Speech by SLW at gala dinner in celebration of 20th anniversary of establishment of HKSAR in Cambodia (English only) (with photo)
Chairman Yum Sui Sang (Chairman of the Hong Kong Business Association of Cambodia), Deputy Prime Minister Hor Namhong (Deputy Prime Minister of Cambodia), Ambassador Xiong Bo (Chinese Ambassador to Cambodia), distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to celebrate with you tonight the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR). I would like to thank the Hong Kong Business Association of Cambodia and our Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Singapore for organising this gala dinner. I would also like to thank the Deputy Prime Minister, the distinguished guests from the Cambodian Government, as well as Ambassador Xiong for joining us tonight.
Since Hong Kong's return to our motherland 20 years ago, the HKSAR has made significant progress in many aspects under the principles of "one country, two systems", "Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong" and a high degree of autonomy. We have remained steadfast in upholding our core values, including the rule of law, the protection of human rights and liberty, and have deepened our relations with friends and partners around the world. Including, of course, the great country of Cambodia, whom we have cultivated close ties and bonds with over the years.
That is why I have made Cambodia the destination of my first overseas duty visit since assuming the office of Secretary for Labour and Welfare a month ago. Indeed, Hong Kong and Cambodia have been stepping up collaboration on all fronts in recent years, including manpower development and human capital. Just about five months ago, our Immigration Department relaxed the visa requirements for nationals of Cambodia, who can now apply to come to Hong Kong for employment, investment, training and study. They may also apply for entry to Hong Kong under various admission schemes for talent, professionals and entrepreneurs.
This April, our Government had the pleasure of receiving the delegation led by Dr Ith Samheng, Minister of Labour and Vocational Training of Cambodia, who is unable to attend tonight. Our two sides had a fruitful discussion on labour policies and the development of human capital in both Hong Kong and Cambodia, including the possibility of welcoming Cambodian domestic helpers to work in Hong Kong. Foreign domestic helpers are an integral part of our workforce and have made great contributions to our social and economic development.
The Hong Kong Government is committed to safeguarding the rights of foreign domestic helpers, and has taken steps to further enhance their welfare and well-being. Hong Kong is one of the few places that grant statutory labour rights and benefits to migrant workers, including foreign domestic helpers, such as a weekly rest day, statutory holidays, paid annual leave, sickness allowance, maternity leave, long service payment or severance payment. Such benefits are on a par with those being enjoyed by local workers. Under the government-prescribed Standard Employment Contract, foreign domestic helpers enjoy minimum wage protection, currently set at about US$553; free accommodation; free food or food allowance; free medical care; and free return passage to and from their home countries. In June, we have introduced an amendment bill to the Legislative Council to impose heavier penalties on employment agencies for overcharging commission from job seekers or operating without a licence. The amendment bill also specifies that our Commissioner for Labour may issue a Code of Practice to regulate the industry. We encourage more Cambodians to look for job opportunities in Hong Kong, and we look forward to welcoming the first group of Cambodian domestic helpers shortly.
Manpower and human capital aside, Hong Kong and Cambodia also enjoy close ties in trade, investment and business. As a member state of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) - our second largest trading partner - and a country along the Belt and Road, Cambodia is an important business partner of Hong Kong. Indeed, bilateral trade in goods between our two places increased by an average of 7.5 per cent per year from 2012 to 2016, with a total trade value amounting to US$ 1.17 billion (HK$ 9.1 billion) last year. The establishment of the Hong Kong Business Association of Cambodia last year, meanwhile, was a milestone in building business relations between the Hong Kong and Cambodian business communities. And just this February, our former Secretary for Development, Mr Eric Ma, led a delegation to Cambodia to promote co-operation in business and professional services between Hong Kong and Cambodia. I am sure our trade and investment connections will grow deeper and broader upon the conclusion of Hong Kong's free trade agreement with ASEAN - targeted to complete within this year.
Ladies and gentlemen, the theme of the HKSAR's 20th anniversary celebration is "Together • Progress • Opportunity". Hong Kong looks forward to joining hands with Cambodia in identifying opportunities, in working together with you and in achieving mutually rewarding progress among our two places and throughout the ASEAN region.
Ends/Thursday, August 10, 2017
Issued at HKT 21:17
Issued at HKT 21:17