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SHA's speech at 156th Anniversary Speech Day of St Paul's College (English only)

    The following is a speech by the Secretary for Home Affairs, Mr Tsang Tak-sing, at the 156th Anniversary Speech Day of St Paul's College today (December 6):

Principal Dr John Kennard, teachers, brother students, ladies and gentlemen,

     I am thankful for the invitation to speak here today.  This is indeed a joyous occasion for us to celebrate together the 156th anniversary speech day of St Paul's College and the coming up of a new class of graduates.

     I said "brother students" just now because in our old college song there is the line: "Brothers here we stand together, all for each and each for all."  In the song we pledge obedience and address ourselves as "sons" of St Paul's College.  The understanding is that we are one big family, even as you see one member standing before you here so much more advanced in age.  We have this metaphor in the college song because family values are integral to the precepts we learn here - justice, honour, truth and virtue - precepts that we should always treasure at St Paul's and when we graduate and go out into society.

     I recently flicked through the latest school prospectus and one of the "goals" of St Paul's College caught my attention: "To promote respect for the views and opinions of others, harmonious relationships in the family and the community; and participation in community affairs".

     I could not agree more.

     As Secretary for Home Affairs of the Hong Kong SAR Government, promoting family values is one of my top priorities.  So one of my tasks falls in line with the stated goals of St Paul's.

     Achieving the goal of strengthening harmonious family relations is easier said than done.  We Chinese are known in the world for having a tradition of strong family ties.  Our core values include filial piety, not emphasised as much in other cultures, and of course love and mutual support among family members.  But these family values have come under increasing pressures of modern life.

     A few weeks ago, I read a comic cartoon strip in a local newspaper (1).  The lazy unemployed brother in the cartoon asked his sister, brother in law and father for some money to go to the horse races.  One by one, each of them said "no".  The young man left for the racecourse blaming his financial predicament on what he said was the breaking down of the traditional Hong Kong family structure.

     Of course, this cartoon was a joke.  But it is true that family values mean different things to different people.  It is also true that the family structure in Hong Kong is perceived to be not as strong as it once was.

     We need to face up to the challenge.

     In his Policy Address in October, the Chief Executive Mr Donald Tsang referred to the family as a "core value" in society.  This is what he said: "From now on, supporting and consolidating the family will be the primary consideration of our social policy and social services planning, and the family will be promoted as a core social value."

     Indeed, the family unit continues to be the most important social institution.  As such, family harmony is the foundation of social harmony.  The Government, therefore, is committed to preserving and strengthening family solidarity.

     To enable the Government to pool resources and expertise, as well as study and address problems from a cross-policy perspective with a view to achieving more effective coordination, a high-level Family Council, to be chaired by the Chief Secretary for Administration, will be set up.  My bureau, the Home Affairs Bureau, will serve as the secretariat for the council.

     We need a Family Council because the issues relating to family support are diverse but related.  The Family Council, which will be the focal point of the work, will look at issues from the perspective of the family and take a holistic approach in dealing with them.

     The council comprises four official members and 16 non-official members.  We have just announced the membership of the council.  It will hold its first meeting later this month to discuss the work ahead.

     The council will advise the Government on the formulation of policies and strategies for supporting and strengthening the family and on development of related programmes and activities; and to monitor their implementation.

     It will also advocate cherishing the family as a main driver of social harmony and promote a family-based support network to forge closer and harmonious relations amongst family members.

     The integration of family policies and related programmes across different bureaus and departments for individual age and gender sectors to ensure effective coordination is, no doubt, one of the council's main tasks.

     It will also oversee the work of the present Women's Commission, the Commission on Youth and the Elderly Commission, which have a great depth of experience in their specific area, on family support matters.

     The Family Council will need the support of the community in order to achieve its goals.  We all have a role to play: parents, students, teachers, for ourselves as well as for our society.

     You could say that being a family member is the one thing in life we are born to do.  Perhaps that is why there is often a perception that it is easy to be a good family member.  It definitely is not.  Family values need to be worked on, enhanced, communicated and improved and they need to evolve over time.

     Schools, of course, have an important part to play in encouraging family values.

     As our brother students graduate from St Paul's College to further education or engage in other vocations, I sincerely hope that you would continue to give enough attention to your family, your parents, your brothers and sisters.

     By working together, we can create an even more vibrant, confident and harmonious society for our generation and generations to come.

     In conclusion, I congratulate St Paul's College on its enormous contributions to Hong Kong over the years.  The college has constantly moved with the times.  Its students have helped to shape Hong Kong for more than a century through their different endeavours.  Once again, I thank the college for giving me this opportunity to speak to you all.  Indeed it has been my great pleasure to be here among so many young friends.

     Thank you.

(1) The World of Lily Wong, The Standard, 12 Nov.

Ends/Thursday, December 6, 2007
Issued at HKT 19:33


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