Published: 11:08, February 11, 2023 | Updated: 18:09, February 11, 2023
Hong Kong professionals to find broader stage in BRI
By William Xu in Hong Kong

Members of the Hong Kong delegation, including Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu, pose for a photo before a tour of THE LINE Experience exhibition to learn about the innovative urban designs of the futuristic city NEOM on Feb 5 2023. They are joined by representatives of the exhibition. (PHOTO COURTESY OF HKSAR GOVERNMENT)

Hong Kong young talents should adopt a “can-do” spirit to seize the vast opportunities under the Belt and Road Initiative, according to two Hong Kong architects who are part of a top-level Hong Kong delegation to the Middle East and have gained fruitful results during the visit.

Nicholas Ho Lik-chi, chairman of Ho & Partners Architects, and James Law Fat-lai, founder and CEO of design company Cybertecture, encouraged local professionals to be more farsighted and open minded so that they can overcome the geographical and cultural barriers when embracing the opportunities on the world stage.

The delegation, led by Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee Kachiu, has extensively met government officials and business leaders and signed 13 memorandums of understanding and letters of intent with local partners during the eight-day visit — from Feb 4 to Saturday — to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

READ MORE: Middle East visit fruitful, enhances understanding, says CE

Speaking to China Daily on Thursday, Law, a veteran architect who has been exploring the Middle East market for more than a decade, said working with BRI countries is an eye-opener for young architects as they can hone their skills in different cultural environments and have the opportunity to build incredible buildings.

His company is working with UAE on Hyperloop, a high-speed transportation system that is expected to carry passengers at a speed of up to 1,200 kilometers per hour and shorten the travel time immensely between Dubai to Abu Dhabi.

The Middle East is undergoing a major revolution in urban design, technology, and transportation design, Law observed. He also envisioned the use of flying buildings, robotic cars, the metaverse and teleportation in the future, prompting him to further strengthen his business connections with the magical land.

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Projects in Belt and Road countries have stimulated his creativity and tapped into his potential to achieve something that seemed difficult, Law said.

Chief Executive John Lee meets with the secretary-general of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, Jasem Mohamed Albudaiwi, in Riyadh, on Feb 6, 2023. (PHOTO COURTESY OF HKSAR GOVERNMENT)

"Once I arrived, I got the feeling that these are places with a lot of incredible opportunities,” he said. Law’s firm received its first order in Dubai, the most populated city in the UAE, more than a decade ago, making him one of Hong Kong’s pioneering architects in exploring opportunities in the region.

Law admitted that newcomers like him faced many challenges back then. Problems arose in many areas, including drawing up contracts, and coordinating plans and finance.

Law said he cherishes these valuable moments as they gave him insights and experiences that money cannot buy. And he really wanted to create some projects that he is proud of, he said.

READ MORE: HK delegate: SAR to shine in high-quality BRI development

"I cannot agree with (Law) more,” said Ho, whose company signed a memorandum with local companies on a smart city project, Masdar City, in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE. It will provide design and technology solutions for helping the project reduce its carbon footprint.

Ho said Law has been an accidental pioneer of the Belt and Road Initiative and brought the “Hong Kong spirit” out to those countries.

Chief Executive John Lee (left) attends a dinner hosted by the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the People's Republic of China to the United Arab Emirates, Zhang Yiming (right) in Abu Dhabi, the UAE, Feb 7, 2023. (PHOTO COURTESY OF HKSAR GOVERNMENT)

After the delegation’s visit, the world will be better informed that the city’s professionals are ready to provide their expertise to overseas clients, especially those participating in the Belt and Road Initiative, Ho said.

Although there are still cultural, linguistic and communication barriers to overcome, Law said that people from different regions are more alike than one would imagine once one has the courage to take the first step. 

"We both have big dreams, and some of the dreams are much aligned. ... The Belt and Road (Initiative) has been laid out for us. We need to make the effort to engage with it,” he said.

Contact the writer at willaim@chinadailyhk.com

Shadow Li and Liu Xiaohan contributed to the story