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Speech by FS at HK reception for "Practical Utopias: Global Urbanism in Hong Kong, Seoul, Shanghai, Singapore and Tokyo" exhibition (English only) (with photos)

     Following is the speech delivered today (October 9, New York time) by the Financial Secretary, Mr John C Tsang, at the Hong Kong reception for the "Practical Utopias: Global Urbanism in Hong Kong, Seoul, Shanghai, Singapore and Tokyo" exhibition:

Jill, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

     Good evening.

     It's my great pleasure to join you today. Congratulations, first of all, to the American Institute of Architects New York Chapter on staging this exhibition.

     Urbanisation is a global trend that is especially pronounced in Asia. The United Nations has forecast that over half the population of Asia, or some two and a half billion people, will live in cities by 2030. The five cities showcased at this exhibition are at the forefront of global urbanism.

     Hong Kong ticks each of the boxes under the exhibition theme. Hong Kong is a well-connected, densely populated, multi-layered and increasingly green city. Anyone who has visited our city will know that it also has a strong "fun-factor". I will talk a bit about it later on.

     All these present challenges and opportunities are not just for our architects, but for all stakeholders in the public and private sectors.

     From Hong Kong's perspective, connectivity has been our strong suit throughout the city's development.

     Our so-called "Rail-plus-Property" development model has proven to be effective for our small and densely populated city. Our rail network is currently about 220 kilometres long. Five new lines are being built and, when completed, the network will extend to some 270 kilometres and reach about 70 per cent of our population.

     Under this development model, entire population centres have built up around train stations with a full range of services from leisure to health care on the doorstep.

     Railways are also at the core of Hong Kong's extensive, efficient and inexpensive public transport system. Trains, as well as buses, trams and ferries, ensure good access to our schools and offices. It is also easy for our seven million residents and our tens of millions of tourists each year, to visit amusement parks, entertainment and shopping districts or just spend a day in the countryside.

     Many people may be surprised to learn that roughly 40 per cent of Hong Kong's 1,000 square-kilometre landmass is protected country parks. We have some of the most spectacular trails in Asia. These areas give the city its green lungs and provide an opportunity for people to enjoy nature, hike, swim or simply to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.

     Apart from preserving our green spaces, Hong Kong is increasingly focused on reducing our carbon footprint, our improving air quality and making our buildings more environment-friendly.

     Buildings in Hong Kong account for about 90 per cent of the city's energy consumption. Last year, a new Buildings Energy Efficiency Ordinance came into effect. It requires the construction of new buildings and retrofitting works of older buildings to meet strict environmental standards in terms of energy efficiency. Last month, we held our first Green Building Week in Hong Kong to promote green building practices and energy reduction.

     Another initiative is to phase out 85,000 old commercial diesel vehicles which are the worst offenders when it comes to roadside pollution. In my Budget this year, I set aside 10 billion dollars for this scheme.

     Last but not least, allow me to share with you my top three "fun factors" that keep our residents happy and our visitors coming back for more.

     First, Hong Kong is a safe place. With an excellent police force and law-abiding society, people of all ages can enjoy the city with minimal concern for their personal safety, any time of the day or month.

     Second, Hong Kong is a compact city where people live and work in downtown areas. At the end of a business day, the city centre takes on a different persona, with locals and visitors enjoying the many restaurants, night spots, markets and tourist attractions. Similar to New York, Hong Kong is a city that never sleeps.

     My third fun factor is Hong Kong's blend of eastern and western cultures. Because Hong Kong is a truly international metropolis, people of all nationalities, religions and backgrounds enjoy the many sights and sounds of the city together. This makes for a vibrant and harmonious atmosphere.

     Ladies and gentlemen, Hong Kong is pleased to be part of this Practical Utopias exhibition, and we look forward to sharing our city's urban development experience. We are also keen to learn from the experiences of other exhibiting cities and from our gracious host city of New York.

     American architects and construction companies already have a strong presence in Hong Kong and they are heavily engaged in many of our development projects. We welcome more professionals from the US and around the world to participate in our public and private sector projects.

     I wish you all a successful exhibition, and hope that it will inspire you to come and visit Hong Kong very soon. I look forward to welcoming you to Hong Kong.

     Thank you very much.

Ends/Thursday, October 10, 2013
Issued at HKT 11:52


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