Speech by SCMA at luncheon to celebrate the 61st anniversary of India's Republic Day (English only)

     The Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, addressed a luncheon organised by the Overseas Indian Organisation, Hong Kong on January 18 to celebrate the 61st anniversary of India's Republic Day. Following is Mr Lam's speech:

Mr Sital, Consul General, the Honourable Jasper Tsang, Deputy Commissioner Gao, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

     It really gives me great pleasure and honour to be invited by the Overseas Indian Organisation to join you on the very auspicious occasion of India's 61st Republic Day.

     On this occasion, I wish to share with you three very simple and direct messages.

     Firstly, Hong Kong and India have very long standing ties. It was back in 1888 when an Indian gentleman, Mr Naorojee, came from India and established the Star Ferry in Hong Kong. And today, up to this very day, the Star Ferry remains as a very important institution which signifies the beauty of Victoria Harbour. It was in 1949 when Mr Ruttonjee established the Ruttonjee Hospital to help the Hong Kong community in the fight against tuberculosis. The Ruttonjee Hospital is in fact right across the road from my alma mater, Wah Yan College, Hong Kong, so it is sealed in my memory as an important community organisation in Hong Kong.

     The second message that I would like to share with you is that, because of these long standing ties, the Indian community is a leader among the ethnic minorities in Hong Kong. And the ethnic community in Hong Kong places an extremely important role in maintaining Hong Kong's position as Asia's World City.

     Here in Hong Kong, we like to brand ourselves as an international cosmopolitan community. There are many features of this international city, one of which is the diversity and the rich chemistry of the ethnic groups that we have in Hong Kong. You make life colourful in Hong Kong, and you help Hong Kong establish and maintain trading, financial and cultural links with the rest of the world. Go to Hong Kong International Airport any day, and you find this vast array of ethnic groups visiting Hong Kong and departing for various destinations around the world. But the Indian community is the most well established among the ethnic groups in Hong Kong. You are truly in a strategic position to play a most important leading role in helping the ethnic groups in Hong Kong to grow.

     On the part of the Government, we want to play our part. That is why in 2009 we enacted the Race Discrimination Ordinance to ensure that people of different ethnic origins will all have an equal opportunity in Hong Kong to develop their careers and to contribute to the Hong Kong community. We also established four ethnic minorities support service centres around the territory. One of these provides 24-hour real time interpretation services for the ethnic groups.

     Up to this day, since 2009, these four centres have served 40,000 ethnic group participants, and over 2,000 request for this simultaneous interpretation service have been made. We wish to ensure that these services to the ethnic minority groups will continue to develop in Hong Kong. And we call upon the Indian community, as the leader among the ethnic groups, to continue to participant, to play your role, and to make an immense contribution in this regard.

     My third message is also simple and direct. Hong Kong and India have a vast opportunity to capitalise on the economic opportunities which will reveal themselves in the days and the years ahead. These days around the world, people no longer just talk about the G20 economies. People talk about the “BRIC” economies -- Brazil, Russia, India and China. And here in Hong Kong, we are so well positioned to capitalise on the economic opportunities which reveal themselves both in Mainland China and also in India. The Chinese economy and the Indian economy are posed to grow at the rate of about eight to 10 per cent in the next few years.

     Here in Hong Kong, we would like to build on the very well established foundations that we have laid over the years. In 2009 and 2010, the Hong Kong stock exchange was the top among all financial markets in terms of raising capital through IPOs (Initial Public Offerings). We would like to invite the overseas Indian community and Indian businessmen who are well established in Hong Kong to go back to your home country and invite Indian companies to come and to continue to list in the Hong Kong Exchange. This is the place to live, work, do business and grow in the decades ahead for you and your families. For generations, the Indian community has made an important and tremendous contribution to Hong Kong. Just last week, The Heritage Foundation announced that for 17 years in a row, Hong Kong has been rated as the “freest economy” in the world. We have been able to achieve this through a variety of means, and through the contribution of many, of which, the Indian community is a key player.   

     So long may Hong Kong and India relations continue to flourish, and long may your business opportunities flourish.

Thank you very much.

Ends/Tuesday, January 18, 2010