Wednesday, 16 September 2015

HK ideal hub for entrepreneurs, start-ups

Financial Secretary John Tsang

I see in front of me a rich mix of entrepreneurs who seem to have the knack of seizing every opportunity that comes their way, young guns looking to start a business to put their audacious ideas to the test, fresh graduates who cannot wait to fulfill their ambitions.


In the past decade or so, we have come to witness the emergence of innovations that were not even imaginable in our wildest dreams. Perhaps only in the dreams of sci-fi decades earlier.


Technological advancements in digital communication, cloud computing, big data, robotics, biotech, FinTech, and many others, have disrupted the status quo, and changed entirely the way that we live, work and communicate.


Now we share updates with friends instantly on social media; we manage our wealth and investments with a few clicks of the mouse; and we monitor our health with apps on mobile phones and tablets that constantly track the condition of our bodies. 


Technological innovations have also revolutionised the conventional business model. Through the deployment of new technologies in commerce and logistics in the engagement of well-developed and highly efficient global supply chains, enterprises can now enter into new markets of their choice much easier than before, reaching out to target customers effectively in different corners of the world at any time of the day.


Enterprises can, having regard to their own profiles, pick the most suitable partners with the requisite comparative advantages, and push their products and services in the most profitable markets.


Just look at the tremendous pace and scale of development of online platforms like Amazon, Alibaba and eBay in recent years. It is a clear demonstration of how innovations have altered the traditional way of sourcing and supplying raw materials, as well as production and marketing of goods and services.


Unforeseen synergies

Technological innovations have served to enhance global competition in every field, pitching the best and the brightest from different parts of the world against each other. But at the same time, they have also brought everyone and every market closer to each other, creating unforeseen synergies.


The increasingly interconnected economies in an increasingly globalised world also mean that there is an abundance of new business opportunities coming up every day, for every new entrepreneur with new ideas who aspires to success.


Considering the fact that three out of the five public corporations with the world's largest capitalisation are technology companies, there is no question that technological innovation is right now, and will be in the next few decades, the major driving force of the global economy. And yes, you guessed that right, those three companies are Apple, Google and Microsoft.


Search for next big thing

Different economies around the world are working hard to build up their capacities in technological research and development, in order to gain that critical competitive edge in innovation and technology. Everyone is searching for the next big thing with that "wow" effect, and everyone is hoping to create the "blue ocean" in new and uncontested markets.


For Hong Kong, we have been working hard towards the goal of nurturing a knowledge-based economy, fostering an innovative and technological culture in the community, as well as creating a healthy eco-system for technological entrepreneurship and start-ups.


First and foremost, we have been spending a good part of our expenditure every year in education, building up our capacity in teaching and learning as well as research in the science, engineering and technology disciplines.


Special funding has been provided to universities to support students and teachers in commercialising their R&D results and developing downstream products and services.


HK ideal launch pad

For new enterprises and start-ups, Hong Kong is the ideal place for them to lift off, to grow and to thrive. We have all the resources these companies will need, from precious seed funding to affordable office space, and from high quality business advice to valuable access to investors and global markets.


Different forms of public and private initiatives have been put in place to assist young entrepreneurs to unleash their creativity, to turn rough ideas from their drawing boards to 3D prototypes and marketable products and services. 


Notable examples of these initiatives include the various incubation programmes advocated by our Science Park and Cyberport, the different funding schemes under the Innovation & Technology Fund, as well as the networking communities and co-working spaces supported by different corporations, including a number of world-renowned organisations, such as Nest and Accenture.


In fact, the number of co-working spaces in Hong Kong has climbed to well over 40, from just three in 2010.


Innovation hub

Hong Kong has all the essential attributes to be an innovation hub. Our free and competitive economy, with a low and simple tax system and a level playing field, provide a suitable eco-system for those who wish to start businesses and sustain innovative ventures. You would expect nothing less from an economy that has consistently been ranked as the freest economy in the world by different and notable think tanks.


What else do we have? We have a robust intellectual property protection regime that effectively safeguards the fruits of your efforts. Hong Kong is now poised to become a regional IP marketplace, providing professional services in the licensing, franchising and registration and trading of IP. Our intermediaries can help manage and add value to the most treasured assets of your firm, or your IP.


We are also blessed with a great geographical advantage. We are strategically located at the heart of Asia and on the doorstep of Mainland China. Our location has enabled us to become the key platform between the Mainland and the world in technological collaboration and trading.


For innovative enterprises looking to tap into Asia's huge market potential, we are the most convenient base, providing world-class logistics and ICT infrastructure.


Start-ups burgeoning

Recently we have seen a remarkable burgeoning of start-ups in Hong Kong. There are now more than 1,000 such new enterprises that have attracted much attention and more importantly, hundreds of millions of dollars of investment from venture capitalists from around the world.   


