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The Science Park in Sha Tin was built using modular integrated construction technology. Photo: Winson Wong

Exclusive | Hong Kong sees Zhaoqing as key partner in efforts to modernise local construction industry

  • Zhaoqing is one of the manufacturing bases for MIC module suppliers in Hong Kong, Financial Secretary Chan Mo-po says
  • Hong Kong construction professionals can also work in the Greater Bay Area city in a new registration system announced in July
Zhaoqing, the largest Greater Bay Area city by land area, will be an important player to support Hong Kong’s efforts to modernise its construction industry, Hong Kong’s finance chief said.
The mainland city located in the western part of Guangdong province is a key provider of prefabricated building parts, an important role in view of the current labour crunch in the local industry, Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po said in a written interview with the Post.

Under the city’s 2019 budget, the government set aside HK$1 billion (US$129 million) of funds to promote the use of new technology in the industry, with modular integrated construction, or MIC module, becoming a major part of the focus.

“Zhaoqing is one of the manufacturing bases for our MIC suppliers,” Chan said. “In this connection, we see Zhaoqing has a good opportunity of becoming a key and reliable player in the supply chain of MIC modules, or other precast components, to support Hong Kong‘s construction industry in the years to come.”

Zhaoqing can support Hong Kong’s efforts to modernise its construction industry, Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po says. Photo: Nora Tam

The industry views the MIC modules as an answer to its predicament in terms of labour shortage. The shortfall is about 10,000 workers, according to industry estimates.

Modular integrated construction involves casting or prefabricating building blocks in factories, and having them assembled and installed on site. The concept has already gained popularity over the years in Britain, Singapore and Australia.

Hong Kong’s construction industry has a symbiotic relationship with Zhaoqing, according to Chan’s observations. Many of the industry workers in the city hailed from Zhaoqing which has provided a constant stream of skilled craftsmen over the decades.

Construction workers climb bamboo scaffolding on a building in Hung Hom. Photo: Felix Wong

Bamboo scaffolding, China‘s oldest and unique high-rise construction technique, is widely used in Hong Kong’s building industry even to these days. It was introduced by many craftsmen from Zhaoqing who moved to live in Hong Kong in the late 19th to 20th century, Chan said.

“This is indeed a good example of the close link between Hong Kong and Zhaoqing and other parts of Guangdong in the preservation of traditional Chinese craftsmanship,” he added.

WLS Holdings, which is listed on the GEM board in Hong Kong, is one of the better known industry players with Zhaoqing heritage. The group, one of the builders of Disneyland Hong Kong, has offered various types of scaffolding service in the city since 1952.

Project InnoCell under construction at Science Park in Sha Tin. Where they use modular integrated construction technology to build residential units. Photo: Winson Wong

Its chairman Francis So Yu-shing is the third generation of the family which has its roots in Zhaoqing, according to Hong Kong Brand Development Council.

There are also opportunities for Hong Kong residents to build a career or develop business ventures in Zhaoqing, Chan said.

The governments on both sides of the border unveiled a registration system in July to allow local qualified construction professionals and consultants to provide services in Zhaoqing and other mainland GBA cities.

“This new registration system will enable the Hong Kong construction-related enterprises and professionals to grasp the business opportunities brought about by Zhaoqing’s huge development plan and other bay area construction projects,” Chan said.
This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Zhaoqing ‘key to HK building industry’