Hong Kong’s political landscape is undergoing sweeping changes, as evidenced by the dissolution of parties, trade unions, media organisations and other groups in the opposition camp. The circumstances leading to the winding-up of Bauhinia Foundation Research Centre are totally different, though. If anything, it is more a reflection of the long-standing problems associated with think tanks and policy formulation. Confirming its closure within this month, incumbent chairman Lau Ming-wai said the foundation’s mission would come to an end. Founded by a top aide of former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen in 2006, the body had produced some serious policy proposals during Tsang’s tenure. But its influence also waned when new governments and think tanks emerged. The city has indeed no shortage of public policy research bodies, be it university units or institutes affiliated with businesses and politicians. But while some have stimulated public debate with their quality work, those which have been taken on board by the government remain the minority. In terms of influence on public policies and governance, local think tanks are still no match to their counterparts in the United States and Europe. Li Keqiang vows focus on Hong Kong’s prosperity through integration This owes much to the city’s political ecology. The general reliance on private funding may give the impression that individual bodies are more a platform for political networking and consolidation. The lack of a long-term commitment in financing sustainable research means these bodies may come and go any time. This is hardly conducive to nurturing a good environment for quality policy research. Under the so-called executive-led governance system, the powers to make policies and legislation are vested in the hands of government officials. But it does not mean there is no need for external input. More often than not, those in positions of power are blinded by bureaucracy and their own perspective. And there are examples of ill-conceived policies aplenty. The need for well-researched policies prevails regardless of leadership change. There needs to be room to nurture a more sustainable culture for think tanks to play a bigger role in governance.