Chief Secretary for Administration The Honourable Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet Ngor, distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the Queen’s Birthday Party Hong Kong.
Today is of course not just Her Majesty The Queen’s Party. It is Her actual Birthday – Her Majesty’s 90th. So it is a particular joy and privilege to be able to mark this day with you.
The Queen was born in 1926 – the year that Scottish engineer John Logie Baird demonstrated the first working television system in London. In Hong Kong, the Peak Tram went electric.
The Prime Minister spoke today of a modern Elizabethan age. Of someone who has devoted her entire life to the service of others. For so long. And done so with grace, and humility. The Queen has been “a rock of strength for our nation” and the Commonwealth.
Last year, Her Majesty became the longest reigning monarch in British history.
Ladies and Gentlemen, may I invite you to raise your glass in the first toast of the evening to Her Majesty [“The Queen”].
We are also celebrating someone else this April. Buckingham Palace has given us special permission, 400 years on, to celebrate William Shakespeare. He who remains an inspiration “not of an age but for all time”.
Indeed, His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales today chose an edited passage from Henry VIII to pay a tribute to His Mother on Her 90th : “and those about her / From her shall read the perfect ways of honour”. “She shall be an aged princess; many days shall see her, And yet no day without a deed to crown it.”
I hope you enjoyed the Cantonese language performance of a scene from Macbeth by Tang Shu Wing Theatre Studio.
Before proceeding further, thank yous. To our sponsors: CK Hutchison, Jardines, HSBC, Slaughter and May, British Airways, ARUP, Gammon, Prudential, Financial Times, Grosvenor and Jaguar Land Rover. And those supplying the GREAT British food and drink: Chapel Down, Edinburgh Gin, Speyside Glenlivet water. Also to our yangqin players – Melody Yu of the Hong Kong Dulcimer Orchestra and our Police Band Piper. “If music be the food of love play on” [ Orsino, Twelfth Night ]. But after the speeches have finished of course…
Well what of the UK in Hong Kong these days? Hong Kong is continuing to attract British businesses who “like merchants, venture trade abroad” [ Henry V ].
It remains one of the UK’s top export markets, the UK’s second largest market in Asia, after the Chinese mainland. This year UK Trade and Investment have assisted several thousand British businesses and helped win over one billion pounds of business. Our companies feel comfortable doing business here.
As a prominent gateway to and from China, Hong Kong is uniquely placed to contribute to and benefit from the Belt and Road initiative, as well as the development of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
“The world is indeed mine oyster” [ The Merry Wives of Windsor ]. Britain and its businesses are determined to contribute to ensure Hong Kong remains a leading global capital in the long run.
This past year British missions in the experience economy, airport, rail and fashion sectors, have brought iconic British brands to Hong Kong.
A special thank you to our partners at the British Chamber, Invest Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Trade Development Council for their support.
This year has also been a record year for investments coming from Hong Kong to the UK. We have welcomed new investors and seen existing investors – CK Hutchison, YGM and Bank of East Asia – grow their UK presence.
Savvy Hong Kong investors have also realised the opportunities beyond the capital. Peterson in the Grade II listed Greater Northern Warehouse. G Suite in Rochdale in Greater Manchester, with a particular China business focus. Interest in the Northern Powerhouse abounds.
We have also innovated – this year saw the inaugural UKTI Hong Kong Fintech Award. We are glad that PCCW, Computime and GP Acoustics have introduced new products to the UK market.
“We know what we are, but know not what we may be” [ that was Ophelia in Hamlet ] I am happy to report that we do know what we are – and since 2012 we are GREAT.
The GREAT Britain campaign launched with the London Olympics and Diamond Jubilee. It continues to showcase the best of what the UK has to offer to inspire the world to visit, study and do business in UK.
Shakespeare is GREAT. Creativity is GREAT. And “All the world is a stage” (As You Like It) – as Udderbelly – the performance festival from London’s Southbank and the Edinburgh Festival – demonstrated when they came to HK, as did the RSC.
Tracey Emin was in Hong Kong during Art Basel. “Can one desire too much of a good thing?” Little I can add to Rosalind in As You Like It.
As we are on the subject of culture, a special word for the British Council on their achievements. What a joy to see the Thomas Heatherwick Design exhibition at PMQ, and the breath-taking installation by Sir Antony Gormley ‘Event Horizon’ right across Central. It is still with us, until later in May. Both of these were opened by the Chief Secretary Carrie Lam.
The Chief Secretary deserves special thanks for her personal commitment and support. These world-class events were true partnerships between the UK and Hong Kong – impossible without enthusiastic Hong Kong support and advocacy, at the very highest level.
The British Council meanwhile continues the work it is probably best-known for in Hong Kong, teaching English to 20,000 students last year. By popular demand from parents it will even open a kindergarten next door in September. So if you start to think that British diplomats are looking even younger – you’ve probably stepped into the wrong building.
And the British community continues to grow. UK visitors to Hong Kong hit 530,000 in 2015. Our consular team has remained busy. And incredibly grateful for the excellent cooperation we receive from the Hong Kong authorities, especially the Social Welfare, Police, Immigration and Correctional Services Departments.
To cater to this growing community with changing consular needs, we also rely on the vital support of our Royal and Loyal societies in Hong Kong, the British Council, the British Chamber and St John’s Cathedral.
I thank you all for the help, from direct support for British nationals in need, to communication and encouraging overseas voter registration.
As we do have some critical votes coming up in the UK calendar … (by the way the deadline is 7 June for the 23 June EU referendum)
I would like to express our gratitude to law enforcement agencies HK Police, HK Customs & Excise, ICAC and the Department of Justice for their support. Our new National Crime Agency post is already successfully tackling financial crime cases and drugs trafficking throughout Asia Pacific. And they look forward to further cooperation in Cyber and financial crime matters with the Commercial Crime Bureau, the Joint Financial intelligence Unit and the Cyber Security and Technology Crime Bureau.
From 007 to 1217 – we showcased James Bond’s latest – Spectre – and Magna Carta. The Hong Kong stop on Magna Carta’s global tour was particularly meaningful – Magna Carta is part of Hong Kong’s constitutional framework.
The rule of law is one of Hong Kong’s greatest strengths. Adherence to rule of law and One Country, Two Systems and respect for the rights and freedoms laid out in the Basic Law underpin everything that is great about Hong Kong. I am sure everyone here would like it to remain that way.
As Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said during his visit here earlier this month: “We believe that One Country, Two Systems is the right future as it benefits the people of Hong Kong and China”. He and we therefore hope and fully expect that it will continue far into the future.
We hope that the discussion about political reform will continue in a way that includes all sectors of society. Giving people a legitimate say can help address division, not accentuate it. As well as providing reassurance on Hong Kong’s capacity to evolve and adapt.
For as Helena said in All’s Well that Ends Well – “Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie, Which we ascribe to heaven”.
So it has been a full year for us in Hong Kong as we continue to deliver for Her Majesty and Her Government on her 90th Birthday. Even if the course of events in Hong Kong has not always run smooth, as true love in Midsummer Night’s Dream – and the ado has not always been about nothing.
I want to pay tribute to the talented BCG team – our UK based and many long serving locally employed staff – do so much for Britain in Hong Kong.
Finally thanks must go of course to our Hong Kong partners and friends here this evening. For – “what is a city but the people? “ [ Sicinius in Coriolanus 7 ] .
May I invite you all to join me in a toast, ‘to the people of the People’s Republic of China and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region’.
May I now invite Chief Secretary for Administration The Honourable Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet Ngor, of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government, to address us.