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SCMA's speech at luncheon to celebrate India's Independence Day

     The Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, addressed the luncheon of the Overseas Indian Organisation, Hong Kong to celebrate India's Independence Day this (August 15) afternoon. Following is Mr Lam's speech:

Mr Sital (Chairman of the Overseas Indian Organisation), Consul General (of India, Mr Dharmendra), Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

     It gives me a tremendous honour to be invited to address this very distinguished gathering on the auspicious occasion of the 65th anniversary of India's Independence Day. It is particularly important that this occasion is organised by the Overseas Indian Organisation.

     The Indian community has been in Hong Kong for at least 150 years. In that time, all of you and your ancestors, your predecessors and your future generations, I am sure, have contributed, and will continue to contribute, to Hong Kong. You have helped to enrich Hong Kong's international and cosmopolitan character. 

     Here in Hong Kong, we like to pride ourselves as being “Asia's World City”. For 17 years in a row, the US Heritage Foundation has rated Hong Kong as “the freest economy on earth”. I am sure many of the Indian enterprises represented in this gathering here today, for generations, have built Hong Kong's cosmopolitan and international market. You make Hong Kong international.

     Likewise, in 2009 and 2010, the Hong Kong Stock Exchange has been rated as “the top IPO (initial public offering) generator” among all stock markets in the world, surpassing even London and New York. I am sure, again, Indian enterprises have contributed to this.

     Indeed, while Hong Kong is the place where the East meets the West, this is also the place where we are very successful in blending together not just cultures but also cuisines. This is the place where people of different ethnic origins can live together peacefully and prosperously. This is the place, I think, where multi-culturalism thrives and thrives very well.

     Today, I would like to share with you, in particular, three aspects which are very close to my heart. Firstly, you will recall that a few years ago, we enacted the Race Discrimination Ordinance. The Equal Opportunities Commission has been tasked to implement this Ordinance to enforce the law. In the course of the last two to three years, this has been a successful enterprise. So far there have been relatively few complaints, and for those which we have received, most of them have been amicably resolved. Our Education Bureau, in particular, is very committed to providing bilingual and multilingual education for our ethnic minority children. I hope that the Indian community will continue to support us in this very important and invaluable endeavour.

     Secondly, employment in the civil service is, again, something which will benefit both the general Hong Kong community and the ethnic minority communities in Hong Kong. I still remember that when I was growing up as a child in Stanley where my father was working as a clerk in the then Prisons Department, there were many ethnic minority children – including Indian and Pakistani. Everyday, we would play in the football field and on the beaches. Why - because there were many prison wardens of those origins working in Stanley Prison.

     Nowadays, because of the transition and because we have placed emphasis on both English and Chinese as our official languages, and because for some years, we have required Hong Kong civil servants to be conversant both in English and Chinese, the number of ethnic minority officers in the departments like the Police and the Correctional Services has dropped. We are making an effort in this regard. We have reviewed our recruitment procedures. For the recruitment of Police Constables, for example, starting in May this year, a new test has been instituted based on genuine job requirements covering both Chinese and English. This has been introduced in place of a previous interviewing process which required candidates to present their views in written Chinese. Scores are now awarded for candidates who are conversant in ethnic minority languages, such as Hindi. Likewise, the Correctional Services Department has replaced its Chinese written test with a group interview for its Assistant Officer recruitment process starting this month. So we expect that over time, the number of ethnic minority officers in these discipline services will increase.

     Thirdly, over the years, the Government has also been sponsoring non-governmental organisations to provide a wide variety of support services for our ethnic minority communities. Our commitment in this regard continues. For over two years, we have established four service centres to provide services to ethnic minority mothers and children. In these centre, they can pick up computer skills and learn English and Cantonese. These centres have been successful and are very popular among the ethnic minority communities. All this work has now been placed under the purview of the Home Affairs Department. The department will use their other district-based organisations to leverage more services for our ethnic minority communities throughout Hong Kong, Kowloon and the New Territories.

     I call upon the Indian community to continue to support the integration of other ethnic groups into the wider Hong Kong society, and also to support these ethnic groups in maintaining their cultural distinctiveness and diversity.

     As we move further into the 21st century, I believe, Consulate General, there is much which China and India can achieve together internationally. Both our nations have several thousand years of history and civilisation backing us. Both economies are surpassing many developing and developed economies in terms of growth, in terms of talents and in terms of developing new markets. Between Hong Kong and India, we also share some very common traits. Firstly, we have the English language; secondly, we have the common law; thirdly, we have filial piety and a tradition which treasures family ties; and fourthly, both India and Hong Kong have fine commercial traditions. These traditions have brought prosperity to both places and have improved the livelihood for the people.

     Therefore, on the 65th anniversary of India's Independence Day, I wish India very success. May India and China including Hong Kong of course go from strength to strength. Thank you very much.

ENDS/Monday, August 15, 2011