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HK developing a smart city

June 05, 2017

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Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung

With a population density of 27,330 persons per sq km, Hong Kong is one of the world's most densely populated cities. Occupying only 1,110 sq km of land, we have a population of over 7.3 million. Given the severe geographic constraints and hilly terrain, the land readily suitable for people to live and work is just 268 sq km in area or 24% of the total land area. As a metropolis with very limited land resources, Hong Kong is a perfect venue to host this world renowned conference for exchanging views and experience about sustainable urban development. Put simply, our passion and aspiration are grounded in our conviction in balanced development and our pursuit for excellence.

 

Development of a sustainable and liveable city is a multifaceted endeavour. Like many well-developed metropolitan cities in other parts of the world, Hong Kong is facing a number of changing circumstances and challenges including the evolving global and regional dynamics, a rapidly ageing population, pressing demand for housing, economic activities and community facilities, as well as a growing aspiration for more living space and better quality of life. Hong Kong needs to respond strategically to meet these challenges and tap into new opportunities.

 

The territorial development strategy we adopted is to develop Hong Kong into a liveable, competitive and sustainable Asia's World City. To this end, we announced the Hong Kong 2030+: Towards a Planning Vision & Strategy Transcending 2030, a vision-driven, pragmatic and action-oriented plan, last year. The plan aims to guide Hong Kong's development in different aspects of the built environment, from land use planning to buildings, transport and infrastructure, with a view to enhancing liveability in this densely populated city, creating capacity for sustainable growth and embracing economic challenges and opportunities.

 

Facing demographic challenges

Our population will continue to grow over the next 30 years. It will increase from about 7.3 million at present and peak at about 8.22 million in 2043 before reaching 7.81 million by 2064. Despite the growth, our population is ageing rapidly. At present, one in 6.5 persons in Hong Kong is aged 65 or above. However, in 20 years' time, the ratio will rise to one in three. The population of the old-old, that is, elderly aged 85 or above, will rise from the current 2.2% to over 10% by 2064.

 

The demographic changes and ageing trend call for a forward-looking planning of "solution space" in Hong Kong. As we have identified various new development areas in the northern parts of the New Territories, namely Kwu Tung, Fanling North and Hung Shui Kiu, a smart city approach should be embraced to meet our needs for housing, community facilities, hospitals, infrastructure and open spaces in the long term.

 

The crux is to manage density properly and strike an appropriate balance between providing adequate housing and ensuring a liveable environment.

 

Meeting housing demand

To meet the growing demand for housing development, we have embarked on a 10-year Housing Programme with a target of providing 460,000 housing units by the year 2025-26. I should add here that, of Hong Kong's entire population, 40% are living in government-built and heavily subsidised housing.

 

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government plays a proactive role in the provision of 200,000 public housing units and 80,000 subsidised housing flats, which together account for 60% of our housing development target, in the next 10 years.

 

The remaining 40% of the target will be achieved through private housing development. In the next three to four years, we expect that 96,000 units will be supplied by the primary private residential property market. Hopefully, this will dampen the property price here.

 

Conducting urban renewal

While we have a rapidly ageing population, we have an even more rapidly ageing building stock that poses health and safety risks for the community. Owners are responsible for timely maintenance of their buildings. But many of them find the relevant procedures rather daunting. To help revitalise our building stock, the Urban Renewal Authority has adopted redevelopment and rehabilitation as its core businesses since the introduction of the 2011 Urban Renewal Strategy comprising redevelopment, rehabilitation, heritage preservation and revitalisation. As at the end of last year, 62 redevelopment projects have been implemented with 712 buildings redeveloped, 12,100 households rehoused or compensated and 27,500 people benefitted.

 

To help expedite the revitalisation process, we have earmarked in this year's government budget $300 million (US$39 million) to allow owners to participate in the Smart Tender Building Rehabilitation Facilitating Services Scheme run by the Urban Renewal Authority at a concessionary rate. It is estimated that owners of about 4,500 buildings will benefit from this initiative in the next five years.

 

Expanding healthcare system

In view of the demographic changes, especially the ageing population, there is a pressing need for us to enhance the overall capacity of our public healthcare system in order to meet the rising healthcare needs of Hong Kong.

