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Public Policy Research - Layman summaries of projects funded in 2011/2012 (9th Round)

CUHK 4007-PPR-11
Hong Kong's Current Healthcare Reform: What Role Can Employers Play?
PI: Prof Su LIU

An employer survey among a random sample of 439 private employers in Hong Kong, followed by three focus groups with 19 representatives were conducted between March 2012 and January 2013 to investigate the current status and rationale of employer-provided health benefit and gauge employers' view on the current healthcare reform proposal.

The survey found 54 percent of employers offered medical benefits to staff, mostly in the form of group health insurance. Cost was the biggest concern for both employers who offered medical benefits and those who did not. When making the benefit decision, employers would take both external market trends and internal employee needs into consideration. Little consensus was found among employers when it comes to their role in financing health care.

While the current healthcare financing reform unfolds in Hong Kong, we found relative low awareness and interest as well as somewhat dispersed impression of the reform across different types of employers. However, views expressed during focus group discussions implied that the recognition and participation of employers is crucial, given the current role they play in providing medical benefits to employees and the amount of funds and insurance market share involved.

CUHK 4010-PPR-11
Differential impacts of anti-smoking legislation on death rates of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases in the subpopulations of Kong Kong
PI: Prof Linwei TIAN

Women have a much lower smoking prevalence than men in Hong Kong, yet the beneficial cardiovascular effects of cigarette price increase were seen in both genders. Reduced tobacco use in active smokers may partialy explain the association between increased cigarette retail price and the decreased AMI mortality rates. Involuntary exposure of non-smokers might also dropped sharply due to the tobacco tax increase and cigarette price price increase. It was possible that the involuntary exposure of non-smokers also dropped sharply, in prevalence and/or intensity, due to the overall reduction of cigarette consumption by smokers although we did not have data on the historical pattern. Hong Kong's cigarette price and tobacco tax rate is still on the low side when compared with many other advanced economies of similar level of economic development. A small increase in the price of tobacco through increased taxation would significantly reduce the tobacco exposure in the population, smokders or non-smokers, and generate health benefits.

CUHK 4012-PPR-11
Healthy sleep, healthy school life: a cluster randomised school-based interventional study for school start time and sleep health education for children and adolescents - implications for education and health policy
PI: Prof Yun-Kwok WING

We aim to investigate the effect of school-based sleep education program and delayed school start-time on the sleep, health and academic aspects of school children and adolescents. Our systemic sleep education has beneficial effects to the school-aged children and adolescents. The sleep knowledge of school students was significantly improved with enhancement of sleep, behavior and lifestyle practices. Thus, our sleep education program provided evidence that this component should be integrated into the regular school curriculum for better dissemination of importance of sleep knowledge and proper sleep practices. The importance of sleep health should also be recognized as one of the top priorities in public health of Hong Kong. For the delay school start time study, a modest delay of 15 minutes in school schedule demonstrated beneficial effects towards students sleep quality, health and punctuality of school attendances. The results of our study added to the growing literature that later school start time has potential benefits to adolescents' sleep and school performance. In summary, policy makers and school administrators should recognize the importance of healthy sleep towards growing school children and adolescents from both educational and health perspectives with appropriate revision of school schedule, curriculum and health education.

PolyU 5003-PPR-11
Enabling Context and Policy for Social Entrepreneurship in Hong Kong
PI: Dr Kam Tong CHAN

Social enterprise has been getting attention since previous decade and spread worldwide as a new form of operating business with social goals. However, there is lack of studies on how the enabling environment enhances the development of social enterprises in Hong Kong. This study focused on identifying the enabling environment, barriers and overcoming such hindering factors in order to encourage the social enterprises development in Hong Kong. Delphi study and stakeholder interview were adopted for the data collection.

The results identified enabling factors, hindering factors and suggestions to enhance the enabling environment of social enterprises. They can be categorized into three levels: Contextual level, which focuses on the macro, ecology and contextual environment; Institutional level, focuses on the institutional responses and measures; and Operational Level, which focuses on the operational mindset. Most of the factors identified by the Delphi panel members are supported by the local practitioners through the stakeholder interview.

Finally, several policy recommendations, including promotion of social innovation, cross-sectoral collaboration and strengthen capacity building, etc. , are suggested in contextual, institutional and operational levels to build a supportive and enabling environment for the healthy development of social enterprises in Hong Kong.

