New mainland think tank hopes to take ‘objective’ view on Hong Kong issues
Centre for China and Globalisation opened its newest branch on Sunday
The leader of a top mainland think tank’s newly established Hong Kong branch vowed on Sunday to conduct “neutral, objective and academic” policy research on China and Hong Kong issues, and distinguish the centre from the Beijing government’s representatives in the city.
Zhang Yichen, senior vice-chairman of the Centre for China and Globalisation (CCG), also said he hoped the new CCG Hong Kong Council would help the centre to become more influential on topics such as China’s economic development and globalisation.
Zhang, who also chairs the council and the state-owned conglomerate Citic Capital, was speaking at the council’s inauguration ceremony. The ceremony came a day after commentators said the Beijing-based centre was setting up a branch in Hong Kong in an effort from the capital to sell national policies to the city and around the world.
The centre is led by former high-ranking Chinese officials, including He Yafei, a former vice-minister of China’s foreign ministry, and Long Yongtu, a former vice-minister at the Chinese ministry of commerce. It is the second big mainland think tank to extend its operations to the city in as many months, after the ministerial-level research institute Chinese Academy of Social Sciences did so in September.
At the ceremony, Zhang confirmed that the Hong Kong Council was set up in a bid to help the city to play key roles in Beijing’s “Belt and Road Initiative” and the “Greater Bay Area” development project.
The former is a strategy to open up trade along land and sea corridors spanning more than 65 countries, while the latter is a scheme to link Hong Kong, Macau and nine mainland cities into an integrated economic hub.
“We should also study Hong Kong issues, because we represent the voice of [bodies] that conduct research with a neutral, objective and academic perspective,” Zhang said.
He added that while the Hong Kong government and the central government’s organisations in the city have “their different perspectives”, the think tank “should represent an alternative point of view”.
Wang Huiyao, an honorary vice-chairman of the council, said the group was planning to publish research and organise seminars in Hong Kong.
The council’s honorary chairman Ronnie Chan Chichung, who also chairs Hong Kong’s Hang Lung Group, said the Hong Kong branch was set up at an “appropriate” time.
“China is likely to become the leader in global economic integration in the next few decades … and it needs think tanks,” Chan said.
Leung Chun-ying, the city’s former chief executive and now a vice-chairman of China’s top advisory body, also attended the ceremony as a guest of honour.
He said Hong Kong had not valued policy research in the past, but the situation changed after it was handed back from British to Chinese rule in 1997.
“For a long time … the society blindly believed in market forces and the non-intervention policy of the British [colonial] government.” Leung said.
On Thursday, Paul Tse Wai-chun, the head of a Legislative Council committee, warned that lawmakers could invoke their “special power” to force Leung to cooperate in an ongoing corruption investigation centring on a HK$50 million payment he received during his tenure.
Leung was asked after the ceremony why he did not cooperate with Legco, but he refused to answer any media questions.