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LCQ16: Supporting the development of the think-tank community
     Following is a question by Dr the Hon Chow Man-kong and a written reply by the Chief Secretary for Administration, Mr Chan Kwok-ki, in the Legislative Council today (July 5):
     There are views that as Hong Kong has entered the new stage of "advancing from stability to prosperity", it is necessary to identify ways to create strong impetus for growth. Thus, the Government should enhance its support for the local think-tank community in terms of funding and talent, so as to expedite the resolution of the deep-rooted problems in Hong Kong by bringing together the wisdom of the whole society. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the respective specific assessment criteria of the Public Policy Research Funding Scheme and the Strategic Public Policy Research Funding Scheme administered by the Chief Executive's Policy Unit (CEPU) (e.g. whether preference will be given to selecting proposals that are based on academic researches or applied policy researches); whether the Government will appoint members of the Assessment Panel of the two schemes according to the principle of supporting evidence-based public policy research in Hong Kong;
(2) as there are views that while the Government has provided very limited support for the development of the think-tank community, a substantial amount of resources has been allocated to the consultancy study reports for individual works projects, whether the authorities will draw reference from the existing subvention mode for social welfare organisations and uniformed groups, and provide a lump sum grant subvention on a fixed-term basis (for every three to five years) to think tanks with extensive research experiences and committed to promoting the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong, so as to facilitate the healthy development of think tanks; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(3) as it is learnt that under the political systems around the world (including the Mainland and Singapore), think tanks have played an effective role in nurturing political talents and even form a "revolving door" for talents in the political system, whether the authorities will consider introducing a new mechanism on the principle of "patriots administering Hong Kong" for grooming think-‍tank talents as future talents in the areas of public policy, public administration and politics, and through the promotion of concerted tripartite collaboration among CEPU, the Civil Service Bureau and the Civil Service College, give full play to the functions and strengths of local think-‍tank community; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
     Regarding the various parts of the question raised by Dr the Hon Chow Man-kong, my reply, which is based on the information provided by the Civil Service Bureau and the Chief Executive's Policy Unit (CEPU), is as follows:
(1) and (2) The Public Policy Research Funding Scheme and the Strategic Public Policy Research Funding Scheme are government-financed funding schemes dedicated to supporting evidence-based local public policy research by higher education institutions and think tanks in Hong Kong. Administered by the CEPU, the two funding schemes aim to facilitate public policy discussion with a view to strengthening policy formulation to meet the needs of society and nurture talents required. As such, the research projects being funded are applied researches that are problem-focused and solution-oriented, and forward-looking researches on strategic and long-term issues, and the outcomes from which can be effectively and practically translated into policy. Generally speaking, researches that are mainly academic in nature will not be funded.
     Assessments for the applications of the two funding schemes are conducted by an Assessment Panel which comprises scholars with rich experience. Research quality and the relevance of the proposal to the public policy development needs of Hong Kong are the principal criteria in assessing research proposals, including research outcomes, the research team's capability, the feasibility and practicality of the proposal, etc. In addition, the CEPU will also seek suggestions and views of relevant government bureaux/departments, and invite local and non-local experienced scholars and experts (including members of the CEPU Expert Group) to serve as external reviewers, who will help evaluate the research proposals and provide comments on the research funding applications.  
     Think tanks in the community are important partners of the Government in the policy-making process from policy incubation, conception to formulation. The Government hence attaches great importance to the sector and has been facilitating its development through different channels. For example, upon its review and gauging of views from the policy research sector, the Government revised the mode of operation of the two policy research funding schemes mentioned above, and with effect from 2013-14 the application eligibility has been expanded from covering only the University Grants Committee-funded institutions originally to include other local degree-awarding tertiary institutions and local non-profit making public policy research think tanks, such that more local public policy research entities (including think tanks in the community) can apply for research funding under the schemes. The Government will continue its endeavours to promote the development of the think tank sector by maintaining close communication with the policy research communities and actively facilitating the interface of policy research outcomes, among other things. Considering that the objectives and major areas of concern of different think tanks in the community vary, it may not be appropriate to directly support their operation with public funds.
(3) On the training of talents in the Government, the Civil Service College (CSC) will set up thereunder the School of Public Sector Leadership and the School of Professional Development with the aim to enhance the leadership, governance and public policy-making capabilities of civil servants and to ensure their accurate understanding of the "one country, two systems" principle, so as to equip them to fully support the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government in the implementation of the principle of "patriots administering Hong Kong". The CSC will also establish the Centre for Research and Development to tap into the experiences and good practices in public administration and talent development locally and in other places. During his visit to the Mainland in February and Singapore in May this year, the Head of the CSC had exchanged ideas with the governments and relevant institutions there on nurturing governance talents and conducting research on public administration. For instance, drawing on the experience of the Civil Service College of Singapore, the CSC will in future integrate the application of research findings with training, and will study the policy and management experiences in different places to design a structured training framework and curricula for nurturing talents for the governance of Hong Kong. 
     At the political team level, the Government, in the course of forming the team, has been actively recruiting suitable talents from both inside and outside the government structure, bringing talents from various sectors of the community and with different backgrounds and professions into the Government, thereby enabling the Government to be more comprehensive in policy formulation and more effective in policy implementation with the support of the civil service, and also to nurture political talents for the HKSAR. In fact, the current-term Government's political team comprises people from various sectors of the community with different professional backgrounds, including members of the civil service, political parties, the business sector, the media, think tanks, professional sectors and the academia, meeting the objectives of attracting talents, serving the community and improving governance.
Ends/Wednesday, July 5, 2023
Issued at HKT 14:45
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