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Speech by SCIT at HKSAR 10th Anniversary Reception in Seoul (English only) (with photo)

    Following is a speech by the Secretary for Commerce, Industry and Technology, Mr Joseph W P Wong, at the HKSAR 10th Anniversary Reception in Seoul today (May 30):

Chairman Mr Lee, Vice Speaker Hon Lee, Ambassador Ning, Excellencies, honoured guests,

     First, I would like to extend my warmest welcome to all of you to this special occasion to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China.  I am most delighted to have the opportunity to join you today.

     As many of you here can testify, Korea and Hong Kong have long maintained a close business partnership.  Between 2002 and 2006, our bilateral trade has registered an average annual growth of 13%, which is very respectable given both Hong Kong and Korea are at an relatively advanced stage of economic development. You are now our sixth largest trading partner - and in return we are also your seventh largest trading partner.  

     But the close relationship between Korea and Hong Kong extends beyond the economic scope.  Indeed, like many other Asian cities, Hong Kong has in recent years been swept over by the "Korean wave" or Hanryu (韓流).  Korean pop culture, particularly Korean movies and television series such as "Dae Jang Geum" (大長今), and "Full House" (浪漫滿屋), has captured the hearts of the people of Hong Kong while Korean pop stars such as Rain and BoA have become idols of our young generation.  But Korean pop culture is more than just good looks and fancy dresses.  The memory of Korean filmmakers sweeping most of the major awards at the first Asian Film Awards held in Hong Kong earlier this year is still fresh in my mind, and this bears full testimony to the success of Korea in reinventing and revitalising itself.

     As a result, more and more Hong Kong people are visiting Korea and learning the Korean language out of their interest in Korean movies, songs and dramas.  Last year, over 200,000 Hong Kong people came to visit your beautiful country for sightseeing, work or leisure.  And I am glad to know that our affection for each other is mutual.  Last year Hong Kong welcomed some 700,000 Korean visitors to Hong Kong, an increase of 12% over that of the previous year.  

10TH Anniversary

     Ladies and gentlemen, let me turn to the theme of today's event: the 10th anniversary of the reunification of Hong Kong with China.

     I recall the headline "Death of Hong Kong" on the famous Fortune magazine's front cover in 1997.  Right from the first day of the handover, there was a huge amount of interest in whether we would succeed or were doomed to fail.

     This year, as we approach our 10th anniversary as a Special Administrative Region of China, I like to take a short stroll down memory lane and answer the question which has been frequently asked "Has Hong Kong changed for the better or for the worse?".

Last 10 years

     Put simply, from 1997 to now, the numbers are overwhelmingly up. For example, our total external trade almost doubled from HK$2.9 trillion to HK$5 trillion, our mobile phone penetration increased 4 times from 2.1 million sets to 9.4 million sets.  Our GDP per capita has also increased to HK$215,000 or US$27,600, despite the fact that during the period Hong Kong has weathered the Asian financial crisis, Avian flu, a property slump, high unemployment and the SARS outbreak.

     The freedoms that our people hold so dear have remained unchanged. Our rule of law, our civil rights and freedoms, our free - and very vocal - press. Our free flow of capital, people and goods. Our multi-cultural, multi-religion and multi-national community.

     In fact, I'm proud to say we've retained the top spot - unbroken - as the 'World's Freest Economy' for the past 13 years.

From strength to strength

     Our economy has continuously changed for the better for the past 10 years.  

     A key growth sector has been financial services. Hong Kong now has the world's sixth largest stock market - with a market capitalisation more than four times larger than in 1997.   A lot of this is due to our new relationship with China, with Hong Kong having emerged as the city of choice for Mainland companies looking to raise capital. The number of Mainland firms listed on our Stock Exchange has risen from 101 in 1997 to 367 this year: a mighty 360 percent increase. These companies come to Hong Kong - despite their own thriving local A-share markets - because of the maturity, security and transparency of our stock exchange.

     Another pillar of Hong Kong's economy - trade - is also flourishing.  We are currently the world's 11th largest trading economy.  And far from being sidelined in the international scrum to get into China, our traders are reaping the rewards. In fact, trade with the Mainland has more than doubled since the handover. Also doubled is our investment into the Mainland.  Today, some 40 percent of total investment into China has come from, or through, Hong Kong.

     Hong Kong also benefits massively from its multicultural business community.  We remain Asia's most popular city for foreign companies as the number of foreign-owned regional offices and headquarters has risen by over 50 percent to more than 4,000.


     Ladies and gentlemen, while anniversaries provide us with a welcome opportunity to look back and reflect, Hong Kong, as well as our international business community, which of course includes our Korean friends, already have their sights firmly set on the next wave of opportunity over the next decade, which will certainly include Hong Kong, Korea and Mainland China.

     So I look forward to welcoming you - or welcoming you back - to my home Hong Kong in the very near future.  And with the many special 10th anniversary commemorative events we are holding in Hong Kong this year, such as grand parades, special international soccer matches, and art exhibitions, in addition to the arrival of the two giant pandas Le Le and Ying Ying that the Central People's Government generously gave to the Hong Kong SAR as gifts to mark our 10th anniversary, there should be enough good reasons for you to join me as guests of Hong Kong in this momentous occasion.

Ends/Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Issued at HKT 15:37


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