China’s president, Xi Jinping, has moved to make it easier for Hong Kong scientists to access generous research funding from the mainland government, with the aim of making the region an international centre for innovation in technology.
Mr Xi’s move comes in response to a letter sent to him in June last year by 24 Hong Kong-based members of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Academy of Engineering,
The scientists had complained about problems with “the cross-border usage of national scientific research funds in Hong Kong, as well as the tariff imposed on scientific research equipment”, the South China Morning Post reported.
“The problems mentioned in the letter, concerning national sci-tech funding and favorable policies on tariff for equipment transfers, have been basically resolved,” the state news agency Xinhua reported on 15 May.
Some experts suggested that the move was prompted by the Chinese government’s wariness about worsening relations with the US – which might threaten China’s ability to collaborate with American researchers on innovation.
Henry Wong Nai-ching, former dean of science at Chinese University, one of the 24 signatories of the letter, told the SCMP: “Those problems existed for many years…the amount of funding from the mainland could be as large as 1 million yuan (£116,000), but due to foreign-exchange policies in the past, you could only use the funding if you had a lab on the mainland.
“Now the funding can be transferred to Hong Kong, and the tariff has been greatly reduced if you want to move your equipment, whether it is new or second-hand, from Hong Kong. This will attract more local scientists to do research on the mainland.”