Speech by CS at United States of America's Independence Day Reception (English only)

     Following is the speech by the Chief Secretary for Administration, Mrs Carrie Lam, at the United States of America's Independence Day Reception this evening (July 6):

Consul-General (Mr Clifford A Hart, Jr), your excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

     Good evening.

     It's a great pleasure to be here with you, celebrating the United States of America's Independence Day - and the 240th year in the life of one of the world's surpassing nations.

     For those of you who are frequent guests at these national day receptions, you will by now be familiar with the Hong Kong SAR Government's internal mechanism in assigning the few top officials to come and share these joyous occasions of our consular community. The system is quite rigid, probably a hallmark of our discipline, that on at least a couple of occasions in the past four years, when I was specifically invited by a Consul-General to attend that year's reception, I was advised to decline because it wasn't my turn. Despite my seniority in Government, I have to comply.

     It therefore gives me added pleasure that it is my turn this year to represent the Hong Kong SAR Government in this Independence Day Reception of the United States of America. There are at least two reasons.

     First, being here this evening continues the gratifying engagement and friendship I've enjoyed lately with the United States - senior American officials, Congressmen, entrepreneurs, think-tankers, Hong Kong people living and studying in the States. Indeed, this time last month, I was a little more than half-way through a nine-day official visit to the United States. Exhilarating, illuminating, occasionally exhausting, my trip took me from San Francisco to Washington, DC, and on to New York City. It comprised some ten speaking engagements, visits to five cultural institutions, meetings with major think tanks, calls on our country's ambassadors and Consul-Generals to the United States and the United Nations, plus the treat of a most enjoyable stroll along the High Line in New York City.

     Second, I'm here, as well, to offer on behalf of the Hong Kong SAR Government and on a personal basis, my thanks to Consul-General Hart, for his significant contributions to Hong Kong-US relations over these past three years. Clifford, you will be missed not only by us in the Government, your fellow Americans here as well as the consular community at large, but also by our local media who are always following your tour of Hong Kong via Facebook, YouTube or Twitter. This will be a hard act for your successor, Kurt Tong, to follow. On a serious note, we do look forward to greeting Mr Tong, in due course, whom I have the pleasure of meeting at a reception in Washington, DC last month. But let me first extend a warm welcome to the new Deputy Consul-General, Thomas Hodges.

     Coming back to my US trip, I heard, firsthand, innovative ideas for building on our close co-operation. I was able to update our American friends on Hong Kong today - the opportunities as well as the challenges. And I hope, I had managed to dispel a few common misperceptions about Hong Kong under "one country, two systems", especially among think tanks and the media.

     On one occasion, I spoke with the aid of a heavy PowerPoint on Hong Kong's competitiveness. But the most powerful statement to that same effect is indeed the strong American presence in Hong Kong. The American Chamber of Commerce is Hong Kong's largest international chamber and one of the largest American chambers outside the US. As the Consul-General used to say, Hong Kong is home to more than 1 400 US companies, together with some 90 000 residents of US nationality.

     They're here because, as I told a business luncheon hosted by the US Chamber of Commerce in Washington, DC, "Hong Kong is the only place in the world where the global advantage and the China advantage converge in a single city."

     They're here because in the Hong Kong Policy Report submitted by the US Department of State to the US Congress last year, the Department of State stated, and I quote:

     "Our relationship with Hong Kong is based on the framework of "one country, two systems", enshrined in Hong Kong's Basic Law. Under this system, Hong Kong participates actively and independently in a range of multinational organisations and agreements......with trade policy objectives that generally align with our own, and is recognised as a separate customs territory by the United States.

     There are more than a dozen US-Hong Kong agreements currently in force. Our day-to-day bilateral law enforcement co-operation is on par with many of our closest allies. Hong Kong's strong traditions of rule of law, low levels of corruption, and high levels of public safety make it a preferred choice for American businesses in the region." Unquote.

     That positive recognition of Hong Kong's strengths can also be found in the World's Freest Economy title bestowed upon Hong Kong by the US-based Heritage Foundation for 22 consecutive years.

     During my trip, there was a lot of interest on Hong Kong's role as an intermediary between the Mainland and the rest of the world which creates opportunities for American, as well as Mainland, businesses. And these opportunities will get much bigger under our country's Belt and Road initiative, which covers more than 60 countries spanning three continents.

     During my time in the US, I took particular pleasure in seeking out possibilities for cultural co-operation, an area which I have recently mentioned to Consul-General Hart, and which I will certainly take forward with Consul-General Tong during his tenure. We have a lot to learn from the Smithsonian Institution in terms of arts and cultural education and collaboration between the newly re-opened San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and our M+ in the West Kowloon Cultural District (WKCD) is a priority item on my agenda as Chairman of the WKCD Authority. And Lincoln Center has offered to provide advice to us on issues like fundraising, community engagement and relationships between the venues and artistic companies.

     It was all immensely stimulating. And, down the road, I'm confident those exchanges, and others, will broaden the good co-operation that has long existed between Hong Kong and the US.

     Consul-General, beyond trade and investment, arts and culture, I fully understand our relationship also embodies your Government's interest in democratic developments and human rights in Hong Kong. I'm here this evening to assure you, as I did with your Congressmen, that these are important issues for our country and for Hong Kong; that we are fully committed to safeguarding these rights and freedoms and that we aspire to make progress in our political system in accordance with the constitutional provisions in the Basic Law. We are confident and determined that the principle of "one country, two systems" will continue to serve Hong Kong well and as I heard so often from American officials during my trip, the successful implementation of "one country, two systems" is in the interest of the United States.

     Clifford, let me end by thanking you again for your three years of sterling efforts in promoting Hong Kong-US ties. As you are retiring from the US Foreign Service, may I wish you all the best in your future endeavours and look forward to welcoming you back as a dear friend of Hong Kong.

     Please now join me in a toast: to the United States of America on its 240th Independence Day. Cheers.

Ends/Wednesday, July 6, 2016
Issued at HKT 21:35