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Carrie Lam

Outgoing head of Hong Kong’s science park frustrated by city’s failure to fully embrace innovation and technology industry

Fanny Law bemoans long-standing inability of government departments to work together to support sector

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 June, 2018, 7:30am
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 June, 2018, 7:30am

Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun, the outgoing head of Hong Kong’s science park, has expressed her frustration at the long-standing inability of government departments to work together to support the innovation and technology industry.

Set to leave her position at the end of this month after not having her contract renewed by Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, Law said on Wednesday that after Tung Chee-hwa became the city’s leader in 1997, he invited Professor Tien Chang-lin to look at whether Hong Kong had the potential to be an innovation hub.

“In fact, Professor Tien’s conclusion is that, certainly, Hong Kong has the potential,” she said at an Asia Society forum on youth employment. “There is a series of things we need to do, and the government has dutifully implemented Professor Tien’s recommendations.”

In 1999, Tien, formerly an academic at the University of California, released a 77-page report that said the city could become a world-class centre for innovation and technology within five years.

“There are two critical issues which we failed to deliver. There were two critical success factors. First is that the government, at all levels, and different divisions – because we sometimes operate in silos – the government at all levels must support innovation and technology on the long-term basis, and I think we have failed to achieve that,” she said.

Secondly, she said, the community as a whole, including different industries and the academia, must embrace technology on a long-term basis. However, that failed as well, she added.

Law’s remarks were widely reported in local media as her criticising the current administration for not having engaged all departments to support the innovation and technology industry.

But, she later clarified her position: “These two conditions were not attained over the years. Now the [chief executive] has set up a [steering committee] to coordinate action within the government.”

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At the forum, she said that the science park rose out of Professor Tien’s recommendations and the park has laid a lot of groundwork.

Law, formerly the city’s education minister, quoted a line in the letter she recently sent to the park’s board of directors advising them of her departure.

“We are like a plane that is gathering speed on the runway and is about to soar,” she wrote.

She went on to say that Lam is “totally dedicated” and believed the chief executive would “fill the gaps in our ecosystem to ensure that we work together as a community”.

Law, whose actions last year sparked accusations of interference in the academic freedoms of one of the world’s top medical universities and which required Lam to intervene, was named chairwoman of the publicly owned Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation in 2014. She was appointed by the city’s previous chief executive, Leung Chun-ying.

Her predecessor, Nicholas Brooke, had been in the post for six years.

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News of her departure came amid a government push to develop the city’s innovation and technology sector, and a pledge by President Xi Jinping last month to make Hong Kong a global innovation hub.

While discussing whether there is the ecosystem for start-ups in Hong Kong, and the government’s role in that Law said, jokingly: “I am no longer part of the government, even less so after the 30th of June.”

Meanwhile, Secretary for Innovation and Technology Nicholas Yang Wei-hsiung said after a Legislative Council meeting that Law was a very hardworking chairwoman, but declined to comment further.

Sources have told the Post that Sunny Chai Ngai-chiu, a board member of the park and an award-winning industrialist, is expected to be named the new head of the park.