Bauhinia think tank may lower profile

Departure of Anthony Wu may be a sign that the think tank's influence is on the wane

PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 29 October, 2012, 6:37am

A major supporter of chief-executive contender Henry Tang Ying-yen has quietly stepped down as chairman of a once-key think tank that reportedly intends to keep a lower profile under the new administration.

Anthony Wu Ting-yuk ended his five-year chairmanship of the Bauhinia Foundation Research Centre on September 17, but the news was announced only on the centre's website.

Co-founded by Wu and Norman Chan Tak-lam, who is now the Monetary Authority chief executive, the centre was seen as Hong Kong's flagship think tank during the administration of chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen. Tsang took office in 2005 and the centre was set up the following year.

But it has lain almost dormant in the months following Leung Chun-ying's election.

A person familiar with the think tank's management said it had purposefully taken a low profile since the leadership change. Another insider said its future was unclear.

Wu was succeeded by director Dr Donald Li Kwok-tung and will remain one of the centre's two directors.

Chinese University political scientist Ivan Choy Chi-keung said the fortunes of think tanks in the city were closely related to the rise and fall of the political power they belonged to. "The fading prominence [of the research centre] just mirrors the city's political landscape," he said.

The South China Morning Post understands that the centre has scrapped its quarterly Hong Kong Consumer Confidence Survey. The survey, conducted by Lingnan University since 2009, sought to predict consumer confidence through economic expectations and behaviour.

Preparation for this year's Leadership Conference, which the centre has organised annually since 2009, is also on hold.

Wu acknowledged that the centre had conducted fewer studies in the past year compared with the initial years after its establishment. "But it has nothing to do with the political situation … We face no funding problems," he said.

He said the centre stopped commissioning the confidence survey from the third quarter of this year, as it was drawing less attention than before.

"The survey doesn't serve our original purpose as a think tank any more," he said. "We are now focusing on long-term policy studies, on topics such as land supply and housing." He said he and co-founder Chan agreed that the chairman's tenure should not exceed five years. "It's time to pass the torch to the younger generation," Wu said.

A spokeswoman for the centre said the new management was putting together fresh ideas and directions, and would continue to research local policies.