Transcript of CE's press conference on "The Chief Executive's 2017 Policy Address" (with photos/video)
Reporter: So, in this Policy Address, you, for example last night we have seen people going to a football match and booed at the national anthem and wave pro-independence banners, but in this Policy Address you only mentioned national security issues briefly in the paragraphs 2 and 23. And you also announced keeping the Wan Chai Sports Ground for now. So actually what's your stance on these kinds of pro-independence acts, and are you trying to make your Policy Address a non-political address to do away with your predecessor's combative and controversial plans and styles? Thank you.
Chief Executive: Well, there's actually a host of issues raised in your question. Well, first of all, this Policy Address is to reflect what we have heard from the community and from various sectors in the last three months. So it is not my personal choice of making a political or non-political Policy Address. It is what the community has told us that they want this Government to address as a matter of priorities. So I think the priority is quite clear that there is a host of social and economic issues that the various sectors and the public at large want the Government to address. So that's the philosophy behind this Policy Address.
Secondly is about the national anthem. Of course, following the enactment of a piece of legislation by the National People's Congress Standing Committee, it is the obligation of the Hong Kong SAR Government to enact legislation to put into effect the national anthem legislation. On a broad scale, what I have said in my speech in Legislative Council that will have relevance to this topical issue is like this: I said at the very outset that everybody, everybody with a passion for Hong Kong, has the responsibility to ensure that here in Hong Kong, the "one country, two systems" advances in the right direction, the obligation to say no to any attempt to threaten our country's sovereignty, security and development interests as well as the duty to nurture our next generation into citizens with a sense of national identity, an affection for Hong Kong and a sense of social responsibility. So this Government will continue to act accordingly, especially where young people are concerned. I think we all have a duty to make sure that they understand Hong Kong is part of China.
Reporter: Hello, Mrs Lam. A couple of questions, really, on the "Starter Homes" scheme. How are you going to talk to developers so that they're willing to co-operate with the Government to ultimately make these "Starter Homes" affordable? And you mentioned in this Policy Address that you hope to connect for hope and happiness, but at what price? And are these measures financially sustainable? And, more importantly, there might be people who have doubts that not every single policy mentioned in Policy Addresses in the past had been materialised, had been realised. How will this be different under your administration? How do you intend to make that happen? Thank you.
Chief Executive: Well, there are several questions. First of all, how do we make the "Starter Homes" affordable if they are to be built by the private developers? It's a matter of government policy decision. I made it very clear that the eligibility of the "Starter Homes" and the pricing and the sort of transfer mechanisms are all policy issues for the Government. Some we have announced already, like the eligibility in terms of the income threshold. Some questions I have yet to address and discuss, because they are very complicated, especially we cannot just in isolation look at "Starter Homes". There's also a question of the pricing and the transfer mechanism or the disposal mechanism of the Home Ownership Scheme and the Green Form houses. So this is government policy so you don't have to worry. At the end of the day it is the Government who will dictate the policy and just ask the developers to help to build it under a certain scheme.
All the initiatives in the Policy Address are financially sustainable, because they are all calculated and funded in the internal government mechanism called resource allocation. So it's not just a question of me as the CE imposing certain fiscal demands on other government bureaux. We sat together and we discussed and we felt that these measures are sustainable. Especially I am very confident that with a more proactive Government with the intention to invest in Hong Kong's future, Hong Kong's economy will benefit from the continuous opening up of the Mainland economy as well as the Belt and Road Initiative and the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Bay Area and will grow in a more encouraging manner, so that will help us to produce more resources to finance some of these measures.
I don't know exactly what you mean by in the past these measures have not been materialised and how come I suddenly become more confident, but I have a reputation in Government and in society at large that I am a doer. I am pretty good in executing things, sometimes perhaps too efficient in executing some projects that people criticise me for forgoing some public consultations. But I have every confidence that whatever being said in the Policy Address could be delivered, provided that we get approval from the Legislative Council, because many of the proposals either require legislation, like the two tax concessions, they all require legislative amendments, or funding proposals like the Public Transport Fare Subsidy Scheme. If we present these proposals after having worked out all the details for implementation but Legislative Council refused to approve them, then of course I could not deliver. So that's why I accord importance to good relationship between the executive and the legislature, with a view that we could avoid this filibustering and enable the Government to move forward.
