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SCA's standup briefing before civil service seminar on 11th FYP

Following is the transcript of a standup briefing by the Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, before attending a civil service seminar on the 11th National Five-year Plan (FYP) jointly organised by the Constitutional Affairs Bureau and the Civil Service Training and Development Institute this morning (March 28) (English portion):

Reporter: There are so many things in the 11th FYP. I wonder what focus this range of seminars will have. What will be the target of this seminar? What sort of civil servants are they? Are they just trade, commerce and services related?

SCA: You have all been following in the media the proposed 11th FYP, which was approved by the National People's Congress in March. In Hong Kong, we have recognised that this is a very good time that Hong Kong is mentioned in the National Five-year Plan. It is also very clear that the Central Authorities will continue to support Hong Kong's development in terms of being an international financial centre, trading centre and shipping centre. Our service industries are also considered to be very important to the country.

So far as Hong Kong is concerned, our focus is to ensure that Hong Kong will continue to maximise its advantage of being next to the Mainland of China. We have this huge hinterland, which is the fastest-growing region in the world. In order to maximise our potential, we must make sure that key infrastructure projects like the bridge to Macau and Zhuhai, like the high-speed railway to Guangzhou, will be implemented in good time.

The 11th National Five-year Plan has set all these in a very good perspective and spectrum. We are delighted that we can invite Mr Xu, who has taken part in the composition of the last few Five-year Plans, to share with Hong Kong civil servants how Hong Kong and Mainland's development can complement one another.

Today's gathering received a record number of applications from over 200 officers. Our auditorium can only accommodate about 180. So we actually had to turn away a few applicants. They come from all sorts of policy bureaux and departments. This is because in many respects, whether it is economic, social, infrastructure or other aspects of Hong Kong Government's work, we have some involvement and a great deal of interest in how we can have closer co-operation with Mainland authorities.

Reporter: (about whether organising this sort of seminar was controversial in possibly contravening the Basic Law)

SCA: (To add to Mr Xu's response) May I supplement that the mentioning of Hong Kong in the 11th National Five-year Plan marks the importance which the Central Authorities attach to the continuous development of Hong Kong. But at the same time, substantive planning work and projects within Hong Kong are not mentioned in the National Five-year Plan. So this reflects the respect of the Central Authorities for the principle of "One Country, Two Systems". It also underlines the importance of closer co-operation. Actually our experience in the last few years is that the closer Hong Kong and Mainland get together, the stronger Hong Kong's position becomes.

I cite an example of the issue of CEPA, the trade agreement between the Mainland and Hong Kong. We have been able to put this together because Hong Kong has this unique position of being able to retain membership of the WTO, and after our country has acceded to the WTO as two different entities under the WTO umbrella, we can conclude this free trade agreement. So this is a very good example of how getting closer together can also strengthen Hong Kong's position in terms of economic expansion, in terms of exploring new opportunities, and in terms of getting closer regional co-operation with our neighbouring provinces.

(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript.)
Ends/Tuesday, March 28, 2006