I couldn’t be more delighted to be here this evening, or perhaps as I should say Fei-chang rong-xing lai tsan-jia Bai-le-jiang (I am delighted to attend the Pearl Awards) please excuse my accent!
As David Tang has said, the Pearl Awards are to recognise achievement and the Chinese community in this country has certainly made a significant, and largely unsung, contribution to national life. There are, I understand, at least 250,000 people of Chinese origin living here with more than 3,500 Chinese restaurants in London and the South East alone. There are increasing numbers of practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine, thousands of talented Chinese students in our universities, and, as we are about to find out, a significant number of precocious and brilliant musicians.
I am sure that in economic terms the Chinese Community punches well above its weight and I know, perhaps even more importantly, that you contribute a huge amount in terms of friendship, hospitality and community spirit.
I have seen all this for myself over the last few months, because I have recently had in my office an extremely talented and industrious young man from China, Feifei Hu, who has already got through more than his fair share of work and achievement!
And finally I should like to thank William Ong and the Pearl Foundation for ensuring, through these awards, that the Chinese community receives some recognition for all it does in playing its part in national life and I should also like to thank David Tang not only for his very kind words, but also for his tremendous energy and selflessness in supporting so many charities, and in working so tirelessly to bring our two countries, the United Kingdom and China, together.
It has, in fact, been a bit of a Chinese day for my wife and myself. I returned to Chinatown this morning and was struck not only by the enthusiasm and vitality of the people who work there, and by the pride they, quite rightly, take in their community, but also by the enterprise and skill they display in running their businesses.
China and the UK will continue to work increasingly closely in the years ahead not least with the transfer of the Olympic Games from Beijing to London and I am pleased to say that I have, over the last year or so, established a number of charitable initiatives in partnership with Chinese colleagues to encourage our two great countries to work together and learn from each other.
My Foundation for the Built Environment is, for example, pursuing a project to help restore the traditional Hutongs in Beijing to ensure that these wonderful examples of traditional Chinese architecture are indeed kept for future generations.
Earlier today in Gerrard Street I saw the beautifully crafted stone pots, which have just been shipped from China by the London Chinatown Community Association and David Tang, and thought how uplifting it was to see traditional Chinese craftsmanship that provides a real enhancement in the heart of Chinatown.
My Foundation will work with Westminster City Council and the London Chinatown Association to find ways to build on this and other recent improvements to Chinatown by encouraging the use of traditional Chinese architectural practices and by drawing on the expertise and skill of craftsmen in China and the United Kingdom to help Chinatown to become more authentically Chinese.
So Ladies and Gentlemen, I can only finish by saying how pleased I am to be here tonight, and to be joined by The English Chamber Orchestra of whom I have been Patron for over 30 years who would believe it! Can I also congratulate the winners of tonight’s awards, and to give my best wishes and thanks to the Pearl Foundation, and its sponsors, and to all of you.