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Speech by CE at reception for 19th anniversary of establishment of HKSAR

Following is the translation of the speech by the Chief Executive, Mr C Y Leung, at the reception for the 19th anniversary of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre this morning (July 1):

Fellow Hong Kong people, distinguished guests, colleagues,

Today marks the 19th anniversary of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and the fourth anniversary of the current-term Government.

Since the current-term Government took office, we have put into practice the concept of "being appropriately proactive and seeking change while maintaining stability". We have strived to promote economic development and improve people's livelihood.

Over the past four years, thanks to the concerted efforts of the community, the Government has maintained a sound fiscal position, inflation has been mild, and the unemployment rate has stayed at a low level. In the previous financial year, the Government collected record-high profits tax. This, in its own, reflects Hong Kong's economic situation.

In the coming year, much will remain uncertain in the global economy, and we have all the more reason to focus on economic development. Hong Kong people are hardworking, flexible and adaptable. As long as we make good use of the development opportunities in the country and in the region, we can certainly overcome challenges large and small. Over the past 30 years or so, thanks to the opening up and reform of the Mainland, many Hong Kong wage earners have become business owners, and small enterprises have developed into large national enterprises. In the coming 30 years or so, Hong Kong's new generation can take advantage of overseas opportunities arising from the Belt and Road initiative, in addition to those in the Mainland. The young generation will be able to further expand Hong Kong enterprises into global enterprises.

In order to enhance Hong Kong's competitiveness, we are pressing ahead with various new projects, apart from the large-scale infrastructure projects to be completed in the next few years. These new projects include land supply projects beyond 2030, development and conservation of Lantau, the building of the three-runway system at the airport, the planning of seven new railway schemes and the construction of Hong Kong's largest multi-purpose sports complex in Kai Tak.

When the current-term Government took office, some people doubted our commitment and capability in resolving housing problems. After four years of hard work, property prices and rentals have dropped from their peak levels. Despite numerous obstacles, land and housing supply have increased significantly. In the five-year period from 2015-16 onwards, total public housing production will be higher than the production in the previous three five-year periods. Regarding private residential units, first-hand supply over the next three to four years will hit a record-high since the first regular release of statistics in 2004.

The current-term Government will remain resolute in its work on poverty alleviation, elderly care and support for the disadvantaged. This financial year, the Government's recurrent expenditure on social welfare reaches $66.2 billion, a marked increase of 55 per cent over five years ago. We have provided strong support for working-poor household members, low-income families, the elderly, the disabled, and those known colloquially as "N have-nots". The size of poor population has fallen for the second consecutive year. At the end of April this year, the caseload under the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme had registered a continuing decrease over the past 61 months. Low-earning cases had decreased continuously for the last 86 months. Unemployment cases had registered a continuing decrease over the past 80 months. I am very proud of the spirit of self-reliance of the Hong Kong people.

The current-term Government has implemented the free quality kindergarten education policy, and has subsidised more young people to participate in internship and exchange programmes outside Hong Kong. We will invest $200 billion to implement a ten-year hospital development plan. We have strived to control air pollution, and over 40 000 diesel commercial vehicles have already been phased out. Over the past five years, the overall air quality in Hong Kong has improved significantly. The Harbour Area Treatment Scheme Stage 2A was fully commissioned at the end of last year, and the overall water quality of Victoria Harbour has further improved. We will stay committed to our work on environment protection, with a view to building a pleasant environment for Hong Kong – one with a blue sky, white clouds, green hills and clear water, and one blessed with both urban diversity and an inviting countryside.

While substantial progress has been made, we still face a number of challenges.

First, we must promote the transformation of traditional industries. These industries must move towards high value-added services if we are to raise the income level of the Hong Kong people. This is especially true for the tourism industry.

Second, we should abandon the mindset of resting on our laurels. We should nurture emerging industries to enhance the upward social mobility of our young people, and to create diversified and better jobs. With this in mind, the SAR Government established the Innovation and Technology Bureau over seven months ago, and allocated $18 billion this year to promote innovation and technology. The Government will continue to encourage the development of creative industries, such as film and fashion design industries.

Third, we need to proactively tackle the challenges of an ageing society, and to deal with controversial issues such as retirement protection. The Government will make every effort to address the community's varying aspirations. I hope we can set aside differences, find common ground, and try our best to reach a consensus.

Ladies and gentlemen, the No. 4 alarm fire broke out on Ngau Tau Kok Road last week was a tragic lesson in fire safety. As with several hundred other old industrial buildings in Hong Kong, the industrial building on fire lacked an automatic sprinkler system. Fire hazards are particularly high when an industrial building is used as mini-storages. The SAR Government has taken immediate inter-departmental follow-up actions and stepped up enforcement. We will also study amending the law as soon as possible to strengthen regulation and to ensure the safety of the Hong Kong people and our frontline firefighters.

During the fire, Senior Station Officer, Mr Thomas Cheung, and Senior Fireman, Mr Samuel Hui, passed away on duty battling the blaze. On behalf of the SAR Government and the Hong Kong community, I would like to express our deepest sorrow for the passing of these two outstanding colleagues, and extend our sincere condolences to their families.

I would also like to thank other colleagues in the Fire Services Department. They had made tremendous contributions and selfless sacrifices in protecting the lives and properties of the Hong Kong people. They are role models for us all, and we take pride in every one of them.

Fellow Hong Kong people, distinguished guests and colleagues, the SAR Government will continue to improve people's livelihood through economic development in the coming year. We will continue to administer Hong Kong in accordance with the law, uphold the core values of Hong Kong, and promote the stability and prosperity of Hong Kong. We will continue to implement "one country, two systems", "Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong", and a high degree of autonomy in accordance with the Basic Law. Building on the recently established foundation, we will continue to facilitate and promote communication, exchanges, interactions and cooperation of various sectors and political parties in Hong Kong with the Central Authorities and the Mainland, and to deepen the mutually beneficial relationship between Hong Kong and the Mainland. I believe that as long as we stay united and work together, Hong Kong will continue to progress and develop, and Hong Kong people will enjoy a better life and a more prosperous future.

Thank you.

01.07.2016


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