 

To expand and upgrade healthcare facilities in a more flexible and long-term manner, we earmarked a total provision of $200 billion (US$25.8 billion) last year for the implementation of a 10-year hospital development plan. The plan will cover the redevelopment and expansion of some 11 hospitals across the territory. As for new hospital projects, an acute general hospital will be built in the Kai Tak Development Area, the site of the former Kai Tak Airport, providing an oncology centre and the first neuroscience centre in Hong Kong.

 

This vast investment in our public healthcare system will provide 5,000 additional hospital beds, representing a rise of 18%. Operating theatres will increase by 40% to 320. Specialist outpatient service capacity will also be expanded substantially by 40% from 6.8 million to 10 million attendances a year. Also, additional services for 410,000 attendances will be provided at the general outpatient clinics each year.

 

At present, the public healthcare sector still accounts for some 90% of inpatient services in Hong Kong and serves as the safety net for those in need, particularly the disadvantaged. To provide patients with more choices and offer healthcare professionals alternative career development options, we also need a dynamic and vibrant private healthcare sector.

 

Earlier this year, a new private hospital offering 500 beds has commenced services. The Government has also provided a loan of HK$4 billion for the Chinese University of Hong Kong to develop a non-profit-making private hospital. Moreover, we have allocated $10 billion (US$1.3 billion) to the Hospital Authority for setting up a Public Private Partnership (PPP) Fund to generate investment returns for funding clinical PPP programmes and initiatives.

 

To meet the rising demand for additional places for elderly and rehabilitation services, we introduced the Special Scheme on Privately Owned Sites for Welfare Uses in 2014 through an injection of $10 billion (US$1.3 billion) to the Lotteries Fund. Some 40 NGOs have submitted over 60 project proposals to make better use of the sites owned by them through expansion, in-situ redevelopment or new development. So far, one project has been completed, whereas three projects are scheduled to complete this year (2017-18) and two other projects in 2018-19. It is expected that the scheme will provide around 9,000 additional elderly service places and 8,000 additional rehabilitation service places.

 

Promoting green building

According to a worldwide skyscrapers database, Hong Kong is ranked first globally with over 1,300 skyscrapers, nearly double that of New York City.

 

In Hong Kong, power generation accounts for 70% of local carbon emission. Buildings in Hong Kong consume 90% of our electricity and thus account for 60% of our greenhouse gas emission. The enhancement of the environmental performance of our building stock is therefore the key to promoting a sustainable built environment.

 

To improve the environmental performance of our building stock, we have implemented a range of policies and measures including legislation, incentive programmes and government leadership.

 

While we are making good progress in rejuvenating our buildings, we have also implemented various measures to green our built environment. We have introduced legislation to require new buildings and buildings that are undergoing major retrofitting to comply with minimum energy efficiency standards in order to enhance the energy efficiency performance of buildings. Hotels and commercial buildings are further required to comply with a statutory standard to reduce heat transfer through building envelopes, thereby saving energy consumption for air-conditioning. The mandatory standards are developed with reference to the latest developments in technology and practices and are subject to regular reviews. We are also an international pioneer in requiring commercial building owners to carry out mandatory energy audits once every 10 years, and to publish the audit results.

 

To take the lead, the Government has set specific electricity reduction targets for some 8,000 government buildings or facilities and has cut electricity consumption by about 15% from 2003 to 2014, and is now working towards a further 5% saving by 2020 using 2014 as the base year. We also require all newly built government buildings to obtain at least the second highest grade under the Building Environmental Assessment Method Plus rating system - BEAM Plus in short - operated by the Hong Kong Green Building Council. Up to now, some 100 government building projects have been registered under BEAM Plus certification.

 

To encourage the private building sector to improve the performance of their buildings, we have promulgated a set of Sustainable Building Design Guidelines under which developers may obtain gross floor area (GFA) concessions in new buildings by incorporating sustainable design elements and providing eco-related information. So far, 25 million sq m and 10 million sq m of floor space have been registered and certified respectively under BEAM Plus.

