HONGKONG is emerging as an important academic exchange centre, with a major international forum on Asian and North African studies being held here next month.
It will be the first time the International Congress of Asian and North African Studies (ICANAS) has been held in Southeast Asia in its 120-year history.
Hongkong University outbid institutions in Hungary and Iran.
More than 1,500 overseas scholars will present more than 1,300 papers, marking the largest overseas participation in the congress, which is held every three years.
There will be 10 major symposiums with at least 15 papers each, including topics such as the Pearl River delta's economic status and prospects, and socialism in China.
Other symposiums will include women and gender studies, the Silk Road, and liberalism and nationalism as factors in the development or non-development of civil society in East Asia.
The secretary-general of the congress, Dr Michael Luk Yan-lung, said: ''Hongkong is emerging as a very important centre of scholarly and academic exchange.'' The university's vice-chancellor, Professor Wang Gungwu, said it won the bid probably because Hongkong had been recognised as an international city with ample resources to hold such a congress.
But more importantly, he said the bid was a recognition of Hongkong's academic status.
Dr Luk said the congress would have the largest delegation from China so far - 250 scholars - demonstrating the fact that the mainland was increasingly open in terms of academic studies.
The congress is also the first gathering of ICANAS since the breakup of the Soviet Union, with more than 30 delegates from Russia and eastern European countries.
Professor Wang said that while local academics could benefit from the international exchange, the public would also have a chance to see the kind of research done in Asia.
The public can register on August 22 to attend the congress, to be held on the following six days in the Hongkong Cultural Centre.
Dr Luk said $4 million had been raised from the community for the congress, while the Government had shown its support by organising a multi-media exhibition on Hongkong's past, present and future to coincide with the congress.