Lai See

Hong Kong only has two good think tanks, global index shows

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 February, 2014, 4:24am
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 February, 2014, 4:24am

Hong Kong has about 30 think tanks. But how good are they? To get an idea, we turned to the latest report of the Think Tanks and Civil Societies Programme at the University of Pennsylvania. It is often referred to as the "think tanks' think tank". The institute has been operating for 25 years and specialises in looking at "the evolving role and character of public policy research organisations," according to its introduction.

In 2007, the organisation developed and launched the global index of think tanks, which is designed to identify and recognise centres of excellence in all the major areas of public policy research in every region of the world.

Only two Hong Kong think tanks are ranked in the survey. One is the Hong Kong Centre for Economic Research, which is ranked 35 in the Top Domestic Economic Policy Think Tanks category. The centre is part of the University of Hong Kong and is headed by Richard Y.C. Wong. The other is the Civic Exchange, which is ranked 44 in the Top Environment Think Tanks category. It is also the only self-funded Hong Kong think tank to get recognised in this survey globally.

Altogether, there are 6,826 think tanks in the world, with 1,201 in Asia, 1,818 in Europe and 1,984 in North America. The United States has the most, with 1,828, followed by China with 426, Britain with 287, India with 268 and Germany with 194. The Brookings Institution is ranked as the Top Think Tank Worldwide, followed by Chatham House (Britain), Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (US), the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (US) and Bruegel (Belgium).


Cantonese legalised

Unsurprisingly, the row over the Education Bureau's determination that Cantonese is not an official language has attracted some heat. It is true, as others have noted, that Cantonese is not cited in the Basic Law as an official language. It says English and Chinese are the two official languages.

But it is interesting to read that an information note from the Legislative Council Secretariat several years ago said: "In January 1998, the then chief judge of the High Court, after consultation with the chief justice, issued guidelines for judges regarding the use of Chinese in court proceedings. The guidelines seek to assist judges in the exercise of their discretion. They are for reference only, and thus are not binding.

"In deciding which official language is to be used for conducting hearings, the paramount consideration for the judge is the just [and] expeditious disposal of the cause or matter, having regard to all the circumstances of the case."

It adds: "It is the Judiciary's position that the official language of Chinese in its spoken form usually refers to Cantonese but also includes Putonghua."


Illegal parking

Not everyone has been lounging around in the unseasonably good weather over the Lunar New Year holiday. We note with approval the zeal displayed by police in Kimberley Street in Tsim Sha Tsui on Sunday in ticketing illegally parked vehicles on lines, boxes and expired meters.

Long may it continue.


A better battery

Researchers have come up with a novel battery for use in anatomical monitoring systems and electrical devices that are finding their way into the human body. According to the Architect magazine, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have developed a potentially safer battery for these devices, using cuttlefish ink. The attraction of cuttlefish ink is that it is a benign material that can be ingested or implanted without the risks of conventional battery materials, which can be toxic and must be encapsulated.


Vomiting virus

Celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal has had to close his restaurant in the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park in London after an outbreak of a vomiting virus. The so-called "culinary alchemist" apologised to customers at the exclusive two-Michelin-starred Dinner restaurant after 24 diners and 21 staff members were taken ill. The restaurant is expected to remain closed for a week, the Independent reports.

The same bug forced Blumenthal to close his award-winning Fat Duck restaurant in Bray, Berkshire, in 2009.


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