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CS' Speech


Following is the speech (English only) by the Chief Secretary for Administration,Mr Donald Tsang, at the First Workshop on a Sustainable Development Strategy for Hong Kong this morning (November 8):

Good morning ladies and gentlemen and friends,

What a way to spend a Saturday morning. I want to thank all of you for taking precious time out of your busy schedules to join together for this morning's workshop. For many of you, coming to the office on a Saturday morning is a regular part of your working week. For others - although I guess not many - a more leisurely Saturday morning may be the norm. But I hope that today's event will be something of a new experience for all of us. I am sure you will find this workshop useful and helpful, and hopefully stimulating too.

Today marks the first step in the process of building a Sustainable Development Strategy for Hong Kong. The task of advising how to put together this strategy has been entrusted to the Council for Sustainable Development, which I chair, in particular to the Council's Strategy Sub-committee, under the leadership of Edgar Cheng.

In a few moments, Edgar and his team will brief you on the background of this task, and on what we hope to achieve at this morning's workshop. But before that, I would just like to take a few minutes to explain why you have been invited here today, and why your commitment is so important to the process of defining how to create a sustainable future for our society.

The concept of "sustainable development" is not easy for many people to grasp. But the core of this concept is simple enough - and that is, a concern for the well being, not only of this generation, but also of future generations. To be sustainable, we must ensure that we provide for a quality of life that will continue to make us proud to call Hong Kong our home.

For Sustainable Development to work, this message needs to be understood and embraced by the whole community. And here lies the big challenge. The principles of sustainability require every one of us to seek ways of living that will enable us to enjoy a healthy, prosperous and just society, where people can balance the aims of creating wealth and pursuing personal development with a respect for the natural environment and pride in our cultural heritage.

To help bring this vision closer to reality, the Council for Sustainable Development has set itself the task of bridging the views of the community and the Government, in such a way as to develop a shared perspective on how to make Hong Kong a truly sustainable city. That is why we have invited you here today, as opinion leaders, as community leaders, as captains of industry and concerned citizens from various sectors, to help us design a process for engaging the community in building a strategy for sustainable development. We believe the object is clear. We believe that we need the help of all of you to tell the best ways to engage the public, to find a way to develop this strategy.

This is not a task that the Government could - or should - perform on its own. We will not be able to build an effective strategy for a sustainable Hong Kong unless we engage the public first-hand in this process. The Council is committed to working in partnership with both the community and the Government departments to ensure that our strategy will not only represent the concerns of the public, but will also be implemented.

Edgar and his team will explain to you clearly and concisely the Council's initial proposals for the engagement process that will form the foundation of this strategy. They will take you through the key steps in the process, and will invite you to debate these processes, and to suggest alternatives and improvements. We do have a completely open mind on this.

But today's workshop is about more than simply defining a participatory mechanism for engaging the community. Rather, it is a crucial first step towards harnessing the views of the community on their priorities for Hong Kong's future, and on how we should address these priorities.

The task before us is to reach out to the various sectors and strata of our society and to identify common concerns that emerge from the debate on our future. Following this workshop, the Council will carefully assess the views expressed here before advising on how best to proceed with the main thrust of the work.

We are very much aware that there is no single set of views or values within the community. As with any other large and economically advanced city in the world, there are differences of opinion and outlook. But a diverse society does not mean a divided society. On the contrary, we must recognise the freedom to express and promote alternative views is one of Hong Kong's greatest enduring strengths. And in the process, everyone must try to ensure all of these competing or complementary views and opinions are discussed in a rational and objective manner, and that there is a mutual respect for different views as well.

There are several issues currently attracting considerable public attention. The reclamation of the harbour, for example, is undoubtedly an important issue that also relates to sustainable development. In this case, it involves striking a balance between two very legitimate societal interests: protecting the harbour on the one hand, and, on the other, providing the infrastructure needed to divert traffic away from the congested Central business district. We have been criticised for sticking to established practices in trying to balance these competing demands. But when we look for solutions, our main concern is to find those solutions that serve the best interests of Hong Kong in the long term.

Similarly, there are times when we have tried a new approach to tackle a particular issue. This, in turn, has led to debate about whether we would be better to stick to old, established practice. Our plan to create a world-class arts, cultural and entertainment district at West Kowloon is a recent example. The government has proposed a new approach, and that is to ask the private sector to design, build and operate these major cultural facilities. Apart from financial resources, the other reason we have chosen this approach is to make good use of private sector experience and innovation in bringing this magnificent project to life. We want an iconic development, and a rich and vibrant cultural district, that is a great asset for everyone in Hong Kong. Not only for now, but for our future generations, were wish this district to contribute towards a sustainable balance in our way of life - a district built and managed in such a way that will not necessarily follow a Government-imposed model, but will represent what the world can best offer. We believe that the private sector has the talent, the creativity and the flexibility to provide this breakthrough.

Understandably, novel architectural and artistic projects always generate heated debates round the globe. Hong Kong is no exception. If I remember, the entrance pyramid at the Louvre, the Opera House in Sydney and close at home, our striking HSBC headquarters, the BOC building, as well as our now-famous international airport suffered intense public criticisms in their early days, without exception. We reckon that to make this project of a cultural district truly sustainable, we must fully engage different sectors of the community. That is why the Government is now taking proactive steps to reach out to a wide cross-section of sectors-planners, architects, arts and cultural groups, estate developers and interested groups in the community. We would like to hear their views and to work with them to make this project the great success we want it to be. And I want to stress that this project does not mean and will not just benefit one sector. It must benefit the community as a whole, and not for this community now, but this community and its future generations. And this will be the overarching consideration when we assess the development proposals submitted by the proponents in the next few months. I hope that all concerned can work together to make this project a great success that will be an enormous asset for the people of Hong Kong for many years to come.

This brings me back to the theme of today's workshop, which is the engagement process that is intended to help us gather and organise the diverse views of our community into a shared vision of Hong Kong's development. As this process unfolds, we will no doubt hear a wide variety of opinions that will challenge established practice and propose alternative ways of improving the quality of our lives. We welcome this input, in the knowledge that it conveys a sense of deep and lasting concern for Hong Kong's future development.

Before I hand over to Edgar, I would like to end by noting that today's workshop offers an opportunity for us all to make a commitment to future generations. That commitment will come through a process of partnership and involvement that will help make Hong Kong a truly sustainable society.

I thank you all for your commitment to this endeavour, and I look forward to working with you in the future to build a Sustainable Development Strategy for Hong Kong.

Thank you.

Ends/Saturday, November 8, 2003


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