Qianhai-Hong Kong collaboration requires innovative thinking

September 27, 2021 08:56
Photo: China Daily

In his keynote speech delivered at the seminar held in September on the Central Government's science and technology policies benefitting Hong Kong, Mr Tan Tieniu, Deputy Director of the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the HKSAR, elaborated on the Central Government’s policy of supporting Hong Kong’s developing as an international innovation and technology center, he even cited my previous article: “(all parties) embracing innovative thinking can provide more opportunities for our young people. By this, Hong Kong can then develop into a leading international innotech hub."

This article written three years ago talks about how the lack of AI manpower and Hong Kong’s small market hinder innovation and technology development, which is why Hong Kong should seek the support of the Greater Bay Area (GBA). It remains true today.

The integration of Hong Kong and the GBA is a general trend, and both the Central Government and Hong Kong Government have committed to realising it. For example, the Greater Bay Area Youth Employment Scheme was proposed in the Policy Address last year to encourage local university graduates to work in the GBA with a monthly salary of not less than HK$18,000 and a subsidy period of 18 months. However, the response from the public has been lukewarm.

At the same time, the Central Government issued the Plan for Comprehensive Deepening Reform and Opening Up of the Qianhai Shenzhen-Hong Kong Modern Service Industry Cooperation Zone in September this year, expanding the Qianhai Cooperation Zone from 15 sq km to more than 120 sq km, equivalent to the total area of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon Peninsula. It is expected that the new area will foster innovative development of modern service industries in the very near future. In fact, more than 10,000 Hong Kong companies have already expanded to the area in the past 10 years.

Qianhai is a blue ocean with huge development opportunities in the coming decades. The question is whether we can seize the opportunities and provide our young people with more room for development.

Since the Mainland and Hong Kong have different legal systems, ideologies, cultures and languages, it is no surprise that many Hong Kong people are not at ease with the difference, let alone integration. How to increase young people's interest to work in the GBA and ease their worries? A local think tank MWYO has proposed to build a GBA website as a one-stop platform to provide young people who are interested in working there with information and support, including learning, employment-related counselling and planning support, assistance in accommodation arrangement, on-the-job training, and more. I agree that it is important to increase the transparency of information, which is useful and effective for young people who intend to work and live there.

However, the think tank’s survey also found that despite the Government's “carrot", more than 80% of the local interviewees are still not interested to work in the GBA. The Government needs to adopt more innovative ideas to get out of the predicament.

One option that the authority can consider is: turning Qianhai into a smart special zone with forward-looking urban planning, combined with various advanced technologies for the convenience of residents, as well as elements of environmental protection and resilience against extreme weather. Most importantly, the citizens can participate in all the above plans and the young generation of Hong Kong can be given the priority to participate in the planning of the smart zone. Otherwise, it may end up like the development plan in Toronto, Canada which was dragged down by data privacy issues.

This experimental smart special zone would greatly strengthen the sense of belonging of Hong Kong people to Qianhai, it would also serve as a reference for the development of other cities in the Mainland and around the world. As a result, Hong Kong-Qianhai can export their experiences in building a smart city. We hope that the Government could take it into consideration.

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Adjunct Professor, Department of Computer Science, Faculty of Engineering; Department of Geography, Faculty of Social Sciences; and Faculty of Architecture, The University of Hong Kong