As a result of rapid economic development in Mainland China, there is a huge demand for professional service providers. This is good news for professionals, company secretaries among them, particularly those based in Hong Kong. Lau Ping Cheung, Chairman of the Hong Kong Coalition of Professional Services, talks to CSj about the work of the Coalition to achieve mutual recognition of professional qualifications in Mainland China and Hong Kong and to open up the road to the north for Hong Kong professionals.
L au Ping Cheung, one of the founding members and current Chairman of the Hong Kong Coalition of Professional Services, still has a vivid memory of his illegal entry from Shantou to Hong Kong at the age of eight. On a pitch dark night he passed from boat to boat and reached Lamma Island. He changed into new clothes and his mother permed her hair with red hot iron clamps. Finally they landed at West Point and became Hong Kong residents under the Touch Base Policy at that time.
When he was young, he lived in a squatter area on a hillside and it was difficult to make ends meet. But he worked hard and studied well. He says that the efforts he put into his studies paid off. In 1971 he was admitted into the Surveying Department of the Hong Kong Polytechnic. Soon after graduation, he attained a professional qualification in surveying, and this was a key turning point in his life. After joining the surveying profession, he actively participated in the activities of professional bodies. In 1996 and 1997, he was Chairman of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Hong Kong Branch) and President of the Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors, and witnessed the changes in Hong Kong during the handover of Hong Kong to Mainland China and the transitional period.
In 2000, Mr Lau succeeded in his run for a seat in the Legislative Council through the functional constituency route. This was another turning point in his life. In the past, he had focused on matters concerning his profession. After becoming a legislator, he was involved in a wider range of issues, including political, economic, livelihood, medical and educational issues. He considers that he has both gained and lost during his four-year term, during which there were two major incidents.
Firstly, in 2002, a proposal was put forward to cut civil service pay. The government was then in a budget deficit and there was great public pressure for civil service pay cuts. Mr Lau supported the government’s proposal. He considered that everyone was in the same boat, and there was no reason why civil servants should be protected from times of economic downturn. But many in his constituency were from the civil service, and his decision took away a lot of his support. The second major incident was his support for legislation under Article 23 of the Basic Law in 2003. He considered that no country could dispense with national security law. Hence he supported the government’s move to legislate. This was fatal to his run for re-election in 2004. Thereafter, he was accused of bribery during the election, but was finally acquitted.
The trials and tribulations over the years provided enlightenment for Mr Lau, and he has come to realise that one does not necessarily have to stand at the forefront in the legislative body in order to contribute to the community; one can also work diligently behind the scenes. Mr Lau has been deeply involved in economic, social and livelihood issues in Hong Kong. Currently he is a member of the Long-Term Housing Strategy Steering Committee and Convenor of the Working Group on Professional Services under the Economic Development Commission, giving advice to the government on the review of housing and real estate policies in Hong Kong.
Mr Lau stresses that he is rooted in Hong Kong and is ready to give his best for the community. On the shortage of land supply and the narrow-based economic structure in Hong Kong, he is quick to point out the crux of the problem. With property prices and rents at high levels, over 170,000 people are living in subdivided units, and 230,000 families are queuing for public housing. He believes that the structure of our economy is biased towards finance, real estate and tourism. It is therefore necessary to encourage diversified development in our economy and provide more suitable land to attract certain businesses or processes back to Hong Kong to meet future economic development and social needs.
The work of the HKCPS
Ten professional bodies in Hong Kong formed the Hong Kong Coalition of Professional Services (HKCPS) in 2001. As one of the founders, Mr Lau firmly believes that the body can promote professional services in Hong Kong, facilitate exchange and cooperation between Mainland China and Hong Kong and act as a bridge. He points out that, according to the government’s statistics, professional services and other business services account for 11% of the GDP of Hong Kong. This is a big force which has an impact on the economy and the livelihood of the people of Hong Kong.
