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Resolving conflicts with trust

The rally staged by concern groups on Moral and National Education at the square outside Central Government Offices has entered its eighth day and people have gone on hunger strike to express their discontent. To settle controversies and worries about the subject, we have explained repeatedly and shown our utmost sincerity in opening dialogue with the concern groups and opponents of the subject under no pre-determined position. We hope to resolve the issue in a pragmatic way.

The Government has reiterated time and again that it respects school autonomy and will not force through the subject and brainwash students. We have also appealed to everyone to have faith in our schools and our teachers, whose professionalism ensures our young generation will be educated with the ability to think independently and distinguish right from wrong.

Some opponents of the subject stated that they would not join the Committee on the Implementation of Moral and National Education as its discussions would be launched under pre-set conditions and frames. A few days ago, we accepted the proposal of the Committee Chairperson, Ms Anna Wu, to expand the Committee's terms of reference to allow discussions on all areas, including how the teaching materials should be devised, whether a deadline should be set to end the initiation period or whether the subject should be withdrawn at all. There will be no pre-set conditions, frames or restrictions for the discussions. The Government will consider and respond to any recommendations the Committee comes up with.

I note that some groups queried why the Government did not withdraw the subject before launching consultations. I hope everyone understands that this subject has gone through 10 years of preparation. The previous Government stated in the 2010-11 Policy Address that it was to become an independent subject, and public consultation had been held to gather views. The Curriculum Guide was finalised after thorough discussions and revisions. The Government has always placed an emphasis on due process, without which there could be serious impacts. Think about it and you will realise it is not a blessing to the community if the Government changes policies whenever it likes. Even the zero delivery quota for "doubly non-permanent resident pregnant women" did not come into force instantly.

This morning, I expressed through the media that the Government is open to dialogue with all those who are protesting against the subject. I have invited representatives of concern groups and opponents of the subject to a meeting with a view to listening to their opinions and resolving the conflicts as early as possible.

As the Chief Secretary for Administration said today in a television interview, things are all set and ready to go. Yet, even with the Government's expressed goodwill, controversies on the subject remain unsettled. Perhaps what we lack is a little more faith, or to be precise, faith in me. Mrs Carrie Lam said in the interview, "From what I know, Mr Leung always puts Hong Kong's interests as the first priority. He is fearless and never hesitates to relay Hong Kong people's needs to the Central Government. I believe the Central Government's prompt response to our requests (such as calling a halt to the arrangement for non-local pregnant women to give birth in Hong Kong, shelving the issue of multiple-entry permits to Mainland residents to visit Hong Kong and rolling out the 'Hong Kong property for Hong Kong residents' policy) came out of its support and faith in Mr Leung, who knows very well that Hong Kong people expect the Government to put their interests and concerns as first priority. I am confident that the current-term Government will, inspired by Mr Leung's governance philosophy and his love and care for Hong Kong people, do real work for our community."

I wish to reaffirm that I and my team will at all times truly and sincerely serve the people of Hong Kong. To clear people's doubts, we will continue to let our actions speak for our resolve to do real work for this place we call home. Take this morning's announcement - the suspension of issuing multiple-entry permits to non-Shenzhen residents - as an example. Once I heard public concerns over the proposed measure, I reflected them immediately to the Central Government, who showed their understanding and took corresponding actions. I did this totally to serve the interests of Hong Kong people.

I sincerely hope that the protesters and people on hunger strike at the square outside Central Government Offices can put aside their distrust and discuss the issue with us. I look forward to their response.

In the aforesaid interview, Mrs Carrie Lam also talked about her job in the new Government, and I share her feelings. I am grateful to Carrie, my political team and all colleagues in the civil service for their dedication and commitment to my work and their great efforts in helping me carry out my election pledges. I truly hope that there will be a better, more prosperous and just society in Hong Kong five years' time.

September 7, 2012