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Speech by SCIT at Hong Kong Entertainment Expo

Following is a speech by the Secretary for Commerce, Industry and Technology, Mr Joseph W P Wong, at the Gala Opening of Hong Kong Entertainment Expo today (March 20):

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my great pleasure to welcome all of you at the opening of the Entertainment Expo this year.

Entertainment Expo

This is the Third Entertainment Expo. Many of you have come to this event the third time in three years and I hope many times for other business or pure pleasure in between.

At the Entertainment Expo, you can do business in the Hong Kong International Film and TV Market (Filmart) or the Hong Kong-Asia Film Financing Forum; you can view a variety of the best films worldwide during the Hong Kong International Film Festival; and you can attend our Hong Kong Music Fair, just to name a few of the core events.

And we have added two new events. This evening, we will present the first-ever Asian Film Awards. In the coming days, we invite you to visit the Locations World, which is a new pavilion dedicated to location shooting in Hong Kong and other places. I may just add that our Film Services Office provides a one-stop shop to facilitate TV and film productions in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong as an Entertainment Hub

So this year's Entertainment Expo makes March an exciting month in Hong Kong. This month is also exciting for another reason. In a few days' time, we will have the election of our Chief Executive or the head of the Hong Kong SAR Government, who will assume a new term on July 1 this year. But I am sure I will not be accused of being presumptuous to say that the HKSAR Government will continue to support our media and entertainment industry, which is a key component of our creative industries. We do this in a number of ways.

(a) Enhance production quality

First, we invest in state-of-the-art infrastructure. Our Cyberport provides first class facilities to support IT development and digital entertainment. The Digital Media Centre there is equipped with the newest technologies such as a render farm and an Arrilaser film recorder. The iResource Centre provides a central access library of reference materials and platforms for content development and testing. The Cyberport also houses the Digital Entertainment Incubation-and-Training Centre, which offers tailor-made training for digital entertainment professionals and entrepreneurs.

(b) Explore market opportunities

Second, we help our industries to expand their markets. Mainland China is of course the nearest and the biggest market. We have signed a Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) with the Central Government a few years ago, which provides preferential treatment to Hong Kong products and service providers, including film production and distribution. For example, under CEPA, Hong Kong-origin films and Mainland-Hong Kong co-produced films and TV dramas enjoy quota free access on the Mainland.

Also, through organising this Expo and taking part in various overseas film festivals and entertainment events, we support our industries to reach other markets. I attended the Berlin Film Festival last month and we will host a special event at the Cannes Film Festival in June to salute its 60th Anniversary.

(c) Maintain conducive business environment

Third, we spare no efforts to maintain a conducive business environment. We take pride in upholding a robust intellectual property protection system, on par with the best in the world. But we are not complacent. Further improvements to our law are embodied in the Copyright (Amendment) Bill which is being examined by our Legislative Council and which, we expect, will be passed in June this year. We are also in the process of consulting the industry and the public on how to provide better copyright protection in the Internet and the digital environment generally. The film and creative industries, both locally and overseas, will testify that our Customs enforce the law vigorously, without fear and favour.

(d) Facilitate Technological Development

Fourth, we facilitate the development of new technologies while maintaining a technology-neutral policy. This has led to a market with 9 million mobile phone subscribers, 32% more than our total population, as well as 1 million 3G subscribers and the recent launching of IPTV. So through their mobile phones and broadband connections Hong Kong people have the highest level of choice and enjoy the greatest variety of content in the whole Asia-Pacific region. We offer a fertile market for converging communication and entertainment. We also offer a good testing ground for anyone interested to enter the Mainland market.

Way Forward

"I want my environment to be a product of me," said Jack Nicholson playing Frank Costello in this year's Oscar Best Film "The Departed". We are pleased that The Departed won this year's Best Film Award because many of us think that Martin Scorsese should have won many times before. It is also because the script of the film has been adapted from that of a Hong Kong Film "Infernal Affairs" which we all love. But I am not Jack Nicholson or Frank Costello. As the Government official in charge, I want an ever improving environment for our entertainment industries, which are not a product of anyone alone, but a joint effort of the Government and the industries.

Indeed, it is always the entrepreneurs and the talents in the industries who lead the way. I recently visited a cutting-edge production studio of a Hong Kong-based computer graphic (CG) company. The company, with a 400-strong CG team in Hong Kong and creative and marketing offices in Los Angeles and Tokyo, is leading in the digital entertainment industry in Asia. It has been providing animation services internationally and is about to release its first all-CG-animated movie for global distribution. A charity premiere of the film will be held later this week. Talking about creativity and taking risks, it is worth noting that the same company was a manufacturer of Christmas trees less than seven years ago.

But this Government is also prepared to take risks to help the industry, if we consider it worthwhile not just to the industry concerned, but also to the whole economy. So our latest initiative is to set up a new $300 million (or about US$40 million) Film Development Fund, which will, among other things, invest in the production of medium and small budget films. We believe this will help resolve the financing problem faced by some of our talented but less well known film directors and producers or those who want to try less conventional plots. We believe it will provide the extra impetus to revive our shrinking film production. I hope we will see more Hong Kong films like "Isabella" which is a low budget production that won the Best Asian Film and the Best Actress Awards at the Oporto International Film Festival recently.

Ladies and gentlemen, if what I said so far is the least entertaining part of the Expo, I am pleased to tell you that I am coming to the end of my speech. I just want to make two more points. First, I would like to thank all the organisers and the participants of the Entertainment Expo, in particular the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, and the Hong Kong International Film Festival Society for their creative minds and dedicated efforts. Second, I wish all of you a happy and most enjoyable experience in this Expo and in Hong Kong. It is our aim to make Hong Kong a world city of entertainment, minus Casino gambling.

Thank you.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007