My Take

Why the angst over hi-tech park on border with Shenzhen?

The Lok Ma Chau Loop has sat idle for two decades, yet critics lambast deal to develop it into an innovation hub that will bring benefits to Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 January, 2017, 12:44am
UPDATED : Friday, 06 January, 2017, 1:52am

Build it and they may come, fingers crossed. One supposes that’s the idea behind the joint Hong Kong and Shenzhen innovation and technology park in faraway Lok Ma Chau.

This huge site – an 87-hectare loop – has been lying idle for the past two decades. It was created by water works in the area. I, for one, am glad they have found a use for it. For critics who are ready to blast the plan as another white elephant like Cyberport or Science Park, or another instance of unaccountable government decisions, consider the alternatives.

We could have sold it to developers, built a university, turned it into a centralised storage and cargo transit point, built schools for cross-border pupils, or public housing units. Each option has problems but you can be certain that no matter which one was picked, the usual critics would still be jumping up and down. A tech park does not seem to be the worse option for Hong Kong.

After the planned Palace Museum at the arts hub in West Kowloon, it’s another one of Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s babies. She has managed to get Shenzhen authorities to acknowledge that Hong Kong owns the land.

Transparency key to success of hi-tech park at Lok Ma Chau

While Hong Kong has little to show when it comes to innovation and technology over the past 20 years – Octopus cards? – Shenzhen has been growing by leaps and bounds. I know, it’s hard to imagine such a thing for our pan-democrats and localist youths who think Hong Kong is superior in every way.

Huawei has its headquarters and international training centre in Shenzhen. Tencent is also headquartered in the city’s Nanshan hi-tech park. BGI, one of the world’s largest genomics companies, has its main office at the Beishan industrial zone in Shenzhen. The National Supercomputing Centre, which carries out some of China’s most advanced computer science research, is located – you guessed it – across the border. Thanks to this hi-tech concentration, Shenzhen has a steady supply of highly skilled workers.

So while we have the sorry excuse of a Science Park and Cyberport, Shenzhen has at least two functioning technology and industrial parks. If Hong Kong can leverage some of Shenzhen’s hi-tech offers via the Lok Ma Chau Loop, it will not be a bad deal.

Or we can leave the muddy fields to the birds.