PolyU 5006-PPR-11
Promoting Policy Favoring Multiculturalism and the Social Integration of Ethnic Minorities in Hong Kong
PI: Dr Xiaohua Sylvia CHEN

The present project examined intercultural relations in Hong Kong by incorporating the views of both the dominant population and non-dominant groups, to provide implications for public policies regarding ethnic minorities. Using a mixed method approach with quantitative and qualitative designs, this research investigated both the attitudes among Hong Kong Chinese toward other ethnic groups and the acculturation experiences among South Asian groups, i.e., Indians, Nepalese, and Pakistanis. Our results reveal that the major barrier to social integration in Hong Kong is insufficient understanding of other ethnic groups, such as their cultures, languages, lifestyles and customs. Currently, the major problems encountered by the ethnic groups, which prevent them from perceiving Hong Kong as a multicultural society, are looking for jobs, getting along with local schoolmates or colleagues, communicating in public transportation, religious practice, and discrimination. Attitudes or policies to promote the equal status of diverse groups and respect the advocacy of ethnic cultures can decrease ethnic minorities' perception of discrimination, hence enhancing their psychological well-being. To conclude, more efforts are needed to promote Hong Kong as a multicultural society, educate the public to enhance their understanding of ethnic minorities, and facilitate ethnic minorities to learn Chinese as a second language.

PolyU 5012-PPR-11
Parenting And Child Enhancement (PACE) - Early Intervention Program for Preschool Children from Disadvantaged Families
PI: Prof Man Cynthia LEUNG

It is well known that the early years lay the foundation of later development and early disadvantage is related to learning and academic difficulties in schooling. To break the cycles of disadvantage and poverty, and to promote child development, it is important to give every child the best start in life. This project developed an evidence-based program for young children in disadvantaged families to promote their development in cognitive and psychosocial areas, and to empower their parents with the strategies to support their children's development. The results indicated improvement in child learning, decrease in child behavior problems and parental stress, after intervention. The program is welcome by parents and service providers. This project is a step towards evidence-based policy, emphasizing primary prevention through early intervention for young children and their parents.

PolyU 5019-PPR-11
Public Security and Personal Privacy: The Use of Biometrics Technology in Hong Kong
PI: Dr Lei ZHANG

This project investigated the current use of biometrics technology in Hong Kong and the acceptance of Hong Kong residents to biometrics authentication. An online and paper survey was conducted from 2012 to 2013. There were 500 subjects involved in this survey, which covers basic information about the interviewees; knowledge on biometrics verification in public; understanding on biometrics verification and fingerprints verification; and aspirations on future development on biometrics verifications. It was found that most people agree that biometrics methods are more reliable than traditional ones, and they concern about security, accuracy and user friendliness of the biometrics methods. Many people think that fingerprint recognition is not reliable and has privacy issues. Most people are open to introduce new biometrics technologies for enhance the security level of public security.

This project also improved significantly a new biometrics technique, the finger-knuckle-print (FKP) based authentication. It offers high security with high privacy protection than the traditional biometrics traits, e.g. fingerprint and face. It may be commercialized soon to provide services in e-business, public security and mobile authentication, etc. The research findings and technical development in this project will provide key information and data support to the government in making public security policies.

HKUST 6002-PPR-11
Financially Sustainable Railway Development Strategies
PI: Prof Hong Kam LO

Developing an efficient public transport system is central to the sustainable development of Hong Kong. This research aims to achieve three objectives: (1) developing an analytical framework to study the relationship between railway and land developments; (2) investigating the distribution of costs, returns, and risks of alternative public-private partnerships for financially sustainable rail infrastructure development; and (3) validating the modeling framework with empirical data from Hong Kong to shed light on possible railway development strategies.

This research has resulted in (1) a good understanding of the transportation needs, the infrastructure cost, property development value, and the possible PPP model to address the risks and returns of different partners and (2) the identification of the failure drivers, causal relationships among failure drivers, and functions of public and private sectors in transportation PPP failure. These outputs would facilitate the development of public policy for (1) planning future rail developments to better satisfy the society's transportation needs and (2) addressing problems associated with failure drivers to successfully deliver transportation PPP projects, with win-win outcomes for both public and private sectors.