The 10 professional bodies initiating the formation of the Coalition of Professional Services were the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants, Hong Kong Institute of Architects, Hong Kong Bar Association, Hong Kong Dental Association Ltd, Hong Kong Institute of Engineers, Hong Kong Institute of Landscape Architects, the Law Society of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Medical Association, Hong Kong Institute of Planners and Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors. In 2010, The Hong Kong Institute of Chartered Secretaries joined as the eleventh member body. At present, the 11 bodies have over 86,000 members who have obtained professional qualifications, and over 41,000 trainees and students. They are from four major areas, namely, medical and health, finance, law, and building and construction.
The members of the HKCPS work in different sectors, contributing greatly to the community. They include District Council members, Legislative Council members, Executive Council members and principle officials under the accountability system. The Chief Executive, CY Leung, is also a distinguished professional.
He adds that the HKCPS plays an important role in Hong Kong and the government recognises its influence. When preparing the policy address and budget every year, the government invites the HKCPS to give its views on various issues. Moreover, the HKCPS was deeply involved in the Mainland and Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) which was signed in 2003. The HKCPS also makes proposals every year to policy bureaus on new developments of CEPA in order to promote mutual recognition of professional qualifications in Hong Kong and the Mainland and to ease restrictions on professionals practising on the Mainland.
In December 2013, a HKCPS delegation went to Beijing and met key officials of the National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Commerce. Meanwhile, individual professional bodies paid visits to the National Health and Family Planning Commission, the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Finance to exchange views on livelihood, social and economic issues.
‘Currently one of the key focuses of the HKCPS is to explore how to grasp the opportunities and meet the challenges presented to Hong Kong by the Shanghai Free Trade Zone,’ says Mr Lau. In addition, Guangdong Province, Nansha, Qianhai and Hengqin have formed an economic golden triangle. Recent talks under the ‘Framework Agreement on Hong Kong-Guangdong Cooperation’ have explored whether Hong Kong and Macau could be added to this golden triangle to form another free trade zone.
‘This is something we professionals need to follow closely. Furthermore, it was announced after the Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh Central Committee of the Communist Party of China that the market will be further opened up, trade in services will be liberalised and systems will be reformed. I believe that professionals in Hong Kong can give a lot of advice in various aspects and share the international experience gained in Hong Kong,’ Mr Lau says.
He further points out that the rapid economic growth in Mainland China over the past 30 years has been mainly powered by exports and foreign investment. But he notes that exports are affected by fluctuations in the world economy. At the moment, the lacklustre economic performance in Europe and the US has affected China’s export trade and reduced foreign investments in China. There should therefore be two emphases in the economic transition of China. The first is to boost domestic demand, encourage spending and speed up urbanisation, increasing the power of consumption on various fronts. The second is to encourage Mainland enterprises and funds to explore opportunities outside China. Funds should not just be applied to buying US bonds but should be used for investments, economic development, and participation in oil production and infrastructural projects. Developments on these two areas will bring a lot of opportunities to professionals in Hong Kong.
‘A lot of surveyors and architecture and accountancy firms now have over half of their income coming from Mainland business,’ says Mr Lau. ‘Many Mainland enterprises investing overseas are greatly in need of professional support from Hong Kong to help them develop overseas business more effectively. In addition, the government of Hong Kong actively promotes the development of Hong Kong as an arbitration centre and encourages the provision of international arbitration services in Hong Kong. This also opens up abundant opportunities for professionals.
In view of the huge market on the Mainland and the needs of economic transition in future, Hong Kong professionals have a lot of opportunities in the north. Mr Lau says that the Hong Kong Institute of Chartered Secretaries contributes greatly in the areas of listing requirements and corporate governance and has conducted a lot of training on the Mainland. This is an important area of expertise that the Mainland will need for its future economic development.
