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Speech by CS at official launch of Fred Hollows Foundation Hong Kong (English only) (with photos/video)

     Following is the speech by the Chief Secretary for Administration, Mrs Carrie Lam, at the official launch of the Fred Hollows Foundation Hong Kong this evening (November 3):

The Honourable John Brumby (Incoming Chair, the Fred Hollows Foundation),  Consul-General Paul Tighe (Consul-General of Australia), Ms (Ruth) Hollows, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

     Good evening. It really gives me great pleasure to join you all at the official launch of the Fred Hollows Foundation in Hong Kong this evening. I am truly delighted to see the Foundation, one of Australia's most respected charities, setting up a regional office in Hong Kong.

     On the invitation of the Australian Government, I paid an official visit to Australia in September this year, experiencing first-hand the passion and friendliness of the Australian people. I also spoke of the close links between Hong Kong and Australia on various fronts in many occasions during my visit. The establishment of the Foundation's regional office in Hong Kong will be another very good story to tell in terms of the strong bilateral ties between the two places.

     The Fred Hollows Foundation envisions a world in which no person is needlessly blind. By building low-cost intraocular lens factories in Nepal and Eritrea, the late Professor Hollows had reduced the cost of these miracle lenses from HK$800 to just HK$40, pioneering modern cataract surgery and providing access to affordable eye care for people all over the world. Today, the Foundation works in over 25 countries. For as little as HK$150, the Foundation performs sight-saving surgery, literally transforming people's lives overnight. It is indeed a story of both innovation and inspiration, for the improvement of people's livelihood.

     Talking about innovation, we need innovative ways to keep this city growing as a successful community and to bring opportunities to those in need. In this regard, the Hong Kong SAR Government has launched the Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development Fund in 2013 to facilitate cross-sector collaboration and sharing of knowledge and experience to nurture social innovation and entrepreneurship for poverty alleviation. To boost the city's competitiveness, the Government is pursuing the establishment of an Innovation and Technology Bureau. We have the vision to make use of innovation not only for boosting economic growth, but also for bringing about positive impacts to people's lives and taking care of people's needs.

     Hong Kong has always been an attractive place for overseas business thanks to our geographical location, our close economic ties with the Mainland of China, the rule of law, an independent judiciary and the rights and freedoms guaranteed under the Basic Law. According to a joint survey conducted by InvestHK and the Census and Statistics Department released just last Monday (October 26), the number of business operations in Hong Kong with parent companies overseas and in the Mainland climbed to a new record of 7 904 in 2015, representing an increase of 4.2 per cent over the past year.

     Similarly, Hong Kong is a perfect place for international NGOs such as the Fred Hollows Foundation to establish regional offices. Geographically, with a central location in Asia-Pacific, Hong Kong is recognised as a springboard to and from Asia. We are close and uniquely connected to the Mainland of China. Socially, we are a dynamic city with a strong culture of philanthropy and charitable giving that encourages Hong Kong people to give back to the world as global citizens. And on this score, I have a personal experience to share. Apart from being a civil servant, about 12 years ago in 2003 when Hong Kong was struck by SARS, this major communicable disease of which a total of 299 Hong Kong people died, together with three female senior civil servants, we established a We Care Education Fund to provide long-term education needs to children whose parents died of SARS. Within a few months, without any charity events, not even a reception like this, we managed to raise HK$80 million for these children. I am happy to say that up to this day, we are still taking care of some of these kids. So we have a strong business segment with a growing awareness about their corporate social responsibilities. I am confident that the Fred Hollows Foundation will have a fruitful outcome in Hong Kong because you have an extremely good cause, raising considerable funds and reaching an increasing number of the needlessly blind in Asia, especially in the Mainland of China, where 20 per cent of the world's blind live.

     So I am delighted to, on behalf of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government, formally welcome the Foundation to Hong Kong. May I congratulate you on your official launch and wish you every success in your life-changing work to restore sight to many people across the world. Thank you very much.

Ends/Tuesday, November 3, 2015
Issued at HKT 20:57


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