Forum 2005 (English only)
Following is the speech delivered by Secretary for Constitutional Affairs Mr Stephen Lam at the inaugural ceremony of the Dragon 100 Young Chinese Leaders Forum 2005 organised by the Dragon Foundation this morning (August 22) (English only):
China's Future: Peace and Development
Mr Li, TL, Rosanna, Lawrence, Shelley, friends, young friends,
Good morning. Welcome to Hong Kong. I am really delighted that I have the opportunity to meet with all of you this morning and to make this inaugural address.
Prior to the commencement of the seminar, I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to shake a few hands among your group. From the vitality that all of you exude, I believe that you are true descendants of the Dragon, no doubt about that.
I have been advised by Rosanna to give this speech in English. But I can assure you, and I should also let you know, that under "One Country, Two Systems", both Chinese and English are official languages of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, and that even in our legislature, both languages are still used, and likewise in our courts. So wherever you are from, in future, if you speak either of these two languages, possibly if you speak both, you have a future career in Hong Kong.
It is wonderful that you are visiting Hong Kong, and your visit here today marks a very important milestone in the work of The Dragon Foundation. We all saw from the video just now how much progress has been made in the last few years. 2005 marks a very important milestone for the world. Last Monday, August 15, we commemorated the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in the Pacific Region. This is also the fourth year of China's accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO). This is the 15th year of the enactment, adoption of the Hong Kong Basic Law which enabled Hong Kong to have its smooth transition in 1997 under "One Country, Two Systems".
2005 is a particularly happy and important year for Hong Kong. First of all, in about a few weeks' time, September 12, Hong Kong Disneyland is going to commence business. It's going to open its stores to welcome visitors from around the world. So, after Shanghai, if you have a few days' extra, stay on in Hong Kong, let's join the opening.
Secondly, in December this year, we are going to host, as Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the Sixth Ministerial Conference of the WTO. This marks the success of "One Country, Two Systems", an important tenet of which is that Hong Kong's autonomy in external trade can enable Hong Kong to continue to play an important role in the world.
I am also very happy to report that the Hong Kong economy is doing quite well. Last year, we had GDP growth exceeding 8%. This year, we forecast growth to be 4.5% to 5.5%.
This is the result of a lot of hard work ever since the Asian financial crisis hit us in Hong Kong in 1997. This has not come about all of a sudden. This has been the result of a lot of efforts made by the Hong Kong Government, the Hong Kong community, the Hong Kong business sector to position Hong Kong as Asia's World City and China's window to the world. This has been made possible through decades of effort, both on our parts and on the parts of all of you who care about Hong Kong and care about this part of the world.
We have been able to leverage on the continuing opening of the Chinese economy to the rest of the world. Because the Mainland has joined the WTO as a member and because Hong Kong, under "One Country, Two Systems" and the Basic Law, retains our own membership of the WTO, we have signed a free trade pact with the Mainland. We have what we call the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA), under which goods manufactured in Hong Kong can enter the Mainland market duty free.
Also, under CEPA, our professionals can do business in the Mainland market. People like Lester (Huang) over there can establish a law firm in the Mainland market, of course, subject to the relevant rules which are WTO-consistent.
This is not the only reason why the Hong Kong economy is doing well. The Central People's Government has allowed Hong Kong to have a first bite of the cherry in dealing with Renminbi business outside the Mainland's economy. Here, people can place deposit in Renminbi in business, people can also use credit cards denominated in Renminbi. This is turning a new page for Hong Kong's economy. More to come.
About two years ago, we started a new travel scheme called the Individual Travel Scheme, which allowed Mainland counterparts to come to Hong Kong as individual travellers. Prior to that, Mainland visitors could only come here in tour groups. Now, because of this additional freedom and liberty to travel to Hong Kong under the Individual Travel Scheme, our consumer business, our hotel industry, our tourism business are doing extremely well. That's why, last year, we registered over 8% growth in GDP. That's why this year we can forecast a continuation in growth.
But this is not what only matters to Hong Kong. Business is of course important, but it is also important for Hong Kong to continue to move forward confidently under "One Country, Two Systems". Because we have "One Country, Two Systems", we can move forward confidently.
Most of you were flown in from different parts of the world. Some of you might have flown in from North America, Europe and the rest of Asia. You have either flown in by your national airlines, or other international airlines, Cathy Pacific or Dragonair. Why is this possible? Because we have "One Country, Two Systems". Because Hong Kong can sign agreements about international air services with foreign governments under "One Country, Two Systems" and the Basic Law. You have arrived in Hong Kong recently, and in Hong Kong you use the Hong Kong dollar. You don't use the Renminbi. This is a small thing which you can all experience yourself to evaluate how well "One Country, Two Systems" is working and the extent to which this has already become an everyday reality in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong is very fortunate to be able to return to the motherland at a time when China's position in the world is rising. The growth of China's economy in the last 25 years, a quarter of the century, is spectacular. Back in 1978 when "Four Modernisations" was just being initiated, China's trade for the rest of the world, imports and exports, all counted together, amounted to about US$20 billion. At that time, China's position in the international trade league table was No. 27. Today, in 2004, external trade, imports and exports, all counted together, amounted to US$850 billion. In terms of total trade volumes in the international league table, China is now at the top five. This is important to the world.
