Following is the speech by the Financial Secretary, Mr Henry Tang, at the "Hong Kong - Japan Year 2005" reception in Tokyo today (January 28) (English only):
The Honourable Hata, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
Good evening. It is my great pleasure to join you all at this reception to celebrate the "Hong Kong - Japan Year 2005". Today's event marks a significant milestone to further advance the partnership and friendship between Hong Kong and Japan. I am greatly impressed to meet so many good friends of Hong Kong gathering here with the same wish to promote the relationship between Hong Kong and Japan.
Over the years, Hong Kong and Japan have established very close ties in many areas. The Japanese influence has penetrated into different areas of our daily lives, ranging from Japanese fad and pop culture, delicious Japanese food to fashionable Japanese electrical appliances in our homes.
Most important of all, there are strong people links - more than 20,000 Japanese expatriates are living in Hong Kong. Besides, the granting of visa-free access to visit Japan for Hong Kong Special Administrative Region passport holders last year has further strengthened our ties. In 2004, Japan was the third largest source market of Hong Kong, with more than one million arrivals, and the number of Hong Kong residents visiting Japan amounted to some 600,000, which marked a 22% year-on-year increase.
Apart from the immense flow of people between the two places, there is a very strong and active Japanese business presence in Hong Kong - more than 700 Japanese companies have set up either regional headquarters or regional offices in Hong Kong. These companies are very active in wholesale, retail, trade-related services and professional services. In addition, Japan remains Hong Kong's third largest trading partner in the world and our second trading partner in Asia. In 2003, about US$28 billion worth of trade between Japan and the Mainland China was routed through Hong Kong.
I deeply value these links with Japan and the solid foundation of our co-operation in various fields. I hope that the two places will continue to enhance this close and cordial relationship. I am therefore pleased to know that the "Hong Kong - Japan / Japan - Hong Kong Year 2005" are to be held concurrently in both places. The projects are designed to provide organisations and individuals with a framework to organise bilateral activities, covering business, education, tourism and cultural subjects. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all involved in the projects and to wish you all a happy and prosperous 2005.
Ends/Friday, January 28, 2005