President's Story

President Ir Eric Ma Siu-cheung: Follow the past and herald the future


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Ir Eric Ma Siu-cheung, the President of The Hong Kong Institution of Engineers for Session 2024/2025, wishes to use his passion and prowess as a civil engineer to inject new stimulus into the industry.


The remarkable journey


With an illustrious 38-year tenure in the industry, Ir Ma's passion for engineering has carved him an extraordinary career path. Currently, Ir Ma is an Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer of one of the major property developers in Hong Kong.


Before joining the group, Ir Ma had the honour of assuming key positions in the HKSAR Government. In January 2014, he joined the HKSAR Government as the Under Secretary for Development, and was subsequently appointed as the Secretary for Development in February 2017, a position he held until the completion of the term in June 2017.


Reflecting upon his career, Ir Ma observed that his noteworthy projects span a wide range of domains: on the ground, out at the sea, and up in the air. His influential contributions to the development and infrastructure of Hong Kong include the Central-Wan Chai Bypass, Wanchai reclamation project, the development of Shatin New Town and Tseung Kwan O New Town, the transformation of Kai Tak, the planning of the third runway, and the redevelopment of Terminal 2 of the Hong Kong International Airport. Moreover, Ir Ma also spearheaded a number of overseas projects, such as ports and airports, effectively showcasing Hong Kong's expertise on a global scale.



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The Central–Wan Chai Bypass, an example of a project Ir Ma was involved in during his distinguished career


Unveiling a vision


The height of his achievement today might seem to be a long shot for him when he was a young Secondary 4 student, who was unable to divert his gaze from the captivating scenes outside his classroom windows.


“It was about 1978 or 1979 during my time in secondary school. There was a construction site just across from our school, and I found myself constantly peering outside, fascinated by the workers and their craft,” said Ir Ma. Witnessing the creation of a building from scratch ignited his interest, ultimately guiding his decision to pursue a career in engineering.


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Ir Ma, then a junior secondary student, visiting the Plover Cove Reservoir Dam


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Ir Ma (2nd right) with his senior secondary school friends


Following his graduation from Secondary 5, Ir Ma opted not to proceed to Secondary 7 but embarked on his engineering education journey by obtaining a diploma in structural engineering from The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU, then known as Hong Kong Polytechnic) in 1982.



I believe one must keep observing and engaging with something to develop a genuine interest in it. In my experience, once I find something I'm passionate about, I tend to excel in it.


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Ir Ma (1st left) with his fellow graduates at HKU's graduation ceremony


He further pursued a higher diploma in structural engineering in 1984. Eventually, he completed his bachelor's degree in engineering (civil) from The University of Hong Kong (HKU) and later earned a Master of Engineering degree in Transportation Planning from Monash University in Australia.


Though he wasn't an exemplary student who consistently achieves high scores across various subjects during his secondary school years, Ir Ma experienced a significant transformation after discovering his passion for engineering. He graduated with distinction, propelled by his newfound drive.


Thanks to his academic performance, Ir Ma was entrusted with the responsibility of leading a major road building project in Tin Shui Wai in 1991. This endeavour was particularly significant as the area had just undergone reclamation and was eagerly awaiting new infrastructure. Despite having just acquired his engineering licence, he managed to lead the team skilfully and completed the task under a fast-tracked programme to meet the rapid population intake in Tin Shui Wai.


“It was incredibly rewarding to witness the transformation of the land, once occupied by fish ponds and farms, into well-designed roads and housing estates. It also benefited the local community because it greatly improved traffic efficiency,” Ir Ma expressed with satisfaction.


Pioneering a world-class infrastructure endeavour


Among the notable projects Ir Ma has been involved in, the West Kowloon High Speed Rail Terminus stands out as a memorable achievement. Located in the heart of Hong Kong, this iconic underground railway station is one of the largest of its kind in the world. This 30m-depth multi-level structure boasts an expansive usable floor area of approximately 400,000 square metres.


Noting the station is akin to an airport terminal, Ir Ma emphasised that constructing it underground presented a much greater challenge. “We undertook extensive optimisation efforts, considering the project scale, project timeframe and the land condition,” Ir Ma explained. “Construction had to proceed cautiously because it is located in the bustling Jordan area, making road closures difficult. The lack of comprehensive records regarding the underground conditions posed a further obstacle, given the district's age.”


At its peak, the project involved as many as 600 professional on-site staff working on various tasks, such as building services, mechanical, civil structure, architecture, and quantity surveying. “Coordinating the efforts of different parties was one of the toughest challenges,” noted Ir Ma. “We had to build, design and modify simultaneously to race against the clock to ensure timely completion.”


By the time of the station's grand opening, Ir Ma had already transitioned from his role as project director, but he expressed immense satisfaction with its success. “Witnessing the station's extensive usage, especially in the wake of the pandemic, fills me with great pride,” he said, envisioning an expanded role for the station in connecting Hong Kong with the Mainland.


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Two views of the West Kowloon High Speed Rail Terminus


Recognising the public's anticipation for the “metroisation” of the high-speed rail link connecting Hong Kong and Shenzhen, Ir Ma pointed out that this aspect was duly considered in the project's planning, expressed his hope for the station to continually enhance its functionality and efficiency for the benefits of passengers.


Having engaged in diverse facets of engineering work, from policy formulation and programme delivery to resource allocation, both within the government and private sectors, Ir Ma possesses a thorough understanding of the industry's challenges and development, making him well-equipped to provide comprehensive suggestions and insights.


