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SHA's speech at Asia Cultural Co-operation Forum 2017 (English only)
     Following is the speech by the Secretary for Home Affairs, Mr Lau Kong-wah, at the Asia Cultural Co-operation Forum (ACCF) 2017 Ministerial Panel today (November 28):

Minister Luo (Minister of Culture, Mr Luo Shugang), honourable ministers, heads of delegations, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, 

     Good morning. On behalf of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, I welcome you to the Asia Cultural Co-operation Forum 2017. It is my pleasure to meet old friends and welcome new ones who join this Forum for the first time.

     The year 2017 is an auspicious one - it marks the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. In celebration of this momentous time, we have staged and supported a wide range of arts and cultural programmes, of which this ACCF is a highlight. Since its inception in 2003, the ACCF has become the premier platform in Asia that brings together cultural ministers to share insights and experience in furthering arts and cultural development. Today, the ACCF has come to its 10th edition; it has come a long way and I am honoured to celebrate this milestone with you.

     The theme of this year's ACCF is "Cultural Sustainability in a Dynamic World: Connecting Diversity". Suffice it to say, the world is constantly evolving. We are living in a more globalised, urbanised and technologically advanced world. With shrinking physical and virtual distance between countries, cultural exchanges are made easier and faster. While some say these dynamic elements put traditional cultures at risk, we see them as driving forces for positive changes. I am going to share with you the experience of Hong Kong in fostering cultural exchanges to connect ideas, people and places.

     For Hong Kong, our cultural policy is to develop the city into a prominent hub of cultural exchanges. Being at the heart of Asia and with a unique history, Hong Kong is a living fusion of East and West. Our arts development, architecture, traditions, intangible cultural heritage, cuisine and religions are a testimony of the harmonious integration of cultures.  

     In theatre, there are translated plays such as the French award-winning play "The Father" performed in Cantonese recently, and music crossover by the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra with Western musical instruments. In the community, beautiful temples of Buddhism and Taoism, churches of Christianity and mosques of Islam co-exist peacefully. We also have arts festivals featuring outstanding pieces from around the world. Our biennial World Cultures Festival presented the fascinating cultures of Africa this year, as well as Eastern Europe and Asia in the past few years. On local cuisine, yuenyeung, the fusion of coffee and tea, symbolises how blending ingredients from different cultures can brew new delicacies. Fusion means creation - that is the character of Hong Kong.

     Hong Kong is where ideas connect. Museums are our prime idea houses where the display and exchange of wisdom can reach a broad spectrum of the public. We pay heed to international museum development and work to build bridges with and for museums. Five months ago, we presented the first Museum Summit in Hong Kong in association with the Palace Museum. Leading figures and professionals from renowned museums explored the positioning of museums against the backdrop of changing demographics, visitor expectations and technologies, discussing topics such as smart museum and digital museum experience. We can further explore cultural development in the new technological era in the second plenary tomorrow.

     The exchanges between museums do come to fruition in the form of collaborations. This year, we are excited to have held blockbuster exhibitions in Hong Kong, including those with valuable partners like the Palace Museum, British Museum, Musée du Louvre, etc. These exhibitions have attracted over 2 million visitors. The two exhibitions held with the support of the Palace Museum and Musée du Louvre were staged in the Hong Kong Heritage Museum side by side at the same time, juxtaposing the former royal residences of China and France, creating a figurative dialogue between the Chinese and French emperors.

     Our museums also offer prominent sojourns for cultural exchanges. Exhibits from the Dunhuang Caves, for example, travelled to Hong Kong before setting foot in the United States. In fact, Dunhuang itself is one of the most important junctions along the Silk Road. The Belt and Road Initiative has brought vast opportunities for cultural exchanges and collaborations. This afternoon, the exhibition "Miles upon Miles: World Heritage along the Silk Road" will be launched at the Museum of History. This is jointly organised with the State Administration of Cultural Heritage. Exhibits from four Mainland provinces, Shaanxi, Henan, Gansu and Xinjiang, as well as Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan will be displayed for the first time in Hong Kong.

     Hong Kong has for centuries been the place where people from all over the world connect. While Hong Kong is a cultural melting pot itself, we do encourage our people to reach out to diverse cultures. Each year, we sponsor cultural exchanges through our programmes, funding schemes and the statutory body Hong Kong Arts Development Council. These initiatives have brought our local artists to high-profile events in Asia and elsewhere in the world. This year, in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, we have sponsored local performing groups to stage 144 shows in 64 cities with an average attendance rate of 80 per cent.

     We are committed to providing exchange opportunities for the youth. Over the summer, we arranged our youth to undertake internships at the most prominent cultural institutions in Mainland China. Our youngsters worked alongside seasoned professionals at the Palace Museum and the Dunhuang Research Academy. In this year alone, we have sponsored some 3 500 students to participate in over 100 internship programmes in the Mainland. We have also sponsored some 1 000 students to engage in cultural exchanges in 18 Belt and Road countries such as Singapore, Thailand, Kazakhstan, etc. 

     As a cultural exchange hub, we have been making efforts to enhance co-operation with other countries and have so far concluded memoranda of understanding with 16 countries including five in Asia. We have also reached agreements with our neighbours during cultural exchanges. We wish to lay a solid foundation for broader and deeper co-operation. 

     Indeed, the strong cultural links between Hong Kong and countries in the region would not have materialised without the support from the Ministry of Culture of the PRC, as well as Consulates-General and Consulates in Hong Kong. Here, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for promoting the ACCF. We are also glad to be endowed with vibrant cultural festivals in Hong Kong, notably the Genesis and Spirit intangible cultural heritage festival by the Ministry of Culture of the PRC, the Japan Autumn Festival by the Consulate-General of Japan in Hong Kong and the Festival Korea by the Consulate-General of the Republic of Korea, and the Asian Ethnic Cultural Performances by Macau and 13 Consulates-General or Consulates in Hong Kong. It is as much a way to showcase the best of Asian cultures as a way to reinforce our exchange hub position.

     Looking forward, it is an exciting time ahead for Hong Kong and the region. By the next ACCF, the skyline of Hong Kong will be bestowed with the West Kowloon Cultural District. In the coming two years, the first batch of major arts and cultural facilities in the district will come into operation, namely the Xiqu Centre for Chinese opera, the Art Park including Freespace with a black box theatre and an outdoor stage, and the M+ museum. By 2022, these would be joined by the Hong Kong Palace Museum and we are truly thankful for the enormous support from the Palace Museum.

     Asian cultures are gaining a stronger foothold in the global stage and the West Kowloon Cultural District will be a fresh impetus to make our cultures known. In our Policy Address just issued last month, the Government has also committed to deploying more resources to send troupes to perform overseas and in Mainland China. The momentum is definitely growing and it makes us all the more eager to introduce the new developments to you soon.

     Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to you for being here with us. In these two days, we hope you would enjoy the Forum and the specially curated cultural programme. I look forward to our exchanges that would surely bring us closer together. Thank you.
Ends/Tuesday, November 28, 2017
Issued at HKT 11:13
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