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Speech by CE at FCC luncheon (English only) (with photo/video)

     Following is the speech delivered by the Chief Executive, Mr C Y Leung, at the luncheon hosted by the Foreign Correspondents' Club, Hong Kong today (December 6):

Douglas (FCC President, Mr Douglas Wong), members of the FCC Board, FCC members, ladies and gentlemen,

     Good afternoon. Thank you very much for the opportunity to join you today.

     Some people have told me that when I get up to speak I can seem rather serious and that maybe I should tell a joke to break the ice.

     I like a good joke as much as the next man, and I know that jokes are part and parcel of the bar-side banter in this great club. I'm not that good at telling jokes. So I won't tempt fate and depart from my usual practice - so sorry, no jokes today. A relief for everyone! But perhaps down at the bar one day.

     Some others have remarked that I'm a hard man to read - that people don't really understand what makes me tick, or where I'm coming from.

     If that is true, then that is something I do need to talk about. I think it's important to understand not just what I stand for, but also why I stand for it.

     One thing I want to say at the outset is that I do believe - I strongly believe - in the importance of free speech and a free and open media in Hong Kong. These are core values of Hong Kong and a competitive advantage. I pledge to uphold these core values along with others so important to Hong Kong people such as human rights, liberty, the rule of law, democracy, equality and justice.

     We are fortunate to have such a vibrant media scene in Hong Kong. Not just because it keeps people informed and engaged about the many issues that are important to us, but it also keeps us connected to the Mainland and the rest of the world.

     We are also fortunate to have such a concentration of international media organisations that play the role of reporter, interpreter, and commentator of events here and throughout the region. We welcome your presence and hope that you will continue to see Hong Kong as a vital element in your global news operation.

     We see your presence, also, as a vital element of Hong Kong's advantages as the "Chief Information Officer", the "Chief Knowledge Officer" for those interested in China. From financial services to real estate or social development, Hong Kong is the place to come to for information, knowledge and networks.

     Believe it or not, I have been an avid newspaper reader since the age of three. Of course, I couldn't actually understand everything I read in those days but when my dad finished work he would come home, pop me on his knees, and read the columns from the Kung Sheung Daily, one of the three largest Chinese newspapers in those days, with me character by character. So that was my first encounter with newspapers in Hong Kong.

     That must have left a deep impression on me because when I did learn to read I couldn't wait to pick up a newspaper to get all the latest stories about events unfolding here, in China and abroad, and that would include many of the military conflicts happening in the region.

     I think this early habit of reading the papers was one of the reasons why I became deeply interested in what happens in Hong Kong. It gave me a good start in understanding the way in which Hong Kong works, the challenges we face as a community and the way in which we may be able to address important issues such as poverty alleviation, care for the elderly and housing.

     Newspapers left a slightly different - but no less important - impression on me when I was a student in Bristol in the UK from 1974 to 1977. Three nights a week, to make ends meet, I worked in the local Chinese takeaway selling fish and chips and chop suey.

     Wrapping up a steaming serve of cod and chips, sometimes plaice and chips, in an old copy of The Times or Daily Mail really made me understand the meaning of the adage - today's news is tomorrow's fish and chips wrapper.

     For people like myself in public life - and for people like you who write about those in public life - there is a good life lesson in that old saying. Working in the fish and chip shop you see that most people clearly aren't interested in the wrapping, only what's inside.

     So I hope that I will be able to peel back some of the wrapping that people associate with the "serious" C Y so people can understand more about what's inside and what makes me tick.

     As Douglas mentioned, I used to be a member of this fine club.

     I joined not long after I returned home from my studies in the UK, back in the late 1970s. In those days it was in Sutherland House, which was demolished to make way for the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, which was demolished to make way for another incarnation. That in itself tells you something about Hong Kong - it is a city that is always changing, and always trying to make the best use of land.

     My impression then - and it hasn't changed - was that the FCC was full of "very interesting" people, including a number of war correspondents covering Indochina in those days. And I use that term in the most endearing way.

     There were, of course, journalists - foreign correspondents, local reporters, photographers - as well as lawyers, PR professionals, and an assortment of business people, academics, civil servants and a good smattering of "Old China Hands".

