Speech by Acting CE at Gala Dinner cum Hong Kong International Dental Expo and Symposium (English only)

     Following is the speech by the Acting Chief Executive, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, at Gala Dinner for Celebration of the 20th Anniversary of the Establishment of the HKSAR cum Hong Kong International Dental Expo and Symposium (HKIDEAS) 2017 today (August 6):
Dr Leung (President of the Hong Kong Dental Association, Dr Sigmund Leung), Dr Tsang (Honorary Chairman of the Organising Committee of HKIDEAS 2017, Dr Jeffrey Tsang), distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
     ​Good evening.
     ​I feel deeply honoured to join you at this doubly auspicious gala dinner.  It celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and, at the same time, marks the successful closing of the 2017 Hong Kong International Dental Expo and Symposium (HKIDEAS). I would like to extend a very warm welcome to all of you, particularly delegates from other parts of the world.  
     ​Let me first warmly congratulate the Hong Kong Dental Association on successfully organising this signature international dental health expo and symposium for the sixth time in Hong Kong.  HKIDEAS brings together the world's top-notch dental and health practitioners, clinicians, educators and researchers. It features cutting-edge and practical clinical techniques of dentistry. The comprehensive industry exhibition provides delegates a glimpse of the latest and most innovative products and devices for application in the dental field. Suppliers and practitioners can make good use of this Expo and leverage Hong Kong's well-established edge as a launching pad for the rest of Asia. HKIDEAS is truly a platform for sharing good ideas and best practices.
     The theme of this year's expo and symposium is "New Horizon in Dentistry". It is a timely and appropriate response to the demographic changes and ageing trend in Hong Kong. Our population will continue to grow over the next 30 years but is and will be ageing rapidly. At present, one in 6.5 persons in Hong Kong is aged 65 or above, but in 20 years’ time, the ratio will rise to one in three.
     Care for the elderly therefore tops the agenda of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. We are firmly committed to improving care for our senior citizens and their quality of life. The recurrent expenditure for the elderly in social security, healthcare services and long-term care services reached HK$73.9 billion in the current financial year, representing around 20 percent of our total government recurrent expenditure. In other words, for every 10 dollars we spend, two dollars go to the elderly. But I must hasten to say that this is money well worth spending as our senior citizens have contributed over the years towards building Hong Kong's present-day success. They deserve to be well looked after in their golden years.
     The Government encourages public-private partnership in meeting the rising demand for dental services. Under our dual-track system, public medical services provide a safety net for the people, while private health-care services give more choices for those who can afford them. To meet the rising dental care needs of the elderly arising from an ageing population, we have in recent years tried out different means to provide dental services to the needy and elderly through collaboration with the private dental sector.
     ​Eligible senior citizens may use the Elderly Health Care Vouchers of HK$2,000 per year for private primary care services, including dental services. At present, over 800 dentists have enrolled in the Scheme and I strongly encourage more dentists to join it. It is important to note that since 1 July this year, the eligibility age for the Elderly Health Care Vouchers Scheme has been lowered from 70 to 65, benefiting an additional 400 000 people, which is a significant number.
     We have also made use of the Government's Community Care Fund to launch an elderly dental programme which provides free dentures and related dental services for those with low income.  We have also just lowered the age requirement of the beneficiaries of the programme to cover those who are Old Age Living Allowance recipients aged 70 or above. Given the large target group, the Government has been working closely with the Hong Kong Dental Association to enroll a pool of private dentists to meet service demand. I am most delighted to learn that the Association has now enlisted the support of around 450 private dentists and 62 non-governmental organisation dental clinics for this meaningful programme. However, this is not enough. I would like to take this opportunity to appeal to all dentists to respond to the call of the Association and set aside a few slots each month to help serve our elderly community.
     In this context, I must pay warm tribute to the Hong Kong Dental Association for its unfailing support to the Government's dental care initiatives which have enhanced the oral health of our community, in particular the underprivileged. Over the past six decades, the Association has played a vitally important and active role in improving oral healthcare standards and puts in relentless efforts to encourage life-long learning among its members which is the cornerstone of the high-quality dental service in Hong Kong.
     I would also like to pay sincere tribute to the Faculty of Dentistry of the University of Hong Kong for being rated the best in the QS World University Rankings by subject for two years in a row. HKU's Dental Faculty has indeed made us proud!
     Ladies and gentlemen, please join me to applaud the efforts of the Association in bringing this year's HKIDEAS to fruitful conclusion.  The Inaugural Belt and Road Oral Health Summit held this morning was particularly meaningful in fostering exchanges and cooperation of Hong Kong's dental profession with its counterparts from countries and places along the Belt and Road. To this end, Hong Kong is well placed strategically to play the key role of a "super-connector".
     ​Before I close, let me say a few words on the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.  For two decades, Hong Kong has clearly demonstrated the dual advantages of "one country" and "two systems". I have no doubt that Hong Kong will continue to capitalise on our strengths and forge ahead as a vibrant open international financial, business, service and logistics centre. We will remain Asia's world city for a long time to come.  
     ​On the social front, we are also committed to building a caring, compassionate and coherent community. To this end, the dental profession, through its support of the community dental care initiatives and the Community Care Fund elderly dental programme, has a key role to play and for which the whole community is most appreciative.  
     ​On this note, I wish the Hong Kong Dental Association and HKIDEAS every success in the many years to come. I also wish you all a delightful evening.

Ends/Sunday, August 6, 2017
Issued at HKT 22:12