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Friday, May 13, 2016, 10:41

HK official lauds post-quake effort

By Sylvia Chang

Donations to help Sichuan recover from major disaster in 2008 well spent, Lam says

HK official lauds post-quake effort
Hong Kong official Carrie Lam Cheng Yuetngor (right) holds a panda cub during a visit to Wolong National Nature Reserve in Sichuan province on Wednesday. (Zhang Lang / China News Service)

Hong Kong's donations to the post-earthquake reconstruction of Sichuan province were used well over the past eight years, according to Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, chief secretary for administration in the special administrative region, at the end of a visit to Sichuan on Thursday.

The HK$9 billion (US$1.16 billion) provided by Hong Kong helped Sichuan recover from the crushing damage caused by the devastating magnitude 8.0 earthquake that struck Wenchuan on May 12, 2008.

The progress of HK-supported reconstruction projects in Sichuan has been reported annually to the city's legislature, Lam said, adding that she expected the efforts to strengthen mutual understanding and foster bonds between the people of Sichuan and Hong Kong.

The Wenchuan earthquake killed more than 80,000 people and injured nearly 375,000. It is estimated that about 4.5 million buildings collapsed.

The donations from Hong Kong helped rebuild schools, roads, medical facilities, social welfare projects and the Wolong National Nature Reserve.

During her visits to Wolong and Aba Tibetan and Qiang autonomous prefecture, Lam announced the completion of the Yingxiu-Wolong section of highway S303, one of the major reconstruction projects supported by Hong Kong.

The 44.5-kilometer section of highway provides a lifeline to the Wolong National Nature Reserve and is a major connection to northwestern Sichuan and Tibet. It is also a significant part of Sichuan's so-called golden tourism ring routes, linking Jiuzhaigou National Park and three other well-known scenic areas.

When it opens to traffic in October, it will boost the regional economy of Wolong and benefit 920,000 people in Aba, according to Yang Huaxiong, vice-governor of the prefecture.

Lam and 80 delegates from Hong Kong also witnessed the opening ceremony of a panda garden in Wolong, another milestone project in Sichuan's reconstruction that was supported by Hong Kong.

Since its completion in December 2014, the garden has been serving as a multifunctional panda rescue and disease-control center, fully developed with research laboratories, a veterinary hospital, monitoring and isolation facilities, giant panda enclosures, an education center and a tourist center.

In appreciation for Hong Kong's support, the garden will be open free to Hong Kong residents, said Zhang Hemin, head of the Wolong reserve's administration.

Apart from support from the HK government, the Hong Kong Jockey Club donated HK$1 billion to seven reconstruction projects in Sichuan, one of which is the Sichuan University-Hong Kong Polytechnic University Institute for Disaster Management and Reconstruction.

The institute is China's first education and training center committed to cultivating talent in disaster management and strengthening post-disaster reconstruction in the long term. The jockey club will continue to support talent exchanges between Hong Kong and Sichuan, through scholarships and international forums, it said.

On Thursday the institute forged an alliance for sustainable development in the field of disaster prevention, linking universities from the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan for academic cooperation.

"This will be a platform for interdisciplinary and cross-border exchanges," said Angelina Yuen, vice-president of Hong Kong Polytechnic University. "We expect that different universities in China and overseas will share their experience in personnel training, academic research and community service, and promote China's disaster management system."

Li Xiange in Hong Kong contributed to this story.

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