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LCQ12: Development of Chinese medicine industry

     Following is a question by the Dr Hon Lam Tai-fai and a written reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr York Chow, in the Legislative Council today (November 11):


     On May 7 this year, the State Council issued "Several Opinions on Supporting and Promoting the Development of the Traditional Chinese Medicine Industry", which pointed out that support given to the Chinese medicine industry should be enhanced to build up a modern industrial structure for Chinese medicine, and clearly stated that equal importance must persistently be given to Chinese and Western medicine in the process of establishing the basic medicine system.  It was reported that at the 2009 International Conference for Bioeconomy held in the end of June this year, the China National Centre for Biotechnology Development under the Ministry of Science and Technology published a report pointing out that China would develop a $400 billion worth Chinese medicine industry in the coming 10 years.  Regarding the development of the Chinese medicine industry in Hong Kong, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether it will seize the opportunity to formulate the outline of a long-term development plan for the Chinese medicine industry in Hong Kong, so as to tie in with the development of the Chinese medicine industry of our country and to capitalise on the opportunities offered by the progressive modernisation of Chinese medicine in China; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(b) what form of assistance will be provided to the Chinese medicine industry, so as to expedite the modernisation of Chinese medicine or substantially improve the diagnosis and treatment standards of Chinese medicine, so that more people will accept and adopt Chinese medicine technology;

(c) how it encourages and assists the Chinese medicine industry in conducting regular tests on Chinese medicine products, so as to monitor the quality; whether it will consider providing the relevant tax deductions in respect of the expenses on the tests conducted for proprietary Chinese medicines; if not, of the reasons for that;

(d) how it enhances training for talents in Chinese medicine; whether it will increase the number of places in degree and postgraduate courses in Chinese medicine as well as strengthen training for clinical internship;

(e) of the latest situation of the implementation the cooperation agreement on the field of Chinese medicine signed by the authorities and the State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine in 2007, with a breakdown of the relevant implementation situation in seven areas, namely strategy for the development of Chinese medicine, policy statutes on Chinese medicine, development of collaboration between Chinese and Western medicine, standards of Chinese medicine, training for Chinese medicine practitioners, hospital administration as well as organisation of cultural exchange and science and technology activities in Chinese medicine; whether it will consider reviewing the content of the agreement to further strengthen cooperation;

(f) whether it had, in the past three years, studied if it is necessary to establish an independent Chinese medicine hospital in Hong Kong; if it had, of the details; if it had not, the reasons for that; and

(g) of the latest progress in establishing Chinese medicine clinics in the 18 districts by stages by the Government; whether it will consider setting up Chinese medicine clinics in the various public hospitals in Hong Kong; if it will not, of the reasons for that?



(a) The Government has all along been supporting and promoting the development of Chinese medicine industry in Hong Kong.  It has been pointed out in the Policy Address 2009-10 that to facilitate the development of Chinese medicine and medicine products, the Government will expedite the setting of standards for Chinese herbal medicines commonly used in Hong Kong by extending the coverage from the current 60 herbal medicines to about 200; assist and promote the establishment of testing laboratories in the local market to enhance our capability of testing Chinese medicines; and consider allowing more renowned Chinese medicine practitioners (CMPs) from the Mainland to join clinical teaching and research programmes in Hong Kong so as to make Hong Kong a stage for promoting Chinese medicine to the world.

     Besides, under the Mainland and Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA), Hong Kong and the Mainland will strengthen their cooperation in the area of Chinese medicine and medicine products industry to promote their joint development.  The content of the cooperation covers the following:

(1) To communicate on the formulation of their respective regulations on Chinese medicine products and on the management of Chinese medicine and medicine products with a view to achieving information sharing;

(2) To enhance cooperation in research on Chinese medicine and medicine products, exchange and share information on areas such as development of Chinese medicine products and development orientation of the Chinese medicine and medicine products industry;

(3) To strengthen communication and coordination in registration management of Chinese medicine products, implement standardisation in the management of Chinese medicine products, and facilitate mutual trade in Chinese medicine products;

(4) To cooperate in such areas as facility management and regulations and requirements for clinical trials, with a view to achieving mutual recognition of clinical data;

(5) To conduct exchanges and cooperate in quality standardisation for Chinese medicine products, and jointly promote the enhancement of quality standards for Chinese medicine products;

(6) To support cooperation between the Chinese medicine and medicine products enterprises of the two places and jointly strive for international market expansion;

(7) To strengthen trade and investment promotion and cooperation in the Chinese medicine and medicine products industry;

(8) To conduct exchanges and consultations on ways to solve problems arising from cooperation in Chinese medicine and medicine products industry.

     The aforesaid measures not only give the Chinese medicine sector more room for development but also facilitate its development through mutual exchanges with the Mainland.

(b) The Chinese Medicine Council of Hong Kong (CMCHK) is a statutory body established under the Chinese Medicine Ordinance (CMO).  It is responsible for implementing various regulatory measures relating to Chinese medicine so as to maintain the standard of practise and conduct of the Chinese medicine sector, and regulating the safety, quality and efficacy of proprietary Chinese medicines.  The objective is to safeguard public health and consumer rights and ensure a high professional standard of the Chinese medicine sector.  The implementation of effective regulation by way of legislation has laid a good foundation for the development of the Chinese medicine and medicine products industry in Hong Kong and boosted consumer confidence in the use of Chinese medicine products.

