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LCQ5: Hong Kong citizens participating in country's manned space programme
     Following is a question by the Hon Edward Leung and a reply by the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Erick Tsang Kwok-wai, in the Legislative Council today (July 13):
     It is learnt that as early as in 2003 when the country's first astronaut sent into space visited Hong Kong, quite a number of Hong Kong youths were inspired, and embraced the aspiration of becoming an astronaut. In June last year, a chief designer of the country's manned space programme indicated that Hong Kong citizens were welcomed to participate in the manned space programme, and that technical preparation had been completed for the selection of astronauts in Hong Kong. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) in respect of enabling Hong Kong citizens to participate in the country's manned space programme, whether the Government has discussed or will discuss with the relevant departments on the Mainland the selection of astronauts in Hong Kong for receiving training or working on the Mainland;
(2) of the policies and measures in place for enabling Hong Kong youths who aspire to be involved in manned space programme to make early preparation for their development in this field, and for providing them with relevant support; and
(3) as it is learnt that the country's astronauts are all military personnel while currently Hong Kong citizens cannot join the army on the Mainland, rendering them unable to become the country's astronauts even though they may be talents who have the ability to become astronauts, whether the Government will conduct discussion with the Mainland authorities on allowing Hong Kong youths who meet the requirements to join the army, so that they may advance towards their space aspiration?
     The continuous efforts of the country in breaking new ground in aerospace technology in recent years have consolidated its leading position in the global aerospace arena and made Chinese people all over the world proud. Last year, three astronauts returned to Earth safely after a three-month-long stay in space and have successfully completed the first crewed mission for space station construction of the country's manned space programme. In June this year, the launch of the manned Shenzhou-14 spacecraft was a complete success, and the three astronauts began a six-month stay in orbit.
     In June last year, an aerospace technology delegation, including a number of eminent scientists, was arranged by the country to visit Hong Kong. During their stay in the city, they visited a number of schools to speak with students on the development journey and the latest situation of the country's astronautical endeavours. They also brought with them lunar soil samples collected from the moon by the country last year for public display in Hong Kong for the first time, allowing Hong Kong people to share the country's distinguished aerospace achievements. In September last year, several Hong Kong scientific researchers and students had an invaluable opportunity to have a real-time online chat with the three astronauts while they were in space. The astronauts cordially answered the questions raised by the students at the activity venue. The event received an overwhelming response from the community. These invaluable activities are testimony to the care and support of the country for Hong Kong, and they have inspired many Hong Kong students in aerospace and other scientific fields.
     Having consulted the Innovation, Technology and Industry Bureau, the Education Bureau and the Security Bureau, the consolidated reply to the question raised by the Hon Edward Leung is set out below:
     The Government has been continuously promoting STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics)/STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) education at schools so as to enhance students' interest in science and technology. While the science subject curriculum of junior secondary education covers basic scientific knowledge of space navigation, the physics subject curriculum of senior secondary education has an elective unit on "Astronomy and Aerospace Science". We also suggest schools organising life-wide learning activities, including visit to the Hong Kong Space Museum, to enrich students' learning in areospace technology. Also, several local universities provide areospace courses. Moreover, Hong Kong possesses strong capabilities in research and development (R&D), with five universities at the world's top 100. These are solid foundations for cultivating young people to participate in innovation and technology careers, including areospace industry. We will continue to press ahead related work in the future.
     Although the country's astronauts who have participated or are participating in the manned space programme are all from the background of air force pilots, we understand that, besides air force pilots, some of the 18 astronauts of the third batch selected in 2020 are professionals of other streams such as scientists and engineers of research institutes, specialists of research units, etc. They are undergoing relevant training.
     In fact, Hong Kong has been participating in the areospace industry of the country. For example, the "Surface Sampling and Packing System" developed by the research team of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University has assisted Chang'e 5 in completing the lunar sample return mission. Besides, the "Mars Landing Surveillance Camera" has provided support to Mars landing of Tianwen-1.
     Over the years, the Government has been nurturing innovation and technology (I&T) talents, encouraging the implementation of popular science education at schools, and strengthening the students' knowledge in and application of information technology outside curriculum. On top of the regular curriculum, we launched the IT Innovation Lab in Secondary Schools and Knowing More About IT Programme to subsidise primary and secondary schools to organise information technology-related extra-curricular activities; and the STEM Internship Scheme to subsidise universities to arrange short-term internship for their students taking STEM related programmes, with a view to fostering their interest in pursuing careers in I&T in future and nurturing more I&T talents for Hong Kong and the country. Moreover, to attract more outstanding international research talents to work in Hong Kong, we launched the Global STEM Professorship in June 2021 which provides funding for the universities to recruit internationally renowned I&T scholars and their teams to take up teaching or research work in Hong Kong, with a view to expanding the local I&T talent pool.
     Besides, the Hong Kong Space Museum has organised the Young Astronaut Training Camp since 2009 to select 30 local secondary school students during summer holiday each time to undergo astronaut training programme in Beijing, Jiuquan, etc, which included undergoing simulated astronaut training, meeting with aerospace specialists and astronauts, etc, in order to understand the achievements of aerospace technology of the country.  
     President, the aerospace industry of the country is developing rapidly. Hong Kong possesses outstanding R&D capabilities and a university team which takes part in space exploration projects. The Government will actively press ahead the development of I&T in Hong Kong and, at the same time, support various institutions participating in aerospace and technology projects of the country, with a view to contributing to building the country into one which is strong in science and technology.
     Thank you, President.
Ends/Wednesday, July 13, 2022
Issued at HKT 15:20
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