Innovate or fall behind, Beijing official tells Hong Kong
Beijing's man says the situation is pressing and describes No 23 ranking as 'a bit disappointing'
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Beijing's top representative in Hong Kong has called on its leaders to do more to encourage innovation, saying a lack of creativity is holding back development.
However, an academic said that while more innovation was needed, so was societal change.
Zhang Xiaoming, director of the central government's liaison office, made the remarks just days after the World Economic Forum revealed that the city had risen two places in its global competitiveness ranking - to seventh among 148 economies.
However, it trailed behind big economies in the region and was ranked 23rd for innovation.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the Boao Youth Forum yesterday, Zhang praised the city's ability to adapt and survive economic challenges, but said it had been "facing great external pressure to innovate", and that being No 23 was "a bit disappointing". "The situation is pressing - and if you don't make progress, you lag behind," he said.
"The government, organisations and different sectors should plan for the long term, and put more value on innovation studies and investments, so that it won't be the weak link in the city's overall competitiveness," he said.
Zhang also had a message for young people: don't be content with just using technology. "Don't just be the benefactors of innovation - aim higher. Think of the future, be innovative visionaries, be pragmatists," he said.
Also at the youth forum, Zhou Bo, deputy director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, made a similar call about the need for the city to "develop new areas for economic growth".
In a report last week, the World Economic Forum urged the Hong Kong government to strengthen higher education and innovation, and in particular to raise the quality of its research institutions and address the shortage of scientists and engineers. It identified "inefficient government bureaucracy" as one of the problem areas in the city.
Acting Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor did not comment directly on the report yesterday, but said the government had in recent years given more support to creative industries, including designating 2012 "Design Year". She revealed that a HK$500 million fund would be set up for people to "use their creative ideas to help the needy".
Separately, University of Science and Technology president Professor Tony Chan Fan-cheong agreed the city must innovate, but said it was more of a societal issue. "We have many programmes to encourage our students to start their own businesses," Chan said. "[But] there are a lot of doubters and sceptics … lots of people who say '[we don't have] a science and technology industry, we should be content with our service industry'.
"It's up to Hong Kong as a society to control our fate and decide: what kind of future do we want?"