Following is the speech by the Chief Executive, Mr Donald Tsang, at the Consular Corps Dinner this evening (February 15):
Doyen, Members of the Consular Corps, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
Good evening everyone and thank you very much for the invitation to join you tonight. Can I just start by extending my belated - but no less warm - wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous Year of the Dragon. Kung Hei Fat Choy!
Alas, this is the last time that I will break bread with you as the Chief Executive. So, I must thank you all most sincerely for your support of Hong Kong during my tenure. Its been a great pleasure getting to know you and working with you.
Id also like to take this opportunity to stress that your presence in Hong Kong matters very much to us - it is of strategic importance to our development past, present and future. That also means it is of strategic importance to China, as she continues to open up and reform, to engage the world and to play a more prominent role economically and politically on the global stage.
One of the great things about Hong Kong is that we have such a substantial Consular Corps - 120 consulates-general or consulates, and five officially recognised bodies. Your presence here helps to foster deeper economic and cultural exchanges - and, by extension, greater understanding about Hong Kong in your home country, greater understanding about your home country in Hong Kong and through Hong Kong in the Mainland of China. You and your missions are an integral part of our recipe for success as Asias world city.And indeed for a cordial and peaceful globalised world.
One of the reasons that Hong Kong has thrived is because we have such broad and deep connections around the globe. Our future as a global financial, trading and business centre depends not just on maintaining those links - but on making them broader and deeper for our mutual benefit. It also means making new friends, exploring new markets and developing new contacts.
It is important to note that there is a constitutional underpinning to everything we do on the international front. Chapter VII of the Basic Law specifically empowers us to maintain and develop relations with foreign states and regions in areas such as the economy, trade, finance and monetary affairs, shipping, communications, tourism, culture and sport.
This complements other sections of the Basic Law which, for example, codify our development as an international financial centre, a separate customs territory, and as a centre of international and regional aviation.
The Basic Law empowers us to maintain our own legal system, to refer to precedents from other common law jurisdictions and to invite esteemed judges from other common law jurisdictions to sit on our Court of Final Appeal.
So, as an SAR of China, maintaining our international links is not just something we would like to do - it is something that we are obliged to do to ensure that One Country, Two Systems is implemented faithfully, and that the HKSAR can play to is strengths in the context of national development.
There are several interlinked aspects as to how we maintain our global outlook and contacts. First of all, we try our best to be a responsible global citizen. We take our international obligations very seriously and play an active role in fora such as the World Trade Organization, the World Customs Organization, APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation), the Asian Development Bank, the Bank for International Settlements, the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering and the Financial Stability Board - established under the G20 - just to name a few.
We maintain close and cordial ties with the Consular Corps in Hong Kong, as well as the international chambers of commerce, which I have to say are also great advocates and supporters of Hong Kong. We have a large resident foreign population in Hong Kong, which also adds to our attraction as a cosmopolitan and pluralistic society. It also provides us with a tremendous knowledge bank of international exposure and experience - you can say a brains trust that allows us to adopt, adapt and absorb best practice from around the world.
We try our best - within the time constraints we all face - to visit our counterparts overseas to update them about Hong Kong and to promote our unique advantages. We are eager to learn about the challenges and developments in other countries, and how you tackle issues such as environmental protection, heritage preservation, public health and hygiene, or to look at your regulatory regimes or laws. We deepen our official links with bilateral agreements or memoranda of understanding on areas such as trade, vices, double taxation, investment protection and mutual legal assistance.
We work hard to expand our contacts and outreach - in recent years we have actively cultivated closer links with South America, the Middle East and Africa. We have expanded our official representation in Europe, with the opening of a new office in Berlin. And, we remain active in the key markets of Europe, North America, ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), East Asia and Australia through our network of Economic and Trade Offices.
We also welcome visits from our overseas counterparts, government and political leaders and opinion formers. Last year for example, more than 100 overseas delegations visited Hong Kong. We are happy to exchange ideas and opinions on all manner of topics, to update friends on Hong Kongs latest developments, and to discuss how we can work together to tackle challenges such as the global financial crisis and the possibility of another economic downturn.
Ladies and gentlemen, there is nothing better than personal contact to foster deeper friendships and greater understanding between governments and with international organisations. And that is why your presence in Hong Kong is so warmly welcomed and treasured - because you provide the personal touch that helps Hong Kong to keep in touch with the rest of the world. Long may it continue!
Thank you very much.