President, associations of Chinese fellow townsmen (“townsmen associations”) have a long history in Hong Kong.  Since the inception of Hong Kong, townsmen associations have been established successively by various Mainland provinces, cities, counties, towns and townships.  These associations, which have long served to facilitate the networking of clansmen and development of their hometowns, are characterized by a long history, a large membership and a huge scale.  After Hong Kong’s return to the motherland, townsmen associations have developed very rapidly.  At present, in addition to the 26 provincial-level clansmen associations, there are also considerable city-, district and country-, and townships-level townsmen associations across Hong Kong.  I believe that many people in Hong Kong have participated in the activities of their respective townsmen associations in one way or another, and have even donated money to support the development of their hometown.

With the changing needs of our society and the public, townsmen associations have taken an interest in Hong Kong’s social issues in recent years.  They have played an active role in the community by providing different kinds of thoughtful services to the public, such as organizing activities to commemorate the anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to China and the National Day, and hosting seminars to study and embrace the spirit of President XI Jinping’s 1 July important speech, so as to enhance people’s sense of nationhood and sense of national identity.  Furthermore, they have regularly organized carnivals, sports tournaments, exchange tours to the Mainland and volunteer activities in various districts to integrate fellow townsmen’s mutual affection into community services.  With strong organizational and rallying abilities, townsmen organizations can quickly mobilize a large number of fellow townsmen for support whenever help is needed in the community.  Our Honourable colleagues have already cited many examples.  During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 epidemic, many townsmen associations have contributed manpower, funds and efforts by mobilizing volunteers to distribute anti-epidemic supplies in various districts.  They have worked closely in collaboration with district organizations and community forces in the fight against the epidemic.

I am very grateful to Mr Rock CHEN for moving the motion on “Integrating associations of Chinese fellow townsmen into the district governance system” in this Council.  I believe that this motion can facilitate the SAR Government’s support for the integration of townsmen associations into the district governance systems so that outstanding individuals from townsmen associations can participate in district consultative bodies; and can promote the cooperation between District Offices and fellow townsmen associations, thereby achieving a series of changes.

Speaking of district governance, the Government must rely on district consultative bodies to disseminate government information to the public, gauge the views of residents, and motivate the whole community to work together.  The current district consultative bodies include Area Committees, District Fight Crime Committees and District Fire Safety Committees.  Members of these committees come from various strata of society, who have been appointed by the Government based on the “principle of meritocracy” and a number of considerations, including the abilities, expertise, experience, integrity, and enthusiasm for community services of the individuals concerned.

Townsmen associations are characterized by strong bonding because many members are relatives; and by a pool of many outstanding individuals.  Upholding the principle of “loving the country, Hong Kong and their hometowns”, they have been serving the community for many years.  Concerned about people’s livelihood and with a good grasp of public opinions, they are key supporters of “loving the country and Hong Kong” and an important force in maintaining social stability in Hong Kong.  After the improvement of the electoral system, the Election Committee has added 60 seats for the “Associations of Chinese fellow townsmen” subsector, which has further strengthened this talent pool that can provide a local supporting force to boost the district governance of the SAR Government.

We may make good use of this force, allocate resources reasonably and encourage greater participation of these townsmen associations in district governance.  In particular, we may look into the characteristics of the places where townsmen from various Mainland localities gather.  As mentioned by a Member, North Point is a district where Fujian clansmen are relatively concentrated.  As proposed in Mr YIM Kong’s amendment, the townsmen associations concerned might take the lead in uniting townsmen associations of other provinces and cities to take part in district governance by sharing their experience and fostering synergy.  This will not only strengthen the communication between the Government and the public, but also allow volunteers to participate in District Services and Community Care Teams with their fellow townsmen, while at the same time providing appropriate and targeted services to clansmen.

President, Hong Kong has entered a new stage of advancing from stability to prosperity.  As the normal travel between Hong Kong and the Mainland has now fully resumed, the Hong Kong society is gradually returning to normalcy in an orderly manner.  The general public has higher demands and expectations for promoting economic and livelihood development and resolving deep-rooted conflicts.  The Government should step up efforts to recruit virtuous and talented individuals from all walks of life, including townsmen associations, to contribute their professional talents and pool their wisdom in serving the community, so that it can truly “think what people think”, “address people’s pressing needs” and “resolve people’s difficulties”, implement the spirit of the people-centred philosophy, and do practical work for the well-being of the people.

President, with these remarks, I support the original motion and the amendment.  Thank you, President.