Regarding mutual recognition, he says that considerable results have been achieved. A more imminent issue at the moment is qualification vetting for professionals practising and setting up new practices on the Mainland, including work experience on the Mainland and manpower needs, etc. Even though the 10th CEPA agreement has been signed, it is still very difficult for professionals to start new practices on the Mainland. A pilot scheme has now been launched in Guangdong Province to simplify practising requirements to attract professionals in Hong Kong to start their businesses in the province. The objectives are to make better use of the professional expertise and international experience of Hong Kong to help Mainland enterprises expand overseas; support the international development of local industries and businesses; increase employment opportunities; create a professional community; and speed up economic development.
In late November 2013, CY Leung, HKSAR Chief Executive, led a large delegation from Hong Kong to visit Guangxi Province to understand the trading activities between Guangxi and ASEAN countries and the opportunities they bring to Hong Kong businessmen and professionals. Mr Lau says there is heavy trading between Guangxi and ASEAN countries, but the dearth of professional service providers is serious and Hong Kong professionals should look into the opportunities this provides. Urbanisation, housing and railway construction, as well as infrastructural projects require a lot of professionals to ensure the quality of the projects and the standard of their design. This is a good opportunity for Hong Kong professionals to contribute their expertise.
Apart from promoting professional development, the HKCPS is also actively involved in community work. Mr Lau says that during the SARS epidemic in 2003, the HKCPS set up a SARS Fund to help the affected owners of Amoy Gardens replace their pipes, and monitored the whole process of design, tendering and implementation. In 2008, the HKCPS again extended its helping hand to snow storm victims on the Mainland and raised funds for them. In 2013, a fund raising concert was held in support of victims of the earthquake in Sichuan. This year, the HKCPS facilitated the establishment of an organisation for young professionals in Hong Kong to encourage them to contribute to the work of the HKCPS, raise professional standards and participate in community affairs, thereby pulling together the strengths of a range of professions.
