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Speech contest raises American university students' interest in Hong Kong (with photos)

     The college students who competed in the Hong Kong Cup Chinese Speech Contest in New York yesterday (October 13) agreed that their interest in and understanding of the city has heightened, and all looked forward to visiting Hong Kong.

     The contest, in its second year, was organised by the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office, New York (HKETONY). The top three winners are Thomas Tasche of Princeton University, Jacob Scheer of Princeton University and Jared Hallett from Williams College. The prizes include round-trip air tickets to Hong Kong sponsored by Cathay Pacific, a short study exchange programme in the Chinese University of Hong Kong, heritage tours and visits to major companies in the Asia's world city.

     In her welcome remarks, Director of HKETONY, Miss Anita Chan, said this year's contest takes on special meaning as Hong Kong celebrates the 15th anniversary of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

     Miss Chan introduced Hong Kong's unique trilingual environment where both English and Chinese are official languages and the use of Putonghua is increasingly common in addition to Cantonese. She also highlighted Hong Kong's emerging status as the regional education hub in recent years, pointing out that Hong Kong, with its universities consistently ranked among the best in Asia, aims to give the best education to Hong Kong residents and also to attract the best and brightest from all over the world.

     Miss Chan also briefed the audience about the PhD Fellowship Scheme that is open to candidates from all countries and regions and invited those who are interested to apply. The fellowship provides a monthly stipend of about US$2,600 and some other allowances for up to three years.

     Miss Chan applauded the finalists in their endeavours to learn Chinese. She said it was a beautiful, poetic language besides being their door to many cultural wonders and job opportunities in the business world.

     The contest aimed to promote better understanding of Hong Kong as well as greater interest in learning the Chinese language. The 15 finalists at this year's speech contest were students from nine universities in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. The contest was opened to students in these five states whose first language is not Chinese. More than 140 people attended the final round held at SUNY Global Centre. They comprised teachers, parents and friends of the finalists as well as Chinese language teachers of various institutions and universities in the area.

     Representing the judging panel, Associate Director of the Education and Chinese Language Initiatives of Asia Society, Mr Chris Livaccari, said he was impressed with the high standard of the contestants in speaking Mandarin. He was also pleased to see the increasing trend of US students learning the Chinese language, and praised them for being the model of global competence and multilingualism. "You would in many ways contribute to promoting closer US ties with Hong Kong and with China," he said.

     Three new awards were installed for this year -"The Most Popular Speaker", "The Most Entertaining Speech" and "The Best Stage Performance". Each of them was awarded a netbook sponsored by HSBC. The winners are respectively Mr Scheer, Mr Hallett and Mr Tasche.

     The judging panel of the finals included President of The Chinese Language Teachers Association (CLTA) of Greater New York, Professor Wenwei Du; Director of the Confucius Institute for Business at SUNY, Dr George Liu; Mr Livaccari; General Manager of Sing Tao News Corporation New York, Mr Rick Ho; and Miss Chan.

     The 2012 Hong Kong Cup Chinese Speech Contest was co-hosted by CLTA, received generous sponsorship from Cathay Pacific Airways, HSBC and Hong Kong Tourism Board. Supporting organisations were SUNY Confucius Institute for Business, Sing Tao News Corporation New York and Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Ends/Sunday, October 14, 2012
Issued at HKT 21:27


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