Following is the speech (English only) delivered by the Secretary for Home Affairs, Dr Patrick Ho, at the "What's Good" Conference held at Hong Kong Arts Centre today (January 8):
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
Good morning, and a warm welcome to all of you attending this "What's Good" Conference, an initiative designed to nurture community appreciation of arts and creativity. I am confident that you share my fervent hopes for its outcome.
Creativity is the flame that has blazed our trail throughout history. For a very long time, Asia was the world's centre of creativity, and China was the forerunner, with its numerous inventions including the compass, paper, printing and gunpowder.
Then our Western counterparts overtook us five hundred years ago, in their age of "Renaissance", French for "Rebirth", in which their artistic, social, scientific, and political thought turned in new directions.
Asia, fallen from the leading position, has been busy catching up until now, when we are witnessing a third wave of awakening. We need to revitalize our own creativity and build our future firmly on the foundation of a creative economy, a creative society and, ultimately, a creative Asia, just as our ancestors did in the ancient past.
The rediscovery of creativity in Asia marks a significant resurgence for modern humanity, which I believe will eventually lead to a second Renaissance for our times.
In the past 20 years of globalization, with the advent of knowledge-based economy, creativity has been seen increasingly as an engine for growth and civic pride. It is the very foundation upon which a creative economy is established.
Unlike traditional industries, creativity produces products driven by desire rather than by physical need. It provides us with food for the mind rather than things that our bodies require. There are the things we "want", but do not necessarily "need". And desire grows when we look beyond daily necessities to ask "What's good" rather than "What's essential?"
Like the delicate cream on a piece of cake, it is always the creative elements that add most value to services and products. A T-shirt, being a commodity, is worth only a few dollars. But the same T-shirt with the logo of, say, Hello Kitty, can be worth far more.
Desire for "something more" can arise from many diverse sources. It can grow until it is deeply rooted in the culture of a particular society, it can be cultivated, value dependent or influenced by external forces. It can even be conditioned - and perhaps manipulated - by such factors as the media and marketing strategy.
Creative products enhance the quality of life of a city. When taken together with good public order, a healthy environment, the rule of law, an attractive arts and culture environment, a multi-cultural workforce, and a leisurely international ambience, they will attract investors to deposit their wealth in such a city. Creative talents will be drawn to live there, tourists will be brought in to spend there and our businessmen will be armed to outpace competitors.
Of all the world's great cities, Hong Kong is the perfect testing ground for the development of creative industries. Some are already in place, provided with a proper platform that will help them flourish. They include film, performing arts, music, fashion, design, advertising, the visual arts and antiques, Chinese publishing, games software, animation and comics. In many of these areas, Hong Kong is already a regional leader.
Not only are we receptive to new stimulus and challenge but we also provide the ideal environment in which creative minds can seek fulfilment. Creative talents are fluid people - they move around in search of places that suit them most - they are IT-savvy - so the availability of state-of-the-art IT infrastructure and services is indispensable.
Among our strong points are our connectivity and free flow of information, capital, talents and goods, guaranteed by the presence of a free and open society underpinned by political stability and a high degree of transparency in public affairs.
Added to these are the rule of law, full protection of copyright, as well as a clean and efficient government; together with an embracing society that cherishes tolerance, plurality and diversity, allowing divergent views to co-exist in peace and harmony.
Besides, with 40 million cultural consumers, our neighbouring Pearl River Delta region is a considerable new market for our creative products as well as a cost-effective production base with ample supply of supporting talents for artistic work.
Our cousins across the boundary already have a healthy appetite for Hong Kong's creative industries. As living standards improve so does the capacity to spend, especially on cultural and creative products. So you can see that China offers significant potential and specific advantages as a consumer market, a trading hub, a manufacturing base, a service market for creative industries and a destination for creative investment. And lying on the threshold of China is Hong Kong.
Now, by pushing into the Pearl River Delta we can also develop a critical mass of talent and market opportunities for the creative industries. We can then expand further into the enormous China market, where there are more than 300 million people within a two-hour flight from Hong Kong.
At the same time, we can push into the East Asia milieu, extending our reach through a network of alliances with other creative industry and arts groups in Taiwan, Japan, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. The wider we reach, the more creative we become. We are looking for an inclusive experience, guided by the principle of promote and prosper, look and learn.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are set to discover how rich we are in our creative talents and cultural resources. And we are feeling our way towards value judgments, trying to determine not only "What's good" but, where possible, "What's better".
Creativity does not just drive economic growth; it is also the engine that propels civilisation to a new stage of development. The humanistic aspect of a creative economy is the realisation of a creative nation, a creative society and a creative civilisation.
Hong Kong is a trend-setter and a society permeable to international values that embrace talents from over the world. What is good elsewhere is also good in Hong Kong and Hong Kong will make it even better.
Thank you very much.
Ends/Saturday, January 8, 2005