Now is the time for Hong Kong to develop technological industries, liaison office official tells local students

Deputy director of the central government’s liaison office, Dr Tan Tieniu, tells students about to embark on mainland internships that the city should not be dissuaded by losing its spot at the top of global competitiveness ranking

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 May, 2018, 7:34am
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 May, 2018, 7:33am

Hong Kong should take advantage of its “best era for technology development” instead of belittling itself for losing the top spot on a global competitiveness ranking, Beijing’s No 2 liaison office official in the city said.

Dr Tan Tieniu, deputy director of the central government’s liaison office in Hong Kong, on Friday also encouraged the city’s youngsters not to “lock themselves up”, but to experience the most cutting-edge innovation and technology in the mainland and other parts of the world.

Speaking to some 500 secondary graduates and university students who will soon set off for internships with mainland companies, Tan said: “It’s not bad being number two. We should recognise that Hong Kong’s shortage was found to be in technology. But the city should not look down upon itself.”

Released on Thursday, the latest global rankings by the Switzerland-based IMD World Competitiveness Centre showed that the top spot held by Hong Kong in 2016 and 2017 was taken by the United States. The drop was caused partly by weakness in technological infrastructure, according to the ranking report.

“I still believe now is the best era for Hong Kong to develop technology industries, because the central government and the local government are really committed to it,” Tan said.

Hong Kong slips to new low in innovation rankings

Earlier this month, President Xi Jinping said Hong Kong should become an international innovation hub and he directed state agencies to provide help accordingly. Xi’s move was made in his open response to an appeal by 24 of the city’s leading scientists published by the state news agency Xinhua.

In its latest budget, the Hong Kong government promised HK$50 billion for supporting innovation and technology developments.

“Beyond that, the city enjoys an exceptional advantage with the Greater Bay Area at its back,” Tan said.

Tan believed that Hong Kong’s strength in scientific research led by its world-class universities could tap into the vast market across the border through technology transference in Shenzhen and production lines in the bay area.

The Greater Bay Area – the Chinese government’s scheme to link nine cities in Guangdong province with Hong Kong and Macau into an integrated economic and business hub – stretches over 56,000 square kilometres, covers 11 economies worth US$1.58 trillion in 2017, and has an estimated population of 67 million.

Formerly the vice-president of the Chinese Academy of Sciences – the country’s top state scientific research body, Tan told the youngsters: “The world outside [Hong Kong] is wonderful. Visit the mainland, visit foreign countries, don’t lock yourself up.”

The student audience at Tan’s hour-long lecture on science and technology developments in world history, in mainland China and in Hong Kong would set off on Saturday with another 500 peers to about 200 companies in eight mainland cities for a six-week internship.

Coming from some 60 local secondary schools and universities, the students would be the eighth batch sent across the border for summer jobs through an internship programme jointly organised by 17 organisations. The two leading groups were the Hong Kong Arts and Culture Development Centre and the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Society of Hong Kong.

Tan encouraged the youngsters to experience what is happening in “China’s best era for technology development”.

Help China overcome ‘weaknesses’ to become global tech power, ex-minister Wan Gang asks Hong Kong innovators

Among the audience, Kong Lok-yin, a 17-year-old secondary school graduate, and Tony Tsui Siu-kwan, a year-three student of urban studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, both agreed that the integration of Hong Kong with other cities in the bay area would be an “inevitable trend”.

Kong and Tsui said they would consider working and living across the border. They believed that more opportunities might be available there in computer science and cultural industries – areas they were interested to have a career.

However, neither of them found it possible to have their identity as a Hongkonger replaced by that of a “Greater Bay Area person”- a controversial concept recently raised by Jonathan Choi Koon-shum, chairman of the Chinese General Chamber of Commerce.

“Even if I work in the bay area in the future, I will tell local people there that I am a Hongkonger,” Tsui said.

“We should learn about and from each other, instead of asking one side to change themselves for the convenience of the other side.”