No.4: Hong Kong’s Think Tank Ecosystem: Building a Revolving Door for Rational and Research-based Policymakers

Ian Chan, Burmie Wong and Sam Liu

(April 2022)

The role of think tanks is becoming increasingly important globally, and they are crucial to policymakers worldwide. However, Hong Kong’s think tanks development has been very slow in the past 20 years. One might ask: What are think tanks? Why are think tanks so important? How to evaluate a think tank? What do think tanks look like in other regions? Why do Hong Kong’s think tanks develop at such a slow pace? What are the solutions to these problems? This paper answers all these questions. We studied the relevant literature, compared the situations of different regions, and conducted interviews. In the end, we summarized the key factors that enable the ecosystems of think tanks: Talents, Finances, and Impact. These three factors affect one another and form a cycle (as we call it, a ‘think tank ecosystem’). After diagnosing the problems of Hong Kong’s think tanks, in section 6, we propose seven suggestions that require the Hong Kong government’s top-down actions and the support to local think tanks. It is inevitable for the Hong Kong government to tackle the problem of insufficient policy research, and they have no excuse not to face it after the shift of the election regime. By solving the issue at the micro and macro level, with supply and demand in mind, we believe Hong Kong can address its weaknesses and form a healthy think tank ecosystem in the near future.

Full paper

No.3: Building Up Political Trust in HKSAR

Sherman Chow, SK Leung and Allen Po

(March 2022)

In recent years, many Hong Kong people have seen declining levels of trust in our city, whether it be their confidence in the central government and the HKSAR Government or the mutual trust between each other. Citizens’ trust in the government has dropped to the lowest point during these two years. The main objective of this study is to find out different feasible evidence-based solutions to help building mutual trust among different stakeholders including the central government, the HKSAR government and the Hong Kong people.

The theoretical basis of trust relates the confidence of citizens to existing institutions in the society. With the fall of trust, people’s societal and economic concerns have turned into fears, which have led to a spread of populist actions by the government, and irrational responses to government policies by the public. If the government could improve its trust with citizens, the implementation of policies would be more efficient and the public could have a higher tolerance for measures. We review a series of events which happened in Hong Kong since 2008, including the Global Financial Crisis (2008-09), Five Constituencies Referendum Controversy, Extradition Law Controversy and the associated protests and the recent COVID-19 pandemic to explain the changes in level of trust that Hong Kong people have for the HKSAR Government.

As it is recognized that the trust level for the government is low, our proposed solutions aim at securing the prosperity and stability of the HKSAR, and they will be implemented in different time frames respectively. These solutions include (i) addressing the challenges from COVID-19 Pandemic and its impact on the economy in the short term; (ii) on-going clarification towards the misunderstanding of the National Security Law (NSL) and improving the Electoral System of HK in the medium term; and (iii) cultivating the talents of political leaders fitting “One Country Two Systems” to solve in-depth social issues.

Full paper

No.2: Capacity Challenges and Countermeasures for Hong Kong as an International Financial Centre

Alan Lung (June 2022)

In the name of protecting Hong Kong’s freedom and high degree of autonomy, “hawks” within the U.S. Government has been pushing the Trump and now the Biden administration to deploy the financial decoupling ‘toolbox’ on Hong Kong and Mainland China. As the geopolitical conflict between China and the United States continues, the risks for Hong Kong losing its position as an international financial centre are real.

The success of Hong Kong as an international financial centre has been built on: political stability, openness, transparent governance, rule of law and freedom of the press. It is necessary for Central and HKSAR Government officials to acknowledge that China’s Reform and Opening had its roots in Hong Kong when communicating Hong Kong politics to the international media. Since the handover in 1997, the HKSAR Government has not improved its governance capability significantly. Assertive statements from Central and HKSAR officials beyond the need for national security could undermine the confidence of international investors in rule of law and press freedom in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong’s soft power comes from its diehard liberalism accumulated over the past 150 years. In future, Hong Kong must take on the role of “Hong Kong, China” and tell the new “Hong Kong story” and new “China’s Story” to the international community. This paper highlights Hong Kong’s irreplaceable role as China’s international financial centre. It also highlights the need to adopt a moderate approach in the implementing the National Security Law and responding to external political challenges.

Full paper (available only in Chinese)

 No. 1: A Comparison of the Political and Economic Structure and Governance Capacity between Hong Kong and Singapore

Alan Lung (May 2021)

It is easy to see Singapore’s political stability, economic and general social resilience. Despite Hong Kong’s distinct geographical advantages, Singapore has outperformed Hong Kong and is beginning to challenge the latter’s status as Asia’s Financial Centre. Singapore’s outstanding performance is not an accident. It was the result of a highly effective and efficient ‘hybrid’ governance structure that outgrows its colonial archetype. On the other hand, the unresolved political dilemma in Hong Kong together with the ambiguity of keeping the ‘colonial’ government structure and reversion of sovereignty to China, is beginning to surface in the form of public discontent, less than vibrant economic growth and lack of upward mobility for the younger generation.

By comparing the similarities and differences in governance between Singapore and Hong Kong, this paper analysed the economic and social successes of Singapore.  The “Switzerland of Asia” vision is not measured in gross GDP terms alone. Singapore’s success is corner-stoned by Lee Kuan Yew’s early vision of racial, education and housing equality and a cumulation of vision-driven development policies, socio-political stability, racial harmony and vigorous national security measures.

Full paper (available only in Chinese)