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SCA's speech at the lunch for speakers of CS Forum on Cross-Strait Peace and Development

Following is a speech delivered today (June 15) by the Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, at a lunch reception for the speakers of CS Forum on Cross-Strait Peace and Development:

Ms Susie Chiang, Chairman (Andy) Lo, friends from the Mainland and Taiwan,

On behalf of the HKSAR Government, I express our warmest welcome to friends from Taiwan and scholars from the Mainland. I have also invited a few friends in Hong Kong to join today's occasion, including Mr (Jose) Yu, Mr (David) Lie, and Mr Lo (Man Tuen). They are good friends who are associated with Fujian and the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. Director Ho Che-ming is the representative of CPG's Liaison Office in the HKSAR and is responsible for handling Taiwan-related matters. The Honourable Choy So-yuk is also of Fujian origin, who enjoys much public support as a Legislative Council Member.

The seminar organised by CS Culture Foundation and Taiwan Business Association (HK) Ltd is well positioned and timely. The theme of the seminar today is "Cross-strait peace and development". We noted the announcement yesterday regarding the expansion of Mainland-Taiwan chartered flight cooperation. After the ground-breaking Mainland visits by Kuomintang and People First Party last year, yesterday's announcement signified that the cross-strait relations could be further strengthened.

In Hong Kong, we attach great importance to relations with Taiwan. Taiwan is our fourth largest trading partner. In 2004-05, our trade volume with Taiwan grew by seven per cent. We also announced last week the new arrangement that holders of valid Mainland Travel Permit for Taiwan Residents may stay in Hong Kong for up to seven days without prior application. This would facilitate promotion of tourism and bilateral trade.

The theme of today's seminar is "Peace and Development". The principle is also relevant to the return of Hong Kong. During the 1980s and 1990s, we made extensive preparations to ensure the smooth return of Hong Kong. I would like to focus on three aspects today.

First, before 1997, quite a few people in Hong Kong and others outside Hong Kong were anxious whether important elements such as freedoms and the rule of law would be sustained after the Handover. Since the return of Hong Kong in 1997, all incoming visitors could observe that there has not been any change to our way of life in Hong Kong, and that our freedoms and the rule of law have been firmly maintained. Anxieties which prevailed prior to 1997 have thus been swept away.

Second, Hong Kong attaches much importance to our external relations and international links. Since the Handover, we have maintained our membership in international organisations such as WTO and APEC. We hosted the 6th Ministerial Conference of WTO in December last year in Hong Kong. The conference was a success with substantive progress attained. It is now up to the WTO Secretariat in Geneva to pursue the Doha round of WTO negotiations. Later this year, we will also host the ITU Telecom World 2006. Both events clearly demonstrate that since the Handover, we have been able to maintain and broaden our international connections.

Third, in relation to WTO, I would also like to point out that there is new development potential for Hong Kong after the Handover. When the Basic Law was adopted in Beijing in 1990, no one expected that after 1997, Hong Kong and our country could establish free trade arrangements under the WTO framework, which we now call Mainland and Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA). The conclusion of CEPA arose from our maintenance of membership in WTO, coupled with China's accession to the WTO. Since the implementation of CEPA, Hong Kong goods could be exported to the Mainland duty free; our services sector have more extensive opportunities to develop in the Mainland market.

I hope that this brief account will give you the sense that after the Handover, Hong Kong's overall development is positive and that there is new room for growth. The Hong Kong community and the public care much about the future development of our country. We support three direct links being implemented across the Taiwan strait; we support unification. In 1997, the historical issue of Hong Kong was resolved; Macao also returned to China in 1999. We trust that with efforts from all sides, the third issue left over from history – the issue of Taiwan – will also be resolved.

We welcome organising of today's seminar, and we trust that the discussions will strengthen cross-strait relations. I wish today's seminar every success. Thank you.

Ends/Thursday, June 15, 2006