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Speech by FS at Hong Kong Dinner in Paris (English only) (with photo)
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     Following is the keynote speech by the Financial Secretary, Mr John C Tsang, at Hong Kong Dinner in Paris organised by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council on October 28 (Paris time):

     Thank you Margaret.

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

     Good evening.

     It's indeed my great pleasure to be here with you tonight on this special gala occasion íV the first Hong Kong Dinner in Paris.

     It has been a long and gratifying day for me. I started quite early this morning and I am sure the same can be said for all of you here this evening. Certainly for those of you who took part in today's "Think Asia, Think Hong Kong" programme. For that, my thanks to the organiser, the Hong Kong Trade Development Council.

     If this day has been rewarding, this past month has been challenging, to say the least. For me, and for Hong Kong anyway. I am sure that you are all well aware of the protests that have occupied our days and nights, our streets and roads, as well as all our lives in Hong Kong.

     As I have indicated in this morning's symposium, we are doing our best to bridge the divide that exists in our community. We are working hard to create a consensus rooted in the Basic Law, which is our constitution. And I am confident that today's differences will certainly help us realise a better Hong Kong tomorrow. I also outlined for you this morning how Hong Kong can help you do business in the Mainland and Southeast Asia, the Hong Kong way. That, of course, is your way. Only with less taxes from the government, which, I think, everyone prefers.

     This evening, please allow me to put aside business and making money for just a little while, and touch on the other thing that we also do quite well in Hong Kong íV and that is hospitality and enjoying the good life. We are, of course, a top tourist destination in the world. And there is always something happening somewhere to keep our guests excited in Hong Kong.

     Many tourists come for the brand-name shopping in Hong Kong. And in Hong Kong, shopping is decidedly not a spectator sport. Neither is culture. For Hong Kong, culture, as you know well here, is the bridge that connects us with the past, accentuates the present, and leads us into the future.  Our cultural interests and offerings reflect our roots íV which is a city where East has long met West. Cantonese opera was the first Hong Kong treasure to be inscribed onto UNESCO's "representative list of intangible cultural heritage," but it does not end there.

     The Cheung Chau Bun Festival was named one of the world's "Top 10 Quirky Local Festivals" by Time.com. For good reasons. The festival bring to the fore the innocuous, sweet bun, a parade of deities, lion dances, floating children and towers made of bamboo cartridges, all in the name of good fortune. And tons of fun.

     The Bun Festival, together with Tai Heng's Fire Dragon Dance and Tai O's Dragon Boat Water Parade, is included in China's national list of intangible cultural heritage.  They attract thousands of local and foreign visitors every year, and you will find it worthwhile to pay us a visit.

     Hong Kong is also blessed with more than 1 000 arts groups. That includes nine flagship performing arts companies íV from the philharmonic and ballet, to our Chinese orchestra and theatre companies. And galleries devoted to international and Chinese art are as rife as French brand-name retailers on the streets of Hong Kong.

     East and West will continue to fashion our distinctive cultural identity íV thanks, in part to the West Kowloon Cultural District. It will rise as one of the world's largest cultural centres over the next decade and more.

     Stretching across 40 hectares of Victoria Harbour's prime waterfront, the Cultural District is now taking shape. Starting next year, a waterfront park will open in phases.  A Chinese opera venue will be completed in 2017, followed a year later by M+, which is our state of the art museum complex. This 60 000 square-metre museum will spotlight visual art.

     Cultural offerings are already attracting people to this site in West Kowloon. Since 2012, a bamboo theatre was built every year on site during Chinese New Year. The venue is created in about 20 days, with craftsmen turning thousands of bamboo poles into an 800-seat theatre for the performance of Chinese opera. That has been the traditional way for people to enjoy theatre.

     Beyond the Cultural District, Kai Tak, the site of Hong Kong's former international airport, is gradually being transformed into a world-class tourism and entertainment hub. It already features the city's new Kai Tak Cruise Terminal, located on the former runway. Just over a year old, it will position Hong Kong as a regional cruise hub. The cruise centre includes, by the way, Hong Kong's largest rooftop garden, with stunning vistas of the Victoria Harbour.  

     Also in the pipeline is a multi-purpose stadium for sports and cultural events, as well as a cluster of luxury hotels and shopping malls, a new CBD with twice as much floor area as Central, and a major tourism node to be located on what was the runway tip of the former Kai Tak Airport. This space, encompassing both land and water, will take up about 90 hectares.

     On the other side of the harbour, we are creating a 5.6-kilometre promenade. The new waterfront will stretch from Central to Wan Chai.  Along the way, there will be plenty of green space, sites for cultural events and, of course, those magnificent harbour views that you will never get tired of enjoying.

     Green space is not something you may immediately associate with Hong Kong. Greenbacks, maybe. But some 40 per cent of our total land area is made up of country parks and nature reserves. And Hong Kong's 260-plus outlying islands are full of parks, hills and hiking trails. Indeed, you can get away from the concrete jungle in the downtown area, and find yourself on a tranquil trail in the countryside in less than 30 minutes.

     If you are a nature lover, you cannot afford to miss these parts of Hong Kong, which is home to 3 100 species of plants, 500 species of birds, 50 species of mammals, and I am told, 80 species of reptiles, 230 species of butterflies, 120 species of dragonflies, and a good many other creepers and crawlers. And all these natural wonders alive and thriving in the world's skyscraper city. What a surprise! Actually, many bird-watchers from around the world regularly hold onto this discovery to themselves as one of the world's best kept secrets.

     And when you return, longing for sustenance and city life, you do not have to look far. Hong Kong counts more than 16 000 restaurants. That is almost one restaurant for every 500 Hong Kong denizens, young and old. Let me add that Hong Kong is among the world's top-ten cities with the most Michelin stars, featuring a few top notched French restaurants as well. Home, as well, to the least expensive one-star restaurants in the world.

     Which reminds me, dinner is on the way. And I promise, I shall not keep you much longer.

     Hong Kong also boasts two world-class theme parks íV Ocean Park and Disneyland. Both made for family fun.  Ocean Park, by the way, won the most recent Applause Award. Judged by international theme park and amusement-industry professionals, the biannual award is the global attraction industry's major recognition of excellence. Hong Kong Disneyland, on the other hand, which integrates timeless Chinese culture and traditions as well as the boundless imagination of Disney, has become the must see destination for families and Disney fans worldwide.

     Major expansion plans are in the works for both íV from new hotels to a world-class outdoor water park and an Iron Man experience. For the latter, you will be pleased to note that this Marvel Super Hero will save Hong Kong from alien invaders. Perhaps, we should have organised an encounter between Iron Man  and the Transformers who ripped apart my office in the last movie. We should look out for that.

     Both the champion and the first runner up of "Best Convention and Exhibition Centre" in Asia at the renowned CEI Asia Industry Awards go to Hong Kong venues, the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai and the Asia World-Expo on the Airport Island. Next time when you attend a professional conference or a trade show in Hong Kong, please do reserve a day or two more, and experience the leisure and pleasure of being in Hong Kong.

     Ladies and Gentlemen, Hong Kong is all about business. About creating opportunities, building connections, planning for a rewarding future. I am confident that France, and French businessmen like yourself, will see good reasons to continue working with us íV in Hong Kong.

     But Hong Kong is more than business. Even if you have yet to have the chance to do business with us, you are still most welcome to spend several carefree days with us, simply for leisure and pleasure. You can expect that our hospitality and our diversity will certainly exceed your expectations.

     Meanwhile, please enjoy this special evening. And I look forward to welcoming you in Hong Kong. Thank you very much.

Ends/Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Issued at HKT 05:59

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