THE CONSULATE GENERAL OF SWITZERLAND IN HONG KONG

 

Hong Kong Annual Economic report 2015
May 16, 2016
Macao Annual Economic report 2015
June 7, 2016
Archives

ECONOMY & FINANCE

  • Are BEA's mass sackings just the tip of the iceberg for HK? Stuttering city economy and technological revolution in financial industry decimates jobs (SCMP, June 3)
  • Job prospects for new Hong Kong graduates decline (SCMP, June 8)
  • HK tycoon forecasts further 10pc drop in property prices before hitting bottom at year's end (SCMP, June 8)
  • HK now second most expensive city in Asia Pacific, survey finds (SCMP, June 9)
  • HK exports tipped to fall 4 per cent in 2016 as gloom deepens (SCMP, June 16)
  • HK's Central overtakes London's West End as the world's most expensive office location (SCMP, June 16)
  • Brexit vote took me by surprise, HK's financial chief admits (SCMP, June 27)
  • HK could benefit as Brexit forces recalibration of London's role as a financial capital (SCMP, June 28)
  • HK's already hard-hit retailers to feel Brexit bruises (SCMP, June 29)

DOMESTIC POLITICS

  • Sea of candles in HK at June 4 vigil despite boycott calls (SCMP, June 5)
  • Denise Ho urges L'Oreal boss in HK to explain concert cancellation SCMP, June 13)
  • Former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa cites lack of party politics for poor HK governance (SCMP, June 14)
  • Bookseller Lam Wing-kee reveals explosive details of his mainland China detention, claims Lee Po told him he was 'taken away from HK' (SCMP, June 17)
  • Bookseller Lam Wing-kee leads thousands in protest through streets of HK (SCMP, June 19)
  • CY Leung's three-pronged strategy for settling bookseller row (SCMP, June 21)
  • Spell out how Hongkongers who break mainland law are dealt with, CY Leung says in letter to Beijing (SCMP, June 22)
  • Chief Executive CY Leung seeks new Beijing deal on detention as he gives strongest hint yet on being game for second term (SCMP, June 28)
  • Use international treaty to improve HK-mainland China notification mechanism, experts say (SCMP, June 30)

INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

  • EU envoy reassures Hongkongers on future after Brexit (SCMP, June 29)

LEGAL AFFAIRS AND HUMAN RIGHTS

  • HK courts face unprecedented social and political challenges, says city's chief justice (SCMP, June 11)
  • British human rights panel claims 'severe breach' by China in its actions towards HK (SCMP, June 29)

HEALTH

  • Solder and collective failure to blame for HK tainted water scandal, report finds (SCMP, June 1):
  • New hand, foot and mouth disease outbreak at child care centre takes total incidents to 241 in just five months (SCMP, June 3)
  • Livelihoods on the edge after bird flu discovery sparks city-wide suspension of live poultry trading (SCMP, June 6)
  • CY Leung apologises to residents affected by lead-in-water scandal (SCMP, June 7)
  • Critical condition? HK health minister says medical council reform under threat as another party withdraws support (SCMP, June 29)

ENVIRONMENT

  • Trash talk (SCMP, June 13)
  • Controversial ivory trade to continue for five more years before full ban imposed (SCMP, June 21)
  • Harmful ozone levels drop in HK, Macau and Guangdong (SCMP, June 29)

CULTURE AND EDUCATION

  • HK universities lag behind in creativity and risk-taking, rankings compiler says (SCMP, June 13)
  • No school when red or black rainstorm warnings are sent before 8am, HK Education Bureau says (SCMP, June 16)
  • University of HK no longer in top three Asian universities (SCMP, June 21)

PRESS ARTICLES RELATED TO SWITZERLAND AND SWISS MATTERS

  • The longest and deepest tunnel opens in Switzerland (Ming Pao, June 1)

  • Swiss say 'no thanks' to unconditional basic income for all (AFP, SCMP, June 5)

Economy + Finance
Are BEA's mass sackings just the tip of the iceberg for HK? Stuttering city economy and technological revolution in financial industry decimates jobs (SCMP, June 3): HK lender Bank of East Asia Ltd announced it will reduce the size of it brokerage operations in the city, cutting 180 jobs, or 3.8 per cent of its workforce, as part of a cost cut and operational consolidation, amid a downturn in trading volumes on the local stock exchange. HK's economy grew 0.8 per cent in the first quarter on year, its slowest pace of growth in four years, down from 1.93 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2015. Turnover on the HK stock exchange during the first quarter is down 23 per cent on year. Other banks in the city said they have no plans to cut back on staff.

