The Road to Vienna: Austria showcases business and strategic connections to Hong Kong in celebration of ‘triple jubilee’ National Day

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Political and business heavyweights from Austria come to Hong Kong to celebrate their ‘triple jubilee’ of national identity formation and forge closer ties between the two ‘super-connectors’.


 

This year is a big year for the Austrians as they celebrate a triple jubilee of the October 26 National Day which marks the formation of its national identity in the modern era – the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Second Republic of Austria; the 60th anniversary of Austrian independence following allied-occupation; and the 20th anniversary of membership in the European Union.

The day-long celebration in Hong Kong on October 20 was exceptional. It kicked off with an early morning start of the 2nd Sino-Austrian CEE Investor & Business Conference hosted by ADVANTAGE AUSTRIA, the official Austrian trade promotion organisation, and 21st Austria, an initiative founded in 2011 to expand the country’s global competitive position.

Unlike the typical national day celebration, this time two top officials were present to honour the visiting H.E. Karlheinz Kopf, Second President of the Austrian National Council, and H.E. Dr Harald Mahrer, Austrian State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Science, Research and Economy. Financial Secretary Hon John Tsang delivered the opening remarks for the Conference, in which he highlighted Hong Kong’s business and cultural ties with Austria with some personal flare. The fact that Mr Tsang and renowned Austrian graphic designer Mr Henry Steiner, widely known as the ‘Father of HK Design’, both graduated from the Stuyvesant High School in New York City apparently reflects well on the FS’s educational pedigree – or it could well be the other way round!

Chief Executive Hon. CY Leung was the guest of honour alongside H.E. Kopf and H.E. Mahrer at the evening reception. Mr Leung at the end of his speech recommended the Wine & Dine Festival 2015 to the audience.

“There is no duty on wine. We don’t charge VAT or sales tax either,” Leung joked. “It feels really good to know that you don’t have to share your wine with the Government.”

While both Mr Tsang and Mr Leung stressed Hong Kong’s role as a ‘super-connector’ between the mainland China and the rest of the world, their rhetoric was echoed by the visiting Austrian officials and Consul General Dr Claudia Reinprecht.

“For centuries, Austria has been the ‘super-connector’ between the countries of Central & Eastern Europe up to the Black Sea, as much as Hong Kong has been the super-connector in this part of the world,” Dr Reinprecht noted while highlighting cultural cooperation between the two economies, including the conclusion of a joint Working Holiday Scheme and the establishment of the Vienna Boys Choir Music Academy Foundation.

Secondary President H.E. Kopf, meanwhile, showed the quality of a mature European politician who is willing to face his country’s darker past and draw reflection from it.

“The journey of time from 1945 to 2015 is the story of a country that grew out of ashes and the shame of the Second World War to become a true success story,” H.E. Kopf said. “We have come a long way. We continue trying to do better, honest about our past, committed to our future.”

Other distinguished guests throughout the day included Secretary for Education Eddie Ng, Legislative Council President Jasper Tsang and Executive Council Convenor Lam Woon-kwong, former Chief Secretary Anson Chan and former Secretary for Justice Elsie Leung, President of the Austrian Central Bank and spokesperson for 21st Austria Dr Claus Raidl, Vice Chairman of Bank of China International Lam Kwong-siu, diplomats and many other leaders in the Hong Kong and Austrian business and social communities.