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LCQ8: The Hong Kong Jockey Club Institute of Chinese Medicine

     Following is a question by the Hon Ronny Tong and a written reply by the Acting Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Gregory So, in the Legislative Council today (June 15):


     The Innovation and Technology Commission intends to disband the Hong Kong Jockey Club Institute of Chinese Medicine (HKJCICM) which has been in operation for ten years, and set up a committee to be chaired by the Commissioner for Innovation and Technology to relaunch and promote efforts on the research and development of Chinese medicine in Hong Kong. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) given that the Government has recognised HKJCICM as a "research and development centre for Chinese medicine in Hong Kong", whether it still considers the development of Chinese medicine a development item of SAR's society; if so, of its concept and objectives, and whether they are the same as those when HKJCICM was established initially; if not, of the reasons for that;

(b) how the decision-making process leading to the Government's proposal to disband HKJCICM was conducted; whether serious studies and discussions were conducted in accordance with the relevant procedures stipulated by the Government; whether approval from the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau was obtained; given that the proposal has not yet been agreed to by the boards of directors of the two shareholders of HKJCICM, namely the Hong Kong Applied Science and Technology Research Institute and the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Limited (HKJCCL), whether the Government has, before making public the proposal, considered that if it is finally decided not to disband HKJCICM, the proposal will still have a negative impact on the public image of HKJCICM;

(c) given that HKJCICM has been in operation for 10 years, whether the Government will consider allowing it to continue its work in academic research and professional support, so as not to waste the result of its work in the past 10 years; if not; of the reasons for that; and

(d) given that when HKJCICM was first established, HKJCCL donated $500 million to fund the research projects, and so far only $108 million has been used, how the balance of the donation will be handled after the Government has disbanded HKJCICM; if the Government gives up the balance, whether it has other funds for the research and development of Chinese medicine; if so, of the amount; if the balance of the donation is to be re-allocated for use by the new committee, whether such an arrangement is consistent with the purpose of the original donation?



     Regarding the questions raised by the Hon Ronny Tong, my reply is as follows:

(a) The Hong Kong Jockey Club Institute of Chinese Medicine (HKJCICM) was established in May 2001, with the mission to spearhead the development of Chinese medicine as a high value added industry for Hong Kong through promotion and coordination of related activities and strategic support for scientific and evidence-based development programmes. Government has been attaching great importance to the development of Chinese medicines (CM) in Hong Kong, and will continue to actively support and promote the research and development (R&D) and testing of CM for the benefit of the community. Since there have been considerable new developments in the CM sector in the past decade, Government considers it opportune to conduct a comprehensive review on how to more effectively promote the development of R&D and testing of CM in Hong Kong.

(b) In order to conduct the comprehensive review, upon the suggestion of the Innovation and Technology Commission (ITC), the HKJCICM Board engaged two consultants in 2010 to conduct the review. The scope of the review included the current situation and needs of the CM sector, the most effective way to integrate the efforts of Government, industry, academic and research sectors to cope with future development needs, and the role and cost-effectiveness of HKJCICM after a decade of operation. The comprehensive review commenced in October 2010 and the review report was submitted to the HKJCICM Board and ITC for consideration in March this year.

     The review report pointed out that in the past decade there have been considerable new developments and changes in the CM sector, indicating that more and more parties have become interested in and are capable of contributing to the development of CM in HK in various ways, e.g. the establishment of the Hong Kong Council for Testing and Certification (HKCTC) in 2009 with CM designated as one of its four selected trades with good potentials, the research capabilities and infrastructures of local universities in CM area have been enhanced after years of development, the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation actively developing a biotechnology (including CM and western pharmaceuticals) cluster in recent years. While HKJCICM has made some contribution in the past 10 years, its overall cost-effectiveness was not satisfactory. In addition, due to its small establishment (with only some 20 employees), HKJCICM has not been able to create a critical mass. Although it has tried to make changes in its strategic direction and work priorities at different stages over the years, the outcome was less than desired. Besides, the main reason for putting HKJCICM under the Hong Kong Applied Science and Technology Research Institute (ASTRI) at the outset was that HKJCICM could then benefit from ASTRI's administrative and financial support. However, with the passage of time, ASTRI has increasingly focused its work on information and communications technologies, which are not related in any way to the promotion of CM development.

     The consultancy report has proposed three options for the future of HKJCICM, including:

(1) maintaining the status quo;
(2) a complete revision of HKJCICM's roles and functions; and
(3) setting up of a new committee under Government to coordinate all relevant work. The new committee will be chaired by the Commissioner for Innovation and Technology while secretariat support will be provided by ITC. The new committee will include representatives from Government, the industry, academic and research institutions in the CM sector. HKJCICM will then be disbanded.

     ITC considers that option (3) is most desirable. Since the coordination of work on promoting CM development in Hong Kong has become increasingly complex, a new Government-led committee will be more effective in coordinating the collaboration of all parties in promoting the R&D and testing of CM to meet the future needs of Chinese medicine development of Hong Kong.

     In considering the long-term development of CM of Hong Kong and the future of HKJCICM, ITC has consulted and exchanged views with different stakeholders, including the management of local universities relating to CM and CM industry associations. ITC has explained to these parties the need for reform and ITC's views. The review report has also been discussed in detail at the HKJCICM Board meeting held in March this year. Meanwhile, ITC has been closely communicating with and is supported by the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau on this matter. Both shareholders of HKJCICM, i.e. Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Limited (HKJCCL) and ASTRI, have also been kept abreast of the review progress. We wish to point out that in explaining Government's views and stance, we have all along been presenting relevant information and facts, and making objective and impartial analysis. ITC will certainly submit all relevant information and views to the boards of HKJCICM's two shareholders for their detailed deliberation and final decision.

(c) Regarding HKJCICM's future development, Government has carefully considered different options, including maintaining the status quo, completely revising HKJCICM's roles and functions so as to allow it to continue its academic research and provision of professional support. However, we strongly believe that these options cannot thoroughly resolve the problems that HKJCICM is currently facing, including high operating cost, undesirable cost-effectiveness, etc. Since mid-2010, a number of incidents have also revealed internal management problems of HKJCICM e.g. various complaint cases (including collective complaints from staff), missing of documents and about half of the Institute's staff resigning within a short period of time. These have inevitably further tarnished the reputation of the Institute and affected its operation. Having considered all relevant factors, ITC supports the recommendation of the Review Report, i.e. setting up of a new committee under Government so as to more effectively coordinate the collaboration of various parties in promoting the development of R&D and testing of CM in Hong Kong and HKJCICM will be disbanded.

     If the final decision is to set up a new committee and disband HKJCICM, ITC will make appropriate arrangements for the HKJCICM's remaining resources (e.g. laboratory equipment) and work results according to the views of HKJCICM's two shareholders.

(d) Of the $500 million pledged donation of Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC) to HKJCICM, only some $108 million has been utilised. As regards the use of the remaining funds, HKJC will continue to reserve it for supporting the development of Chinese medicine in Hong Kong. The Innovation and Technology Fund (ITF) under Government will also actively support projects relating to CM R&D and promotion of local CM development. Currently, the ITF still has over $2 billion. In addition, HKCTC has designated CM as one of the selected trades for focused development. Government has allocated resources to HKCTC to support the work of the testing and certification industry, including enhancing the accreditation of CM testing and other relevant services.

Ends/Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Issued at HKT 13:33


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