 

To further promote the BEAM Plus system, we require all new private buildings to register for BEAM Plus certification in order to obtain bonus GFA for certain green features. To date, about 800 private development projects have gone through or registered for such certification.

 

The commitment and leadership demonstrated by the Government, as well as the tangible outcomes of our efforts, provide the driving force for the non-government sector to take positive actions to enhance the green performance of their buildings. Our determination to promote a sustainable built environment is further evidenced by putting the idea of hosting this world-renowned international conference in Hong Kong into action. And today, we have 1,800 experts from 55 countries across six continents gathering at this grand hall to celebrate the opening of the World Sustainable Built Environment Conference 2017 in this Asia's world city!

 

Green space is an integral part of a liveable compact metropolis. In Hong Kong, over 443 sq km of land is designated for country parks and special areas protected by law from any development. Another 100 sq km of land is zoned conservation area, coastal protection area and sites of special scientific interest on statutory town plans.

 

Hong Kong people are privileged to enjoy convenient access to these natural assets. About 85% of our population are living within three kilometres from a country park and 90% within 400 metres from a park.

 

The city is our main activity area. We consider urban design and landscaping to be the key components of a quality urban environment. To this end, we have introduced a Greening Master Plan to develop and implement greening works for the urban areas. Within the 10 years from 2001 to 2011, we planted over 18.8 million trees across the territory.

 

Enhancing cultural facilities

Hong Kong works hard and plays hard. And we have much to offer in the form of culture, sports and leisure. We are taking big strides to establish Hong Kong as a major cultural hub.

 

The West Kowloon Cultural District, WKCD in short, is our long-term strategic investment in arts and cultural hardware to meet the growing cultural needs of the public, attract and nurture artistic talent, foster the development of creative industries, and further strengthen Hong Kong's status as an international hub of art and culture. The M+ Pavilion, the first permanent facility in WKCD, is now in operation. The completion of a host of other world-class facilities will follow. We will have the Xiqu Centre in late 2017, the Art Park including Freespace with a black box theatre and an outdoor stage from 2018 in stages, the 60,000 sq m M+ Building in 2018 and the Lyric Theatre Complex in 2021.

 

We are also seeing major infrastructure development for sports in Hong Kong. We are pressing ahead with the development of the Kai Tak Sports Park which will spread across about 28 hectares of land with key sports facilities including a 50,000-seat main stadium, a 5,000-seat public sports ground, a multi-purpose indoor sports centre with playing surface of 30 standard badminton courts and a landscaped park of more than seven hectares for the public to relax or enjoy outdoor exercise.

 

To further promote healthy living in this densely built city, we have also earmarked in this year's Government Budget $20 billion (US$2.6 billion) for 26 sports and recreational facilities projects in the coming five years in different districts, with a view to improving health, relieving stress, encouraging active ageing and ultimately alleviating the burden on public health services.

 

The world-renowned Victoria Harbour, a precious asset to Hong Kong, is at the centre of the dense urban core. We are determined to enliven the harbourfront along the Victoria Harbour for public enjoyment. We have installed waterfront promenades in different districts and introduced new attractions on the Central harbourfront. The Hong Kong Observation Wheel has attracted over a million visitors since it was launched in 2014. The Central Harbourfront Event Space has already hosted over 185 arts, cultural and recreational events.

 

Grasping Mainland opportunities

Hong Kong is a small open economy with a large population. To sustain its development, we need to look beyond Hong Kong and have the determination and capability to go and seize opportunities.

 

To this end, we are gearing up to capitalise on our Motherland’s Belt & Road Initiative. Inspired by two legendary economic corridors of ancient times, namely the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, this visionary initiative aims to enhance policy co-ordination, connectivity, trade, financial integration and people-to-people links amongst over 60 countries. Covering 4.4 billion people and accounting for over 30% of global economic value, the Belt & Road Initiative will surely create huge and fresh opportunities for all. Last year, the Mainland of China's direct investment in Belt & Road countries amounted to $112 billion (US$14.5 billion). Hence, we should seize these opportunities and harness the benefits brought by this initiative through active participation.

