Civic Exchange is a non-government public policy think tank and registered charity group based in Hong Kong. It was founded in September 2000 by former Member of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong Christine Loh Kung-wai, as the CEO, and environmental researcher Lisa Hopkinson (何麗莎), as Head of Research.
Civic Exchange's public policy projects focus in three main fields: Civic Participation and Social Development, Environment and Conservation, Integration of Economic Analysis. Their researches aim to reframe debates on public issues and to influence policy decisions of policy makers and the government. The projects of Civic Exchange often involve researchers from different disciplines.
Projects in this area aim to broaden citizens' understanding of the public issues and their choices. The projects are divided into the four areas as follows:
" The User's guide to the Town planning Process: How the public can participate in the Hong Kong Planning System" is an example showing how Civic Exchange strives to get public involved in the public policies. This is a handbook helping members of the public and non-governmental organizations to understand the town planning process better and to take part in it more effectively.
Civic exchange has taken note that the stakeholders of society have been more interested in the town planning. To cite an example, the Urban Redevelopment of Wan Chai aroused the echoes from different spectrum of society.
In the light of this, the HKSAR government has passed the Town Planning Ordinance and new arrangements have come into effect in June 2005. Still, the existing arrangement is not outreach enough to the citizen. Civic Exchange, thus, publishes this handbook to increase the transparency of the existing system to the public.
The handbook introduces the planning system, how it works, the government’s role and most importantly, the public application to change a plan. Citizen can take part in the public consultation through 18 District Councils. The citizen can approach to district councilors to enquire the timing and agenda of the relevant meeting. They can also make verbal and written submissions through consultation forums. Recent examples of the consultation forums include the future development of old Kai Tak Airport and Wan Chai waterfront.
Projects in this area are to raise the public's awareness on the importance of the quality of life and treasuring resources.
Each year, Civic Exchange hosts International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) in Hong Kong. ICC, coordinated by US NGO The Ocean Conservancy, is held every year throughout the world to clean the coastlines. In 2005, 1,286 Hong Kongers volunteered in this event and collected 18,000 pounds of marine debris. During the event Civic Exchange collects the data about the conditions of marine pollution and reports back their findings, with some suggestions, to The Ocean Conservancy, where reports from all the places will be analyzed and used in further research purpose on betterment in local and world-wide level.
ICC also integrates into the educational purpose. Through taking part in this events, children can get first-hand knowledge about the marine pollution and learn how to conserve marine property.
Aberdeen Harbour, once a burstling fishing village, is now suffering from pollution of marine refuse. It presents adverse effect on the fishing communities as well as the local communities habitated around the harbour. In recent years, the Government has dedicated more resources to cleaning Aberdeen Harbour. Civic Exchange perceives that it is not the fundamental solution to the problem. It has introduced the Clean Harbour-Aberdeen Project(CHAP), which aims to create a sustainable and community-based process to help the stakeholders to identify a long term vision and sustainable measures that will address the problem properly. CHAP is also a part of Project Pride-Aberdeen, a two-year community building experience initiated by Civic Exchange.
Civic Exchange, as the project manager, worked with science teams, local governments and industries to set up an air quality monitoring network in Pearl River Delta, collecting air samples between September 2002 and June 2003.
Their findings were published in November 2004. The report, which contains distributions and sources of pollutants, serves as reference for policy-makers to revise air management policy.
Civic Exchange pursued their study on Hong Kong's air pollution problem based on the findings. The study identified a new policy direction named “low hanging fruit”. The main idea of this strategy is using cleaner fuels.
In this report, Civic Exchange urges the government to increase the transparency of the measures against air pollution, including the progress of Joint Regional Management Plan.
In the medium term, the report is in support of building a cross-border cooperation, be it a regional energy plan for clean energy production or a cross-border capacity to enable middle and top management of both governments to improve understanding of air pollution problems and devise effective solutions.
