Speech by SDEV at launching ceremony of "Shanghai: A Wartime Haven - Marking 70 years since liberation" exhibition (English only)

Following is the speech by the Secretary for Development, Mr Paul Chan, at the launching ceremony of the "Shanghai: A Wartime Haven - Marking 70 years since liberation" exhibition organised by the Hong Kong Holocaust and Tolerance Centre today (August 31):

Consul-General, Mr Dorfman (Trustee of the Ohel Leah Synagogue Charity, Mr Robert Dorfman), Mr Amias (Chairperson of the Hong Kong Holocaust and Tolerance Centre, Mr Jeremy Amias), distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

Good evening. It gives me great honour to join the opening of the "Shanghai: A Wartime Haven" exhibition. Among the various activities celebrating the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II led by the Central People's Government on September 3, notably the public holiday, I would say this exhibition is one of the most eye-catching events in Hong Kong. Indeed, I am impressed by how it reveals stories that are deeply connected, yet not so familiar, to Hong Kong people.

The people of Hong Kong have been living in harmony with the Jewish community for well over a century, and there are a number of magnificent and well preserved buildings that reflect this history.

The Jewish community in Hong Kong can be traced back to the mid-19th century in premises leased by the Sassoons, who also built Sassoon House (1929) in Shanghai, a listed Excellent Historic Building and a Municipal Cultural Relic. In Hong Kong, the Sassoons led the construction of the Ohel Leah Synagogue, a Grade 1 historic building that was completed in 1902 and remains in use today.

The exhibition also features the philanthropic Kadoorie family, whose legacy continues today in heritage conservation, which I will talk about later, as well as education, research and many other areas in Hong Kong. Like the Sassoon family, the Kadoories had set up a humanitarian body in Shanghai to provide assistance to refugees during World War II. In Hong Kong, one of their properties, the Repulse Bay Hotel, was used as a stronghold and a hospital by the British forces during the war. Although the old hotel is no longer around, we can always reminisce on its glamour through the historical gallery of the new building, the Repulse Bay, as well as the famous Chinese novel by Eileen Chang, "Love in a Fallen City". By the way, that story was also about Shanghai and Hong Kong. Not to be outdone, this very building, the Peninsula Hotel, a Grade 1 historic building of the Kadoorie family, was one of the most important buildings during the war. The British Government surrendered to the Japanese in 1941 just two floors above where we are standing after 18 days of brave fighting.

Though it sounds like a cliché, old buildings do bear witness to the changes and development of a city. That is why, when the Government looks for land for housing and commercial development, we endeavour not to compromise heritage conservation. We are indeed fortunate to have quite a number of partners and supporters, like the Kadoorie family, who, for example, will preserve and turn the Clock Tower of the CLP Headquarters, a proposed Grade 1 historic building at Argyle Street, into a private, open-to-all and free-of-charge museum on electricity. Also, the proposal from the Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden Corporation to revitalise the old Tai Po Police Station stood out from those of other bidders under our Revitalising Historic Buildings Through Partnership Scheme. I am pleased to know that the Green Hub for Sustainable Living at the old Police Station has been running on a trial basis since April this year and has already welcomed more than 2 000 guests. Both the Chief Executive and I look forward to its official opening this November.

Before I get carried away with what is going to happen two months down the road, I will definitely encourage my family, friends and colleagues to make use of the upcoming public holiday to pay a visit to this exhibition to have a better understanding of how the Jewish community has been an important element in the social fabric of the region, and to advance harmony and understanding of history in the community. Moreover, I hope that visitors will take the opportunity to appreciate the two historic buildings where the exhibition is set up - the Peninsula Hotel and Central Market, a Grade 3 historic building.

I wish the exhibition every success.

Ends/Monday, August 31, 2015
Issued at HKT 19:31