 

Given Hong Kong's geographical location and our strengths as an international strategic financial, investment and business hub and our unique China advantage under the "one country, two systems" framework, we are well placed and well prepared to play the role of a super-connector between the Mainland of China and the rest of the world.

 

In parallel, we are preparing a development plan for the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Bay Area as announced by Premier Li Keqiang this March in the Hong Kong and Macau section of the Central Government's work report. This bay area, an important hinterland for Hong Kong, encompasses 11 cities including Hong Kong and Macau with a total population of 66 million. The successful implementation of the plan will certainly open up more opportunities for co-operation between Hong Kong and the Mainland to achieve mutual benefits.

 

Hong Kong's strategic position has enabled us to serve as an international hub for access to business opportunities in the region and also a major gateway to the Mainland of China. Well-developed infrastructure is a critical factor underpinning economic growth and strength. Since 2010, Hong Kong has been ranked top in infrastructure by the World Economic Forum for seven consecutive years, reflecting the consistently outstanding quality of its facilities across all modes of transportation.

 

Connecting the world

The Hong Kong International Airport has been the busiest cargo airport in the world for the past seven years and is the world's third busiest international passenger airport. Half the world's population is no more than five hours' flying time from Hong Kong, while all of Asia's major markets such as Shanghai, Singapore, Seoul and Tokyo are less than four hours' flight away. Our airport is serviced by more than 100 airlines which operate around 1,100 flights a day, linking Hong Kong to about 190 destinations worldwide including some 50 cities in China.

 

To ensure that Hong Kong remains a regional aviation hub, the Airport Authority is building the third runway. The project will require the reclamation of 650 hectares of land. Apart from the runway, additional taxiways, ramps, passenger transport and luggage processing facilities will be built. The existing Terminal 2 will also be expanded to accommodate the additional traffic. Job opportunities will double by the time the third runway comes on stream. At the moment, 75,000 people are employed at the Chek Lap Kok island, and jobs will be doubled by the year 2028 when the new runway comes into operation.

 

Forming part of the national high-speed rail network, the 142km-long Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link (XRL) will link Hong Kong with the Guangzhou South Station through Shenzhen.

 

The Hong Kong section of the XRL is about 26km-long and will run along a dedicated underground rail corridor from a new terminus at West Kowloon to the boundary near Lok Ma Chau for connection with the Mainland section of the XRL. It is our target for the Hong Kong section of XRL to commission by the third quarter next year.

 

Upon the commissioning of the Hong Kong section of the Express Rail Link, the journey time between Guangzhou and Hong Kong would be reduced from 100 minutes to about 50 minutes. Our aim is to achieve a "one-hour living radius". It will take only eight hours for us to reach Shanghai and 10 hours to Beijing.

 

Commuting by public transport

Locally, the transport sector accounts for about 17% of our total greenhouse gas emissions. To improve our urban living conditions, we have developed a well-connected, comprehensive and inter-modal public transport system. Each day, about 90% of passenger trips or over 12 million trips, are taken care of by public transport.

 

For environmental and economic reasons, it is our policy to use railways as the backbone of our passenger transport system and to integrate transport and land use planning. To expand the transport infrastructure, three Mass Transit Railway (MTR) lines namely the West Island Line, the Kwun Tong Line Extension and the South Island Line were commissioned in 2015 and 2016. To further enhance our network, we are now taking forward the MTR line Sha Tin to Central Link and the cross-boundary express rail link that will connect Hong Kong to the national high-speed rail grid on the Mainland. Upon their completion by 2021, our railway network will cover more than 270 km and areas inhabited by more than 70% of the population.

 

But our transport network development does not stop here. The Railway Development Strategy 2014 recommended that seven other railway projects be implemented by 2026. When these projects are completed by 2031, the total length of the railways will increase to over 300km and cover areas inhabited by 75% of the local population and 85% of workplaces of our population. The share of rail transport patronage will then rise to some 45% to 50% of public transport modes by 2031.

 

In parallel, the Government will continue to manage the private car fleet size and help reduce roadside emission in Hong Kong. A good example is the joint efforts with bus operators since 2013 on bus routes rationalisation to enhance network efficiency, ease traffic congestion and reduce roadside air pollution. Between 2013 and 2016, a total of 31 bus routes with low patronage were cancelled or merged with other routes. Some 290 routes have been truncated or had their frequencies reduced.

