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SHA's speech at closing of Asia Cultural Cooperation Forum


Following are the closing remarks by the Secretary for Home Affairs, Dr Patrick Ho, at the Asia Cultural Cooperation Forum held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre today (September 30): (English only)

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is indeed a great honour for Hong Kong to be the host city for cultural ministers and policymakers and leaders in creative industries from the neighbouring economies. Throughout these two days, we discussed issues on globalization, regional cooperation and creative industries.

The greatest trend that affects the business world in the past twenty years is globalization, characterised by the free-flow of capital, technology and human resources to achieve the best arrangement of returns, both tangible and intangible. Two further breakthroughs accelerated the globalization process. First is the opening of big countries such as China to world trade and this has extended the ground for global investment. Second is digitalized communication and the Internet which has facilitated the division of labour across the border. Hong Kong is deeply caught in these two trends, as Hong Kong is geopolitically next to Mainland China, the so-called World Factory, as well as the best equipped international city in terms of business infrastructure on Chinese soil.

For Hong Kong to survive and continue to thrive in the 21st century, this applies equally to other Asian cities, we must turn to a creative economy. We must adopt strategies which (1) preserve the most value-added part of the business at home as well as (2) to attract the money earned overseas back to the homeland. Innovation and creativity become the core concern for the business world as well as governments. We need innovation in technology, creativity in cultural content (that is creative industries), and in management. Another strategy is to upgrade the quality of life of the city, such as good public order, healthy environment, rule of law, an attractive arts and culture environment, a creative workforce, and a leisurely and international ambience, and diversity, in order to attract investors to deposit their wealth here, to draw in creative talents to live here and to bring in tourist to spend money here. In other words, advanced economies could consider letting go the middle part of the production and manufacturing process, but have to safeguard the beginning and the end of the business process in their homeland. Governments have to promote innovation and creativity on the one hand and help the business sector to bring home the profits earned elsewhere on the other. This, we name it "creative economy".

Creative industries appeal to the desire, the inspiration and spectacular experience of the consumers. Creative products are driven by desire, and not by physical need. They are the things we want, not necessarily the things we need. And "desire" can be cultivated, deeply rooted in the culture of the particular society, value dependent and can be influenced, such as through the media and marketing strategy. Creative products are increasingly seen as the next area of growth. On our doorstep is the Pearl River Delta, with over 40 million people who share similar heritage and habits with those in Hong Kong, and who are ready to assist in creative production as well as to spend money on lifestyles. It is a huge production base as well as a huge consumption market for cultural goods. One year ago, an alliance of inter-city cluster comprising Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Macau and other major cities in the Pearl River Delta was formed. Coupled with the signing of the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement between the Mainland China and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the network of this alliance of cities will further facilitate the regional development of creative industries by capturing a wider creative market and draw more creative talents to the region.

My ladies and gentlemen, while cultural policymakers, cultural workers and creative entrepreneurs are overwhelmed by the dazzling business of the creative industries, we should remind ourselves that they nevertheless contribute just to a few per cent of the GDP or a certain amount of Research and Development fees in the value chain. However, like the delicate cream on a huge cake, the contribution of cultural content to the economy cannot be measured by its trade volume alone. We should not lose sight of the greater picture of a creative economy, which is the larger purpose of the economic re-structuring process. The creative industries function as a tipping point towards a creative economy. So we should not just take it as a trendy business like the web fever of the IT Age. Rather, we should pursue it consistently and persistently, despite of the ups and downs in the yearly mappings.

Last but not least, over these two days, I am deeply impressed by the humanistic concern and spiritual wellbeing firmly committed among cultural policymakers of East Asia. We earn money to enrich our life and purify our soul. We accumulate wealth so that our children can pursue the joy of literature and the arts. We know that the ultimate aim of a creative economy is a creative society, a creative nation, a creative civilization, and a peaceful and supportive world order. Throughout the past few decades, we saw cities or alliance of cities become more active than nations. Mobile investors and transnational organizations speak more powerfully than governments. Some thinkers in Europe proclaimed that the new Middle Ages are coming. The Middle Ages could be confusing and puzzling and an overstatement, but what comes next out of the reshuffling of things is exciting. Perhaps a Renaissance is emerging as well, but I would call it the awakening of modern humanity. And this time we Asians should not be absent.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Forum is the beginning of our efforts to forge stronger common understanding and prepare for closer cooperation in the region. There is a strong consensus that it should be sustained in future and it surely will. And in the meantime, many thanks to the speakers, commentators, and our moderator, Mr Christopher Cheng, for contributing and sharing their thoughts with us, the audience for your support, and our colleagues for your assistance, and on behalf of the Hong Kong SAR government, I thank you all for your participation and wish you a safe journey home. Thank you very much.

End/Tuesday, September 30, 2003


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