These successful start-ups make up the new wave of business that are transforming Hong Kong's entrepreneurial landscape and changing the local business scene. You may have heard of the GoGoVan app, developed by three recent university graduates, that has revolutionised the conventional car-hiring business for goods vehicles in Hong Kong.


The popular websites of Lifehack and 9GAG, also launched by young Hong Kong entrepreneurs, have attracted millions of readers through innovative ways of producing and offering content on the Internet.


I-click, another Hong Kong-based company, has harnessed the power of social media and the Internet to take the impact of digital marketing to a whole new level. The company is now the leader in its field in the Asian region and is serving many multinational corporations.


International recognition

The work of many Hong Kong-based advanced technological start-ups is also gaining international recognition. Insight Robotics, which specialises in making robots with artificial intelligence for detecting wildfire, has seen its products used in many parts of the world.


Another start-up, Scoutbots, which designs and manufactures low cost and extendable sailing robots that can assist in cleaning oil spills in the oceans, has been highly popular with many environmental agencies.


I note that Insight Robotics is already supporting wildfire surveillance in Mainland China and Canada, while Scoutbots was recently named the 10th most innovative company in China, joining the illustrious ranks of Alibaba, Tencent and Xiaomi.


The vibrant and open society in Hong Kong, together with our business-friendly environment and world-class infrastructure and research institutions, makes us a superb breeding ground for grooming the new generation of entrepreneurs. I am sure you can all learn more about that in the discussion and sharing sessions coming up shortly.


The late innovator Steve Jobs once said, and I quote, "If you do something and it turns out pretty good, then you should go do something else wonderful, not dwell on it for too long. Just figure out what's next." End quote. After all, the ability to think one step ahead, and to be ahead of the curve, I think, is the core of innovation.


Financial Secretary John Tsang gave these remarks at the Young Entrepreneur Forum 2015.

Otmane El Rhazi
Department of Commerce
Economic Development
Text/Mobile, +44 7414 782 320

Monday, 14 September 2015

HK best for Aus business

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam

About 90,000 Australians live in Hong Kong, making Hong Kong home to the largest Australian expatriate community in Asia. They include teachers, lawyers, accountants, business people, even judges presiding in Hong Kong courts. Close to 80,000 people of Hong Kong origin reside in Australia, including about 18,000 here in Victoria. Australia is now one of the top destinations for Hong Kong students studying abroad.


Last year, about 600,000 people from Australia visited Hong Kong, making Australia our eighth-largest visitor market. Hong Kong was Australia's ninth largest source of visitor arrivals. Of those 202,000, some 74,000 headed to Victoria.


In 2014 our bilateral trade in goods and services reached over A$8.5 billion. Hong Kong and Australia are each other's seventh-largest trading partner in services.


Mutual investments

In addition to trading, we also invest in each other's economies. Last year Hong Kong was Australia's sixth-largest source of direct investment, with a total stock of A$77 billion. Think about the size of Hong Kong, which is just one seven-thousandth of Australia's.


Hong Kong investments in Australia go into infrastructure, mining, telecommunications, agriculture, banking and property development. Hong Kong's super-efficient metro operator, the Mass Transit Railway Corporation - in which our Government is the major shareholder - has a large stake of 60% of shares in Metro Trains Melbourne. The venerable old Hong Kong company China Light & Power fully owns EnergyAustralia. On the other hand, Australian companies are also well established in Hong Kong, not merely for the 7 million people's market but the vast 1.3 billion people's market in Mainland China.


As Australia's direct economic ties with Mainland China continue to strengthen and given the recent signing of a free trade agreement between Australia and China, will Hong Kong still be a preferred platform for Australian businesses? The answer is an unqualified yes!


Clean, transparent governance

Hong Kong's unique position under "One country, two systems" gives us powerful business and financial advantages. This constitutional status, guaranteed under the Basic Law, also gives Hong Kong its unique role as the "super-connector" between Mainland China and the rest of the world.


Under the "One country, two systems" principle, Hong Kong practises the "other" system - the capitalist one. We have a free and competitive economy. Our institutional infrastructure is rock solid. Similar to Australia, our legal system is based on English common law and is upheld by an independent judiciary. At present, three distinguished Australian judges are non-permanent judges of our Court of Final Appeal.


We have a clean, transparent and accountable government and regulatory environment. We strongly protect intellectual property. We offer a level playing field and rules-based system for business. We have a deep pool of managerial talent with international experience.


Hong Kong has a low and simple tax system with no GST or VAT. We have no inheritance tax. No capital gains tax. Profits tax is capped at 16.5%, no matter how great the profit. Maximum salaries tax is 15%. Information and capital flow freely in Hong Kong. These are some of the factors that made the Washington-based Heritage Foundation name Hong Kong the world's freest economy for the 21st consecutive year.


