Speech by CE at Hong Kong Dinner of "Think Asia, Think Hong Kong" in Toronto (English only) (with photos)

     Following is the speech by the Chief Executive, Mr C Y Leung, at the Hong Kong Dinner of "Think Asia, Think Hong Kong" in Toronto today (June 8, Toronto time):

The Honourable Minister Michael Chan, Ambassador Luo, Your Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

     Good evening. Welcome to Hong Kong Dinner in Toronto. More than a dinner, this is a gala occasion. A time to celebrate the expanding ties between Canada and Hong Kong.

     Indeed, Canada and Hong Kong have much to celebrate this evening, beginning with today's successful "Think Asia, Think Hong Kong". I'm told it was the largest Hong Kong promotion ever organised in Canada. And in terms of the number of participants, I just heard half an hour ago that the number here beat the then record in New York two years ago by 70.

     I'm pleased to note that our "Think Asia, Think Hong Kong" delegation includes also representatives from the government of the very prosperous Guangdong Province in the Mainland of China, as well as companies and investors from Guangdong in a variety of fields such as construction, manufacturing, tourism and finance. By taking advantage of Hong Kong's "super-connector" role and this "Think Asia, Think Hong Kong" platform, they are "going global" with Hong Kong for opportunities. I am sure you can find plenty of opportunities for partnership and collaboration with our Guangdong neighbour.

     A few hours ago, I took part in another Canada-Hong Kong event - a tea gathering. It brought together Canadian business and community leaders with Hong Kong roots. It underlined the ever-growing links between us. We talked, and we took tea - high tea rather than yum cha. And that seemed only to heighten the intermingling of our two cultures.

     Business, trade, finance, in all that, and more, we are coming together. That, of course, was the point of "Think Asia, Think Hong Kong".

     But art and culture, lifestyle in general, also offer much promise for the broadening and deepening Canadian-Hong Kong links.

     You're probably aware that one of the world's largest cultural developments is now emerging in Hong Kong. The West Kowloon Cultural District - 40 hectares of art, culture, theatre and green space set along Hong Kong's magnificent Victoria Harbour, which would otherwise be very valuable real estate - will open its first major building, the Xiqu Centre, for Chinese opera, in just two years.

     What you may not know is that the new opera centre was designed by two architectural firms - one from Hong Kong, the other, Bing Thom Architects, from Canada. Bing Thom, the founder of BTA, was born in Hong Kong before moving to Vancouver. Mr Thom recently set up an office in Hong Kong because, as he put it, "Hong Kong is the centre of Asia-Pacific. We see this," he said, "as our launch pad for the Asia-Pacific and the focal point for all our work within the region."

     The best way to cash in on the promise of Asia is to do what Bing Thom is doing - invest in Hong Kong, where, under the "One Country, Two Systems" arrangement, we enjoy the combined advantages of being a part of China, while different from all other Chinese cities by practising the "other system". And you are rest assured that you will compete with other local and overseas companies on an equal footing.

     BTA was also chosen to lead the design of the University of Chicago's centre in Hong Kong. Chicago Booth Asia will be the home of the university's renowned Executive MBA Programme and other University of Chicago offerings.

     Chicago Booth Asia is another significant step forward in Hong Kong's rise as a regional education hub. Hong Kong makes perfect sense for global education. Our universities, after all, teach in English and offer quality programmes featuring a distinct fusion of Eastern and Western culture and academic excellence. Indeed, three of our tertiary institutions were ranked in the top 50 of QS's 2014/15 World University Rankings.

     Our post-secondary institutions are involved in more than 100 exchange agreements and research collaboration projects with Canadian institutions - more than a hundred. And we have recently launched a Hong Kong PhD Fellowship Scheme to attract the best and the brightest postgraduate students from all over the world.

     Those PhD students will join the more than 30,000 students from over 70 countries and regions studying in Hong Kong. That includes some 400 students from Canada. And we look forward to expanding our academic exchanges between Hong Kong and Canada. In that, we will all be beneficiaries.