Christine Loh explains the air pollution caused by energy use in Guangdong from the economic point of view, which is know as external cost. External costs are those actually incurred on public health, crop yield, damages to environment and ecosystem, and climatic change, but not calculated in the production cost. Therefore, external costs seldom factor into the production decision. If the external cost is incorporated into the actual production cost, the business and public would better understand the full cost of policy decisions, thereby focusing more on energy efficiency and conservation and investment in teachnologies that have lower external cost.
This report points out that local commentators have suggested an energy tax levied on power users so as to implement a "polluter pays principle".
The report provides a review of the potential economic impacts of visibility impairment, and to identify how this issue has been addressed internationally, with a view to identify its implication for Hong Kong.
It is based upon a combination of direct contact (including personal communication and/or email with individual country environmental agencies) and detailed desk studies.
The report provides the public with a detailed economic value of visibility to evaluate the impact of air pollution further. The economic value of visibility becomes explicit in the loss of tourism, falling house value due to the impaired visibility and the resulting knock-on effects impacting the local economy such as the reduced investment in affected areas.
The report proposes the lessening of pollutants from transport system and of fumes released by power generators. It suggests that exposure to air pollution can be reduced by exertion of more government interference in local and regional transportation. For example, HKSAR government can expand the mass transit railway to areas plagued by traffic congestion and raise the vehicle registration fee. The report also urges the use of liquid natural gas and the cooperation between power plants in HK and Guangdong to reduce pollutants from power generators.
Civic Exchange criticised the recent policy address of the Chief Executive in that the government fails to provide a comprehensive air management plan. Civic Exchange recommended an air management plan on four fronts for Donald Tsang:
A team of experts including urban planners, architects and academics explored the area. Civic Exchange then published three brochures, documenting the unique features of each area, to discuss how to develop these areas in a sustainable way while preserving the distinguished local heritages.
Then they held seven public exhibitions in the areas to gather local ideas from the relevant neighbourhood to encourage grassroot participation in urban planning. A website was set up to disseminate the information of the project. But later the website was closed down and people have to get to their office to attain the brochures.
Concerning the Central Harbourfront development, Civic Exchange has been working for an alternative plan. Its January 2006 project named Central Park urges for more green areas for the city. Christine Loh emphasised on the world trend of creating more greenery in the city, and yet Hong Kong is against it. She also considered that the Government's plan is providing more highways and roads, which will leave with low quality open spaces.
Hong Kong Government propose to build a large government complex at Tamar site, including a separate space for the Legislative Council. Christine Loh retorted that the plan cannot be justified. The government can expand the existing Central Government Offices. She argued that there are advantages to a distributed location and risks in a highly concentrated one. On the one hand, there is strategic risk with a single location of government office when there is outbreak of epidemic, natural calamities and even terrorist attack. On the other hand, with its low density and proximity to the Botanical Garden, Central Government Office has the potential to become a local icon provided that there is more efficient use of the land with the refurbishment and expansion.
Civic Exchange criticized the West Kowloon project, the proposed West Kowloon Cultural District, for being a disguised property project. Property developers claimed that the West Kowloon project aimed at promoting the artistic development in Hong Kong. In effect, the developer used the excuse of financing the project to turn West Kowloon into a new profitable residential and commercial land.
The development is public asset but there is no transparency as to the financial dealings. Such financial arrangements as land premiums (the money developer would pay the government for the land), profit sharing on the development's earning with government and royalties were not disclosed to the public. Besides, An "other specified uses zoning" , meaning no or little planning control, is allowed to the land developers, which was unprecedented. And the public consultation was shortened from the scheduled six months to six weeks. The public consultation swayed from the structure of the development to the designs.
The recommendations Civic Exchange gave the public:
Civic Exchange researches on how public policy issues affect the economy of Hong Kong. Data collected in the researches are distributed in papers, booklets, pamphlets or leaflets, and used in conducting courses or seminars in educational institutions. There are two main on-going projects:
A study of the economic impacts of the functional constituency election system. It also looks at historical aspects including land policy and taxation under the colonial rule, and analyzes how such issues affect the postcolonial governing formula and the setting of HKSAR economic policies under the Basic Law.
A study of the economic impacts of the demographic changes in Hong Kong. It covers issues like the changes in Hong Kong's population dynamics, and their implication for public health, international competitiveness and sustainable transport and urban development strategies.
