The Hong Kong government has earmarked $38.4m (HK$300m) for the creation of a fund to support local film production and foster new talent.

The measures were announced on Wednesday (Feb 28) by Hong Kong financial secretary Henry Tang in his budget address to the Legislative Council.

Tang said he was acting on the recommendations of the Film Development Committee, established in 2005 to advise the government on all matters relating to the development of the local film industry.

'One of [the committee's] recommendations is the establishment of a new fund to help finance film production and overcome the shortage of talent. I have earmarked HK$300m for this purpose,' said Tang.

'The Secretary for Commerce, Industry and Technology will consult the Film Development Council, which will shortly be established, on the detailed operation of the fund.'

The committee was expected to be a precursor to a fully-fledged Film Development Council - a support body along the same lines as the UK Film Council - which Hong Kong chief executive Donald Tsang outlined in a policy address last October.

However, the financial secretary's announcement surprised many in the industry who thought that plans for government support were on hold at least until after the chief executive election on March 25.

Hong Kong 's film industry has suffered from falling production levels in recent years as investors put resources into fewer but larger films aimed at the mainland China market, and the local market, which was small to begin with, continues to shrink. The territory has also been struggling with issues such as illegal downloading, traditional piracy and parallel imports.