All these factors combined have served Hong Kong well, and will continue to provide a value proposition moving forward. That's because trade, business and investment - and the many services that support them - look for certainty, clarity and consistency. Hong Kong offers that.


For all these reasons, Hong Kong remains an attractive place for investing and doing business. The World Investment Report 2015 issued by the United Nations Conference on Trade & Development ranked Hong Kong number two in global FDI inflows (US$103 billion), second only to the Mainland of China. The latest Global Financial Centres Index rates Hong Kong third. About 7,600 companies from around the world maintain offices - half of them regional headquarters and offices - in Hong Kong.


Super connector

Hong Kong enjoys close and special connections with Mainland China. Our "super-connector" role does not only facilitate overseas companies investing in China through Hong Kong, but also helps Mainland companies "go global".


The Mainland and Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA), made possible because of Hong Kong's status as a separate economy, enables companies based in Hong Kong to gain easy access to the Mainland market through various tariff-free privileges. It is, and will remain, the most preferential free trade agreement signed by Mainland China. Best of all, CEPA benefits are nationality neutral. That means Australian investors can set up a company in Hong Kong, partner with, invest in or even acquire service suppliers in Hong Kong to make use of a host of unbeatable CEPA benefits to reap the rewards of Mainland China.


As the world's premier offshore Renminbi (RMB) business centre, Hong Kong also plays a key role in the internationalisation of the Mainland currency. In 2014, RMB trade settlement handled by banks in Hong Kong grew a massive 60% year-on-year to reach RMB6.3 trillion. For Australian companies trading with Mainland China, the Hong Kong advantage is clear.


Australian financial institutions may also benefit from Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect. Launched last November, it directly connects the stock markets of Hong Kong and Shanghai, enabling investors from all over the world to trade in some 570 Shanghai-listed shares, directly, through the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. We are now working on a Shenzhen-Hong Kong Stock Connect.


Hong Kong is poised to make an important contribution to the new Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road programmes. The Belt-Road initiative is designed to expand Mainland China's transcontinental connectivity, and promote economic, political and cultural co-operation and development from Asia through Africa and into Europe. Hong Kong has everything, from financial and human resources to market infrastructure and networks to business and professional know-how, to contribute to the successful and sustainable development of the Belt-Road initiative.


In tandem with the Belt-Road initiative, the Mainland has mooted the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Australia has already been accepted as a founding member of this AIIB. Committing A$930 million as paid-in capital to the AIIB over five years, Australia will become the sixth largest stakeholder. Building on our strengths on various fronts, namely financing, asset management, dispute resolution and arbitration, Hong Kong is seeking to play an active role in the AIIB. Indeed, we are pursuing the preparatory work for the AIIB to set up an office in Hong Kong. Australian businesses may wish to capitalise on Hong Kong's strong background to share the huge opportunities arising from the AIIB.


Overseas talent magnet

All these developments mean opportunities for talent, and I mean talent from around the world including Australia. We are keen to attract talent to strengthen Hong Kong's competitiveness. And you don't have to be successful businessmen - we also welcome students from around the world. Hong Kong is a regional education hub with world-class universities, and is one of the most popular destinations for scholarship students under Australia's New Colombo Plan.


To internationalise further Hong Kong's higher education environment, we have doubled the quota of non-local students to 20%. After graduation, they can remain in Hong Kong without restriction for up to one year to enable them to search for the right job or even embark on their entrepreneurial journeys as start-ups. They can also take up part-time on-campus work, internships and summer jobs while studying.


At the same time, we have recently enhanced our Admission Schemes for Talent, Professionals & Entrepreneurs. I encourage Australians to take advantage of the schemes. Apart from that, we have a reciprocal Working Holiday Scheme under which tens of thousands of Hong Kong young people have already benefited. I encourage more young people from Australia to take advantage of that, to come and gain from the experience and contribute to our city's diversity.


Australians who are thinking about taking up employment in Hong Kong will be pleased to know we have 51 international schools - the highest number in Asia. These schools offer a familiar learning environment for students from all corners of the globe. They offer over 10 curricula, including Australian ones.


Culture means business

Hong Kong is not just a premier business city. It's also an exciting centre of arts and culture, with a variety of events manifesting the diversity and vibrancy of Hong Kong's cultural life throughout the year. Those keen on performing arts will be spoilt for choice in a city that boasts nine major groups and nearly 1,000 troupes, staging over 8,000 performances a year.


Hong Kong is now the world's third-largest art auction market after New York and London. Art Basel in Hong Kong is a leading event in the international arts calendar. The 2015 edition showcased 233 leading galleries from 37 countries and territories, including eight distinguished galleries from Australia.