HKUST 6003-PPR-11
Resolving the Personalization-Privacy Dilemma
PI: Prof Raymond G SIN

Many of the "free services" (especially personalized services in the digital context) enjoyed by consumers hinge on the ability of firms to use information gathered from consumers to generate revenues. Simply put, consumer trades personal information in exchange for valuable services. The dilemma is that, without sufficient protection on privacy, consumers would not be willing to share personal information; on the other hand, without the ability to gather and use consumer information to generate revenues, firms have no incentive to provide free services that are valuable to consumers. A natural question arises: in balancing consumers' benefits from enjoying these services with the costs of sacrificing privacy, should the government restrict the ability of firms in gathering customer information? Or should it mandate a certain level of data protection? Results from this study suggest that, restricting firms' ability to gather information strictly reduces consumer and social welfare, while mandating firms to protect a certain amount of the gathered information from secondary and commercial uses unambiguously lead to higher welfare.

HKU 7005-PPR-11
Effective governance for energy security in Hong Kong: improving public engagement and public trust in nuclear power decision-making
PI: Dr Daphne Ngar-yin MAH

The threats of global warming and increasingly expensive fossil fuels have prompted many nations to reconsider the development of nuclear power for energy security. The recent release of the Hong Kong government's first climate change strategy in September 2010 has proposed to increase the use of nuclear power from the present 23% to 50% by 2020.

Nuclear power as a key low-carbon energy strategy poses challenges to policy-makers in Hong Kong. Worldwide, the choice of nuclear power and siting decisions often trigger public outcry and subsequently project delays. Nuclear decision-making touches upon issues that extend beyond technical concerns to economic, social, environmental and governance issues. In Hong Kong, nuclear decision-making also involves a wide range of stakeholders outside the government such as the general public, NGOs, the private sector and even stakeholders across the border.

This project explores Hong Kong's nuclear decision-making from the perspective of effective governance, with a particular reference to two key processes - improving public engagement and facilitating trust. We aim to provide a better understanding of public perception of nuclear risks in Hong Kong, the opportunities and barriers to improving public engagement and trust, and how public policy responds and should address those governance issues.

HKU 7006-PPR-11
Mental Health Promotion: Using the Arts to Increase "understanding and support" for People Living with Mental Illness
PI: Dr Rainbow Tin Hung HO

To reduce stigma towards people living with mental illness in Hong Kong, a three-phase community arts project was initiated. In Phase 1, the exhibit was hosted in several public locations in order to initiate understanding and raise awareness. Participants completed surveys and posted comments. In Phase 2, participants viewed the exhibit in an art studio, created art based on their own emotional response and generated recommendations for policies that could alleviate stigma. In Phase 3, people living with mental illness and general members of the community created art together and participated in discussions to evaluate and elaborate on policy recommendations. The result was pragmatic strategies for reducing stigma towards people living with mental illness and increasing social cohesion through 1) formal primary and secondary education curriculum, 2) opportunities to come together in recreational and service activities and 3) continuous media-driven public awareness campaigns. Beyond the specific policy recommendations, this project demonstrated that both viewing and creating art can stimulate social change by activating citizenship through: broadening views that challenge stereotypes; creating opportunities for fostering compassion, understanding and reflection; imagining reasonable courses of collaborative actions; and closing social distance between people living with mental illness and general members of society.

HKU 7007-PPR-11
Land Administration Practices and the Redevelopment of Franchised Bus Depots: an Implicit Consideration Analysis of the Terms of Bus Franchises and Land Leases
PI: Prof Lawrence Wai-Chung LAI

After a careful documentary and valuation exercise, there was no evidence of favoritism in favour of franchised bus companies in individual land sale or lease modification cases.
However, as regards the combination of the old system of allocating bus depots by auction with the new system based on grant of Short Term Tenancies could be a potential issue as there is no need for the bus company to pay a full market price to get land in a competitive manner.

HKU 7011-PPR-11
'Home and Away': Female Transnational Professionals in Hong Kong
PI: Dr Maggy Shuk Yi LEE

The research study examines how and why female expatriates relocate to HK, their needs and aspirations, and the advantages and disadvantages of their mobile lives. The study is based on in-depth interviews with forty highly skilled female expatriates who relocated to HK either as lead migrants or accompanying spouses for economic and non-economic reasons. Single and married women across different cohorts viewed HK as 'a land of opportunities' for career progression and self-development. However, the study also highlights the perceived disadvantages of HK as a place to live and to raise a family, which in turn reflect the downside of HK's economic development. Recent arrivals are particularly critical of the city's lack of social and environmental protection, the rising cost of housing, and a lack of affordable English-language education provisions for their children. While women feel empowered by their mobile lives, some continued to experience stresses and strains as a result of gender responsibilities, family constraints and a loss of financial independence. Although their level of social integration varied, many expatriates adopt specific strategies to reach out to local communities and to become socially and culturally included citizens.

