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Speech by CS at Spotlight Hong Kong in Singapore symposium (English only)(with photos)

     Following is the speech by the Chief Secretary for Administration, Mrs Carrie Lam, at the symposium of Spotlight Hong Kong in Singapore today (July 24):

Mr Bernard Chan, Mr Benny Chia (Founder and Director of the Hong Kong Fringe Club), Mr Edmund Cheng (Chairman of the Sing50 Fund), Mr Philip Chan (President of Kowloon Club), Mr Colin Goh (CEO of Rice Company), distinguished speakers, panelists, guests, ladies and gentlemen,

     Good morning. Welcome to Spotlight Hong Kong in Singapore. It gives me great pleasure to join you all at this opening programme, the "Creative Cities, Creative Minds" symposium.

     Let me first congratulate the Hong Kong Fringe Club for bringing its signature programme - Spotlight Hong Kong - to Singapore again, and has chosen the theme of creativity for this symposium. Last year, I attended the Spotlight Hong Kong in Penang and spoke quite passionately on the subject of heritage, causing the programme to overrun somewhat. Today, I promise to stick to my assigned time. This is not because I am not enthusiastic about creativity, but I am aware that the Fringe Club has pulled together a group of creative minds who will share their success stories in applying creativity to different fields. And I am sure the audience will benefit from their experiences.
     When I first looked at the title of the symposium, I began to wonder which should come first. It seems to me that it's creative minds that give rise to creative cities. But then, it's creative cities, creative environments in general, that nurture creative minds. In between, a conduit is necessary and the Government and institutions like the Fringe Club all have a role to play.

     However you look at, I think one overwhelming factor enables creativity. And that's freedom. Freedom nourishes creativity, allows it to breathe, to flourish. Without freedom, the best minds, the most innovative communities, eventually wane and wither.

     Freedom is central to Hong Kong's global competitiveness - in every sector and industry. It's at the heart of our business, trade and financial success. And I'm hardly alone in making that judgment.

     Earlier this year, the Washington-based Heritage Foundation named Hong Kong the world's freest economy for the 21st consecutive year. That doesn't happen in isolation.  It reflects the will, the ways, the values of people, of business and government. It also reflects our institutions, from education and the judiciary to the media, culture and the arts. In all of it, at all levels of it, there is an unfettered flow of information, people, capital and ideas.

     To be sure, we don't always agree with one another. We certainly don't always applaud each other. But, then, we are free to respond as we feel, to speak up as we believe. Freedom has made Hong Kong what it is today. Freedom is what makes our culture, our arts, our youth evergreen.

     No less important, it's what makes our creative industries go. Indeed, from 2005 to 2013, the value added of our cultural and creative industries climbed more than 9 per cent a year on average. During the same period, the value added of Hong Kong's design sector tripled, while the number of jobs expanded by close to 60 per cent. As at end-2013, creative industries account for 5.1 per cent of Hong Kong's GDP, employing more than 200 000 people.

     Hong Kong is home to more than 1 000 arts groups. Each year, they put on more than 8 000 shows, attracting a patronage of over three million people. Many of our artists and art groups make their mark internationally, as well as locally.

     That includes, of course, the Hong Kong Fringe Club, which, together with Singapore's Global Cultural Alliance, made this morning's symposium and the three days and nights of Spotlight Hong Kong in Singapore possible. We should thank them for their inspiration, their initiative and their professionalism.

     Our West Kowloon Cultural District (WKCD) is beginning to come together. Being one of the world's most ambitious cultural developments, its canvas embraces some 40 hectares of prime waterfront space. As Board Chairman of the WKCD Authority, I wish to update you on where things stand.

     The Arts Pavilion in the Cultural District's emerging park is expected to be finished next year. A black-box theatre, as well as the Xiqu Centre for Chinese opera, is due to open in 2017. Cantonese opera, by the way, was the first Hong Kong treasure to be noted in UNESCO's "representative list of intangible cultural heritage."

     In 2018, the construction of M+, a museum dedicated to visual culture and, in particular, Chinese contemporary art, is due to complete. That, and much more in the years and decades to come, will expand creative opportunities, and business prospects, for our youth.

     To help our youth take full advantage of West Kowloon's state-of-the-art infrastructure, concert halls, theatres, galleries and other features, we are working closely with our cultural and creative industries.

     For example, in his budget this year, our Financial Secretary pledged to add more than US$50 million to our CreateSmart Initiative, administered by our CreateHK, an agency created back in 2009 to lead, champion and drive the development of the creative industries in Hong Kong.  The money will be used to support the creative industries. It will help our youth find training programmes and subsidised overseas exchanges and internships, help them gain the global expertise they need to make their creative mark.

     The Budget also focused on the film industry, long a key player in Hong Kong's creative industries. Extra resources have been set aside to boost the volume of local film production and nurture our film talent. Award-winning films supported by the Film Development Fund include "Echoes of the Rainbow", "The Way We Dance" and "The Midnight After". They are all critically acclaimed box office hits with Hong Kong characteristics. I am sure there is more to come.
     Fashion is another priority. Some US$65 million has been earmarked for the industry. The funds will promote our brands and designers, helping tomorrow's fashion makers find their stylish way in the global market.

     Other creativity-driven projects include the decade-long Business of Design Week, the PMQ (former police married quarters revitalised into a design hub for established as well as emerging designers), the Smart City initiative in Kowloon East, public art in our parks and public open spaces, etc.

     Small economies such as ours must look to the world for their future, which is why we encourage our young people to seek opportunity in Mainland China, offering funding support for Mainland youth exchanges and internships.

     Singapore and ASEAN in general are also high on our priorities when it comes to educating our youth about the world and its promise.

     Indeed, last night I attended a farewell ceremony for Hong Kong students and teachers. They had spent two weeks here, delighting in the cultural and academic offerings. Since the Singapore - Hong Kong Exchange Programme was created 15 years ago, some 1 600 students from Singapore and Hong Kong have taken part.

     The launch, last year, of the ASEAN Internship for University Students of Hong Kong Scheme is designed to do much the same, at a higher level. Last year, some 90 Hong Kong students participated. This year, about 200 Hong Kong university students are taking up internships in eight ASEAN countries, some two-thirds of them set on Singapore. The internship will only grow as Hong Kong's ties with ASEAN continue to expand.  

     It was former United States President Franklin D Roosevelt who once said, "We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future." Well, even the latter is hardly guaranteed. But we can certainly create the environment, provide the opportunities, the resources, the programmes, mentors and essential encouragement needed to help our youth find their way. We are doing just that in Hong Kong.

     It's why we're here today. Why we place so much value on our good relations, our deepening friendship, with the creative city and the creative minds, of Singapore.

     I wish you all a very useful and fruitful symposium.

     Thank you very much.  

Ends/Friday, July 24, 2015
Issued at HKT 13:10


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