     It's great for our city that the FCC has called Hong Kong home for more than 60 years - 30 of which have been here in these grand old premises in Ice House Street.

     But it's also interesting to note that the club started off in Chongqing back in 1943 - at that time, the provisional capital of China and the base of various allied operations during World War II. The club had homes in Nanjing and Shanghai before relocating to Hong Kong in 1949.

     So, the FCC and its members have always had a close link to, and interest in, China - its political, social, economic and military development.

     Hong Kong has been an integral part of the China-watcher story. For many years we served as the eyes and ears of the world for the China story and the most convenient and reliable observation platform.

     Some people think that with a more open and engaged China, that our role, Hong Kong's role, in this regard has diminished - I do not agree.

     I believe that our role is more important today than it ever has been - both in terms of enhancing global understanding about our country and its development, and also in helping our country to understand more about the world and its ways.

     The headline title of today's lunch is "Hong Kong - the Next Five Years". Well, five months into my term, I would like to narrow the focus down to the relationship between the Mainland and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region over the next five years.

     The management of this relationship - both by the Central Authorities and here in Hong Kong - is as important as ever. At the risk of stating the obvious, it is without doubt our most important bilateral relationship and one we must treat with the utmost respect.

     As Chief Executive, it is my primary responsibility to safeguard the interests of Hong Kong and Hong Kong people in our relationship with the Mainland. For example, our measures to help ensure that the supply of residential property is adequate for Hong Kong people; our plans to curtail the number of Mainland mothers giving birth in Hong Kong hospitals; or clamp down on parallel traders. Our approach and actions have shown that when there is a shortage, Hong Kong people come first.

     Thus, one of my major tasks as Chief Executive is to foster a much deeper understanding in Hong Kong of what this relationship means to the Mainland, and what it means for Hong Kong. This is central to the success of "One Country, Two Systems", a subject which has been in the news lately for various reasons.

     The Central Authorities, including the new leadership, understand our value proposition as explained and protected in the Basic Law. They, together with local government leaders on the Mainland, have high expectations of Hong Kong to contribute to the fullest extent possible to the ongoing process of opening up and reform in the Mainland. If we can do that, we stand to benefit enormously and so can other parts of the country.

     This does not mean surrendering our autonomy - it means making the most of our high degree of autonomy as defined in the Basic Law.

     This is a great opportunity for Hong Kong. Our role for example in the Pan-Pearl River Delta grouping - what we call the 9+2 - meaning the eight provinces on both sides of the Pearl River plus the Guangxi Autonomous Region plus Macau SAR and then Hong Kong - is a case in point. Just last week I attended the annual Pan-PRD meeting with leaders of the provinces, the autonomous region and Macau SAR and it was held in Hainan.

     I can tell you that our neighbouring provinces and autonomous regions hold us in high regard. There is much goodwill towards Hong Kong and what we have to offer.

     In my meetings, bilateral and multilateral in Hainan, I stressed Hong Kong's highly international outlook and positioning - in terms of finance, legal services, accounting, trade, logistics, shipping, aviation and so on; in terms of the high number of international chambers of commerce, consulates and international organisations based here and that obviously includes the high number of international media organisations based here.

     No other province or city in our country can play the role that we do, or draw on the breadth of experience that we have in dealing with the rest of the world, and that's a unique attribute of Hong Kong and therefore our unique strength and advantage in the country.

     This is another example of Hong Kong's advantages as the "Chief Knowledge Officer" and "Chief Information Officer" and, in particular, what we can do to facilitate the Mainland's "Go Global" efforts.

     Here in Hong Kong you will find for example law firms from different countries practicing their national laws. If a Mainland company is thinking of investing in, say, Italy, then they can come to Hong Kong and talk to Italian lawyers, Italian consular trade officers, and the many chambers of commerce to find out more about the business and investment environment in Italy without having to fly across the continent.

     It's much more convenient for Mainland companies to do all the groundwork here in Hong Kong with our multi-cultural and multi-lingual environment.

     The 12th Five-Year Plan takes us up to 2015. By that time we expect trade in goods and services between Hong Kong and the Mainland to be fully, or very close to fully, liberalised.

