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SHA's speech at Asia Cultural Co-operation Forum 2013

     Following is the speech by the Secretary for Home Affairs, Mr Tsang Tak-sing, at the Asia Cultural Co-operation Forum 2013 - Asian Cultural Ministers' Panel Discussion today (November 14):

Honourable ministers, heads of delegations, friends from the local cultural sector, distinguished guests,

     On behalf of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government, I would like to extend a very warm welcome to all of you. Thank you for attending this year's Asia Cultural Co-operation Forum (ACCF).

     This is the eighth ACCF and, as always, we look forward to the insights our friends bring to us from afar. We also hope to scale new heights in promoting Asian cultures through our exchanges and discussions at the forum, while at the same time deepen mutual understanding and friendship among us.

     Asian cultures are known for their richness and diversity. While the various cultures in the region carry their unique characteristics, we are bonded together by our geographical proximity, as well as similar historical and social development and philosophical thinking to collectively reflect an Asian identity that is distinctive when viewed alongside the cultures of Europe, the Americas and the rest of the world. As far as literature is concerned, if reading is to a certain extent a process of re-creation, it follows that the room for imagination by Asian readers will be multi-dimensional and interlinked. I believe that the fruits of this year's forum, entitled "Literature and Cultural Vibrancy", will carry Asian contents and styles.

     The rise of extensive areas in the Asian region is a reality. With the strengthening of regional economic co-operation and the speeding up of economic integration, interactions among peoples in Asia continue to intensify and Asian cultures are flourishing. As an international business, finance and shipping centre in the heart of Asia, Hong Kong also aspires to become a cultural hub. The West Kowloon Cultural District project, which is now making good progress, underlines our determination to promote long-term cultural development.

     Blessed with an advantageous strategic location in the region, Hong Kong's cultural links extend far and wide, reaching out not only to the Mainland of China but also to the whole of Asia and the world. The cross-boundary perspective is arguably one of the prominent features of Hong Kong literary works. The influx of a large number of cultural elites from the Mainland to Hong Kong during the first half of last century had resulted in our literary works being widely read throughout the country. This influence helped Hong Kong develop deep cultural roots. Today, the cross-boundary perspective has taken on new meaning, and we see authors from Hong Kong expanding their realms of creativity to the Mainland, Taiwan and overseas, with their works manifesting even broader outlooks.

     Hong Kong is a pluralistic society with our people coming from all corners of the world, carrying their different nationalities, ethnicities, accents and tastes. This, coupled with a free market economy, has given rise to a great variety of cultural products catering to the cultural needs of people in different periods of time.

     Hong Kong is also a bilingual community. While the Chinese language is the choice of most people for their daily communication, the English language is also our official language. Hong Kong's literature and culture are characterised by a fusion of the East and the West, as well as the past and the present. With the freedom of artistic expression in Hong Kong, diverse cultural areas are thriving.

     Publishing is a major industry in Hong Kong. In terms of numbers, Hong Kong is at the forefront of the world for its publication of newspapers, magazines and periodicals. These publications are important carriers of literary works. During the heyday of the local press, a new wave of martial arts fiction was founded and that has become our pride. Bestselling authors of this genre such as Jin Yong and Leung Yue-Sang, whose works in this genre uphold the ideals of Chinese chivalry, have made an impact on Chinese communities all over Asia and the world. Their works have earned them their rightful places in the pantheon of literature. Hong Kong is also home to many essay and prose authors. Professor Jao Tsung-I, the great master of Chinese studies, also excels in literary works. In the area of popular music lyrics, Cantopop once took Chinese communities around the world by storm. Hong Kong lyricists have written a great number of excellent song lyrics, and if a collection of 300 all-time best Cantopop lyrics were to be compiled, I believe it would be quite an enthralling read even though it might not hold a candle to the brilliance of "The Three Hundred Tang Poems".

     The HKSAR Government has been adopting a multi-pronged approach in supporting the development of literary arts in Hong Kong. First, we have been promoting literary works and artists through various literature festivals, award schemes and competitions. The biennial Hong Kong Literature Festival organised by the Hong Kong Public Libraries since 1997 has brought together local and overseas scholars, writers, editors, commentators, teachers and literature workers to promote literary arts through thematic seminars, sharing sessions, poetry reading sessions and group reading workshops. The Hong Kong Arts Development Council has also been collaborating with the City University of Hong Kong to organise the City Literary Festival in recent years to promote literary arts.

     A number of award schemes have been in place to raise recognition of writers and their works that excel in the world of literature.

     To encourage creative writing and to help develop budding writers, we have also been organising writing competitions regularly, such as the Award for Creative Writing in Chinese, the Hong Kong Poetry Writing Competition and the Competition on Story Writing in Chinese for Students.

     Second, we have been promoting literary arts through setting up archives and conducting research. The Hong Kong Central Library has set up a Hong Kong Literature Room to collect, organise and archive information on local literature.

     Over the years, our libraries have organised writing workshops and talks on different genres of literature, seminars on various topics, meet-the-writers events and other activities to foster appreciation of literary works.

     Apart from promoting literary arts and artists locally, we also promote our literary works to overseas readers. For this purpose, the Hong Kong Arts Development Council has provided funding to some local universities to undertake the Hong Kong Literature Translation Project to translate representative local literary works into English and publish them overseas.
     Efforts have also been made by the academic sector in Hong Kong to promote cultural exchange on literature with other countries, for example, the International Writers Workshop organised by the Hong Kong Baptist University. Since its launch, the workshop has invited some 80 writers from more than 40 countries to visit Hong Kong.
     Ladies and gentlemen, the Asia Cultural Co-operation Forum today will provide us with an invaluable opportunity and platform to exchange ideas and share views on furthering cultural co-operation to promote literary arts. With our dedicated collaboration, I am confident that the development of literature in Asia will go from strength to strength.

     This afternoon, our guests can join a cultural programme to visit some of our cultural venues, and, as a sequel to this forum, a library professional workshop entitled "Libraries and the Preservation and Promotion of Culture" will be held this afternoon. This workshop will be a great opportunity for people from the participating countries to share their expertise in the collection, preservation and promotion of culture and literature.

     I would like to extend my gratitude to all of you in advance for sharing valuable experience on preservation and promotion of literary arts, so that our future generations can benefit from the valuable cultural heritage handed down by literati from the past. May I wish you all a rewarding and fruitful discussion at today's forum. And to our honourable ministers and distinguished representatives, I wish you all a pleasant and comfortable stay in Hong Kong and trust that you will enjoy this opportunity to experience the cultural richness of our city.

     Thank you.

Ends/Thursday, November 14, 2013
Issued at HKT 16:37


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