Speech by CS at Operation Santa Claus 2017 launch ceremony (English only) (with photos/video)

     Following is the speech by the Chief Secretary for Administration, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, at the launch ceremony for Operation Santa Claus 2017 at the Maritime Museum this evening (November 13):

Gary (Chief Executive Officer of South China Morning Post, Mr Gary Liu), Ka-wing (Director of Broadcasting, Mr Leung Ka-wing), ladies and gentlemen,
     First of all, I am very pleased to be here tonight to celebrate the 30th anniversary of "Operation Santa Claus", 30th anniversary is Pearl anniversary, like pearl of the orient. First of all, I pay tribute to "Giving Voices" for their marvelous performance, also, Carmen (a patient with spinal muscular atrophy) for her fighting spirit. I also pay tribute to RTHK and South China Morning Post for joining hands to spearhead this very meaningful project over the last 30 years. You have benefited 250 charities, raised $260 million. It is quite a remarkable outcome of your joint effort and collaboration. And of course, much of these is due to the generosity of all the donors in Hong Kong.

     Let me stress that the Government is totally committed to building a caring society in Hong Kong. We attach great importance to helping the disadvantaged. For the current financial year, Government spending on welfare will amount to $73.3 billion, which is quite a lot of money, representing 19 per cent of the Government's recurrent expenditure. In other words, for every $100 we spent nowadays, $21.5 goes to education, $19 goes to welfare and $17 goes to medical and health. So we are talking about the number two spending item for the Government.

     But Government's effort alone is not enough. We need community support like "Operation Santa Claus". We need tripartite co-operation between the business community, the NGOs as well as the Government. We all work together for the common good.
     If you look at the "Policy Address" for the current term, our theme resembles very much the work of "Operation Santa Claus". Our theme is "We Connect for Hope and Happiness", hope and happiness. If you look at the Chinese version, it's more elaborated. In Chinese, it means walking hand in hand, embrace hope and share happiness – exactly what you have been doing for the last 30 years, looking after the disadvantaged, particularly young children.

     First of all, for elderly, our senior citizens, we are determined to really enhance community and home care support for senior citizens who need help. And our target in the long term is to keep waiting time to zero, a very ambitious task. We must work on it.

     For working low-income families just above the poverty line, we are determined to help them. In fact, we have been revamping the low-income working family allowance to significantly improve it, making it more accessible and friendly for applicants. To quote a very good example, for an (eligible) ordinary married worker in Hong Kong, not on social security, with two (eligible) children, each child will get $1,000 allowance per month and the working father and/or mother will get $1,200. In other words, a family of four will get $3,200 per month on an on-going basis, encouraging employment and at the same time supporting children and encouraging self-reliance as well.

     For children, I will be chairing a new Children Commission to be set up by the middle of next year to coordinate Government efforts and efforts of all child concerned groups to improve and enhance the well-being of children in Hong Kong. So it will be a significant step forward, in terms of protecting and enhancing children welfare. I will be working closely with the Child Development Fund in order to help shape character of children particularly those in need.

     But in a nutshell, Government efforts, as I said, we cannot go alone. We need community support. That's why I am here to give the support to South China Morning Post and RTHK. Let's join hands to build a more caring, compassionate, cohesive community in Hong Kong. And thank you so much. And have a Merry Christmas and everybody good health, good fortune and all the best in the coming year. Thank you.

Ends/Monday, November 13, 2017
Issued at HKT 22:52