John Lee’s manifesto signals a restart for Hong Kong

Chief executive candidate John Lee Ka-chiu announced his election manifesto this morning, which puts an emphasis on four major areas; namely, strengthening the special administrative region government’s governance capability, boosting the land and housing supply, enhancing Hong Kong’s overall competitiveness while pursuing sustainable development, and building a caring and inclusive society with an emphasis on youth development. After weathering the unprecedented challenges over the past couple of years, Hong Kong is aspiring for a well-deserved restart, if not a full-fledged rejuvenation. It is hoped that now, at last, we can start anew to achieve greater glories. 

I totally agree with Lee’s policy direction unveiled in his election manifesto. The suggestion of tackling Hong Kong’s land and housing shortage with a multipronged approach is perfectly sound, for example. Lee plans to turn the Northern Metropolis into a major driving engine for Hong Kong’s future growth and development. I have come up with similar ideas in a number of my previous articles on the Northern Metropolis project and Hong Kong’s further integration into the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area. In fact, enhancing the infrastructure connection between Hong Kong and Shenzhen will definitely help Hong Kong fully integrate into and benefit tremendously from the overall development of the promising market in the Greater Bay Area. It is comforting to hear that Lee has included it in the priority list for the new administration that he is aspiring to lead. 

To cultivate new generations of young people who love the country and Hong Kong, it is necessary to provide them with more and better career opportunities in the Greater Bay Area as well as other parts of the country

The pace of Hong Kong’s housing development is rather unsatisfactory. Streamlining and speeding up the land development procedures, better cooperation between relevant government departments to set up a one-stop management and approval system, and shortening the approval time of turning “raw land” into “developable land” will help greatly improve and speed up the whole process by virtue of better execution. In this regard, I support Lee’s ideas of setting up a “Task Force on Public Housing Projects” and adopting innovative technologies such as using more Modular Integrated Construction (“MiC”) and Building Information Modeling (“BIM”) in the construction process of public housing in order to shorten construction time. I feel confident that these measures will help achieve the goals of raising the “speed, efficiency and volume” in land and housing supply, as promised by Lee in his election manifesto. 

Meanwhile, it is advisable for the new administration to restructure the Transport and Housing Bureau and the Development Bureau to enhance their efficiency. The government should also strengthen its efforts in coordinating related agencies such as the Urban Renewal Authority and Housing Society, focusing on the two main functions of “land development” and “housing development”. To facilitate more residents to gain homeownership, the SAR government should build a more-effective housing ladder with a multipronged approach, including the adoption of a public-private partnership model. This will help residents improve their living conditions and accumulate wealth by climbing up the housing ladder gradually. 

On the widely concerned public-health inefficiency issue, the manifesto articulates clearly five guidelines on future improvement; namely, strengthening the emergency response mechanism of the Hospital Authority (HA), expanding the HA’s professional workforce, adopting innovative technologies, developing traditional Chinese medicine, and strengthening community-based healthcare, which are all advisable. We have all witnessed that mainland medical personnel had to come to Hong Kong to help us out during the fifth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. That by itself demonstrates that the medical workforce in Hong Kong is seriously insufficient. Under such circumstances, it is absolutely necessary for Hong Kong to increase the manpower in the public healthcare system, and improve the compensation and benefits of the medical staff in the public sector to discourage them from shifting to the private sector. This will help remedy the current imbalance between the public and private medical sectors in terms of manpower distribution. 

In terms of education, I am of the view that strengthening the professional ethics and training of teachers is the primary task among the manifesto’s major guidelines. Without a doubt, raising national awareness and national identity of the younger generation, promoting positive thinking, and strengthening the awareness of the legal system, national identity and rule of law among them are all top priorities in Hong Kong’s education. However, without good teachers, it is impossible to achieve any of those goals. Therefore, to improve teachers first is definitely the right way to go. 

To cultivate new generations of young people who love the country and Hong Kong, it is necessary to provide them with more and better career opportunities in the Greater Bay Area as well as other parts of the country. In this regard, Lee’s manifesto proposes to formulate youth policies and blueprints that put an emphasis on increasing international and mainland internship opportunities, and providing more vocational training and employment openings. There is no doubt that these measures will help nurture a new generation of young people who love both the country and Hong Kong. 

While speaking to the media, Lee reiterated that results-oriented and solution-driven is his fundamental governance philosophy. In this election manifesto briefing session, he also emphasized that after strengthening the governance capability, he is going to turn the SAR government into a government that “can perform” and “will deliver results”. Like the general public, I am eagerly looking forward to a new chapter, brighter future and glorious days that the next administration is going to bring to Hong Kong. 

The author, a radiologist, is a co-founder of the Hong Kong Coalition and a council member of the Chinese Young Entrepreneurs Association.