Henry Ho Kin-chung is the founder and chairman of the One Country Two Systems Youth Forum. (PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

HONG KONG – John Lee Ka-chiu, the sole contender in the upcoming chief executive election, unveiled his “Election Manifesto of Chief Executive Election 2022” on Friday, nine days before the 1,500-member Election Committee will elect Hong Kong’s new leader. 

Henry Ho Kin-chung, founder and chairman of the One Country Two Systems Youth Forum, welcomed Lee’s visions explicitly presented in his manifesto on advancing the integration of Hong Kong’s development with the development plan of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area as well as the country’s overall development blueprint.  

Lee pledged to establish the planned Northern Metropolis as a nexus to build a high-quality GBA, and drive and sustain a diverse economy in the region. Lee is considering establishing a department to attract more talent and capital for the development of innovative industries, with the aim of developing the Northern Metropolis into a livable, vibrant and high-quality-of-life metropolitan areas, and building a new engine for economic growth and a new space for technological innovation. 

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Hailing Lee’s proposal as prudent and forward-looking, Ho said, “The Northern Metropolis is of great strategic importance, not only in terms of land and housing development,” but also in regard to the nurturing of a vibrant innovation and technology ecosystem and a dynamic financial activity playground, which will benefit both Hong Kong and other GBA cities. 

“The Northern Metropolis was underdeveloped during British rule for some political reasons. But with Hong Kong integrating into our motherland, in particular the GBA, being the key drivers of growth for Hong Kong in the future decades, it is important to change our mindset by rebuilding a metropolis that combines a pleasant natural environment, affordable housing, innovation industries, and proximity to Shenzhen. This will ease Hong Kong’s integration path with the GBA,” he said. 

Endorsing John Lee’s proposal to improve governance capability, Henry Ho says he’s most impressed by Lee’s “results-oriented” resolve

Another major takeaway in Lee’s manifesto touches on improving governance capacity and effectiveness. He proposed a reorganization of the government structure with the aim of strengthening the strategic planning, policy research and overall coordination efforts.  

He also expects senior government officials to take the initiative and intervene early in problems arising in Hong Kong before guiding the teams to resolve the issues. 

Ho strongly vouches for setting up a policy research body or think tank in the government structure, to crystalize and expedite the process of policy discussion and decision-making. 

“We used to have the Central Policy Unit in place, which was established in 1989 by the then-British Hong Kong government. It was headed by a renowned scholar and mainly composed of experts, with supporting services from civil servants. It had several functions, including strategic policy research and gauging public sentiments,” said Ho, who used to be a researcher of the unit.  

He deemed the existence of the unit as “indispensable” in terms of “serving as the bridge link between Hong Kong government and think tanks, scholars and government departments on the mainland. It also serves as the nurturing ground for political talents through its Part Time Member system.” 

Its indispensable role can be borne out by the fact that Hong Kong has been included as part of the overall framework of national development since the 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-10), “which was suggested and pushed forwarded by the Central Policy Unit”, Ho said.  

The Central Policy Unit also started research on supporting Hong Kong businesses to tap into domestic consumption market in the Pearl River Delta Region in the early years of reunification. 

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“So, I hope the future think tank of the government would be headed by a scholar with a good understanding of the country, well versed in ‘one country, two systems’ and the Basic Law, and able to communicate with the mainland. This would facilitate Hong Kong’s further integration with the mainland. Public policy remains its core function, but people at this level should be able to communicate with central authorities.” 

Endorsing Lee’s proposal to improve governance capability, Ho says he’s most impressed by Lee’s “results-oriented” resolve because it could be riddled with challenges to fulfill it and he could be met with unforgiving judgment for every step he takes. 

“I admire his determination to do so. It is much more easier to put up other slogans, but in proposing this, he knows he will be put under scrutiny by every member of the public in his five-year term (if he wins the election). He has no choice but to soldier on to resolve all the difficult problems.”