Astronauts confident HK can weather financial turmoil

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 06 December, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 06 December, 2008, 12:00am

Hong Kong has received a high-level vote of confidence in its ability to weather the financial storm - from China's spacewalk astronauts.

Colonel Jing Haipeng , who arrived in the city yesterday with 39 other members of the Shenzhou VII spacewalk mission team, praised Hongkongers for their 'excellent traditions of working and striving hard'.

'We believe the hard-working and quick-witted Hong Kong people will be able to conquer the temporary difficulties ahead of them,' the astronaut said a few hours after their arrival. 'I can feel the openness of the Hongkongers and I believe I will love Hong Kong after this trip. I think I will learn from Hong Kong people, their will to keep striving, innovating and excelling.'

His teammate Zhai Zhigang , who made China's first spacewalk, also said he hoped Hong Kong people would 'fly highest and quickest' to a better future.

At a press conference, Colonel Zhai, who was hailed as a 'Space Flight Hero' after completing the mission in late September, greeted reporters in Cantonese and thanked them for their support.

Like all visitors, he said, he hoped to have the chance to savour the city's famous food and shopping.

The third Shenzhou VII astronaut, Colonel Liu Boming , said he was prepared to share his flying experience with Hong Kong people.

Those who want to take up his offer may take heart: Zhang Jianqi , the delegation head and deputy chief designer of China's manned space programme, said Hongkongers would be welcome to take part in the country's space missions, and encouraged them to undergo training.

The team was welcomed by about 300 primary school students and Chief Secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen on their arrival at the airport yesterday morning.

They attended a welcome dinner with Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, who said Hong Kong people facing the financial turmoil should learn from the astronauts the spirit of never giving up.

The delegation will tour the harbour this morning, on the second day of their four-day visit, before launching an exhibition on the Shenzhou VII mission at the Science Museum. More than 50,000 free tickets to the exhibition had been given out, the Leisure and Cultural Services Department said yesterday.

The astronauts will also meet undergraduates at a seminar at Chinese University in the afternoon to brief them on their mission.