Alumni Spotlight in Hong Kong- Frankie Yick
Since completing his Masters at Birmingham Frankie Yick (MSc Industrial Management, 1980) has gone on to a varied career in manufacturing, transport logistics and most recently politics, where he has been working to keep Hong Kong’s public transport system as one of the world leaders. A proud graduate of the University, Frankie has hosted events for fellow alumni and continues to stay in touch with friends from his time in the UK.
Why did you study at Birmingham?
I was initially inspired by my Industrial Engineering Professor during my studies at Hong Kong University – he had graduated from Birmingham. As the second largest city in the UK and a highly industrialised area, studying Industrial Management at Birmingham felt like the right choice for me. Thirdly, the university campus is relatively large and centralised, forming its own community. It is a very nice place at which to study.
What are your memories of your time here?
My classmates and schoolmates were friendly. A group of us studied and worked closely together. That year was one of the best times of my life and I enjoyed very much the friendships I developed there. Even after 35 years, we are still in contact.
Can you outline your career path following university?
I started as an engineer in a multinational toy manufacturing company, continuing to work in the industrial sector for 14 years in various managerial positions. With the opening up of China in the same period, a lot of manufacturing activities started to move to the mainland because of cheap land and labour costs.
I was then recruited by the Wharf Group, a Hong Kong conglomerate as the divisional chief in their transportation arm, running 10 businesses including The Star Ferry, the Hong Kong Tramways, The Cross Harbour Tunnel operations, the construction and management of the Western Harbour Crossing, learner driver training and electronic toll collection systems. In 2006 I started to get involved in logistics with container terminal and air cargo terminal operations. In 2012, I was elected to represent the Transport Functional Constituency in the Legislative Council of the HKSAR.
So I have moved from manufacturing to the service industry and then into politics. I am basically a full time legislator even though I am still a full time employee of the Wharf Group.
Hong Kong faces unique challenges with its transport links. How has the territory tackled these in the past, and what are the plans for the future?
Hong Kong’s public transport has been the envy of the world. It is basically all operated by the private sector without government subsidy. The Third Comprehensive Transport Study 15 years ago has set the direction to adopt a mass transit railway system as the back bone of public transport, while other transport modes such as bus, minibus, taxi and ferry services are supplementary services to meet the community’s demand.
More rail lines are now under development to meet the future demand, especially for new housing developments outside the established urban areas. When all these new rail lines are completed, they will cover 70 per cent of the population. Other than the well-developed rail network, the fares on all transport modes are relatively affordable compared to other cities in the developed world. The government is now conducting another strategic study to examine the roles of the supplementary transport modes to see how we can maintain their sustainable development in the next decade.
However, as time changes some of the operating modes, like the ferry services to the outlying islands, will need financial support from the government in order to maintain those services, because of the ever-rising operating cost with limited growth of residents there.
The Hong Kong International Airport has been ranked as the global leader for a number of years and Hong Kong is regarded as one of the major international aviation hubs in the region. With the airport almost up to its capacity, planning for a third runway is now underway, with the goal of commissioning the work for 2023. Hong Kong needs to build on its strength in order to ensure that it is always one step ahead of the competition.
As a member of the Legislative Council, what are the greatest political challenges Hong Kong faces in the future?
After the turn down by the pan-democrats in the Legislative Council on political reform towards universal suffrage of the Chief Executive in Hong Kong recently, the biggest political issue facing the territory is how to improve the governance within the current electoral system.
I hope people in Hong Kong will put aside the political squabble and accept the reality of ‘One Country-Two Systems’ and move forward with economic development to further improve the livelihood of people here. On the other hand, I hope our government will be more open-minded in listening to the people of Hong Kong during their policy formulation process. After all, politics is about the art of compromise, not just win or lose!
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