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  Premier shows tenacious grasp of key data and love for literature
(GANG BIAN,China Daily staff)

Test your knowledge. What was Hong Kong's GDP in 1978? And what was the handling capacity of the territory's ports by the end of last year?

The answers, respectively, are HK$82 billion and 19.1 million tons.

You may protest that the quiz was a little on the tough side - but these were the kinds of facts that Premier Wen Jiabao had at his fingertips when he chatted to audiences in Hong Kong yesterday.

The wellspring of Wen's knowledge of the city - revealing his sharp memory for statistics - flowed and flowed during a keynote speech he gave yesterday.

He was talking in the wake of overseeing the signing of a landmark free-trade agreement between the mainland and Hong Kong.

The premier's breadth of knowledge left some members of the audience looking startled as he showed a great command of facts and figures.

Wen talked about the number of Hong Kong products to benefit from the trade deal to a list of percentages of declines suffered by mainland's retail, catering and airlines sectors during the outbreak of SARS in April and May.

During the nearly one-hour speech, he spoke mostly off the transcript, making impromptu references to key data relating to Hong Kong.

In his call on local people to love Hong Kong and build it into a better place, the premier showed his literary love when he gave an emotional recitation of a poem written by Huang Zunxian (1848-1905), a Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) diplomat.

The poem, written at the time when China was divided by Western powers, is laden with grief but unyielding spirit as well.

"Every inch of territory is an ounce of gold;

The motherland is being carved up - who has the power to stop it?

My heart aches as I think of the country's future;

But with firm determination I will strive forward."

The poem involves two literary allusions: One about a cuckoo, said to be the reincarnation of an emperor, that sings hauntingly to the tears of listeners; another about a mythical bird Jingwei trying to fill up the sea with pebbles.

(HK Edition 06/30/2003 page1)


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