Our Government is making a major push to develop Hong Kong's appeal as a centre of arts and culture. For example, the Government-funded West Kowloon Cultural District, taking shape on a 40-hectare site, is one of the largest cultural infrastructure projects in the world. This cultural quarter, offering stunning views of Victoria Harbour and the Hong Kong skyline, will feature an exciting variety of arts and cultural facilities, including a splendid museum focusing on 20th and 21st century art. In this connection, I must place on record our appreciation of the good work done by the outgoing CEO of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority Michael Lynch, who is from Australia, during his four-year tenure.


East meets West

Hong Kong, which packs surprising diversity, also has much to offer visitors. A unique blend of old and new, East and West. Our iconic harbour and skyline. Beautiful countryside. World heritage-listed geoparks. Chinese and Western historic sites. Enchanting local festivals. Food lovers can embark on a culinary odyssey of tastes from around the world right in Hong Kong. These are just a few reasons why TripAdvisor rated Hong Kong one of the top 10 Asian destinations in their latest Travellers' Choice awards. Hong Kong is well worth a visit.


For our friends from Australia, I must highlight the following key dates in our sporting calendar. The Hong Kong Sevens 2016 will take place on April 8 to 10 at the Hong Kong Stadium. The three-day tournament has become one of most popular sporting events in Asia, attracting the world's greatest rugby players and thousands of fans from around the world. If you want to avoid peak season surcharges, book your trip early.


I am also delighted that, for the first time in Hong Kong, people can enjoy close encounters with Aussie creatures such as koalas, wallabies and kookaburras at the new Adventures in Australia theme area at our world-class Ocean Park. I am happy to report that these animals - precious gifts from Australia - are adapting well to their new home.


Chief Secretary Carrie Lam gave these remarks at an Asialink business luncheon in Melbourne on September 15.

Otmane El Rhazi
Department of Commerce
Economic Development
Text/Mobile, +44 7414 782 320

Friday, 11 September 2015

HK Disney celebrates 10th anniversary

Chief Executive CY Leung

I'm delighted to be here, with all of you for this happy 10th birthday party. Yes, tonight we celebrate a decade in the captivating life of Hong Kong Disneyland. For that, my thanks to Mickey and his pals. They have brought Hong Kong 10 years of happiness, and a full decade of treasured memories for the more than 50 million visitors who have embraced Hong Kong Disneyland since its opening.


Allow me, as well, to express my appreciation for the very considerable contributions this park has made to Hong Kong tourism over the past decade. For the Hong Kong SAR Government, Disneyland is a strategic investment, one we entered into to diversify and enhance our tourism offerings.


Tourism has no doubt flourished over the past decade. It is now a pillar industry in Hong Kong, offering job opportunities for hundreds of thousands of people. We are now working to sustain and ride on this momentum. I'm sure Hong Kong Disneyland will continue to be an integral part of our tourism strategy, and part and parcel of the exciting experience Hong Kong offers to our visitors.


The addition of new and unique visitor experiences has been central to the success of Hong Kong Disneyland. Consider just a few of these innovations: the opening of "Toy Story Land", where visitors parachute drop with Andy's Troops, then hop on a ride to chase Slinky Dog's tail; "Grizzly Gulch", and all that happy shrieking on those adventurous mine cars; "Mystic Point", where you can glimpse explorer Lord Henry's private collection under the guidance of Albert the monkey; and the interactive LED parade, "Disney Paint the Night", which bathes Hong Kong Disneyland in light and colour each and every evening.


These, and other inspiring additions, have brought pure, unadulterated joy to the park and its visitors.


The future looks even brighter. Like the rest of you, I can't wait for Marvel's Iron Man theme area to open in 2016, followed by the Explorers Lodge hotel in 2017. And I can tell you that good progress is being made in the discussions between the Government and The Walt Disney Company on Hong Kong Disneyland's Phase 2 development.


With a variety of major cross-boundary infrastructure developments coming on stream over the next few years - including the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link, the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge and the third runway of our international airport - our links with the Mainland, and the rest of the world, will multiply. That will bring a wealth of fresh opportunity for Hong Kong Disneyland, and Hong Kong as a whole.


And I have no doubt that Hong Kong Disneyland will capitalise on those opportunities.


The original Disneyland, in Anaheim, California, celebrated its 60th birthday two months ago. The good news is that Disneyland Resort continues to expand, continues to create enchanting holidays and memorable moments for its visitors.


In short, Hong Kong Disneyland, now 10 years old, has just begun to dazzle the world.


Happy birthday, Hong Kong Disneyland. And I know all of you will enjoy this very special evening. Thank you.


Chief Executive CY Leung gave these remarks at the Hong Kong Disneyland 10th Anniversary Celebration.

Otmane El Rhazi
Department of Commerce
Economic Development
Text/Mobile, +44 7414 782 320