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Speech by PSHA at Hong Kong Arts Development Council's International Arts Leadership Roundtable Forum (English only)

     Following is the speech by the Permanent Secretary for Home Affairs, Mr Raymond Young, at the Hong Kong Arts Development Council's International Arts Leadership Roundtable Forum today (November 8):

Mr (Wilfred) Wong, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

     Good morning. It gives me great pleasure and honour to speak to such a distinguished audience today. On behalf of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government, I would like to extend a very warm welcome to all our guests who have come to Hong Kong from all over the world.

     For those who are not familiar with Hong Kong, although the city has become a part of China since 1997, we have pursued a fiercely independent policy in the development of arts and culture. We are at the centre of a region where important things are happening, and to which the attention of the world is increasingly drawn. Freedom of expression in the arts alongside freedom of the press are actually enshrined in our constitution, which is called the Basic Law, in Hong Kong. Such freedoms, coupled with a robust economy and a well-educated population, constitute the basic ingredients of a major cultural metropolis. I am not claiming that we are there yet, but we are certainly serious in our aspirations to be a cultural hub in this part of the world, and the future is looking quite promising right now.

     The Government has always endeavoured to create a favourable environment to artists of all colours to live out their dreams in Hong Kong and, along the way, contribute to the preservation and development of a cultural ecology that celebrates both creative ideas and traditional values. For instance, in the current financial year, the Government's estimated expenditure on culture and the arts amounts to more than US$380 million, not counting the expenditures on arts-related capital works projects such as the construction and renovation of museums and performing venues. We have also set aside an endowment of US$2.8 billion to establish a 42-hectare West Kowloon Cultural District which hopefully will be another London South Bank but multiplied by three and many other things, and I believe Michael Lynch will be sharing with you more about that later.

     I wish to express my deep appreciation to the Arts Development Council (ADC) for organising this roundtable discussion because the issues that you will be discussing in the course of the next two days are those that always occupy the minds of any funding agency and any decision maker in cultural policy. These issues have a particular relevance to the Home Affairs Bureau where I am working for because we play a dual role: we are the ministry for culture in Hong Kong and a funding agency at the same time. Despite the relatively healthy state of our public finance in Hong Kong - and I am glad that we do not really have the problem of budget cutbacks to deal with - it has not been easy to increase the level of public expenditures on arts and culture, and because of our low taxes, there is little incentive for the private sector to do more philanthropy for the arts. Performing companies and art groups that the Government directly or indirectly funds, either through the ADC or the Leisure and Cultural Services Department and more lately the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, are still clamouring for more resources to meet inflation and rising staff costs. The situation really calls for some new and lateral thinking about various models of arts financing to achieve a win-win situation for both the public and private sectors.

     I trust this meeting will provide a golden opportunity for us to share and exchange ideas on some of the emerging trends in the administration of the arts. I look forward to the creative dialogues that will enable us to see our own problems from a fresh perspective, and to tackle them on a more informed basis. I do hope that the relationship that we have built up here through this meeting will sustain and create opportunities for some fruitful co-operation in the future.

     Thank you very much.

Ends/Friday, November 8, 2013
Issued at HKT 15:55


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