     The challenge that we face - the challenge for all Hong Kong to ponder - is not whether we should ask for a seat at the table of the 13th Five-Year Plan to be crafted by the new leadership. That will come in one form or another.

     The challenge is whether we can deliver what is being asked of us now, and what is expected of us in the future as a part of the nation, the family and its polity.

     So, over the next five years my team and I will continue to work hard to deepen our relationship with the Mainland across many sectors - I cannot think of one area of my work as the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Government that doesn't have this element in it, and this element is the relationship between Hong Kong and the Mainland or Hong Kong and the central authorities, and this includes not just trade, finance and logistics, but in the areas of regulation, legal development, and exchanges across many sectors including arts and culture, creative industries, education, sport and at the government-to-government, or G2G, level. These are some of the key issues in the interface between the two systems within the same country which make up the principle of "One Country, Two Systems".

     In all of these areas, our sovereign has been strongly supportive of expanding access for Hong Kong goods and services - and of course, also, expanding our role as the premier international Renminbi clearing house and services centre. They have been helping us with our external diplomacy on many fronts as well.

     But there is still a huge amount of work that we need to do to explain what we bring to the table for the country as a whole and for the provinces that make up the country - and that is, our internal diplomacy.

     Four years ago in his farewell speech in this very venue, the former British Consul-General Stephen Bradley spoke about the need for Hong Kong to improve its diplomacy, but specifically, our relations with the rest of the continent, in his words, that is China. He quoted in his speech a term that I had coined, namely "nei jiao" in Chinese, or internal diplomacy, as opposed to "wai jiao" or external relations.

     Nei jiao, as in wai jiao, or internal diplomacy as in external relations, has political and economic content. On the economic front, there is a huge reward for fully unlocking our potential and access to the Mainland market through Pan-PRD and CEPA. There is another similarity between our internal diplomacy with the Mainland and foreign relations between countries. In his book "Experiences of China", Sir Percy Cradock, an outstanding diplomat and a former British ambassador to China, described as Cradock's First Law of Diplomacy that "it is not the other side that you worry about, but your own." In nei jiao, one often worries about the Hong Kong side, and not so much the Mainland or Central Government side. Better communications with the people of Hong Kong will be the key to articulate our position in nei jiao in the interface between the two systems within one country. But we have to tell the people better stories about the Mainland.

     Hong Kong has for many years been the largest single source of external investment in the Mainland. As such, our investors and entrepreneurs have already contributed tens of billions of dollars to help upgrade cityscapes and service levels across the country. This however is not widely known or appreciated on the Mainland.

    Hong Kong has also proved to be a fertile picking ground for global best practice and experience for the Mainland in its reform programme launched in the late 1970s. This is not widely known or appreciated on the Mainland either.

     From the first private lands sales in Shanghai and Shenzhen in 1988 and 1989, to urban development, law drafting and the training of civil servants - to cite just a few examples - Hong Kong has been, and remains, a constant source of ideas, positive experience and information to the Mainland. This process still has a long way to go - and that means we still have much more room to contribute. We need to do more in our nei jiao with the Mainland, in complete compliance with the "One Country, Two Systems" principles and the Basic Law.

     My team and I will work extra hard - through words and deeds - to address local issues as they arise, and to explain in more detail here in Hong Kong, in the Mainland, and also abroad what we offer as a Special Administrative Region of China, and as the most free, open, and international city in our country.

    Ladies and gentlemen, it has been a hectic first five months for me and my team. In just over a month I will deliver my first Policy Address. It will touch on some of the matters I have just mentioned, and also some of the other important issues that Hong Kong people are concerned about - housing, poverty alleviation, job creation, the environment, economic development, and so on. Whether it is domestic, nei jiao or foreign relations issues, effective communications with the Hong Kong and international communities will be key components of our efforts. And the key partners in our communications will be the mass media. Ladies and gentlemen, let me thank you for your assistance and your partnership in this regard in anticipation.

     Now, I'd be more than happy to take some questions. Thank you very much.

Ends/Thursday, December 6, 2012
Issued at HKT 19:18


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