Mr Lau does not dwell on the significant achievements of his life so far, but he has learned some important life lessons that he is eager to impart to the next generation. He stresses that one must be proactive and positive and must not back away from one’s responsibilities. He believes his own career has shown that you can change your fate through knowledge and a good deal of perseverance. Mr Lau’s key principles are to be ready to commit and to be responsible.
In the context of the current challenges of the world economy as a global village, competition can come from anybody and anywhere in the world. Mr Lau encourages young people to work hard and seek improvement. Not only do they have to build a strong foundation in their studies, enriching their knowledge and polishing their language skills, they also have to build up good inter-personal relationships. Only by doing so will they avoid falling behind others and build a better future for themselves and for the community.
Kenneth Ko Journalist
中國經濟快速發展，對專業服務需求十分殷切，而包括公 司秘書在內的香港專業人士正好把握這非常機遇，在這龐 大市場分一杯羹。香港專業聯盟主席劉炳章與本刊暢談這 發展趨勢，以及該組織致力促進中港兩地專業人士的資格 互認及異地執業，為香港專業界打開北上之路。
現職瑞安房地產地產發展總監的劉炳章，曾任香港測量 師學會會長，2000年至2004年任香港立法會(建築、測 量及都市規劃界)議員，對香港經濟、社會及民生等問題可 謂事事關心。目前，更身兼長遠房屋策略督導委員會成員及 經濟發展委員會旗下的專業服務業工作小組召集人，為政府 出謀獻策，檢討本港房屋及產業政策。
劉炳章出生於廣東潮安，現年62年歲，對社會事務充滿熱 忱。談及本港土地短缺及經濟結構過於狹窄，他迅即點出問 題癥結，在樓價租金高企之下，超過17萬人居住在劏房，23 萬戶輪候公屋，而經濟結構主要依賴金融、房地產及旅遊幾 大行業，有必要鼓勵多元化的行業發展，設法提供更多適合 的土地，吸引企業把一些業務或工序回流香港，配合未來的 經濟發展及社會需要。
劉炳章強調，個人植根於香港，願意盡力貢獻社會。他憶述 當年8歲從汕頭偷渡來港的情形，還歷歷在目，在黑夜中駁 船到南丫島，更換新衣服，母親用燒紅了的鐵鉗燙髮，最 後成功登陸西環，在當時抵壘政策下成為香港居民。小時家 住山邊寮屋，生活很不容易，但他在困難中努力以赴，終於 學有所成。他說，努力讀書改變了命運，並在1971年考進理 工學院測量學系，畢業後很快便考獲專業測量師資格，成為 人生一大轉捩點。入行後不久，他便積極參與專業團體的活 動，於1996及1997年間更出任英國皇家特許測量師學會香港 分會會長，及香港測量師學會會長，見證香港回歸及過渡期 間的變化。
在2000年，劉炳章參選立法會功能組別勝出，成為立法會議 員，是人生另一個轉捩點。從以往集中關注專業界事務，轉 入立法會的工作，牽涉的議題更為廣泛，包括政治、經濟、 民生、醫療及教育等問題。四年任期間，他形容個人有得也 有失，而當中發生了兩件大事，包括2002年公務員減薪建 議，當時政府面對財政赤字，社會有很大聲音要求公務員減 薪，劉炳章支持政府的建議，認為大家要同舟共濟，經濟有 起有落，公務員沒有理由獨善其身。不過，他的選民裡包括 了很多公務員，他的決定令他失去了不少支持。第二件大事 是2003年政府推動基本法23條立法，他認為任何國家不可能 沒有國安法，於是支持政府立法，也成為他2004年競選連任 的致命傷，最終落選。之後，他惹上官非，被控涉嫌賄選， 但最終勝訴。
