicles and 270,000 people will cross the boundary between Hong Kong and Guangdong, making it the busiest checkpoint in the world. About 40,000 companies wholly or partly-owned by Hong Kong concerns employ more than 5 million people in Guangdong. It is obvious that there is already a strong inter-dependence between our two economies. And it is obvious that the more we work together to boost and enhance those links the better for both of us. The faster the cities in the Pearl River Delta grow, the more trade will flow through Hong Kong. The more wealthy the people of the Pearl River Delta, the more demand there will be for the high-value business and consumer services that we offer in Hong Kong.

The task we face is to establish a framework of arrangements that facilitates seamless interaction within one country while not in any way compromising our commitment to Two Systems. For example, while we must maintain separate immigration and customs controls, we can use advances in technology to make the process quicker. Business and government leaders on both sides of the boundary know that we will have to act bravely, boldly and innovatively to fully realize the natural synergy of Hong Kong with its hinterland, to the benefit of all concerned.

The Brand research also highlighted areas where Hong Kong needs to do more, and do better if we are really serious about making the grade as Asia's world city. One was the environment, where the SAR Government has already launched a raft of measures to improve air and water quality and to deal with the problems of solid waste disposal and sewage treatment.

Another was in the areas of the arts, culture, entertainment and sport. I can't help but be impressed by the enormous richness and diversity of the arts, culture and entertainment scene here in New York. It's simply fantastic. I was on a street yesterday in Broadway watching, in the flesh, Broadway on Broadway. This was something really vivid. We also have a number of initiatives in the pipeline to enhance Hong Kong's attraction. One is the development of a new district for the arts on a prime 100-acre site facing our famous skyline - our very own West End with a Broadway skyline. We are also redeveloping and opening up our waterfront promenades along both sides of the harbor. And we have a whole range of tourism projects coming on line that will make visiting Hong Kong a more interesting and enjoyable experience.

Perhaps the most critical of all our reform programs involves our education system. We must better equip our young people with the skills needed to compete in the knowledge-based economy of the 21st Century. This will involve moving away from learning by rote to a system that encourages creative and lateral thinking. Greater efforts are being made to improve the standards of both English and Chinese to serve the needs of the international business community in Hong Kong. Such major reform and change of mindset doesn't happen overnight, but we have to start the ball rolling. Indeed, at present of every dollar we spend as a government 25 cents goes into education and training. One quarter of our entire spending resources are dedicated to that programme alone.

The Brand Hong Kong program has already entered the consciousness of the local community. Given time, we are hoping for similar brand recognition overseas. Hardly a day goes by without a Letter-to-the-Editor, or a columnist or a radio phone-in program mentioning the words 'world city'. Quite often it is used to point out an area or an incident where we can do better or don't measure up. That's a positive in my book. The program has set the standard by which we judge ourselves, and by which we will be judged by others. All that we hope to achieve as an economy and a community will be focused on making the grade as a world city. If shortcomings are exposed then steps must, and will, be taken quickly to address those concerns.

We are determined to enhance our position as the premier hub for international trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific region. Last year, more than 3000 companies had a regional headquarters or office in Hong Kong. Among them some 570 US companies - by far the largest presence of any country. Dozens more companies from around the world have opened since then. Many, no doubt, are gearing up for the enormous opportunities arising from China's accession to the World Trade Organization.

How Hong Kong positions itself within the next year or so may determine our future. How Hong Kong communicates its strengths and advantages will be an important factor.

Brand Hong Kong is designed to communicate them, but it is not a quick fix. Nor is it something that is here today and gone tomorrow. It is a serious, concerted and long-term effort. In the years to come we hope the Brand Hong Kong dragon becomes an instantly recognizable symbol of Hong Kong in much the same way as the Stars and Stripes of America, or the Nike 'swoosh'.

And when people in Hong Kong and around the world see our dragon, I hope they will understand what it represents: a progressive, free and stable society; a place of opportunity; a community and economy that aims for the highest quality in all it does.

In other words, the world city of Asia.

Thank you

Ends/Tuesday, September 11, 2001


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