(London) British Consul General to Hong Kong and Macao Caroline Wilson’s speech at the Queen’s Birthday Party in Hong Kong 2015. Secretary for Justice The Honorable Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung, distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to this year’s Queen’s Birthday Party –Her Majesty’s 89th – here in Hong Kong.
And today is not just Her Majesty’s the Queen’s Party – it is indeed Her Majesty’s Birthday today. This year as we celebrate Her Majesty’s birthday, I am thrilled to be able to unveil, for the first time in Hong Kong, a new portrait of The Queen. Commissioned last year by British photographer David Bailey. The British Consulate-General in Hong Kong is one of a small number of British diplomatic missions around the world to receive its own copy. It gives me great pleasure to be able to share this with you now.
Ladies and Gentlemen, may I invite you to raise your glass in the first toast of the evening to Her Majesty [“The Queen”].
As always, at the outset I would like to thank our many generous sponsors whose names are displayed around the Consulate and in the programme cards. And of course to those supplying the GREAT British food and drink being served today. Also a very special thank you to the members of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra and Chief Executive Michael Macleod – triumphant from their Europe tour including London and Birmingham – for bringing us some glorious British music this evening – Elgar and Vaughan Williams – as well as stirring national anthems. And thank you to our piper.
Since we last gathered to celebrate Her Majesty’s Birthday, we have been busy nurturing the UK-Hong Kong relationship. It’s fair to say that there have been some challenging times – but as so often, we emerge stronger from those tougher times.
You might even say that the UK has been cooking up a storm in Hong Kong – by which I mean strictly in the kitchen. We’ve seen Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsay, Jason Atherton, Tom Aikens all come to town.
And for other businesses Hong Kong continues to be a tasty proposition – Hong Kong remains our second largest market in Asia, after the Chinese mainland, and our eleventh globally. Business partnerships between Hong Kong and the UK remain both strong and full of potential for further growth.
Our companies feel comfortable doing business here in Hong Kong. No wonder that we have hundreds of companies who have invested over £33 billion pounds here. In the past year UK Trade & Investment have assisted several thousand British businesses and supported UK companies in winning half a billion pounds worth of business here in Hong Kong. UK companies from a wide range of sectors are delivering for Hong Kong, including on delivering the Chief Executive’s 2030 vision. Britain and its businesses are determined to contribute to ensuring that Hong Kong remains a leading global capital long into the future.
From glass sculptors to fashion and furniture designers; from the inventors of new technologies, including the latest education software, to the creators of innovative, sustainable and beautiful buildings such as the Indigo Hotel, as well as new transport networks such as the MTR extension and Hong Kong Airport’s new midfield concourse.
A personal highlight was assisting at the opening of a British high street name – who you might spot this evening – at their food store “on the Mid Levels escalator”. And for those of you who’ve been requesting, we are working on getting in regular supplies of crumpets and sausages. So the UK is without question committed commercially to Hong Kong for the long term.
Our team couldn’t deliver without the British Chamber, Invest Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Trade Development Council who support our SMEs in setting up and doing business here. We are very grateful to you for your involvement in our overseas business networks initiative.
A special thank you must go to Christopher Hammerbeck and his team at BritCham. Christopher has worked relentlessly over the years, with enormous dedication to build what is without question one of the best British Chambers in the world. Thank you Christopher – in absentia – for your tremendous contribution. We wish you a long and happy retirement. Retirement from Brit Cham at least, for I know you continue to render public service in many other ways. Of course as we say goodbye to Christopher, we also welcome Andrew Seaton to the British Chamber. We look forward to working as successfully with Andrew and his team.
Globally 2014 was another strong year for investment in the UK, building on the UK’s status as the No. 1 destination to invest in Europe and set up European Headquarters. With the UK’s Corporation Tax now at 20%, the lowest in the G20, the UK’s business environment is ever more competitive.
We’ve been delighted to see some of our best established major investors maintain their view on the UK as a world class investment destination, grow their presence in the UK, extend to new sectors, as well as welcoming new investment, in particular from mainland China, much of it channelled through Hong Kong.
This has been reflected in our relationship with China. 2014 was once again a year for RMB offshore growth, the UK at the forefront in the West. In the UK we have had a number of European firsts such as the first Chinese Asset Management office set up in Europe to access RQFII quota; and Europe’s first Exchange Traded Fund investing in China’s money markets being importantly domiciled in the UK. Both of these investments came from China via Hong Kong to the UK showing how critical the relationship is, not just with China but also between London, as the Western hub for RMB, and Hong Kong as the leading RMB offshore hub globally.
In addition to being a GREAT place to do business, the UK continues to be GREAT in many other ways. Four examples for you:
GREEN IS GREAT! The beautiful “living wall” behind me is intended not only to remind you of the flowers at a Buckingham Palace garden party, but also of the importance of the UK’s partnership with Hong Kong and China on securing the transition to a low carbon global economy. Especially as we approach the pivotally important United Nations climate talks in Paris at the end of this year.
