Hong Kong’s next chief executive must have a vision for the youth of tomorrow

Ken Chu says the Hong Kong 2030+ study presents an opportunity to press for the innovative use of land and infrastructure, to benefit young citizens and professionals of the future

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 January, 2017, 11:35am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 January, 2017, 5:54pm

The ongoing six-month public consultation on “Hong Kong 2030+: Towards a Planning Vision and Strategy Transcending 2030” focuses on land use and infrastructure development to ease housing problems, provide more public space for recreation, and make the city more liveable and ecologically sustainable.

In his policy address last week, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said the government would carry out strategic planning for major transport infrastructure to support the long-term land use strategy of Hong Kong beyond 2030.

Watch: Leung Chun-ying’s farewell policy address

There is no doubt that land planning can help Hong Kong achieve its strategic goals and redirect policy focus to enhance its competitive edge, to meet future challenges. For example, visionary strategic planning may make us realise that brownfield sites could be used for strategic policies that generate more overall benefits.

However, we can also consider how to maximise or look beyond the land-use policy parameter, with a view to creating opportunities for future generations to grow.

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The government has already successfully maximised changes in land planning to enable our young people to fulfil their aspirations. One example is the revitalisation of old industrial buildings between 2007 and 2010, led by then development secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor. Lam took the lead to modify building regulations, as well as engage relevant stakeholders and encourage owners to redevelop old or derelict industrial buildings, to provide rental units for young people seeking to pursue artistic, cultural or creative ventures.

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The world has changed dramatically since the last century, and the pace of change is getting ever more rapid. Facebook, for example, was officially launched in 2004, when iPhones or iPads were unheard of. Now, social media is ubiquitous, and most people cannot go a day without their electronic devices. If Moore’s law about the pace of the digital revolution continues to hold true, we will see exponential growth in technology that will change the face of the Earth and drastically affect our life in an even shorter time. For example, one California-based aviation company has developed a jetpack that will allow civilians to experience personal flight. What will the world really look like in, say, the year 2030? More importantly, what will Hong Kong have become or have to face? What opportunities will be available for future young generations?

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Renowned scientist Stephen Hawking once said that it isn’t yet possible to predict the weather more than a few days in advance. So how could we predict with precision what will happen in 13 years?

What should our next chief executive do to prepare Hong Kong, and especially our young people, for this extraordinary world of tomorrow?

We do know for certain that our city is ageing fast. It is also in need of diversifying its industrial sectors, beyond the four traditional core industries of financial services, trading and logistics, tourism, and real estate, as they face enormous challenges and fierce competition.

Yet, even if we are unable to make accurate or reliable forecasts, it does not mean we cannot make preparations for what may come, or that we should forsake the responsibility of nurturing our current four- or five-year-olds, so they can meet the challenges ahead.

Their expectations and aspirations will be vastly different from those of their parents; they are growing up in an entirely different environment, facing different kinds of pressure.

Bearing all this in mind, what should our next chief executive do to prepare Hong Kong, and especially our young people, for the extraordinary world of tomorrow?

Hong Kong 2030 Plus: is it really planning or just guesswork?

How should the young parents of today bring up and instil the right values and spirit in their children, many of whom will start entering the job market in 2030, when technology is set to play a bigger role and artificial intelligence may well replace some people in the workplace?

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It is commendable that the current administration has made great efforts to cultivate and shape a sustainable environment conducive to long-term growth for Hong Kong, and it is likely that creative industries will be a safe bet in the future. Steps have been taken during Leung Chun-ying’s term to bolster creative and technology industries, to transform Hong Kong into a creative and innovative hub, with good results. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has set up in Hong Kong its first-ever Innovation Node outside the United States. Earlier this month, Hong Kong signed an agreement with Shenzhen to jointly develop an innovation and technology park in the Lok Ma Chau Loop, four times the size of the Science Park in Pak Shek Kok.

The vision is that the tech park will draw leading innovation enterprises from the mainland, as well as overseas, and so help promote the development of Hong Kong’s innovation and technology industry.

Young people need the right skills to ensure Hong Kong’s future

Even though the 2030+ study is essentially about land use, infrastructure development and the built environment, the city’s next top leader should consider expanding the scope of this strategic review to assess how to maximise land use and infrastructure to help our young people, especially the generations to come.

Giving our youth hope and opportunities to excel and grow must be a priority for the next chief executive because they are the future of Hong Kong. The administration must formulate a vision of the kind of city the children of today will experience when 2030 arrives.

Dr Ken Chu is group chairman and CEO of the Mission Hills Group and a National Committee member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference