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Speech by CS at opening ceremony of International Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works 2014 HK Congress (English only) (with photo/video)

     Following is the speech by the Chief Secretary for Administration, Mrs Carrie Lam, at the opening ceremony of the International Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (IIC) 2014 Hong Kong Congress at the Hong Kong City Hall this morning (September 22):

Ms Sarah Staniforth, Dr Shan Jixiang, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

     Good morning. On behalf of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government, I would like to extend a very warm welcome to all of you, especially to those coming from overseas, who join us today at the 25th Congress of the International Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works.

     On a personal note, I am actually very delighted to be here this morning because, as I have just told Sarah, I was the former Antiquities Authority in the HKSAR Government in my capacity as Secretary for Development, and conservation has always been a subject very close to my heart. Conservation is a bridge between the past and the present and a discipline where art and science converge. We are honoured that Hong Kong is chosen as the first destination in Southeast Asia to host the IIC biennial congress. Since the 1960s, these biennial meetings of the IIC have provided an excellent platform for conservation practitioners to share experience and expertise and to keep abreast of the latest trend and development in this ever-advancing discipline. The IIC Hong Kong Congress has brought together some 400 delegates and conservation professionals from 30 countries and regions, well exemplifying the nature of the Congress as a major international event. I congratulate the IIC, under the leadership of President Sarah Staniforth, for making the biennial conference another resounding success.

     Similar to other international metropolises, Hong Kong is facing enormous pressure brought about by continuous economic development. Whilst we truly believe that sustainable urban development and conservation of our cultural heritage are not mutually exclusive, striking a right balance between them presents a never-ending challenge. There is escalating aspiration to conserve our cultural legacy and build a sense of cultural identity. Indeed, the Government and the community have a shared vision to treasure the precious value of our historic past. Hong Kong's history is a vivid testimony to an important part of the history of the entire human civilization, and we are honoured to contribute to the worldwide conservation efforts. I am pleased to share with you that over 100 monuments in Hong Kong have been declared to enjoy permanent statutory protection, while more than 1,000 other historic buildings are under specialist monitoring. An increasing number of these historic buildings have been successfully preserved through the concerted efforts of the Government and the private sector.

     Apart from preservation, Hong Kong has been investing heavily in upgrading our museums to strengthen their roles as the repositories of knowledge and heritage as well as the platforms through which our community can appreciate and treasure our heritage. We have also been pressing ahead with various heritage revitalisation projects, despite the complications on private property rights, rising budgetary considerations, diverse and sometimes conflicting interests of stakeholders and the general public. As part of our recent initiatives in enhancing heritage conservation, we are well on our way of rolling forward the Revitalising Historic Buildings Through Partnership Scheme and adaptive re-use of government-owned historic buildings, by which we have injected a new lease of life into a number of historic buildings. For overseas delegates, I hope you will find time during your stay here to visit some of these revitalised projects.

     Our focus will not only be placed on the conservation of physical parts of our heritage. Indeed, conservation has today evolved into a cross-disciplinary subject that extends beyond the conventional boundaries in the physical protection of tangible artefacts to include also the diminishing intangible cultural heritage (ICH). In Hong Kong, we also attach increasing importance to ICH, which embraces many elements closely linked to our way of life, and can be seen in our languages, social practices, crafts, beliefs, just to name a few. Since 2011, four of our unique, traditional festivals and activities have been inscribed into the third national list of ICH in China, including the Bun Festival on Cheung Chau, the dragon boat water parade in Tai O, the fire dragon dance of Tai Hang and the Yu Lan Ghost Festival of the Hong Kong Chiu Chow community. In the years ahead, we will continue to adopt a multi-pronged approach to protect, nurture and promote ICH.

     The keynote speaker of today's ceremony is Dr Shan Jixiang, Director of Palace Museum in Beijing. I came to know Dr Shan several years ago in my former capacity as Secretary for Development responsible, among other things, for Hong Kong's heritage conservation. Dr Shan was then the Director-General of the State Administration for Cultural Heritage. I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere congratulations to Dr Shan for being awarded the Forbes Prize. Dr Shan had shown his concern and support for heritage conservation in Hong Kong for which we are extremely grateful. He provided great assistance to the restoration of King Yin Lei, a declared monument in Hong Kong, by introducing to us Mainland experts to carry out extensive restoration works. He was invited by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government to attend the International Conference on Heritage Conservation in 2011, at which he shared with us valuable views on the progress of heritage conservation in China as well as his observations on the challenges and way forward. I am sure we all look forward to the Forbes Prize lecture to be delivered by Dr Shan in a moment.

     After his taking over as the Director of Palace Museum in early 2012, Dr Shan, on behalf of the Palace Museum, has signed the letter of intent on co-operation with the Leisure and Cultural Services Department of Hong Kong to strengthen efforts by the two parties in co-organising exhibitions, exchange of expertise and skills, and in preserving and promoting Chinese cultural heritage. Since the signing of the agreement, various thematic exhibitions have been jointly presented by the two parties at various museums.

     On this happy occasion, I would like to quote from one of Dr Shan's publications which I think is a powerful statement on the significance of cultural heritage to a city and to mankind. Since the publication is written in Chinese, I will read this out in Putonghua and then provide an English translation.


     This passage extracted from one of Dr Shan's publications refers to "cultural heritage being a timeless topic - it relates to the past, the present, the future, and every one of us. As human civilisation comes to the 21st century, conserving cultural heritage in the same way as the safekeeping of an object is not enough. What is more important is to discover, discern and develop the historical, scientific and artistic value of cultural heritage so that it can further integrate into everyday life, communities and cities, allowing not only the professionals but also the general public to experience the inspirational, spiritual, emotional and aesthetic enjoyment brought by it. With urbanisation gaining pace, more and more people have realised that quality cultural heritage is also an important part of urban modernisation."

     I believe that it is only through concerted conservation efforts that the merits and significance of East Asian works of art and heritage can be revealed and revived. Undoubtedly, the gathering of experts and scholars here has set sail on a long-term, collaborative journey in the conservation of East Asia art and heritage. I am sure our future generations will benefit from the concerted efforts devoted to the conservation of our invaluable cultural heritage.

     Lastly, may I wish the IIC 2014 Hong Kong Congress a huge success and every one of you a very enjoyable time and a pleasant stay in Hong Kong.

     Thank you very much.

Ends/Monday, September 22, 2014
Issued at HKT 14:35


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