 

Fostering inno-tech

We also enhance connectivity and promote low-carbon lifestyle within the urban areas by other means, including promoting walkability through planning and design of the built environment and pedestrian networks, fostering a bicycle-friendly environment and promoting easy access to public transport and facilities.

 

Innovation and technology will be the key driver for global economic development. It is for this reason we set up the Innovation & Technology Bureau during this term of Government to drive our ambitious technology agenda and launch a variety of innovation and technology policies and initiatives, including supporting a $4.4 billion (US$560 million) expansion of the Hong Kong Science Park, home to some 600 technology start-ups and companies.

 

At last count, Hong Kong is home to more than 1,900 start-ups. And we are working to build on those numbers. Among other things, we have established a $2 billion (US$260 million) Innovation & Technology Venture Fund, partnering with private venture-capital funds to help finance promising local technology start-ups. We have also introduced the $500 million (US$64 million) Innovation & Technology Fund for Better Living to encourage the use of innovation and technology in developing projects that bring more convenience, comfort and safety to daily living, or address the needs of specific community groups like the ageing community.

 

To give further impetus to the innovation and technology development in Hong Kong, we have announced in this year's Government Budget that $10 billion will be reserved for this good cause.

 

We are putting more resources into our world-class universities and research and development (R&D) institutions to help boost their mid-stream applied research in key areas of technology. Also, we are liaising with top R&D institutions from all over the world, promoting Hong Kong as their gateway to Asia and, in particular, the Mainland of China. Last year, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology opened its MIT Innovation Node in Hong Kong. Sweden's Karolinska institute, one of the world's leading medical universities, opened its first overseas research centre in October 2016 at the Hong Kong Science Park. The Ming Wai Lau Centre for Reparative Medicine will target such areas as genome editing, biomedical engineering and 3D tissue imaging.

 

It is our vision to develop this compactly built city into an efficient, practical and smart metropolis. We have designated Kowloon East as our testing ground for the smart city initiative. Kowloon East comprises the Kai Tak development area and the regeneration of two adjacent former industrial areas - Kwun Tong and Kowloon Bay. We aim to transform the district into a sustainable business core that befits the concept of sustainability by making use of smart data and technology, creating a low-carbon green community and enhancing walkability and mobility, improving resource management and promoting social vibrancy.

 

We are studying the formulation of a Smart City Development Blueprint for Hong Kong, which will map out short, medium and long-term measures up to 2030 to develop Hong Kong into a smart city. Making our city smart is essential for achieving a sustainable built environment in terms of low-carbon emission and high-energy efficiency.

 

Tackling climate change

While we are committed to developing Hong Kong into a liveable city in a sustainable manner, we have not lost sight of the need to address the impact of extreme weather conditions caused by climate change on our society, our economy as well as our daily life.

 

As the historic Paris Agreement came into effect last November, the Government has set up a high-level Steering Committee on Climate Change. The steering committee is chaired by me (the Chief Secretary for Administration) and comprises all ministers in the Government – every one of them – all 13 Secretaries are involved in this steering committee. We mobilise everybody, join hands to co-ordinate efforts in combating climate change and achieving carbon reduction targets.

 

Indeed, climate change has all along been placed high on the HKSAR Government's policy agenda. In 2015, we announced the Energy Saving Plan for Hong Kong, with a target of reducing our energy intensity by 40% by 2025 through a series of measures covering economic, regulatory, educational and social aspects.

 

The steering committee launched the Hong Kong Climate Action Plan 2030+ earlier this year and set a new target of reducing carbon intensity by 65%-70% by 2030 compared with the 2005 level, which is equivalent to an absolute reduction of 26% to 36% or 3.3 to 3.8 tonnes in per capita emissions by 2030. This is a rather ambitious target reflecting clearly our determination to tackle the global issue of climate change head-on.

 

Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung gave these remarks at the World Sustainable Built Environment Conference 2017 Hong Kong.



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