     In addition, under the mechanism established pursuant to the CMO, the Chinese medicine experts in the Mainland may come to Hong Kong to conduct clinical research and educational work in local universities and scientific research institutions through a limited registration system, which can help further enhance the professional competence of local CMPs.  At present, there are totally six universities and scientific research institutions in the territory that can make limited registration applications for the Chinese medicine experts they hire.  These six institutions are the University of Hong Kong (HKU), the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), the Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU), the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (HKPU), the City University of Hong Kong (CityU) and the Hospital Authority (HA).  Among them, HA has from time to time invited Chinese medicine experts from the Mainland to provide academic guidance.

     Besides, the Professional Services Development Assistance Scheme (PSDAS) established through Government funding aims to provide financial support for projects which aim at increasing the competitiveness of Hong Kong's professional service sector in markets outside Hong Kong including the Mainland market and to enhance the standard of professional services in Hong Kong.  In the past few years, funds under the PSDAS have been granted to a number of local Chinese medicine bodies for organisation of professional development programmes upon their successful application.

     Meanwhile, the Government has also taken positive steps to put into implementation a plan to set up a Chinese medicine clinic (CMC) in each district to enable more people to have access to quality Chinese medicine services, which helps promote Chinese medicine services.

     To promote the development of Chinese medicine industry, the Trade Development Council holds an International Conference and Exhibition of the Modernisation of Chinese Medicine and Health Products each year to provide the Chinese medicine industry with a trade platform for large-scale international exchange and cooperation.

(c) Chinese medicine testing is an important part of our Chinese medicine regulatory regime.  Testing and certification is one of the six industries with good potential identified by the Task Force on Economic Challenges for support and development.  We encourage the Chinese medicine products industry to monitor the quality of Chinese medicine products by conducting basic tests on their products on a regular basis.  This can, on the one hand, safeguard public health and consumer rights and, on the other hand, promote the development of Chinese medicine testing services in Hong Kong for more business opportunities as well as strengthening Hong Kong's advantageous position in testing services.  According to the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau, the Government established the Hong Kong Council for Testing and Certification in September this year to drive the development of the testing and certification industry, to raise its professional standards, and to enhance the recognition of the industry in the international arena by building up a brand name for Hong Kong's testing and certification services.  The priority task of the Council is to draw up a three-year development plan for the industry.  One of the key tasks of the Council is to promote the development of Chinese medicine through the use of testing and certification services and the Council will look into specific measures in this aspect.  The Council will finalise and submit the three-year development plan to the Chief Executive in early 2010.

     In addition, the Government will continue to give funding support to the local universities and the industry to carry out research work for development of Chinese medicine testing technology through the Innovation and Technology Fund.

     Under the Inland Revenue Ordinance, recurrent expenses arising from the conduct of tests on the products of a business are allowable deductions in computing the assessable profit of the business.  Therefore, dealers and manufacturers of Chinese medicine can be granted tax deduction for their expenses on the conduct of regular tests on the Chinese medicine products they sell or manufacture.

(d) At present, three local universities funded by the University Grants Committee, namely the HKBU, CUHK and HKU, offer a total of 79 places for undergraduate degree courses in Chinese medicine per year.  Students of undergraduate courses in Chinese medicine of the three local universities can obtain registration status as CMPs through taking and passing the CMPs Licensing Examination.  Besides, under the CMO, persons who have completed courses recognised by the Chinese Medicine Practitioners Board of CMCHK and listed CMPs can also sit for the licensing examination.  In 2008, a total of 327 people passed the CMPs Licensing Examination and obtained the registration status.  The local supply of human resources in Chinese medicine is basically able to meet the needs in the community.  As to postgraduate places, their allocation is determined by the institutions themselves and they will increase incrementally from four in 2007/08 to 13 in 2011/12.  On the provision of internship opportunities for graduates, all three local full-time Chinese medicine degree courses currently recognised by the Chinese Medicine Practitioners Board under CMCHK are required to provide at least 30 weeks of clinical internship for their students.  These three local universities have their own CMCs to provide training for their students.  As for hospital services, all the three universities will arrange for their students to get exposure to relevant experience in the Mainland.

     The Government also actively provides more clinical internship opportunities for graduates of degree courses in Chinese medicine.  Earlier, each public CMC had to employ at least five graduates of degree courses in Chinese medicine as junior CMPs for one year, so as to provide graduates with training opportunities.  Such training will be further extended this year by providing junior CMPs with the second and third years of training in public CMCs, so as to provide a lot more opportunities of clinical internship.

     In addition, HA provides an entry level scholarship for CMPs with clinical experience of two years or more to further their study in Chinese medicine hospitals in the Mainland.  They may decide which subject they will study according to the needs of Hong Kong and the development trend of Chinese medicine centre.  After completing the training, the CMPs have to return to Hong Kong to assist in the promotion of Chinese medicine services.  Currently, six CMPs are studying in the Mainland.