     Tourism is another powerful connector, and one of our pillar industries. Last year, Hong Kong attracted nearly 61 million visitors. More than 350,000 of them were from Canada. But the lion share goes to the Mainland visitors. Indeed, some 40 million were from Mainland China. They come mostly to find out what products are popular in Hong Kong. If they pick up yours, they will be your best promoters. So if you are thinking about marketing your products to the 1.3 billion potential customers in the Mainland of China, think about Hong Kong. What sells well in Hong Kong will sell well in the rest of China. If you ever think of giving Hong Kong some free samples, I am sure our Trade Development Council will be pleased to know.

     We also make it easy to get to Hong Kong. More than 100 airlines operate about 1,100 flights every day at the Hong Kong International Airport, including the very popular Hong Kong-Toronto non-stop flights. Taking these non-stop flights from Toronto, Hong Kong is only a couple of drinks, one or two movies, and a dinner away. The Hong Kong International Airport connects to some 180 global destinations, including more than 45 in Mainland China.

     And to make it even easier to connect with Canada, and the world, we plan to add a third runway to the airport. That should be up and flying in 2023. Our three-runway airport will be able to handle about 100 million passengers. Whether for business or pleasure, I'd say that's a good round number.

     The third runway is not the only ambitious infrastructure project we are taking forward. We are building high-speed rail link with the Mainland, and the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge - one of the longest bridges of its kind in the world. Both are intended to further enhance our connectivity with the neighbouring Guangdong Province and the rest of Mainland China. I am sure they will, when completed, make it more convenient for Canadians to visit Hong Kong and via Hong Kong the Mainland of China, as business travellers and as tourists.

     I know there are now plenty of direct flights between Canada and other Chinese cities. But many Canadian businesses know, from experience, that the shortest link between Canada and anywhere in China, for business purposes, is the line through Hong Kong.

     When it comes to pleasure, to tourist attractions, Hong Kong has so much to offer, including two theme parks: Ocean Park, with its seaside and cliff-side attractions linked by cable car, and Hong Kong Disneyland, which turns 10 this year.

     Both parks are expanding, adding hotels and serious thrills. So if you are a Marvel fan, know that Disneyland will open an Iron Man theme area by the end of next year. The Hong Kong SAR Government is also in discussion with Disneyland on its Phase 2 development.

     Canada is well known for its cruise business. Hong Kong is making a splash in this area as well. We opened our Kai Tak Cruise Terminal just two years ago. The terminal, with its stunning 360-degree views of Victoria Harbour, has been fitted out to welcome the world's largest cruise vessels.

     I am sure many of our guests tonight are wine lovers. Not surprisingly, we in Hong Kong share the same passion. Not only in sampling good wine, but also doing business out of it. Indeed, over the past several years, Hong Kong has emerged as the wine trading and distribution hub of Asia.

     The Hong Kong Trade Development Council's annual November trade fair, the International Wine & Spirits Fair, reinforces the business buoyancy of the grape in Hong Kong and throughout the Asian region.

     More than business, wine serves as the lifestyle star of our annual Wine & Dine Festival, where much money-making and merrymaking takes place. Indeed, the month-long ode to indulgence is celebrated in restaurants and wine bars, street carnivals, classes and a non-stop parade of parties and other festive events, all in very peaceful manner. We welcome you all to join us.

     We are just beginning to discover your fine wine. Last year, Hong Kong imported some CAD$3.2 million worth of Canadian wine. And while that is a modest total, it was also up more than 73 per cent, year on year. Some of that, I'm sure, moved on, through Hong Kong, to markets in Mainland China and elsewhere in Asia.

     To put it simply, there is so much to share, to develop, between Toronto and Hong Kong, and by extension between Canada and Hong Kong. We are both business centres, financial capitals, education hubs, springboards for business, and much more. We have close business, cultural and family links. Even your national game, ice hockey, is gaining popularity in Hong Kong. I can envisage our bonds growing stronger and stronger in future.

     Ladies and gentlemen, I look forward to even closer and stronger co-operation between us. My thanks to the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, for organising this very special and successful event tonight. I hope you will enjoy this evening. I know I will. Thank you.

Ends/Tuesday, June 9, 2015
Issued at HKT 11:48