China Daily

Thursday, October 21, 2021, 10:12
Policy Address points way to an innovative and creative new city
By Quentin Parker
Thursday, October 21, 2021, 10:12 By Quentin Parker

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s final Policy Address in her term of office was an important statement of intent by the Hong Kong government concerning finance, transport and trade, with a pleasing focus on the importance of science, technology and innovation. 

It is at once radical, bold, and necessary, while also attempting to be inclusive, forward-looking and attuned to the imperative to both engage with and be incorporated into the overall Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area program. 

This reflects a pragmatic approach to maximize the local advantage as part of the national development strategy of the People’s Republic of China.

As a tertiary education specialist, I am captivated by its reference to science, technology, engineering and mathematics education. The vision of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region as a “smart city” that is and can be much more than just fintech is extremely important. Time and again, the issues of technology and innovation were raised across various elements of the policy statement, with STEM education underpinning it all. This is music to my ears as all our lives are increasingly dominated by the pervasive influence of sophisticated technologies that need to be respected, understood and appropriately controlled for the benefit of the many, not the few.

Establishing a satellite city (the Northern Metropolis) on the Chinese-mainland border should help with future economic integration that is more seamless and cooperative with a two-way, supercharged, young-talent superhighway between Hong Kong and the mainland, driving growth, ideas, and innovation

The most interesting item for me is the plan to establish a new satellite city on the border with Shenzhen dubbed the Northern Metropolis. The seamless development of our city into the 21st century is key to our future prosperity within China and within the interconnected global economy. Establishing a satellite city on the Chinese-mainland border should help with future economic integration that is more seamless and cooperative with a two-way, supercharged, young-talent superhighway between Hong Kong and the mainland, driving growth, ideas, and innovation. This new satellite city is also an excellent opportunity to incorporate green thinking, sustainability, energy efficiency, and interconnected smart city technologies from the ground up, while also providing an exciting incubator and focused hub for innovation and commercialization of new technologies.

It seems to me as an Australian import from 2015 that the “one country, two systems” architecture has a refreshed blueprint intended to safeguard stability and security going forward as part of key steps to not only develop a co-dependent reality between Shenzhen, the Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions, and the overall Greater Bay Area, but also to ensure that opportunities for Hong Kong’s young people are broadened across the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge to bold new horizons of innovation and technological development, and exploited by good old Hong Kong zeal and entrepreneurship. We have much to share and should be proud to do so.

I believe respect for the “two systems” principle provides Hong Kong with wonderful opportunities to use this unique, facilitating mechanism for global interconnect under an established, respected, legal and regulatory Hong Kong framework. I have found that many Hong Kong people like to look out to the widest horizons possible, and I believe there is much in this Policy Address that provides good optics to achieve that longer term for the greater good.

 As a Hong Kong University science-based academic, having our own mentions in terms of dedicated facility construction for deep technology research in the Pok Fu Lam area is of course very welcome, as is the significant increase in research postgraduate student places, including funded quotas. I hope the lion’s share of these places goes to STEM subjects across our vibrant university sector, and attracts the best and brightest from Hong Kong, the mainland, but also further afield. Indeed, maintaining an international diaspora in Hong Kong is, I believe, vital to our overall health, as are the enriching effects of global talent in terms of culture, language, experiences, opinions, perspectives, and insights that can offer so much to improve understanding and trust that does seem to be in short supply these days.

We should also appreciate that living in an Asian city of 7.5 million that houses such an impressive group of world-class universities (three in the global top 40 according to the latest 2022 QS ranking scheme) is exceptional and needs to be preserved. It seems to me that many interconnected elements of this policy statement can help achieve that. The government’s maintenance of the STEM professorship program is to be applauded and will help. It is solid recognition of the importance of this key aspect of a dynamic, global, modern economy that needs to be innovation-based. I hope the increased quota for the Quality Migrant Admission Scheme to 4,000 is also just the start of attracting more international talent, many of whom will ideally be STEM-focused. I also wholeheartedly endorse the comments of our HKU president, Professor Zhang Xiang, who commented that the chief executive has demonstrated vision and determination to develop innovation and technology in Hong Kong while also appreciating HKU’s many achievements in scientific research. Such world-class research can be found across all our sister universities in ample measure.

On a personal level, I was delighted to find a nugget of recognition of the opportunities that Hong Kong can garner in the rapidly emerging space science and technology sectors that have become such a mainland priority. The quick-fire successes of the Yutu 2 lunar and Zhurong Mars rovers and the inspiring new Tiangong space station have fired up the imagination of young Hong Kong people as well as their patriotic fervor. The emergence of the Hong Kong Aerospace Technology Group and the Hong Kong-based Orion Astropreneur Space Academy are pointing the way locally along with Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s space instrument group, specifically mentioned within the policy document. I would modestly add our own HKU Laboratory for Space Research here. Perhaps the next policy statement will address this area of opportunity even more strongly.

The author is a professor in the Department of Physics and the director of Laboratory for Space Research at the University of Hong Kong.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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