An 83-year-old global institution which promotes international understanding through a sharing of the English language was officially launched in Hong Kong yesterday. The English Speaking Union was established in Britain in 1918 by a journalist and has since taken its mission to promote communication and understanding globally to more than 40 countries, including China. Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa, who attended the launch, said the group's efforts were important as the world became a global village. 'More communication leads to better understanding and the English language is the most helpful tool in achieving this,' he said. 'Chinese is the other language most widely spoken in the world today - more and more English speakers are learning Chinese and more and more Chinese speakers learning English.' Former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang, as patron of the non-profit-making group, also officiated at the ceremony. The union aims to encourage the development of English-language skills among students and young professionals in particular through scholarships, awards, debating, overseas exchange programmes and cultural activities. 'The group is being targeted because the future of international relations will be in their hands,' said Lord Watson of Richmond, the union's chairman. The union has organised an Internet debate between students from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and counterparts in Oxford, Cambridge and Birmingham today. The debate, on the motion 'This house believes that true international understanding can only come from a common culture', starts at 6pm and can be watched live on the Internet at www.livetx.com/events/ .