Reporter: Hello, Mrs Lam, I have two questions. Basically, we see in this Policy Address that the Government is supporting NGO to introduce prefabricated housing on idle sites. Well, some criticise it's not ideal and some say it doesn't offer dignity to these potential residents because it's just a temporary roof over their heads. Do you think there is a need to reconsider this plan? And we see that next year we're expecting a faster payment system from the Monetary Authority. Do you personally think that Hong Kong is indeed lagging behind, especially compared to Mainland China, in terms of online payment and the use of e-wallet? Thank you.
Chief Executive: Well, first of all, as far as transitional housing is concerned, I made it very clear that the Government is playing the role of facilitating, encouraging and supporting, because the Government's main duty is to build permanent housing, whether it's for sale or for rental. But if given the short supply of housing and if they are NGOs, non-profit-making charity groups, who have taken on themselves as a mission to try to help the problem, then it is of course to be welcomed by the Government and we will facilitate them. And I don't think it is a question of dignity. I would recommend that you go to visit this Light Be housing in Sham Tseng, which I opened last year. It was a block of buildings that were confiscated previously from a factory that I handed over to Light Be, an NGO, and transform it into housing units, albeit transitional, so each family is expected to live only for two, three years. When they improve their situation, they move out so that another family could move in. I don't think that is not dignified. Actually, that is a very good form of transitional housing, not only to give them a shelter but also to encourage neighbourhood and mutual support. Similarly for prefab housing, I have seen some of the materials on the Dutch project – it's very decent. Actually, it's very welcomed by the young people. The problem is whether we have the land lying idle that could enable the NGOs to build. But we're open to all sorts of ideas and are willing to explore with the NGOs with a view to providing more transitional housing.
As far as online payment, I do admit that Hong Kong is lagging behind, because I go to the Mainland from time to time and I notice that it's far easier to do online payment in the Mainland. So the entire subject of innovation and technology is something that Hong Kong needs to catch up, and that's why I put in a lot of content in the Policy Address about innovation and technology, that I put in a lot of money on innovation and technology, that I commit to very – in my view – rather ambitious targets to raise R&D funding proportion from 0.73 per cent to 1.5 per cent, and I will personally be held responsible because I will chair this steering committee to push ahead with these initiatives.
Reporter: Many feel that your Policy Address is avoiding controversial political issues, but we recently learned that a British human rights activist has been barred from entering Hong Kong this morning. Do you think, is it true? And is it a kind of violating the “one country, two systems”? And can you tell us why he is barred, because as we learned there is no reason of barring him, refusing his entry of Hong Kong? And do you have any plans to protect the freedom of Hong Kong and to protect “one country, two systems” in the future? Thank you.
Chief Executive: Well, I’ve said in my Policy Address that it is the obligation of the Chief Executive and the Hong Kong SAR Government to faithfully implement “one country, two systems” and the core values that Hong Kong has developed over the years which underpin Hong Kong’s success. So that very clear, strong commitment is there. It’s not necessary to lay out all the plans, because all the plans will be all the work of the Government, in respecting the judiciary and ensuring the rule of law and so on and so on. I do not comment on individual cases of entry. I’m sure you know, this is a matter for the immigration authorities.
Reporter: You said in your Policy Address that, given time, local enterprises will be more willing to invest in innovation and technology. Why is there confidence as Hong Kong is a relatively small market and the industry requires long-term investment and contains high risk? And another question is, with the whole package of new measures on innovation and technology, how long do you think it will take Hong Kong to catch up with other competitive cities like Shenzhen?
Chief Executive: Well, on both issues I do not have a crystal ball in front of me, so I cannot be very categorical. I can only assure you that we will, or I will, accord priority to the development of innovation and technology in Hong Kong because I see, this area, we have a lot of strategic advantages and there is a huge potential for us to do well. I don't need to list out all these advantages including the freedom, the rule of law, the very distinguished universities, R&D capabilities and so on. So I can only say that we will try our very best to press ahead with the package of initiatives that I have laid out in the Policy Address.
As far as investment by local enterprises, I think this is just a commercial decision. If they see potential in some of these I&T developments, for example if there is a biomedical technology breakthrough, whether in drugs or diagnostic equipment, then certainly it will be able to attract investment from businesses. And I am also aware that actually some of our local businesses have started to invest in Israel, also in I&T projects. So if we do well, if we are able to build up a cluster and attract more talents in science and technology to Hong Kong, I think we stand a very good chance.
(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript.)
Ends/Wednesday, October 11, 2017
Issued at HKT 21:43
Issued at HKT 21:43