多年來的歷練，給劉炳章另一種啟發，認為不一定要站在議 會前線，在背後默默耕耘也可以為社會作出貢獻。香港的十 大專業團體於2001年共同成立香港專業聯盟，身為創辦人之 一的劉炳章深信，該組織可以推廣香港的專業服務，及促進中港兩地的交流和合作，發揮溝通和橋樑作用。他指出，根 據政府經濟資料，專業服務及其他工商服務佔本港整體GDP 百分之十一，是一個頗大的力量，對經濟、民生和社會都有 一定影響。
發起組成專業聯盟的十個專業團體包括香港會計師公會、 香港建築師學會、香港大律師公會、香港牙醫學會、香 港工程師學會、香港園境師學會、香港律師會、香港醫 學會、香港規劃師學會及香港測量師學會。在2010年香港 特許秘書公會加入成為第十一個會員團體。目前，11個專 業團體轄下已獲專業資格的人數超過86,000人，實習生及 學生逾41,000人，主要涵蓋四大範疇，包括醫療健康、財 務、法律及建設等界別。
劉炳章說，香港專業聯盟這道旋轉門出了很多社會精英，在 不同領域工作，為社會作出心出力，其中，包括區議會議 員、立法會議員、行政會議成員及政府問責官員，甚至特首 梁振英也是專業界的表表者。
他又說，香港專業聯盟是對香港社會起著相當作用的一個平 台，香港政府也很重視其影響力，每年制定施政報告及財政 預算案時都邀請該組織就不同議題提出意見。2003年，內 地與香港簽署了「內地與香港關於建立更緊密經貿關係的安 排」（(CEPA) ，香港專業聯盟便已參與其中，自此每年會向各政策局就CEPA最新發展提建議，以促進中港兩地專業資格互 認及降低往內地執業的門檻。
在2013年12月，香港專業聯盟組團上訪北京，與國家發展和 改革委員會及商務部主要官員會面，同時，個別專業團體造 訪了國家衛生及計劃生育委員會、住房和城鄉建設部、司法 部及財政部等不同官員，就社會、民生及經濟多方面問題加 強溝通和接觸。
劉炳章說：「目前，香港專業聯盟的重點工作之一是如何抓 住上海自由貿易區給香港的機遇和挑戰，我們專業界可以做 到些什麼及找到什麼商機。此外，廣東省與南沙、前海及橫 琴等地構成了一個經濟金三角，粵港合作框架協定最近談及 會否把這金三角加上香港及澳門，形成另一個自由貿易區， 這都是我們專業界關注的。另外，三中全會公佈了進一步市 場開放、服務貿易自由化及體制改革，我相信香港專業界可 以在各方面給予很多意見，及提供很多香港的國際經驗。」
他又指出，中國經濟過去30多年的高增長模式，主要靠出口 及外來投資帶動，但出口受世界經濟起跌影響，正如目前歐 美經濟表現強差人意，內地出口受到牽連，外來投資也相應 減少。中國經濟轉型有兩個重點，第一是加大內需，鼓勵消 費，及加快城鎮化步伐，提高各方面的消費力。第二是內地 企業及資金走出去，不再只是以購買美國債券為主，而是鼓 勵向外投資，做經濟開發，參與開採石油及基建等項目，這 兩方面的發展會帶給香港專業界很多機遇。
「其實，現在很多香港測量師行、建築師樓及會計師行超過 一半收入，來自內地業務。很多內地企業要走出去投資，亟 需香港的專業服務支援，更有效地拓展海外業務。此外，香 港政府大力推動香港仲裁中心的發展，鼓勵國際仲裁服務在 香港落地生根，也給專業界很大發展機會。」
針對內地龐大的市場，未來經濟轉型的需要，香港專業界北 上發展大有可為。劉炳章認為，香港特許秘書公會是一個跨 法律及財務的專業團體，尤其在上市公司要求及公司管治方 面有很大貢獻，在內地也做了很多培訓工作，是將來內地經 濟發展所需的重要範疇之一。
對於兩地專業互認方面，他指出大家已取得相當程度的成 果，目前更重要的問題在於內地執業及開業的資格審查， 包括在內地的工作經驗及聘任人手等要求，即使CEPA第十 份協議已簽定，香港專業界要在內地開業仍是困難重重。 現在，廣東省推行的先行先試計畫，目的在簡化執業規 條，引入香港專業界到當地去開業，更有效地利用香港的 專業人才及國際經驗，以幫助內地企業走出去，支援當地工商業的國際化發展，同時增加就業機會，凝聚一個專業 社區，加快經濟發展。
2013年11月底，特首梁振英率領龐大的香港代表團訪問廣 西，探索廣西與東盟國家的貿易活動及其帶給港商及香港專 業界的商機。劉炳章說，廣西及東盟國家的貿易活動頻繁， 同樣是面對專業服務不足的情況，值得香港專業界探索和發 展業務。即如當地城鎮化發展計畫，房屋、鐵路及基建等建 設，都需要大量的專業人手，確保工程品質和設計水準達 標，這將會是香港專業界一展所長的好機會。
除了促進專業發展，香港專業聯盟也積極參與社會工作。劉 炳章說，2003年「沙士」期間，該組織成立了「沙士」基 金，協助受影響的淘大花園業主免費更換渠管，並監察整個 設計、招標及施工過程。2008年，香港專業聯盟又雪中送 暖，為內地雪災災民籌款，2013年舉辦籌款音樂晚會，給四 川地震災民送上支持。今年，亦促成香港的青年專業組織成 立，藉以鼓勵青年專業人士參與業務拓展，一起提升專業水 準，及投入社會事務，凝聚專業人士的能量。
劉炳章逆境自強的成長故事，是「知識改變命運」的寫照， 憑著堅持不懈的努力和實踐，活出豐盛有意義的人生。做事 要有所承擔，敢於負起責任，是劉炳章處世的大原則。他自 謙地說，並不覺得自己有什麼成就，但強調待人處事必須以 主動正面的態度，決不可怯於承擔，逃避責任。
面對著現今地球村經濟的挑戰，競爭來自任何人及世界任 何一個角落，劉炳章鼓勵青年人要努力向上，不但要打好 學習基礎，擁有豐富知識和卓越語文能力，還要在人際關 係方面下功夫，才能不落他人之後，為自己和社會打造更 美好明天。