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Speech by SLW at Cheung Chuk Shan College's 39th Annual Speech Day (English only)
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     Following is the speech by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, at the Cheung Chuk Shan College's 39th Annual Speech Day, today (December 10):

Mr Chan (Mr Chan Kam-toi, Supervisor), Mr Leung (Mr Leung Sau-chi, School Manager), Mr Yuen (Mr T L Yuen, Principal), Distinguished Guests, Teachers, Parents and Graduates,

     Thank you for inviting me to join you on this important and happy occasion. Let me first offer my warmest congratulations to all the Graduates of 2010.

     The vision and mission of Cheung Chuk Shan College lay a solid foundation for the learning path of its students. Your school is known not just for its impressive academic achievement, but also the high qualities and moral standards of its students. Many of them have excelled themselves in their careers and professions covering a wide field. They have made, and are making, sterling contribution to Hong Kong's overall development. I am sure that the worthy goals that the acronym "CCSC" exemplifies - that is "competent, conscientious, studious and creative" - will serve as their guiding light as they move on.

     With so many potential future leaders of Hong Kong in front of me, finding a suitable and interesting theme to speak on this occasion is a formidable challenge.  I see this as a precious opportunity to share with you the experience that I have gained since my graduation many years ago.  In the next ten minutes, I would like to offer a new meaning to "CCSC", just to illustrate the essential ingredients that have shaped my life over the years.

     The first "C" is "Change".  We need to embrace "change".  It is natural for us to look for a stable and predictable life. We want to be in control of our future.  But this may well be wishful thinking only as the economic landscape is fast changing and competition will be increasingly keen. With globalisation and the rapid development of information technology, the world is getting smaller. You may have heard of the saying "A butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil can cause a tornado in Texas." It is therefore of paramount importance that we know how to deal with unexpected turns.

     If I may say so, many youngsters in Hong Kong are overly protected.  As a result, they lack a sense of crisis, let alone the quality of resilience.  But we must remember that life is punctuated by twists and turns, ups and downs. We should therefore always be prepared to rise to challenges.  A positive mindset, the determination to succeed, empathy for others plus humility are the key attributes that we all need to possess and nurture.  As a policymaker devoted to manpower development and skills upgrading, I strongly believe that "lifelong learning" also matters. Only when we are well equipped can we keep abreast of changes.

     The second "C" stands for the "Can do" spirit that characterises Hong Kong and its people. I am sure that you have heard many success stories in this respect. The latest testimony is Hong Kong's best-ever achievement at the latest Asian Games in Guangzhou that made us proud. Our young athletes, every one of them and, in particular, Mr Wong Kam-po and Ms Wong Wan-yiu, typified vividly the determination, strength and courage that underpin Hong Kong's "can do" spirit.  I hope that you will all remember what these athletes have shown us: they never gave up despite all odds; nothing could deter them from making their dreams come true; and they did make it in the end.  The moral here is no pain no gain and where this is a will, there is a way.

     The third letter "S" is "Synergy".  Synergy is the ability of a group to outperform even its best individual member. I am sure that you do projects with your classmates in school and know very well the effectiveness of team work. As the Secretary also responsible for welfare issues, I know full well the magic of this seven-letter word. While the Government remains the major "player" responsible for formulating and implementing welfare initiatives for those in need, we cannot possibly do it all alone. We need to tap the wisdom and mobilise the resources of the private sector, the business community and non-government organisations (NGOs) through sustainable collaboration. In this regard, tripartite partnership among the Government, the business sector and NGOs has become a new direction in building a cohesive, caring and harmonious society. And we have found this approach most effective.

     This brings me to the last letter "C" íV and that is "Compassion". To me, public service starts with compassion. Policymaking is not only about intellectual rigour and rational analysis, but also compassion for the less fortunate in our community.  Since assuming my present post as Secretary for Labour and Welfare, I have become firmly wedded to this belief.  For without a heart for the disadvantaged, I would be in the wrong job.

     In a wider context, to live a meaningful life also starts with compassion. No man is an island. It is care, concern and consideration for others that make our life worthwhile. They can be our parents, brothers and sisters, friends, colleagues, people around us and the underprivileged. The best way to show our compassion is to do volunteer work. I hope that you can find time to make this part of your life.

     To demonstrate how best we can translate into reality my new interpretation of CCSC, I would like to cite the example of statutory minimum wage.

     Subject to the endorsement of the Legislative Council, statutory minimum wage will come into force in Hong Kong on the next Labour Day, that is May 1, 2011 and the initial rate will be fixed at $28 an hour. The whole concept of introducing a minimum wage is to provide a wage floor for our grassroots workers so that they would not be exploited.

     For many decades, Hong Kong has adhered to the basic philosophy of "minimum intervention" and letting the market run its course. As a small and open economy with a linked exchange rate system, flexibility of wages and prices is indeed very crucial to our economic competitiveness and resilience to external shocks.

     However, as things developed in the past decade, we found it increasingly pressing for us to ensure that our grassroots workers were rewarded for what they had contributed. A media report on the plight of an elderly cleaner of a public toilet who earned a mere $7 an hour in 2003 reinforced our resolve that we should go for drastic changes. In other words, something had to be done to safeguard the interests of the vulnerable and enhance social harmony.

     Minimum wage has always been a contentious issue. You can imagine the resistance that came our way as Hong Kong is known for a long time as "the freest economy in the world". But the Government was determined to embark on a major policy change to keep pace with Hong Kong's socio-economic development.  As the first step and to set a good example, the Government took the lead to require all government service contractors to pay their workers at least the average market rate. Then, business enterprises in the private sector were encouraged to follow suit under the voluntary Wage Protection Movement for cleaners and security guards. These are the two major low paying sectors in Hong Kong.

     Although the Wage Protection Movement proved ineffective in the end, we began to see a culture change in the community. There was a new understanding of wage protection for low-skilled workers and further recognition of corporate social responsibility. With the mutual understanding of both employers and employees and co-operation of all stakeholders, the Government had overcome all hurdles and started the process of legislating for a statutory minimum wage in 2007.

     This "mission impossible" is achieved through CCSC: that is compassion for the plight of our grassroots workers, courage to embrace change, synergy of the efforts of all stakeholders and our "can do" spirit.  Let us all continue to draw on the strengths and inspiration from "CCSC" and the minimum wage success story in the years ahead.

    Before I conclude, I would like to pay warm tribute to the School Management Committee, the School Principal, and all teaching staff for their dedication, commitment and professionalism in making this School an incubator of young leaders and good citizens.  My warm gratitude also goes to all parents for their unconditional love, patience and guidance. I wish the Graduates of 2010 all the best in their future endeavour.  Thank you.

Ends/Friday, December 10, 2010
Issued at HKT 19:18

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