(e) In November 2007, the Food and Health Bureau (FHB) and the State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine (SATCM) entered into a cooperation agreement on Chinese medicine (the Cooperation Agreement). After signing the Cooperation Agreement, the Department of Health (DH) and CMCHK have so far organised some ten visits and exchange activities with several relevant Chinese medicine institutions in the Mainland, including SATCM, the Jilin Provincial Health Department, the Health Department of the Guangxi Zhuang Nationality Autonomous Region, the Guangdong Provincial Health Department and the Guizhou Provincial Health Department.

     Besides, SATCM held an activity called the Promotion of Traditional Chinese Medicine in China - Hong Kong Programme in conjunction with FHB and DH between November 24, 2007 and December 31, 2007, during which a variety of promotion activities on the science of Chinese medicine held with support from some 40 local organisations including HA, the schools of Chinese medicine of three local universities and local bodies in the Chinese medicine sector to promote the development of Chinese medicine in Hong Kong and exchanges between the Mainland and Hong Kong on Chinese medicine.   In November 2008, DH participated in the China Chinese Medicine Exhibition held by SATCM in Beijing, in which the development of Chinese medicine in Hong Kong was shown to the World Health Organisation and other Chinese medicine regulatory agencies.  In June 2009, a one-week study visit cum seminar on hospital administration in Hong Kong was arranged by HA and DH for some 30 heads of provincial Chinese medicine hospitals.

     Under the framework of the Cooperation Agreement, DH will continue to maintain close liaison with other Chinese herbal medicines producing provinces in the Mainland for formulation of relevant cooperation plans as and when necessary.  In October 2009, representatives from CMCHK, DH and HA attended the China-ASEAN Summit Forum on Traditional Medicine 2009 held in Nanning of Guangxi for exchange of views on issues such as promoting the dissemination of knowledge about traditional medicine, formulation of policies, laws and regulations and standards, as well as incorporating traditional medicine as part of the comprehensive national healthcare system. The validity of the Cooperation Agreement is five years. Both sides will review the process of cooperation and recommend proposals for further improvements if necessary.

(f) The contribution of Chinese medicine to the primary healthcare services is widely recognised by the public. For patients who need to be hospitalised or suffer from severe illnesses, they are treated by Western medical practitioners generally while CMPs may play a supplementary role.  To promote the further development of the Chinese medicine services, the Government has established public CMCs in various districts since 2003.

     Setting up a purely traditional Chinese medicine hospital may not provide the most comprehensive treatment to patients.  The long-term goal of the Government in promoting the development of Chinese medicine is to develop, through an evidence-based approach, a model of collaboration between Chinese and Western medical practitioners that can meet the actual circumstances and needs of Hong Kong.  In view of the actual needs of patients, HA is trying out different models of Chinese and Western medicines shared care services in various hospitals, such as Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital, United Christian Hospital, Kowloon Hospital, Tung Wah Hospital, Tuen Mun Hospital, Wong Tai Sin Hospital, Tseung Kwan O Hospital, Princess Margaret Hospital Lai King Building, Pok Oi Hospital Tin Ka Ping Centre, Shatin Hospital, Haven of Hope Hospital, MacLehose Medical Rehabilitation Centre, and Duchess of Kent Children's Hospital.  In addition, a larger scale of Chinese and Western medicines shared care services will be considered to be incorporated in the proposed Chinese medicine building under the Kwong Wah Hospital Redevelopment Project.

     Meanwhile, interested organisations are welcome to provide both Chinese and Western medicines services on the private hospital sites to be made available at the end of this year.

(g) During the past few years, the Government has been actively taking forward the plan to establish public CMCs.  We have established 14 public CMCs, which are located in the Central and Western District, Wan Chai, Eastern District, Kwun Tong, Wong Tai Sin, Sham Shui Po, Tsuen Wan, Tai Po, Tseung Kwan O, Yuen Long, Tuen Mun, Kwai Tsing, North District and Sha Tin respectively.  We are now making an effort to identify suitable sites in the Kowloon City District, Yau Tsim Mong District, Southern District and Islands District for establishing CMCs.  In addition, some non-government organisations such as Pok Oi Hospital, Yan Oi Tong and the Neighbourhood Advice-Action Council also provide Chinese medicine services by way of mobile CMCs in a number of districts. Currently, there are about 23 mobile CMCs in total provided by the above non-government organisations.

     Regarding establishing CMCs in all public hospitals, Chinese medicine services in Hong Kong have all along been provided primarily by the private sector.  As at October 31, 2009, there are 6,120 registered CMPs and 2,793 listed CMPs in Hong Kong, providing Chinese medicine services in various districts.   The establishment of CMCs in 18 districts has served the function of providing the recipients of Comprehensive Social Security Assistance and the elderly with free or reduced-fee Chinese medicine services.  It is thus evident that public and private Chinese medicine services complement each other in meeting the needs of the community, and there is no need to establish additional CMCs in public hospitals.

Ends/Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Issued at HKT 16:28


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