President Xi Jinping toured Hong Kong Science Park on Thursday as part of his two-day inspection tour of the special administrative region to mark the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong's reunification with the motherland.
Entrepreneurs and professionals said Xi's tour of the facility highlights the central government's staunch support for establishing the SAR as a global technology hub.
The president was briefed on the city's innovation and technology development and its prospects. During the tour, Xi expressed his appreciation to local scientific researchers and young entrepreneurs, and encouraged Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corp, or HKSTP, to continue its pivotal role in developing the SAR into an international I&T center.
HKSTP, the operator of Hong Kong Science Park, hailed Xi's visit as marking the city's success in building its innovation and technology ecosystem. The company said in a statement that it will expand its pool of professionals and materialize the city's status as a global innovation hub.
Noting the central government's full-fledged support, HKSTP Chairman Sunny Chai Ngai-chiu spoke of his confidence in leveraging Hong Kong's unique advantages "to drive reindustrialization and develop a diverse economy to create opportunities for the younger generation".
"We will seize the opportunities under the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) and the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area to deepen the integration between Hong Kong and Shenzhen with the development of the Northern Metropolis, San Tin Technopole and the 'Twin Cities, Three Circles' initiatives," he said.
HKSTP CEO Albert Wong Hakkeung said he hopes Hong Kong's I&T ventures will expand its global connection with the city's capabilities and talent. HKSTP will continue to assist entrepreneurs and researchers to secure funding, translate their scientific achievements into commercialized products and grow in the global market, he said.
Nancy Ip Yuk-yu, the director of the Hong Kong Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases who briefed Xi on the center's key research and achievements on Thursday, said: "I am very honored in receiving President Xi. He recognized our research results and lauded the significance of our work. President Xi also encouraged us to strengthen collaboration with institutes and universities on the Chinese mainland, and translate our research findings into therapeutic applications to benefit society.
"I feel very honored and inspired by President Xi's visit. We are galvanized by his support and will expedite the translation of our scientific research to proactively take part in the country's science and technology development," she added.
Duncan Chiu, a lawmaker representing the technology and innovation sector, said Xi's science park visit boosted people's confidence in Hong Kong's I&T sector. "It delivers a strong signal that Hong Kong should stick to its path in technology development, especially in high-end technology," he said.
"Since the president's last visit to Hong Kong five years ago, more support from the central government has been given to us in advancing the city as a global tech hub," and the SAR government has also poured HK$150 billion ($19.1 billion) into I&T development since 2017, he said.
Chiu noted new Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu's emphasis in his election manifesto on transforming Hong Kong into a technology-driven economy. "I believe the administration led by Lee will continue to launch measures and put resources into the I&T sector under the national 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25)," he said.
Clarence Ling Chun-kit, co-founder of Hong Kong's first online grocery specialist, Ztore, said that the visit showed the importance of Hong Kong as an international innovation hub.
"As someone who has been contributing to Hong Kong's startup ecosystem, it is exciting to see how Hong Kong will be integrating (into the national development) and better serve as a true bridge between the mainland and the rest of the world in the innovation field. With the world's top infrastructure, universities, and the science park's new campus in Shenzhen, it will be the most exciting time for Hong Kong going forward," he said.
Wang Jun, founder and CEO of the science park-nurtured Gene-Harbor (Hong Kong) Biotechnologies, said that the visit marks the central government's "great recognition" of Hong Kong's I&T sector. "With the solid and strong backup from the central government, a better future for Hong Kong and Hong Kong's innovation industry is ensured."