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CY Leung policy address 2016

Executive Council convenor Lam Woon-kwong defends One Belt, One Road moves

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 January, 2016, 1:05am
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 January, 2016, 3:48am

Executive Council convenor Lam Woon-kwong has come to the defence of the administration’s controversial “One Belt, One Road” initiatives including generous scholarships for students from foreign countries, urging Hongkongers to be more outward-looking.

The measures announced by Leung Chun-ying in his policy address last week to capitalise on Beijing’s grand scheme of economic expansion have triggered dissatisfaction among some Hongkongers, who criticise the chief executive for giving an over-emphasis on it at the expense of imminent livelihoood problems.

“’One Belt, One Road’ is very important to Hong Kong,” Lam, who is known for occasionally breaking ranks with Leung, sided with him on the issue in an interview with Cable TV. “We are the city that is the most well-armed with talent to develop ties with the 60 some countries. We shouldn’t just stand on the side and let the opportunities go by.”

“Remember what made Hong Kong grow in the past? It’s trade. If we don’t do it, Shanghai will overtake us.”

The “One Belt, One Road” strategy, first unveiled in 2013 by President Xi Jinping and highlighted in the nation’s 13th five-year plan last year, has two legs: the New Silk Road economic belt linking China and Europe; and the Maritime Silk Road linking it to Southeast Asia, Africa and Europe. It spans 65 countries on three continents, including Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Russia, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Among the belt-and-road measures unveiled by Leung last week, a HK$1 billion scholarship to attract students from those countries have drawn much criticism. Lawmakers, for example, say money should be spent to help students taking non-subsidised associate degrees.

This is not the right attitude, Lam warns. “When those students come to receive education in Hong Kong, they will become Hong Kong’s friends. They will be political and financial elites one day.”

“What worries me is an ever inward-looking mindset among Hongkongers. When you only see yellow faces around the campuses of our universities, it will be game over.”

Education minister Eddie Ng Hak-kim told lawmakers on Friday that the HK$1 billion fund would not be used up but was to be a “seed fund”, only the investment returns of which would be used to give away to students.

A quota of 100 would be drawn for the scholarships. In the first year the scholarship is operated, 10 students from Indonesia will benefit, asking for a total of HK$1.2 million.

As for local students, Ng also said in the meeting that the government had distributed to them a total of HK$170 million worth of scholarships last year.