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Ir Ma (2nd right) at the press conference in which the Sustainable Lantau Blueprint was unveiled


Ir Ma is also committed to sharing his knowledge and experience with the younger generation, exemplified by his involvement in various education institutions. He serves as a member of the Council of The Chinese University of Hong Kong and a member of the Court of the City University of Hong Kong. He is also an Honorary Professor of the School of Science and Technology of Hong Kong Metropolitan University, an Adjunct Professor of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Faculty of Construction and Environment of the PolyU, and an Adjunct Professor of the Department of Real Estate and Construction, Faculty of Architecture of the HKU.


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Ir Ma delivering a talk for the Department of Real Estate and Construction of HKU's Faculty of Architecture


Session 2024/2025 - Grow the Nexus, Link the Links (一脈相承,縱深相連)


For his presidency term, Ir Ma has chosen “Grow the Nexus, Link the Links” as the theme. The theme underscores the HKIE's determination to serve as a “nexus” in the global engineering community, connecting the Mainland and overseas professional engineering communities as a super-connector.


Ir Ma highlighted the continuity of his theme with the broader “Time to Change” roadmap drawn by previous presidents. While previous themes focused on service and instigating change, Ir Ma aims to build upon their legacy and create more opportunities for young engineers within the HKIE's structure. This will contribute to improving succession planning within the Institution.


“When I first joined the Council in 2017, I started to participate in the Institution's initiatives for promoting STEM education to secondary school students,” said Ir Ma, recalling how his interest in working with schools to cultivate young people's interest in engineering was sparked. Ir Ma was also inspired by Past President Ir Aaron Bok's passion for the industry, and expressed the need to attract more young people to engineering by dispelling the misconception that an engineer's role is limited to daily construction site work.


The theme “Grow the Nexus, Link the Links” comprises three sub-themes:


  1. Governance Enhancement: Strengthening the governance structure of the HKIE to ensure effective decision-making, accountability, transparency, member participation, and succession planning
  2. Promote Member Unity: Fostering a sense of unity, collaboration, and camaraderie among members, creating a strong and supportive community
  3. Sustainability and Future-proofing: Ensuring the long-term availability and quality of engineering professionals by focusing on attracting, nurturing, and retaining talent


In terms of governance, Ir Ma aims to provide clear definitions and guidelines for members to follow, addressing technical limitations exposed during the pandemic when face-to-face meetings were not possible.



I envision the HKIE playing a more significant role as a connector, fostering stronger links between universities and the engineering community, as well as Hong Kong's connection with the Mainland and overseas.



In line with this, Ir Ma aims to encourage young people in Hong Kong to explore the Mainland market, particularly the Hong Kong-Guangdong-Macau Greater Bay Area. By promoting cross-border engagement, he hopes to open doors for engineers to tap into the vast opportunities offered by the thriving engineering sector in the area.


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Ir Ma (centre) on a site visit to the Dongjiang River Basin


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At the HKIE Fiesta 2017


In addition to the Mainland market, Ir Ma also emphasises enhancing relationships with the HKIE's overseas chapters in the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada, and creating a global network of engineering professionals.


With next year marking the 50th anniversary of the HKIE, Ir Ma has plans for office renovation so the HKIE can greet its members with a fresh and welcoming look in 2025. As part of the anniversary celebrations, design competitions for an anniversary logo and mascot will be held. “I hope these activities will engage more members and inspire new ideas, fostering a sense of pride and unity within the Institution,” shared Ir Ma.


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At the World Sustainable Built Environment Conference 2017, where experts worldwide shared ideas on transforming cities


Nurturing the youth


According to Ir Ma, the engineering industry faces its greatest challenge in nurturing talent. With the number of candidates entering DSE dwindling to about 40,000 to 50,000 annually, the talent pool today has significantly contracted compared to his own student days, when it boasted around 120,000 candidates.


“Many young people opt for finance or medicine over engineering,” Ir Ma acknowledged the prevalent trend, “but an engineering career has in fact a tremendous potential due to the versatility and transferability of its knowledge and training, which can be applied across various sectors.”


Though the salary of an engineer may be relatively lower during the apprenticeship period, Ir Ma is assured that this situation is temporary, and highlighted the long-term rewards that come with obtaining professional qualifications.



Amidst Hong Kong's continuous development, it is crucial for young people to recognise the abundant opportunities available within our field.



Encouraging self-learning, Ir Ma affirmed that while technological advancements have streamlined work processes, there is a risk of becoming overreliant on them. “Young engineers need to cultivate a deep understanding of engineering knowledge and skills, enabling them to verify the accuracy of computer-generated information. It is also essential for us all to expand our knowledge by engaging with professionals from diverse fields and embrace cross-disciplinary learning”, said Ir Ma.


For better work-life balance


Ir Ma wears many hats, but he always has a way to de-stress and maintain a healthy lifestyle—practising tai chi for the past four years.


“In addition to being an excellent exercise for relaxation and physical training, tai chi encompasses essential life philosophies,” Ir Ma attested to the benefits of tai chi.


For example, not forcing movement, relaxing the body and using softness to overcome hardness, “I always keep in mind the concept of harmony and balance behind these principles,” he said.


By practising tai chi, characterised by gentle, soft, slow and deliberate movements that accentuate the use of mind rather than force, Ir Ma managed to maintain his physical and mental well-being. He now attends weekly tai chi classes led by a professional instructor. He encourages young people to prioritise exercise as well, stressing that investing in health is tantamount to investing in wealth.


“Another habit of mine is that I maintain a regular sleep schedule, regardless of the challenges I am facing,” said Ir Ma. “It is important to ensure sufficient rest to preserve energy for dealing with daily issues effectively.”


It is important to learn to let go of things, said Ir Ma, as a team leader who has learned from his decades of experience. “Delegating power and tasks fosters a sense of empowerment within the team. And being tolerant of mistakes enables team members to grow.”


Under Ir Ma's leadership, the Institution will usher in a new chapter on its journey towards the 50th anniversary.


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