Hong Kong yesterday shrugged off any threat posed to its tourism industry by a new Buddha statue in Malaysia that stands almost four metres higher than Lantau's Big Buddha. The Malaysian statue, inaugurated in Tumpat, Kelantan state, on Sunday, has overtaken its Hong Kong counterpart as Southeast Asia's biggest sitting Buddha. Taking 10 years to build, it stands 30 metres high, compared to the Lantau statue's 26.4 metres. Hong Kong's Big Buddha can for now keep its reputation as 'the world's biggest outdoor bronze Buddha' because the Malaysian statue is made of concrete and mosaic. However, even this title will not be held for long, because India is building a 152-metre-tall bronze sitting Buddha, to be completed in 2005. Joie Ting, spokeswoman for Lantau's Po Lin Monastery, insisted no amount of new, bigger Buddhas would be a threat to Hong Kong's because its artistic and spiritual uniqueness meant it would remain a tourist draw. 'It's not the size that matters. The Big Buddha is unique as it can be seen clearly from a plane and is made with state-of-the-art technology. Since it was inaugurated, we have been blissfully free from destructive typhoons and the climate has been good,' she said. The Tourism Board also said the $8.5 million statue in Malaysia would have no impact on Hong Kong's tourist industry. 'To be honest, I think very few visitors to Hong Kong come entirely to see the Big Buddha. They would see it as one of the attractions. I can't imagine people would choose Hong Kong specifically for that reason,' spokesman Simon Clennell said. Ms Ting said it was debatable whether the Big Buddha had lost its No 1 position to Malaysia. 'Taking its base into account, the Big Buddha is 33.95 metres tall. It's hard to say which is bigger.' Opened in 1993 after seven years' construction, the Big Buddha was visited by about 650,000 tourists last year. Buddhist groups on the mainland, medicine tycoon Aw Boon Haw and singer Alan Tam Wing-lun were among the sponsors of the $1 billion structure. Ms Ting said the monastery wanted to widen the Buddha's appeal by promoting it as a place for pilgrims. 'After all it is a holy place and we don't want it to be just a tourist spot,' she said. The Grand Buddha in Chengdu is the biggest ancient Buddha statue in China, at 71 metres tall. In April, former Soviet state Tajikistan unveiled the world's largest ceramic reclining Buddha, 37 years after its discovery. It is 14 metres long and 2.7 metres tall.