"Sustainability Tools" are a set of knowledge management skills developed for stakeholders. It aims to improve the relationship between government and civil society, so as to prevent and resolve conflict and problem.
One way communication between publics is harder to substain today. Thus, government must establish two way communication between people to increase transparency and to gain public support.
Sustainability Tools have provided skills on effective communications, sending clear message, presentation, holding successful meetings and conflict resolution, etc.
With the above knowledge management techniques, stakeholders can be help to achieve better mutual understandings among publics. Such techniques can also be used in the management of politics and public affairs. Civic Exchange believes that Sustainability Tools can help re-establish trust between government and society by initiating genuine dialogue via various type of activities.
In order to encourage young people to think and work on public policy, Civic Exchange has set up Student Internship Programme for undergraduates and postgraduates. The programme aims to expand college students' knowledge about public policy, and provide them an opportunity to practise in research projects. Finished works will be published on Civic Exchange's official website.
Through partcipating in such programmes, the interns can develop their interests and potentials in researching and proposing public policy.
Attractions of the internship programme include:
Apart from this program, Civic Exchange also welcome individuals with various expertise to participate in their work as volunteers.
Civic Exchange frquently holds seminars, talks, workshops and public discussion forums on various topics from environmental to political ones. An international relations salon and speakers' programme is started from November 2001 for people to exchange views on international affairs and important current issues. Most of the speakers are prominent politicians, scholars or businessmen, including Jan O. Karlsson, Amory Lovins, Baroness Scotland of Asthal, Peter Hain, Sam Brownback, Daniel Brennan and Chris Patten.
Below listed some of the prominent organization funders in the past years:
60% owners of China Light and Power Hong Kong
Li Ka Shing and Cheung Kong which own Hong Kong Electric, Hong Kong's second biggest polluter - burning coal for power generation],
Hong Kong's biggest polluters - burning coal to generate power
http://www.thecigarsmoker.com/cigar-clubs-hong-kong-a-77.html Tobacco Industry sponsored !
Civic Exchange carried out regular poll in the period of 2004 Legco Election. Pro-China newspapers criticized this as propaganda for pro-democracy camp, claiming that the poll result was not reflecting the reality and Civic Exchange had lowering the supporting rate of DAB candidates. At the same time, they also criticized Civic Exchange receiving funding from American organizations like NED and NDI. Civic Exchange was named "a branch of CIA" ("美國中央情報局分店"), blamed for "attacking patriotic people, defaming the central government and Hong Kong government" ("攻擊愛國愛港人士、抹黑中央政府和特區政府").
Christine Loh has recently become the director of an organization called Human Rights in China. This organization is founded by a group of overseas students and scholars in 1989 March, which often criticizes the Human Rights in China. For example, it has paid a high attention to the incident of Ching Cheong and made statements on the judicial process of the incident.
Until October 2006, there are 12 regular contributors to this blogazine, including Cyd Ho, Zandra Mok (莫宜端), Rikkie Yeung (楊區麗潔), Charles Mok (莫乃光), Sam Ng (吳志森) and Christine Loh herself.
It is said that Civic Express was set up as a new media channel for discussion on public affairs. Unlike most of the other weblogs, however, the blogazine has no replying or commenting functions. Readers can hardly give feedback or express their thought through this channel.
In Civic Exchange Annual Report 2005, it is said that this new platform has attracted more than 25,000 visitors each month.
Businesses and community work together in Gorham [Corrected 08/ 21/ 05] ; The Gorham Business and Civic Exchange's new director will keep forging links that benefit all.
Aug 18, 2005; DEBORAH SAYER News Assistant Portland Press Herald (Maine) 08-18-2005 Businesses and community work together in Gorham [Corrected...
Businesses and community work together in Gorham ; The Gorham Business and Civic Exchange's new director will keep forging links that benefit all.
Aug 18, 2005; DEBORAH SAYER News Assistant Portland Press Herald (Maine) 08-18-2005 Businesses and community work together in Gorham ; The...