‘Monumental’ call: Hong Kong can be China’s international I&T hub, Xi Jinping says on visit to city’s Science Park


Chinese President Xi Jinping has told scientists and researchers that he envisages Hong Kong as the country’s international innovation and technology hub while visiting the city’s Science Park, a call described by its head as “monumental”.

Lawmaker Duncan Chiu said Xi’s visit to the Science Park in Tai Po had highlighted the country’s strong support for Hong Kong to develop itself into an I&T hub.

“This is a shot in the arm for Hong Kong’s I&T development. President Xi’s visit to the park has shown his confidence and support for Hong Kong to be an I&T hub,” said Chiu, who represents the sector in the legislature.

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“Through this visit President Xi sent us a strong message that Hong Kong is capable of becoming an I&T hub.”

A source said Xi made his statement to a group of scientists and R&D talent as he visited the park, the city’s largest research and development base, at around 5.30pm on Thursday as part of his two-day trip to mark the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule.

He was accompanied by outgoing leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.

Xi, his wife Peng Liyuan and a delegation of mainland Chinese officials arrived in Hong Kong at the West Kowloon high-speed railway terminus by train from Shenzhen shortly after 3pm.

The president then met a group of pro-Beijing politicians and tycoons at the Hong Kong Exhibition and Convention Centre in Wan Chai.

After that meeting, Xi’s motorcade headed to the Science Park with police blocking Tolo Highway for the delegation under a tight security blanket.

“The president was given a brief account by the city’s I&T officials and the operator Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corp [HKSTP] about the city’s recent I&T development and outlook,” a government statement said.

A look at the unprecedented security blanket thrown around Hong Kong for Xi’s visit

It said Secretary for Innovation and Technology Alfred Sit Wing-hang had briefed Xi about the “rich” outcome derived from the government’s I&T drive costing more than HK$150 billion (US$19 billion).

HKSTP chief executive Albert Wong Hak-keung showed to the president seven scientific research achievements, covering life and health, artificial intelligence, robotics and engineering applications, the statement said.

The source said Wong later told the park’s senior staff that “monumental” was the best description of Xi’s visit as he made it “clear that Hong Kong will be the international I&T hub of China”.

“Our investments in the past years have yielded good successes, but there is still a lot more for us to do,” he was quoted as saying.

Government minister Michael Wong (left) briefs the president on a new development area. Photo: Handout

HKSTP chairman Sunny Chai Ngai-chiu said Xi praised Hong Kong for its innovative developments.

“Hong Kong has a good foundation for innovation, what’s even better is the city has a lot of potential in this regard. This is what he said during the visit,” Chai added.

To cater to China’s 14th five‑year plan, under which developing Hong Kong into an international I&T hub was a priority, Lam unveiled her blueprint for a Northern Metropolis in the New Territories, turning some rural areas in San Tin and Lau Fau Shan, known for oyster farming, into the city’s version of Silicon Valley.

“Mrs Lam expressed her gratitude for the National 14th Five-Year Plan’s positioning of the development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area into an international centre for science and technology innovation and its clear support for Hong Kong to develop into an international centre for I&T,” the government statement said.

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The government said Sit and development minister Michael Wong Wai-lun also introduced to Xi the proposed San Tin “technopole”, which would connect the Shenzhen-Hong Kong Innovation and Technology Cooperation Zone.

Xi also visited the Hong Kong Centre for Neurodegenerative Diseases under the government-funded InnoHK initiative, headed by renowned neuroscientist Professor Nancy Ip Yuk-yu, the next president of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

A government source said the Science Park visit was a major highlight of Xi’s trip to the city. Apart from an introduction by Ip, an exhibition covering the work of Dennis Lo, known for his medical technology inventions, was on show.

The government said that before the end of Xi’s visit, he made a speech of encouragement to more than 30 R&D scientists and academics and young start-up entrepreneurs.

“President Xi ... encouraged them to make greater contributions to show his care for Hong Kong’s youth in particular,” it said.

“The address showed the importance and acknowledgement placed on Hong Kong’s I&T development and the expectation of Hong Kong contributing to the country’s development in science and technology.”

Additional reporting by Olga Wong and Lilian Cheng

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