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CE's Letter to HK (English only)

     The following is the Chief Executive Mr Donald Tsang's "Letter to Hong Kong - Conserving Central" broadcast on Radio Television Hong Kong this morning (October 18):

Dear Tony,

     As you will have read in the papers, this year's Policy Address is very much focused on the economy, and ways to take our economic development to a new level.

     There are initiatives to reinforce our traditional strengths in financial services, tourism, trade and logistics, and professional services. We also unveiled plans to help the development of six industries where Hong Kong enjoys a clear advantage: educational services, medical services, testing and certification, environmental industry, innovation and technology, and cultural and creative industries. And, we will strengthen economic co-operation and integration with the Mainland, particularly Guangdong Province and the Pearl River Delta.

     All of this is a pragmatic response to the financial crisis that has plagued the global economy over the past year. Although Hong Kong has once again proved its resilience, and our markets have functioned smoothly, the crisis tells us something very important - that we cannot continue to rely so heavily on financial services to underpin our growth and progress. So, we must broaden and deepen our economy to make it even more resilient and to provide even more investment, business and job opportunities in future.

     At the same time, we are acutely aware that to make this happen we have to provide a world-class living and working environment for everyone in Hong Kong.

     That is why this year's Policy Address includes major announcements on the conservation and future development of Central, which is the business, political, legal and administrative as well as religious headquarters of Hong Kong.

     Emerging cities around the world are all racing to build gleaming new Central Business Districts (CBDs) that are dominated by towering skyscrapers arranged on wide, treeless road grids. After a while, they all start to look the same. And at night they become eerily silent, devoid of activity and lacking heart and soul.   

     Here in Hong Kong, we are lucky that our CBD is steeped in history, but is also the embodiment of a modern 21st century city. We don't need to reinvent the wheel, or build a gleaming new CBD from scratch. But what we are going to do is redefine the face of Central, and the way that people work and live in the area. All of this will happen over the next few years.

     The relocation of Central Government Offices to Tamar, and the greenfield opportunities of the new Central waterfront, are providing us with a unique opportunity to revitalise and reinvigorate Central.

     We will protect and enhance the use of the district's considerable heritage assets, while at the same time provide our people with a vibrant and inviting new harbourfront that befits a modern, sophisticated global metropolis.

     By doing all this we will ensure that while Central is upgraded and rejuvenated, it will also retain its unique character and charm - an eclectic blend of East and West, of old and new snuggled between beautiful Victoria Harbour and verdant Victoria Peak.

     You know that Central holds a dear place in my heart. I remember running around the streets with you when I was a kid living in the old Hollywood Road Police Quarters and spending much time roaming the Central Police Station compound. Central was our backyard, and the whole area was our playground.

     Many of the old buildings around Central are like old friends. They bring back happy memories of simpler times. Of course, we want to see them remain "living" and useful assets for our city.

     That is why we can't just simply preserve the buildings - we must bring them back to life so that they can realise new potential that adds economic, cultural and creative vibrancy to the area. This in turn will enhance the attractiveness of Hong Kong as a great place to live and work, which in the end helps enhance our global competitiveness.  

     My old home at the now deserted Police Married Quarters on Hollywood Road - which was the original site of the Central School - will be reborn as a hub for creative industries, one of our six promising industries. The Central Market site will be converted into an "urban oasis" complete with rooftop gardens, bookshops and outdoor areas that will provide a hip and cool new place for office workers and residents to hang out. The Murray Building on Garden Road - once the tallest government building in Hong Kong - is ideal for refurbishment as a hotel, which supports our development of the tourism industry. And our old stomping ground, the old Central Police Station compound, will be reborn as a hive of activity for culture, arts and tourism.

     We're going to preserve the Main and East Wings of the Central Government Offices (CGO) - which once housed the Legislative Council. And we'll make sure that the public has access to all of that area that takes people down through the CGO, past St John's and the French Mission Building to Battery Path.

     There are also impressive plans for the site that houses the historic cluster of Sheng Kung Hui Church buildings nestled between Upper and Lower Albert Road. This important site will be preserved and also redeveloped for mostly community uses, with some degree of public access.  This will add a new dimension to this part of the CBD.  

     I am excited about all of these plans; and determined that we do it right. Our overriding consideration will be to respect the history of the district. We'll strike a balance between protecting the environment and providing quality space, which is a growing public concern, and relieving the office space shortage in the city centre. And we'll create attractions that the public can enjoy for generations to come.

Ends/Sunday, October 18, 2009
Issued at HKT 08:33


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