Retired civil servant Yvonne Choi Ying-pik appointed to head upcoming Belt and Road Office

Yvonne Choi Ying-pik, who was Permanent Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development before her retirement in 2012, will take up the position in an unpaid capacity

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 July, 2016, 11:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 30 July, 2016, 1:08pm

A retired civil servant specialising in trade and economic affairs has been appointed to lead the government’s soon-to-be set up Belt and Road Office.

Yvonne Choi Ying-pik, who was Permanent Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development before her retirement in 2012, was named Commissioner for Belt and Road on Friday.

The 65-year-old will assume office in an unpaid capacity from August 1 until June 30 next year. Choi will report directly to Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.

One of the priorities on the government’s agenda this year was the setting up of a steering committee and an office to formulate strategies and policies for Hong Kong’s participation in the Belt and Road initiative.

Consistent political will is needed to ensure one belt, one road initiative succeeds

The framework, announced by Beijing’s National Development and Reform Commission in March last year, aims to link China to central Asia, Europe as well as the Middle East through connectivity and economic cooperation.

The government has been in full throttle trying to position Hong Kong as a key facilitator in the Belt and Road initiative, with the Trade Development Council organising the city’s first-ever Belt and Road Summit in May.

A career civil servant, Choi joined the government upon graduation from the University of Hong Kong in 1973.

Prior to her tenure as Permanent Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, she took up a range of trade-related positions, including Deputy Representative in the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Geneva, and Deputy Secretary for Trade and Industry, before heading the Information Services Department.

Belt-and-road initiative is a gold mine for Hong Kong

Her decorated career was recognised by the award of the Gold Bauhinia Star in 2011, before being appointed as Justice of Peace a year later.

Former Civil Service Secretary Joseph Wong Wing-ping, who once headed the now-defunct Commerce, Industry and Technology Bureau where Choi was permanent secretary, described Choi as a suitable and capable person to deal with trade and economic matters.

But he slammed the unpaid nature of the post as “ridiculous” and “unfair”, even questioning the functions of the Belt and Road office.

“The government should come forward at the Legislative Council to seek funding, while explaining to lawmakers what the roles and purposes of the office’s staff are,” Wong said.