We have already seen the creation of Asian Climate Partners based in Hong Kong, a joint venture between the UK’s Department for International Development, Robeco and the Asian Development Bank. And the UK’s Green Investment Bank is also working with investors from Hong Kong and China to support the UK’s green economy, as well as with regulators to green China’s financial system. There is huge potential for Hong Kong and China to develop a green finance sector.
SPORT IS GREAT! This year the UK (England and Wales) will host the Rugby World Cup. We were fortunate in having Ollie Phillips (former Captain of the England Rugby 7s team) and Lawrence Dallaglio (former British and Irish Lions and England captain) here in Hong Kong as part of the GREAT Rugby World Cup Trophy Tour.
DESIGN IS GREAT! UKTI worked with RIBA, the Royal Institute of British Architects to host the GREAT by Design exhibition, opened by the Financial Secretary at The Fringe.
CULTURE IS GREAT! Shakespeare’s GLOBE brought a widely acclaimed “A Midsummer’s Night Dream” to Hong Kong. And ART was GREAT during the extraordinary Art Basel in Hong Kong last month – with the presence of many British galleries and artists, and institutions such as the Tate Modern, and Royal Academy. Not to mention Richard Wilson’s incredible vintage coach dangling off the Peninsula. Though I would not want New World Bus to consider that an operational advertisement for the excellent British double deckers that do travel Hong Kong’s streets.
While we are on culture- a word about the British Council, whose specialists have worked with over 8000 Hong Kong teachers to support the Education Bureau’s initiatives on English. The British Council also opened a new English Language Centre in Tsim Sha Tsui. Reinforcing the educational links between Hong Kong and the UK. I am pleased too that the Science Alive festival, with the Science Museum and the Croucher Foundation, attracted 24,000 – 50% more than last year.
Just a few words too on law enforcement. With increased exchanges sadly we also see some people trying to abuse the multiplication of channels between our economies. So I would especially like to thank the Hong Kong Police, Customs, Inland Revenue and the Independent Commission Against Corruption for co-operation and assistance to the HM Revenue and Customs Fiscal Crime Liaison Office in the international fight against serious and organised fiscal crime. Also to the Hong Kong immigration authorities – for joint investigations into organised immigration crime have doubled this year. We hugely value Hong Kong’s commitment in these areas.
Lastly, at Her Majesty’s birthday party last year I predicted the coming twelve months would see plenty of activity on the issue universal suffrage. Indeed, I think it is safe to say that many of us were entirely occupied with events in what became one of the most remarkable years in Hong Kong’s post handover history.
It is particularly apt that our guest of Honour this evening is Secretary for Justice The Hon Rimsky Yuen. As the world’s attention was drawn to Hong Kong, and onto the rights and freedoms that its people enjoy, it was the city’s rule of law that stood out above all. In a period of intense scrutiny of its integrity, it remained robust, demonstrating to everyone one of Hong Kong’s greatest strengths.
Indeed at the Global Law Summit in London this February, your Chief Justice set out why respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and their enforcement, are important to global economic development. I am glad not only that Chief Justice Ma but also you, Secretary, found the time to visit the UK last autumn, and generously spoke to various audiences including at Chatham House, the London Law Expo and to the Hong Kong Association – where you reassured the Hong Kong Association that “the election of CE in 2017 by universal suffrage is just the first step” with the scope for reviewing and improving the system in future. We wish you well Secretary as you and your colleagues navigate what may be critical weeks for Hong Kong’s future.
No matter whether looking at the UK with our election just a couple of weeks away, or Hong Kong, it is clear that we are at an important political juncture. While as a UK civil servant I am duty bound to remain silent on the UK election – and others will almost certainly wish me to remain silent on Hong Kong as well – I simply wish to say first, regarding the UK, that I hope all of you eligible have registered to vote!
Second, to note that the UK has embraced democracy in its all vibrancy as the best, even if imperfect, way of governing the country sustainably; by returning a government with popular acceptance if not universal support.
Whichever party or parties win the General Election in the UK, of one thing one can be sure – that Hong Kong retains a special place in the hearts of British people, including many of our Parliamentarians, just as I think the UK still does in the hearts of many Hong Kongers. While times move on, I hope we can see that interest and affection as a positive to be nurtured, in the interests of all our communities. And I do hope we will be able to welcome further important visitors from Hong Kong to the UK in the coming year.
As you can see, the British Consulate in Hong Kong is delivering for her Majesty and for this I would like to thank all of my talented, hard working and conscientious team for all they do for the British Community in Hong Kong and Macao.
Finally thanks must go of course to our Hong Kong partners and friends here this evening. And on that note 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 Secretary for Justice The Hon Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung, of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government, to address us.