Hong Kong to proactively draw overseas talents

Faced with a rapidly ageing population and shrinking workforce, Hong Kong will be proactively attracting overseas talents to its shores, including getting second-generation Hong Kong emigrants to return to their parents' homeland.

It is also looking at drawing up a "talent list" to reach out to skilled workers in sectors that the city is facing a labour crunch in. These range from IT and innovation to financial services - sectors that Singapore is eyeing as well.

Skilled foreigners who have entered Hong Kong under existing schemes now number about 100,000, or about 1.4 per cent of a population of 7.2 million.

Government sources say there is no target for how much they hope to increase this by. But a key new pilot programme to attract the offspring of Chinese Hong Kongers will have a pool of "hundreds of thousands" to work with.

Many of them left Hong Kong in the 1980s, shortly before the 1997 handover of Hong Kong from British to Chinese rule.

The measures were announced by Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying on Wednesday in his annual policy address, which laid out his government's key policies for the coming year.

It is the first address since Hong Kong was embroiled in its worst political crisis last year. A 79-day Occupy Central movement agitating for Hong Kongers to have greater rights to directly elect their leader in 2017 under proposed electoral reforms saw swathes of the city paralysed.

In a nod to the tumultuous events, Mr Leung bookended his two-hour long speech by making reference to the constitutional developments - a second round of public consultation had began last Wednesday - and the youth who had spearheaded the Occupy movement.

There will be no concessions to their demands, he asserted.

"As we pursue democracy, we should act in accordance with the law, or Hong Kong will degenerate into anarchy," he warned.

Instead, the students must be "guided towards a full understanding of the constitutional relationship between our country and Hong Kong".

"University students are the future pillars of society and deserve our care," he said. "Hence, there is all the more reason for us to commend them for their merits and correct their mistakes."

In an unusual move, Mr Leung singled out the official magazine of the Hong Kong University Students' Union, which had printed a story headlined "Hong Kong people deciding their own fate". It also published a book titled "Hong Kong Nationalism" which apparently advocates that "Hong Kong should find a way to self-reliance and self-determination".

Some facts were mis-stated, said Mr Leung, though he did not elaborate.

"We must stay alert," he said. "We also ask political figures with close ties to the leaders of the student movement to advise them against putting forward such fallacies."

He reiterated the call for Hong Kong to move forward on passing legislation under the contentious framework laid out by Beijing last August, which places strictures on the candidates who can eventually run for chief executive election.

Mr Leung instead sought to mollify those whose concerns are more bread and butter.

For instance, he pledged to explore ways to increase the supply of flats in the housing-scarce city. For the coming five years, a total of 77,100 public rental fats will be completed. Private developers are estimated to release 74,000 units - the highest on record - in the coming three to four years.

xueying@sph.com.sg

The Policy Address can be found at this link: http://www.policyaddress.gov.hk/2015/eng/index.html.