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Talk: Country, Community and Language Classes

Speech by Mu. Ramanathan, in the 5th annual day function of the Tamil Teaching Programme conducted by the Young Indian Friends Club of Hong Kong  The meeting took place at Henry G. Leong Yaumatei Community Centre, Hong Kong, on 28 May 2009. Distinguished guests from Chinese and Indian communities attended.

Hon Jasper Tsang Yok –sing, President,  Legislative Council, Hong Kong SAR; Mr. M. Arunachalam, President, Overseas Indian Organisation, Hong Kong; Mr. Derek Hung, Member, Yau Tsim Mong District Council; Ms. KWAN Sau-ling, Member, Yau Tsim Mong District Council; Mr. Siu Sze Chuen, John, Principal, Newman Catholic College; Ms. Y M Cheung, Principal, Yaumati Kaifong Association School; Mr. Sohan Goenka, President, Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation of Hong Kong; Mr. Thaika Haroon Meeran,  President, Indian Muslim Association; Mrs. Suganthi Panneershelvam, President, Tamil Cultural Association; Mr. Thaika Ubaidullah, President, YIFC; Dear friends; and Students!

I am extremely delighted to stand in front of you today. This is a momentous occasion - a small ethnic minority group in Hong Kong, without any big financial supporters or considerable manpower, is in a position to teach their native language to the younger generation, and has successfully completed five years and is still going strong. This has been possible mainly due to two reasons: one is the determination and dedication of the organizers, teachers and the young students of these classes; and the second is the warm support this minority community is receiving from the Hong Kong society.

This support and bond has historical background. Chinese and Indians have many things in common. One in three people worldwide live either in China or India. There are more Chinese and Indians than anyone else on earth. We have many things in common. Both Indian and Chinese cultures stretch back a few thousand years. Economic, social and environmental problems persist both in India and China. Poverty exists, though levels are different. Air and water quality is a concern in both countries. But unabated, both countries are growing and living standards are improving.

China's emergence as a world economic power follows years of expansion, with an economic growth of 9% or more. India has also seen dramatic growth of more than 7% a year .The global financial crisis has definitely affected India and China’s growth. The growth rate of the two giants in 2009 is expected to be only in the order of 6%. However, the International Monetary Fund has recently stated that in this difficult period of economic crisis, China and India will bear the weight of the world this year, because they are the only sizable economies projected to record over 5% growth rates in 2009; IMF adds that this will help to offset global weakness and hopefully buoy up the world economy.

Apart from economic growth and being the most populous countries of the world, the cultural ties between China and India are also a binding factor. The arrival of Buddhism in China crossing over the Himalayas indeed added flavour to the Chinese civilization. The link between Chinese and Indians could be seen through the history, one that immediately comes to my mind is the story of Dr Kotnis.

In 1938, during the Second Sino-Japanese War, a team of Indian physicians was sent to China by Indian National Congress to provide medical assistance. Dr Dwarakanath Kotnis was a member of the team. Dr Kotnis was 28 when he arrived China; he was a frontline doctor treating wounded soldiers for hours together. In 1942, at the age of 32, while still in China, Dr Kotnis died, and he was buried with great honour in the Heroes Courtyard, Nanquan Village. A year before his death, in the middle of the war, he married Guo Qinglan, a frontline nurse. The couple lived together only for over a year, but they symbolized Sino-Indian ties.

60 years later, in 2003, then Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee visited Beijing. The visit is considered politically important as several joint declarations were signed; China recognized Sikkim as a part of India, and India acknowledged Tibet as part of China’s territory. Special representatives were appointed to resolve border disputes. Trade relations improved. But that visit goes into history books for one more rather important and humane reason. Vajpayee during his visit met Mrs Guo Kotnis. The 90 year old Mrs. Kotnis gifted the Indian prime minister with a Bengali translation of a book about her husband’s life. The inscription in the book read, ‘I love my India as much as I love my motherland China’. Needless to say, Vajpayee was moved and touched.

That is the relation and bond we would like to maintain. Let me tell our distinguished Chinese guests in this room that we, Indian disopara living here, love China and Hong Kong as much as we love our motherland India.

The relation between India and Hong Kong dates back to 150 years. Indian soldiers participated in the ceremony when the Union Jack was raised in at Possession Point, Hong Kong in 1841. The earliest policemen in Hong Kong were Indians. Members of Indian community have involved themselves in prominent institutions. H N Mody, an Indian businessman was one of the founders of the University of Hong Kong. The 100-year-old Star Ferry was founded by Dorabji Naorojee. Another prominent Indian, Dhun Ruttonjee, set up the reputed Ruttonjee Hospital as an anti-tuberculosis sanatorium.

Invocation to Tamil Language

Jasper Tsang Speaks

Mu Ramanathan Speaks