HKU 7016-PPR-11
Polluters or stakeholders, who should pay? Development of a more effective construction waste charging scheme in Hong Kong using system dynamics
PI: Dr Wilson LU

C&D waste is of grave concern in Hong Kong. Based on the 'polluter pays principle', a construction waste disposal charging scheme (CWDCS) has been implemented as one of the major policies for reducing C&D waste. It is found from the research project that the CWDCS is one of the most effective public policies for managing C&D waste. However, it is vitally important for Hong Kong to become a self-sustainable place for managing its waste. Raising the existing CWDCS so as to further minimise C&D waste is high on the Government's agenda. The government has engaged various stakeholders in determining the charging levels. However, this engagement is hampered by a general lack of scientific foundation. By seeing contingent valuation (CV) as a robust theoretical foundation, this research project investigated the stakeholders' willingness to pay (WTP) for enhancing CWM in Hong Kong. The average maximum WTP is around HK$232/t for C&D waste disposal of at landfills. This is higher than the existing charge but much lower than the charges proposed to the government Environment Bureau. The research, to a certain extent, provides a scientific foundation to the heated on-going debate on raising CWDCS in Hong Kong.

HKU 7019-PPR-11
Hong Kong as mainland China's export intermediary: determinants and policy recommendations
PI: Prof Zhigang TAO

While Hong Kong used to play an important role in facilitating China's export to the world, its share of China's exports has significantly declined in more recent years. In this study, we use China's Custom data to analyze the factors affecting the share of China's indirect exports routing through Hong Kong. We find that China's regions geographically closer Hong Kong yet poorer in institutional quality are more likely to use Hong Kong as the export intermediary, and that export destination countries/regions geographically closer to Hong Kong and those with better institutions are more likely to have Hong Kong as the export intermediary. We also find that compared with private enterprises, state-owned enterprises and foreign-invested firms continue to use Hong Kong as the export intermediaries, though their combined share in China's export is shrinking rapidly, and that Hong Kong has an advantage in helping China export differentiated products and reference-priced goods than the homogenous goods. These findings yield policy recommendations for Hong Kong to remain the center for producer services for mainland China and for it to be the gateway for the world to mainland China.

HKIEd 8003-PPR-11
Educational Experiences, Family Relationships and Sense of belonging: Cross-border primary school children commuters
PI: Dr Kit Wa Anita CHAN

This research, based on quantitative and qualitative data, provided important information about the schooling experiences, sense of belonging, identities, caring taking strategies and challenges faced by young cross-border students and their families. It found that most cross-border students (and their parents), despite the tiring journey and heavy transportation cost, preferred Hong Kong schooling to those available on the mainland and identified themselves as Hongkongers than mainlanders. Yet longer traveling time, difficulties of learning traditional Chinese, and inadequate knowledge of Hong Kong and mainland could mitigate children's positive schooling experience and sense of belonging to the city. This study also revealed that social and family background of cross-border students matters. Parents of higher socio-economic status (such as those of university level or above, with higher monthly household income, or of the occupations of managers, administrators and professionals) were more involved in children's education and perceived less difficulties in schooling than those families whose monthly household income was low, parents were less educated or were not living together. These timely findings could help policy makers, educators and service providers to review and devise policies and support appropriate for cross-border students - Hong Kong's legitimate residents and future human resources.

CUHK 8014-PPR-11
Making the Distinction between Nation, State and Country: Examining the Differences between Official Goals, Stakeholder Opinions and Popular Perception in Hong Kong's National Education Policy
PI: Dr Xu Hui Simon SHEN

National education and its curricula for national citizenship are always controversial subjects across the world. Since the return of sovereignty to the People's Republic of China in 1997, advancing education curriculum with stronger national identification has been elevated to a policy priority. This research aims at assessing the effectiveness of the current national education policy in Hong Kong comparing the official discourse with the perceptions by major stakeholders. Drawing from the quantitative responses among students and teachers in late 2011, the paper has analyzed the gap existed between curriculum design and implementation level, highlighting difficulties encountered in constructing national identity under current approach. The research contributes by proposing suggestions to future curriculum design, through emphasizing critical thinking, identifying common values of the Chinese rather than common culture, and allowing the definition of Chinese beyond the PRC boundary.