Chief Executive Carrie Lam has said that Chinese President Xi Jinping values Hong Kong scientific research talent, after a new arrangement benefiting researchers in the city was announced by Beijing.

Xi issued an instruction on Monday saying that higher education and research institutions in Hong Kong applying for science and technology funding from the central government can now use the funds for research in Hong Kong. Xi said he supported Hong Kong’s development as an international technology innovation centre.

The instruction was issued in response to a letter written by 24 Hong Kong members of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Academy of Engineering in mid-2017 expressing concern about science and technology project funding to Hong Kong.

Carrie Lam and Xi Jinping. File Photo: GovHK.

“It is a major breakthrough,” Lam said on Tuesday ahead of the weekly Executive Council meeting. “Because in the past, even if science and technology researchers in Hong Kong worked with their mainland counterparts to apply for central government funds, the funds could only be used in the mainland.”

She said Hong Kong institutions will still have to compete with those in the mainland for funding.

“But from the instructions of President Xi, we can see that the president himself values Hong Kong scientific research talent,” she said.

Asked if applicants must be patriotic, she said the guidelines did not mention such prerequisites.

“But in the instructions given by President Xi Jinping, he did mention the importance of giving more support to scientists and researchers in Hong Kong who love the country and love Hong Kong,” Lam said.

“I think this is only a matter of terminology. Of course, in Hong Kong, we do expect – whether you are scientist, researcher, government official like myself – to love the country and love Hong Kong. So that is nothing unusual. I think some commentators have read too much into this term.”

Former University of Hong Kong head Tsui Lap-chee, one of the 24 signatories. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Joi Ito.

When asked if the scholars bypassed the Hong Kong government in writing to Xi, Lam said it was normal for the 24 scholars to write to the Chinese president as they are important figures in the mainland.

She said she knew of the letter and mentioned it to then-minister of science and technology Wan Gang, and also to Xi on her duty visit at the end of last year.

“I also know that the China Liaison Office made a lot of effort on this matter,” she said.

A forum on mainland-Hong Kong cooperation in innovation and technology will be held on Tuesday afternoon at government headquarters.

It will be attended by Vice Minister of Science and Technology Huang Wei, Deputy Director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office Huang Liuquan, and Deputy Director of the Liaison Office Tan Tieniu.

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.