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Speech by CS at reception to celebrate birthday of His Majesty the Emperor of Japan (English only) (with photo/video)
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     Following is the speech by Chief Secretary for Administration, Mrs Carrie Lam, at a reception hosted by the Consul-General of Japan to celebrate the birthday of His Majesty the Emperor of Japan at Island Shangri-La Hong Kong, Admiralty, this evening (December 3):

Consul-General (Mr Hitoshi Noda), distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
 
     Konbanwa (Good evening in Japanese). It is a great pleasure to be here tonight on this very special occasion V the birthday celebration of His Majesty the Emperor Akihito.

     First of all, let me thank the Consul-General for his very kind words about Hong Kong. Like many places around the world, Hong Kong is facing some challenges. But I can assure you, Consul-General, and your guests in the audience, that the Government will try very hard to rise to the challenges while preserving the very important core values that you have just mentioned.
 
     His Majesty's birthday this year, which is less than three weeks away, is particularly noteworthy, as it will mark the 25th anniversary of His Majesty's accession to the throne as Japan's 125th Emperor.
 
     The Hong Kong-Japan ties have been as strong as ever. At present, Japan is Hong Kongs third-largest trading partner and our second-largest source of imports, and Hong Kong has been the top overseas market for Japanese food and agricultural products since 2006.  And I am sure that we will sample some of these tonight. Indeed, in 2013, Hong Kong imported more than US$1 billion worth of Japanese food and agricultural products V nearly one quarter of Japan's total exports in this category.
 
     It is also worth noting that, in 2013, more than US$37 billion in trade between Japan and Mainland China was routed through Hong Kong. That represents about 12 per cent of the total trade between Japan and the Mainland. With more than 1 400 Japanese companies established in Hong Kong, out of a total of 7 600 overseas companies here, and that is just like less than one in five, I am sure that businessmen from Japan are already well aware of the benefits of establishing in Hong Kong to tap the opportunities in the vast Mainland China market.
 
     Japanese banks are also using Hong Kong to develop their Renminbi (RMB) businesses.  The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ became the first Japanese bank to issue offshore RMB-denominated bonds in Hong Kong in May this year. This also signifies the importance of Hong Kong as a global financial hub, an offshore Renminbi centre and the international financial centre of China.

     Beyond business, we like to visit each other, to experience our distinctive cultures, both the traditional and the latest street culture and trends. We believe, as the Consul-General has mentioned, that people-to-people exchange will help strengthen the relations between the two places. Exactly 10 years ago, the Japanese Government granted visa-free access to holders of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region passport, contributing to an increase in the number of Hong Kong people visiting Japan. Last year, Japan welcomed some 756 000 Hong Kong visitors, which represents an increase of 57 per cent over the past 10 years.  Thanks to the appreciation of Hong Kong Dollar against Japanese Yen, more than 657 000 Hong Kong travellers visited Japan in the first nine months this year, representing a 20 per cent increase on a year-on-year basis. And the Consul-General would be pleased to know that me and my family are included in that number. This year alone, we have made two holiday trips to Japan, of course leveraging on the appreciation of Hong Kong Dollar. At the same time, more than 814 000 trips were made by our friends from Japan to Hong Kong during the period.
 
     The young people of Hong Kong and Japan currently benefit from the working holiday scheme which provides an annual quota of 250 for each place respectively. I am glad to note that the scheme is proven very attractive to young people in Hong Kong and this annual quota has always been fully utilised since the inception of the scheme five years ago. I am sure Japan will continue to be a very popular working holiday destination for our young people to broaden their horizons through experiencing different cultures, and I encourage more young people from Japan to come to Hong Kong as well.

     Of course, we don't need to travel to appreciate each other's culture, thanks to the rising stream of cultural exchanges between Hong Kong and Japan. This year has been particularly rich in terms of cultural exchange. In October and November, nearly 40 Japanese movies were screened in Hong Kong under the programme entitled "Repertory Cinema 2014: New Japanese Cinema in the 1980s." The film series was jointly organised by our Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) and the Japan Foundation. Alongside the movies, the Film Programmes Office of LCSD also put on a series of master study courses to enable audiences to better understand Japanese cinema in the 1980s and its associated social background.
 
     Japanese animation also made waves this year, with an extended Heritage Museum exhibition, "Studio Ghibli Layout Designs: Understanding the Secrets of Takahata and Miyazaki Animation". And, later this month, enra, a Japanese dance and multimedia troupe, will perform at several theatres here.

     We are also pleased to showcase Hong Kong culture in Japan. This year, the Hong Kong Ballet, Hong Kong Repertory Theatre, Zuni and other Hong Kong troupes and artists have performed in a variety of cities in Japan. Of course, it also included the Asian Youth Orchestra that the Consul-General has mentioned. Our Economic and Trade Office (ETO) in Tokyo organised the "Hong Kong in Miniature" exhibition in conjunction with the Osaka Asian Film Festival this year. The exhibition features 38 delicate and exquisite miniature models that captured various aspects of life in Hong Kong. The feedback from the 31 000 visitors over the eight-day exhibition has been very positive. Our ETO will continue to organise more events and projects to foster better understanding of Hong Kong in Japan.

     Hong Kong cherishes its strong, diverse and mutually rewarding relationship with Japan. Our ties may be longstanding, but they continue to develop, to evolve and grow. The rewards they bring to the people of Hong Kong and Japan are both valuable and invaluable, tangible and intangible. And we shall continue to nurture and treasure such relations.

     Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in a toast: To the People of Japan. Thank you.

Ends/Wednesday, December 3, 2014
Issued at HKT 21:10

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