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SCMA speaks at India's Independence Day luncheon (English only)

     Following is the speech by the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, at a luncheon gathering of the Overseas Indian Organisation, Hong Kong to celebrate India's Independence Day today (August 13):

Mr Arunachalam, Consul-General, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

     It really gives me much honour and pleasure to be able to join you today to celebrate India's Independence Day in the presence of the members of the Overseas Indian Organisation.

     Both China and India are ancient civilisations with several thousand years of history. Both of these economies are playing an important role in the 21st century, particularly in sustaining growth in Asia in the midst of the financial tsunami.

     Consul-General, we in Hong Kong have taken special note of the response which the international investing community place in results of the most recent general election in India. Your stock market went up by almost 50 per cent immediately after the election; and this is something which Hong Kong investors welcome -- anywhere it happened in the world.

     The Indian community has a long history in Hong Kong, dating back at least 150 years. All these years, throughout the decades, the Indian community has played an extremely significant role, not just in commerce and industry, but also in the professions in Hong Kong, and in broadening the horizons of Hong Kong community.

     Cultural diversity and harmony are very important attributes of Hong Kong. Here in Hong Kong, we like to call ourselves Asia's world city. This is where East meets West. This is actually also where East meets East. This is the place where different ethnic groups can live in harmony. And in this, I would like to place a special acknowledgement for the contribution which leaders of the Indian community and your members have made in Hong Kong throughout the decades.

     As the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, one of my portfolios covers human rights. In this regard, I would like to introduce to you two special developments in the course of last year.

     Firstly, in July 2008, the Legislative Council passed the Race Discrimination Ordinance. This new enactment places a responsibility on organisations and individuals to treat all races equally and to refrain from any acts of discrimination. The Ordinance has now been brought into force and will be enforced by the Equal Opportunities Commission. Various codes on employment and administrative guidelines have been issued, and we trust that companies in Hong Kong and different NGOs will collectively promote very actively the implementation of this Ordinance. We do not believe that we have major difficulties with this. But since we are gathered among an audience of businessmen and entrepreneurs, I hasten to add that we, in the government, fully appreciate the additional burdens which enactments such as this Ordinance, will place on your operations in the months and years ahead. Hong Kong has to move forward as a civilised society and we trust that you will help us too in this regard.

     Secondly, I would like to say that as a complement to the enactment of this Ordinance, the Hong Kong Administration has promoted the establishment of four ethnic minority support centres in Hong Kong. Three of these have already been established in different regions throughout Hong Kong, the New Territories and in Kowloon. One will be established very soon. The functions of these community centres are several-fold. First and foremost, they will provide an interpretation service for parents, children and other members of the ethnic minorities who need to use government services, or need to obtain services from other organisations. This interpretation service will be available free of charge. We will also organise other ethnic community activities through these centres so as to promote integration into Hong Kong community, and at the same time, help different ethnic groups retain their cultural and historical diversities.

     In this new endeavour, we very much look forward to working together with the Indian community, which I believe is the most well established and the most resourceful among different ethnic groups in Hong Kong. All the years, you have always been very supportive of the Government and very supportive of Hong Kong.

     I believe, Mr Arunachalam, we have taken some steps in the right direction. But the road ahead is still for us to pursue jointly. In this regard, I trust that between the peoples of China and of India, we will have many achievements to pursue in the century ahead of us. Thanks very much.

ENDS/Thursday, August 13, 2009