Transcript of CE's press conference on Policy Address (with photos/video)

     Following is the transcript (English portion) of the press conference given by the Chief Executive, Mr Donald Tsang, at the Central Government Offices New Annexe after delivering his Policy Address at the Legislative Council today (October 14):

     Perhaps I want to do some advertising first to begin this interview. The title of this year's Policy address, as you can see, is "Breaking New Ground Together". If you recall, the title has something in common with those of my Policy Addresses delivered in the last two years.  The 2008 one is called "Embracing New Challenges" and the 2007 one is "A New Direction for Hong Kong".  They all have the word "new".  Indeed, to succeed in this increasingly global economy, we cannot afford to rest on our laurels.  We must have new ideas.  We must innovate.  The spirit of innovation is particularly important as we seek to promote the development of the six industries. I believe those industries will add impetus to our economic growth.  It is also important for us to work together.  The government, the legislature, the business sector, the academia, and the public in general must all contribute to this effort and do our best. Indeed, this has always been the formula of our past success.     

     This year's Policy Address is light brown in colour, which is the colour of the earth, meaning pragmatism.  The road on the backdrop at my back, means that we will walk hand in hand together towards a new future.  So in short, I believe the Policy Address this year is one going "back-to-basic".  I will take a few questions.

Reporter: On the question of education, hearing education referred to as an economic pillar would lead some people to think that what they're hearing is the commoditisation of education, and in that view they look at university places which many students would like to fill. There are associate degree holders who feel that their way forward is blocked, they can't get seats, yet it seems that you're proposing that seats in universities be sold off to students in the Mainland or elsewhere as a money-spinner. Regina Ip, the legislator, has referred to this as utterly unconscionable. Now is that how you see it and would you disagree with Mrs Ip's description?

Chief Executive: I do not want to portray myself as disagreeing with anybody. What is important is what we are trying to do. We have put a quarter of total spending on education and training. This is probably the highest proportion of public revenue dedicated to education programmes among all developed economies. So this is an area we are not going to be miserly, this is an area we put in a lot of effort. What I'm proposing to do is create new resources, not only within the public sector, which we'll continue to do, but exploit the resources in the private sector. And particularly leveraging on the high quality and high reputation of the Hong Kong education system, particularly in the tertiary sector. So the creation of 4,000 places, which I hope to achieve in the educational programme which I'm proposing will not only benefit foreign students. Indeed I believe a majority of those places will go to local students.  So the proposal will widen the number of places we make available for people advancing from secondary schools to tertiary education. So this is a programme which not only brings in the best in the world but also increases the number of placements of local students in our universities.  It is a win-win proposal.    

Reporter: There were two things that struck me, Mr Tsang, Chief Executive. Your thoughts about social enterprise and also the age of co-operation. You were saying that the general public and the Government should be working together with business, and it's not cronyism in disguise. Can you just explain these two things. Why is there a need for members of the public to have trust that what you are doing, the Government in collaboration with businesses, would be good for Hong Kong and all its citizens?

Chief Executive: First of all, I don't know if you are talking about social enterprise in a narrow context or about general co-operation, a spirit which we must maintain and nurture in the community. Let me try to tackle both. As far as social enterprises are concerned, we have a lot of well motivated, well-meaning people who wish to help the poor. Particularly, they want to make use of non-government organisation, non-profit organisation to undertake certain work which it would be able to make some profit but probably plough back to the organisation, but would not generate such a huge profit that would be attractive to the ordinary businessmen. I believe there is a lot of scope in that regard and we are developing that, and, as I said, the Secretary for Home Affairs will set up a committee to pioneer that work, to sustain what we are trying to do, what we have achieved already.

     As regards community development as a whole, I strongly believe that in order for the community to succeed we must work together. The Government must not alienate the businessmen, the businessmen must not alienate the public at large. The public will not regard the businessmen as evil. We are all part of the community to make it work, to make it succeed, to generate more jobs, particularly better jobs for the people. In that regard, co-operation is essential. So we must not regard any joint venture or public participation in a public project is necessarily evil. Of course, we must operate a level playing field. We must be even-handed to everybody. We must maintain a competitive environment. But having achieved that, we must encourage businessmen to do their best, we must encourage the public sector to do its best, academia likewise, and the public must encourage them to do so.

Reporter: Did the Hong Kong government return Zhou Yongjun, a student leader from Tiananmen, to the Chinese authorities rather than going back to Macau as his family alleged a few days ago?

Chief Executive: Let me say first of all, I'm not in a position, like every other government, to comment on individual immigration cases. One thing is clear, let me explain very clearly to you, our immigration colleagues operate entirely according to the law of Hong Kong and according to established procedures. Anyone who legally enters Hong Kong will be welcome to do so. Anyone who travels with a false document will be treated accordingly, he'll be sent back to wherever is appropriate, that is established policy. Thank you very much.  

(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript.)

Ends/Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Issued at HKT 16:51