When we look at GDP growth, this year the forecast is about 7%, compared with 9.5% last year, 9.3% in 2003 and 8% in 2002, we all can see that this path of growth is set to continue. There is a national goal - to quadruple GDP by 2020, and with annual growth coming at a rate of something like 9% per annum, and with the coastal areas in the Mainland growing at double-digit growth year-on-year. This objective is very achievable.
It is important to all of you because you are still going to university, whether you are going to enter business, pick up a profession, or become an academic, China is a player in this region and in the world which you must all continue to learn more about and to observe more about.
What has driven this path of growth and China's rise in the international arena? There is a long-standing concept of "Peace and Development". This is something which backs the "Four Modernisations", the introduction of "One Country, Two Systems" and also our policy as a country to pursue national reunification.
"Peace and Development" means that China is not only opening her doors to attract economic growth. It means that China is willing to be integrated with the rest of the world to become a leading and responsible member of the international community. The fact of China joining the WTO is a case in point. After accession to the WTO, it means within a few years, we throw open our door, both in terms of trade as well as goods and services, to the rest of the world. It also means that we have to align our laws in the Mainland with international trade practices. This actually furthers the development of the rule of law and the legal system in the Mainland. China has also shown that it is a very responsible player in the international economy. Back in 1997, when the Asian financial crisis hit this part of the world, China and Hong Kong were the only two economies which stood by its currency policy and maintained the value of the Renminbi and of the Hong Kong dollar. The maintenance of the value of the Renminbi at that time helps to provide a very important stability in this part of the world. The recent revaluation of the Renminbi has also been warmly welcomed by foreign governments and international bankers around the world. Because of the opening up of China in the last quarter of the century, our thinking here has aligned with international developments and we are moving in sync along this path of globalisation together with the rest of the world.
I mentioned just now that we have very fortunately been able to resolve one important question left over from history - the question of Hong Kong, through the adoption of the Basic Law, "One Country, Two Systems" and "Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong" and a high degree of autonomy. But this is not the end of the story. Beyond what happened on June 30 and July 1, 1997, we actually resolved another problem left over from history - Macau.
Back in December, 1999, I was very fortunate to be among the Hong Kong delegation which visited Macau. A very cold evening, something below 5 degree Celsius, but of course for those of you who came from North America, from Europe, this is not too bad. Despite the chill in the atmosphere that evening, our hearts were warm because we witnessed another resolution of a problem left over from history.
Today, for those of you who have come from Taiwan, in particular, or from the rest of the world, I am sure you care about the resolution of one remaining question left over from history. Questions left over from history are actually very difficult to resolve. Some of you have come from North America, some have come from Europe. Over there in those communities, you hear much more about Northern Ireland, the Middle East and Palestine. While valiant efforts are still being made in those communities to get those problems left over from history resolved, we have actually made progress here. (The questions of Hong Kong and Macau have been resolved.) On the Taiwan issue, in April and May, the Central Authorities welcomed visitors and delegations representing the Kuomintang, the People's First Party and the New Party from Taiwan. This has opened a new chapter in how we handle the question of reunification of Taiwan. This has brought about new offers from the central leadership to the Taiwan community. I mentioned just now that in Hong Kong we have benefited from the introduction and inception of CEPA, the free trade pact, and individual travel scheme. Offers have been made by the Central Authorities to take in from Taiwan duty-free imports of certain categories of fruit and to allow Mainland visitors to go under an individual travel scheme to Taiwan. These are all important directions in which we can further the process of reunification.
All these, as I mentioned at the beginning, are elements of the central theme of "Peace and Development". All of us who are of Chinese origin will want to see progress being made on resolving this question of Taiwan.
Back to the larger theme of the Dragon Foundation, and today's seminar, I believe you have all taken the right steps by coming to Hong Kong and moving on to Shanghai to undertake this visit as part of the delegation.
We are all Chinese. We all share a common heritage and history. You all represent future generations of Chinese leaders in your respective communities.
During my time when I was a university student, I saw and witnessed the awakening of this "sleeping dragon". Today, China walks tall and high internationally. During your time, you will see the continued growth in the stature of the Chinese nation.
I do wish all of you well as you embark on this very important visit. I only have one final message for you. In the next few decades as you pursue your career and your professions in your respective communities, please continue to retain your interests in China, in Hong Kong and in this part of the world, because I have every confidence that you will all continue to be very important ambassadors and very important representatives of the descendants of "the Dragon" in your respective communities and as representatives of the Chinese people.
Thank you very much.
Ends/Monday, August 22, 2005