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CS speaks at Asian Cultural Ministers' Meeting (English only)(with photos)

    Following is the speech by the Chief Secretary for Administration, Mr Rafael Hui, at the Asian Cultural Ministers' Meeting of Asia Cultural Co-operation Forum at the Bethanie in Pokfulam this morning (November 9) (English only):

Honourable ministers, heads of delegation, distinguished delegates and guests, ladies and gentlemen,

     First of all, I would like to extend my warmest welcome to our visiting ministers, heads of delegation, distinguished delegates and cultural sector leaders from across the region. I also would like to welcome the large contingent of cultural sector leaders from within our country, representing our provinces and municipalities. It is a great pleasure to see all of you here in Hong Kong and thank you for coming to the Asia Cultural Co-operation Forum to share your views and experience.

     Hong Kong first initiated this forum in 2003 to foster regional cultural co-operation. Every year, we bring together cultural policy-makers, leaders, creative entrepreneurs and international celebrities in the arts field to share ideas, thoughts and good practices in the promotion of culture, the arts and creative industries.

     We hope you will appreciate our choice of venue this year. This splendid piece of historic architecture, "The Bethanie", is a heritage building dating back to 1875. It was run as a sanatorium for almost a century. A government-funded restoration gave it a new lease of life and it will become the second campus of the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, to be opened officially later this month. It stands as a clear illustration of our determined efforts in heritage conservation and, I think you will agree, provides a most appropriate cultural backdrop for today's gathering.

     This year, the theme of the forum is "Asian Arts, Culture and Modernity". It will certainly inspire very interesting reflections on the transformation of Asia's culture in the process of globalisation and modernisation. It also gives us a chance to reflect on the strategy and direction of our arts and cultural development.

     As our Chief Executive stated in his Policy Address delivered last month, we strive to develop Hong Kong as a city of culture and the arts. This means capitalising on Hong Kong's unique characteristics as a vibrant city with a diversified and liberal cultural life. Forgive the cliche, but Hong Kong is truly a city where East and West meet.

     This gets to the very heart of our city's mission to develop artistic and creative industries for the benefit of every sector and strata of our society.

     If we are to continue to attract worldwide talent to Hong Kong, we need to offer not just exciting prospects, cutting-edge technology and world-class communications and infrastructure, but also a city with the appropriate cultural atmosphere.

     As a modern Asian city, we recognise the support for arts and culture as an important "investment" in community-building and development. An open, rich and diversified arts scene could provide a key magnet in drawing people to Hong Kong as a wonderful place to live, to work and to do business. At present, Hong Kong has more than 1,000 performing arts groups that stage over 10,000 performances each year. We also have a large number of visual artists producing artworks that are as varied as their creators.

     In a knowledge-based economy, cultural activities give momentum to economic development. Hong Kong remains a free and open port of cultural exchange. Its geographical location at the heart of so many rich and varied cultures, coupled with its advanced information networks, have underpinned our diversified cultural development.

     This diversity enhances Hong Kong's appeal as an international cultural metropolis. "Investment" in culture will add significant value to any modern Asian city. The city's "brand name", tourism appeal, international image and identity, all ride on the back of developing vibrant cultural activities.

     The benefits that radiate from a lively arts scene go far beyond the obvious. Involvement in the arts promotes teamwork and team-building, fosters respect and appreciation, and encourages creativity as well as problem-solving. These are all key elements for a productive and self-sufficient workforce, as well as a cohesive society. A lively society takes direction from its creative thinkers. Studies show that creativity spurs economic growth. Creative thinking is inextricably linked to creating a more dynamic future.

     I'm not the first to say it, but investment in the arts may be among the most important tools in developing an innovative workforce. It comes back to the need to invest in arts and culture in a modern Asian city like Hong Kong.

     Forgive me if I am preaching to the converted. Many cities at a comparable stage of social and economic development as Hong Kong regard investment in arts and culture as being as important as investment in education.  

     Many governments in modern cities nowadays devote substantial resources to building up world-class cultural facilities, including museums and performing arts venues. They nurture and groom artistic talent, supporting the development of creative industries. They promote public participation in the arts and foster international cultural exchanges. Public participation and engagement is very important. It not only empowers our people, but also provides room for artistic creations and promotes diversified cultural development.

     Participation in culture and the arts is an essential component of a city's cultural capital. A community with large cultural capital has creative potential. It is one where its people value and have wide access to different forms of arts and cultural activities. They are able to invest time and effort to participate in such activities. This, in turn, makes them more eager to embrace arts and culture, especially among younger people.

     There are also increasing studies affirming that arts and cultural participation has a positive effect on social capital, which measures the degree of social cohesion, trust and reciprocity that holds a society together. There is increasing evidence to show that social capital and social cohesion are critical to the economic prosperity and sustainable development of a society.

     So, cultural and creative industries play a major role in building and sustaining economically vibrant communities. They serve as magnets to attract businesses and their employees, and stimulate cultural tourism.

     In his Policy Address, our Chief Executive has made a commitment to bolster Hong Kong as a "City of Culture and the Arts". The partnership between the arts and business contributes not only to economic development, but also the social fabric and enlightenment of society. If culture is life and pursuing arts is a lifestyle, then embracing both can only improve the quality of life for all of us.

     I understand that, at the meeting this morning, you will explore the development of an "Art Asia Calendar" comprising selected signature events from each Asian economy for joint publicity and promotion. I wish you a fruitful and enlightening meeting. Thank you.

Ends/Thursday, November 9, 2006
Issued at HKT 10:50


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