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Individual visit scheme to expand

The Individual Visit Scheme will be expanded to cover Xi'an in Shaanxi Province and Qingdao in Shandong Province starting from March 6.   The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government today thanked the central government for its positive response to the proposal of enhancing the scheme in an orderly manner and further expanding the eligible cities.   Secretary for Culture, Sports & Tourism Kevin Yeung said the further enhancement of the scheme is conducive to the development of Hong Kong's tourism sector and will benefit tourism-related industries such as hotels and retail.   He noted that expanding the scheme enables residents of both cities to explore and feel the unique metropolitan glamour of Hong Kong in a more flexible and convenient manner.        Both with a population of over 10 million, it is believed that Xi'an and Qingdao will bring more high-value-added overnight tourists to Hong Kong.   Mr Yeung said Hong Kong will be hospitable

Building a bright future jointly for HK

Today I present the fifth Policy Address in my term of office, which is also the last one of the current-term Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government's five-year tenure. Despite this, my team and I attach great importance to this Policy Address. I have personally chaired 40 online and offline consultation sessions, attended live programmes and visited school campuses, meeting over 3,500 members of the public from different sectors of the community. Coincidentally, some participants who spoke at the sessions shared my view that the double safeguards of the Law of the People's Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong SAR and the improved electoral system of the Hong Kong SAR have ushered in a new era whereby it is time for us to strive ahead with renewed perseverance and plan for the future of Hong Kong.   At the same time, we must bear in mind that this favourable era has come a long way. In contrast to two years ago on the same occasion when the Legislative Council Chamber was disrupted and paralysed by members who were anti-China and even causing chaos in Hong Kong in an attempt to subvert the state power, today I can peacefully stand before you to deliver this Policy Address and all LegCo members can solemnly perform their constitutional function to receive the Policy Address of the Chief Executive. This is a clear manifestation that the Hong Kong SAR has got back on the right track of "one country, two systems" and that governance has returned to normal under the protection of the National Security Law and the principle of "patriots administering Hong Kong". For Hong Kong's long-term prosperity and stability, each and every Hong Kong citizen should have a more comprehensive understanding of "one country, two systems", safeguard national security with greater loyalty, and take pride in the development of our country and our Chinese identity, while striving hard to bring Hong Kong's unique strengths into full play to better integrate into the overall national development.   While today's Policy Address will focus on developing and mapping out Hong Kong's future, the 202-page 2021 Policy Address Supplement also published today provides a summary, in graphic and text form, of the effectiveness of our policies over the past four years or so to give the public a comprehensive account of our work. Despite the severe and unprecedented challenges faced by the current-term Government, we have maintained the spirit of overcoming all challenges and proactively serving the people, advocating policy breakthroughs and striving to resolve society's problems. Let me give a few examples:   (i) 96% of over 900 policy initiatives proposed in the past four policy addresses have been completed or are progressing on schedule;   (ii) we have adhered to the philosophy of the financial centre serving the real economy and introduced measures which include the two-tiered profits tax rates regime, enhanced tax deductions for research and development expenditure, and tax concessions to attract specific industries to develop their businesses in Hong Kong; we have issued government green bonds and silver bonds, launched a public annuity scheme and revised our listing regime to cater for the needs of new economy enterprises;   (iii) to nurture talents and promote innovation and technology (I&T), we have increased our recurrent expenditure on education by over $13 billion and invested over $130 billion in I&T;   (iv) we have strived to improve people's livelihood by significantly increasing our recurrent spending on healthcare and social welfare to $95.9 billion and $105.7 billion respectively for the current financial year, an increase of 53% and 62% respectively over the past four years;   (v) we have introduced various initiatives on labour rights and benefits, including extending statutory paid maternity leave from 10 to 14 weeks, progressively increasing the number of statutory holidays to be on par with general holidays, substantially completing the preparatory work for the legislation for abolishing the offsetting arrangement under the Mandatory Provident Fund system, and enhancing the employment terms and conditions of non-skilled workers engaged under government service contracts; and   (vi) in the top priority area of housing, the Government has adopted a number of measures. These include tilting towards public housing in land allocation, establishing the housing ladder for home ownership, delinking the price of Home Ownership Scheme flats from market prices, imposing tenancy controls on subdivided units through legislation, providing cash allowances to eligible public rental housing (PRH) applicants who have been waiting for PRH for a long time, and building transitional housing units. As for land supply, a multipronged approach has been adopted to press ahead with the related work at full steam.   I must express my gratitude to the central government for its staunch and unfailing support for the Hong Kong SAR. My appreciation also goes to all honourable members here for their diligence and dedication, to the statutory bodies for their professional co-operation, as well as to the numerous government advisory committees for their suggestions and advice. I must also thank my governing team and civil servants at all levels for their hard work, as well as members of the public for their encouragement. I hope that the 2021 Policy Address delivered today will gain the recognition and support of LegCo and the public at large.   This is the English translation of Chief Executive Carrie Lam's 2021 Policy Address opening remarks delivered on October 6.

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