Speech by CE at HKTDC Annual Dinner in London (English Only) (with photos)
The Right Honourable Philip Hammond (Chancellor of the Exchequer of the United Kingdom), Ambassador Liu Xiaoming (the Ambassador of the People's Republic of China to the United Kingdom), Lord (David) Wilson, Baroness Dunn (Honorary President of the Hong Kong Association), distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
Good evening. It gives me great pleasure to join you again tonight at the Annual Dinner of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (TDC) which has become a great tradition since 1983. This is my fifth occasion attending a TDC Dinner in London - twice as the Director-General of our Economic and Trade Office in London, twice as Chief Secretary for Administration and now for the first time in my capacity as the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR). I am naturally delighted and excited.
Since taking office on July 1 this year, many people asked how do I feel as the Chief Executive. Others take the view that since I have been in Government for over 30 years and rising through the ranks to become the Chief Secretary, it should be a seamless transition to the position of Chief Executive. But I am sharing with you tonight that there are indeed some adjustments to make. First is my dress. As the first lady Chief Executive, there is a legitimate expectation that I should dress well, and put on local designs to showcase Hong Kong's fashion brand. But you know couture pieces are not always affordable by a government official. Tonight's outfit is the second piece I have ordered from a renowned local designer who made my dusty pink outfit on my inauguration day. This naturally reflects the importance I attach to this occasion. The second adjustment I have to accommodate is my bodyguards. Although they may not be as charming as Kevin Costner, they are perfectly professional, reliable and discreet. But that discipline of giving advance notice to anything I want to do and the loss of opportunities to be alone on the streets, in the markets or in the countryside are something I still have to get used to. The third experience, a more serious one, is to come out to speak to, and act for, the people of Hong Kong, whenever they are anxious or in distress and look up for some leadership. Although many people congratulated me on a great start, Hong Kong has not had a quiet three months. Four members of the Legislative Council have been disqualified by the court, while another two have their appeals rejected; several student activists have been imprisoned following a sentence review by the Court of Appeal; banners and posters advocating independence of Hong Kong have appeared in our university campuses; several typhoons hit Hong Kong including one with a signal no.10, the first one since 2012; teachers worried about job loss by a sudden drop in student numbers because of policy changes in Shenzhen; and students anxious about their studies in the United Kingdom because of hiccups in the issue of visas. All these require immediate actions and unequivocal response which fall on the shoulders of the Chief Executive: there is simply no room for wait-and-see or delegation.
Last year on this occasion, I took the non-conventional step of showing you a short video during my speech. That was about our collaboration with the British Council to put on Event Horizon – Hong Kong featuring Sir Antony Gormley's distinct life-sized sculptures atop Hong Kong's skyscrapers. I noticed that that was quite well received. So, tonight, I am going to show you another 4-mintue video, this time specially produced for this event and has never been screened before. So, let's watch the video.
Ladies and gentlemen, yes, the best of Hong Kong is yet to come. As the new Chief Executive of Hong Kong, I am full of confidence and optimism. I have said during my election campaign and on many occasions, as long as we get our act together, adopt a clear vision and embrace the many opportunities in front of us, Hong Kong will scale new heights.
Why? First of all, Hong Kong will continue to succeed under "one country, two systems", enjoying the unique advantages which Shanghai and Singapore, both highly competitive and thriving cities, do not have. In his very important speech delivered in Hong Kong on July 1 this year, President Xi Jinping has again pledged the Nation's support for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. From CEPA to a comprehensive agreement on Hong Kong's participation in the Belt and Road; from Shanghai – Hong Kong Stock Connect and Shenzhen – Hong Kong Stock Connect to Bond Connect launched in July this year, Hong Kong occupies this unrivalled position as the world's largest offshore Renminbi centre. I am much encouraged by my first official trip to Beijing last month meeting a total of 16 ministries, commissions and organisations including the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank in which Hong Kong became a member this June. Various plans and agreements are underway to enhance Hong Kong's co-operation with the Mainland. Indeed, immediately upon returning to Hong Kong on Saturday , I will be meeting with the Minister of Science and Technology of the Central People's Government to discuss Hong Kong's development in technology.
Second, the good things you have seen about Hong Kong from the video are underpinned by core values including the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary, a robust legal aid system ensuring access to justice, as well as freedom and rights guaranteed under the Basic Law. It is therefore extremely disturbing for me to learn that some politicians and commentators here in the UK are querying the independence of our judges over recent judgements, without any sound basis. Those comments are totally unfair to our judicial system which has gained worldwide recognition and disrespectful of our judges, including illustrious UK judges who sit on our Court of Final Appeal as non-permanent judges.
Third, at a time when public order seems to be at are disarray, and my sympathy goes to victims of several terrorist attacks in the United Kingdom, Hong Kong remains one of the safest cities in the world. Our total crime rate, at 852 per 100,000 population, is the lowest since 1972. But there is no room for complacency. Our law enforcement agencies will step up surveillance and international co-operation to strengthen our preparedness and combatting ability.
Fourth, Hong Kong is not just any Chinese city. We have the experience and skills of doing business with the outside world for over half a century. Our international outlook and connectivity has given us an edge and the high degree of autonomy we enjoy in conducting our external affairs, as provided for under the Basic Law has enabled us to grow that relationship in the past 20 years as a Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China. We now have a network of 12 economic and trade offices in the world, with the latest addition being the Jakarta Office as our second office in ASEAN; we are committed to open new offices in South Korea, India, the Middle East, etc; we have just concluded a Free Trade Agreement with ASEAN; we have commenced FTA negotiations with Australia; we have agreed with the UK government to start a Strategic Dialogue on Trade Partnership and have just signed a Fintech-Bridge agreement with the UK government; we have plans to enter into more Comprehensive Agreements on the Avoidance of Double Taxation and Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements; and Hong Kong businesses are now a major source of FDI to many countries.
Finally, the new term of the HKSAR Government that I lead has a strong sense of purpose and a strong sense of urgency. We know Hong Kong cannot rest on her laurels and there are many policy decisions we need to take, many investments we need to make and many people we need to connect in order to stay competitive. We know our people want us to tackle the housing shortage, provide better education, look after the disadvantaged and care for the elderly as our population ages. My team of principal officials, two of whom are joining me on this London trip – Edward Yau, the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, and James Lau, the Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury – is sparing no time in rolling out their respective plans and engaging their respective stakeholders. There are so many friends and supporters of Hong Kong in the audience tonight. I cannot thank you more for what you have done for Hong Kong over the years. I am sure you will continue to give us your wise counsel and speak up for Hong Kong when this city you love is being unfairly attacked. On our part, we will unveil the best of Hong Kong and welcome you to our wonderful city.
Thank you very much.
Ends/Thursday, September 21, 2017
Issued at HKT 6:22
Issued at HKT 6:22