Job prospects for new Hong Kong graduates decline (SCMP, June 8): The city has nurtured more workers with a university degree in the past two decades, but less than half of them could take up top managerial and professional jobs and they made less money than older graduates, research from the Legislative Council secretariat has found. It showed that the proportion of the local workforce with degree-level education had risen from 9 per cent to 29 per cent from 1994 to last year, but less than half of them could take up top-level managerial and professional jobs. The research office said the job mismatch was because the creation of high-end jobs could not keep pace with manpower supply amid slow structural change towards knowledge-based activities. It noted that more workers with degrees needed to take up less skilled occupations, resulting in a big wage discount.

HK tycoon forecasts further 10pc drop in property prices before hitting bottom at year's end (SCMP, June 8): Real estate tycoon Henry Cheng has predicted that HK property prices will drop another 10 per cent before hitting bottom at year's end. According to government data, home prices have fallen 10.78 per cent from their September 2015 peak. The tycoon expected the government to relax the current cooling measures if house prices fell to “a certain extent”.

HK now second most expensive city in Asia Pacific, survey finds (SCMP, June 9): On the strength of its dollar, HK has surpassed Shanghai to become the second most expensive city in Asia Pacific, trailing only Tokyo, according to ECA's survey comparing the cost of living worldwide. The data was compiled based on living costs such as food, clothing, household items, but did not take accommodation into account. Over 140 countries were surveyed to reflect cost comparisons for expatriates worldwide. HK's position as most expensive city in China would be even more apparent if the survey took accommodation into account, according to Professor Leo Sin, an economist at the Chinese University of HK, who said that soaring rental prices made the difference in the cost of living between HK and the mainland even more prominent.

HK exports tipped to fall 4 per cent in 2016 as gloom deepens (SCMP, June 16): HK's Trade Development Council (TDC) has cut its forecast for the city's exports this year from flat to a 4 per cent decline, a prospect that would put the figures on a par with the depth of the global financial crisis in 2009. The cut came after exports performed worse than expected between January and April, shrinking 5.6 per cent compared with a year earlier. TDC director of research Nicholas Kwan said the outlook was clouded by a worsening economic downturn across the border, waning growth in the United States, and deflationary pressure in the European Union and Japan.

HK's Central overtakes London's West End as the world's most expensive office location (SCMP, June 16): Central in HK has reclaimed its position as the most expensive office district in the world while West Kowloon remains in the fifth spot, according to CBRE Research's latest semi-annual survey on global prime office occupancy costs. The prime occupancy costs – which include rent, local taxes and service charges – in Central topped the list at US$290 per square foot per year, about 10.7 per cent higher than the US$262 in London's West End, which dropped to second place. Among the 126 cities surveyed, the two districts in HK saw the largest and third-largest year-on-year increases in such costs – 19.5 per cent for West Kowloon and 14.2 per cent for Central.

Brexit vote took me by surprise, HK's financial chief admits (SCMP, June 27): The decision by British voters to leave the European Union was completely unexpected, HK's financial chief John Tsang said, as he warned of further uncertainty in the city and world economy as a result of the repercussions. Financial Secretary John Tsang expressed concern that doubts in the aftermath of Brexit would further unsettle global trade and finance and affect HK's economy. The concern was shared by HK Monetary Authority chief Norman Chan when he urged Hongkongers to “stand ready to cope with continued market volatilities and to manage their risks prudently”. But in an interview with the SCMP, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying expressed confidence that HK could seize advantages arising from Brexit.

HK could benefit as Brexit forces recalibration of London's role as a financial capital (SCMP, June 28): Brexit may well be one of the most important black swans in recent memory, with US$2 trillion erased from global markets on June 24 alone, but things may not be so bad, at least not from a HK point of view. From an international competition perspective, London is a major competitor to HK as a gateway for Europe. For example, London is the second largest offshore yuan trading centre after HK. London is also the second major market in talks about establishing a stock connect scheme with the Shanghai Stock Exchange. HK and Shanghai established a link in 2014. There also repercussions for London's leading role as a fund management centre. Funds issued in the City can be sold in European Union. While it is not clear how the UK will negotiate its exit from the EU, it's likely that some fund houses will set up offices in other financial hubs such as Dublin. HK could be another choice as we already enjoy a mutual recognition scheme with mainland China such that funds domiciled in HK that meet certain criteria can be marketed to millions of potential investors on the mainland.

HK's already hard-hit retailers to feel Brexit bruises (SCMP, June 29): HK's already struggling retail sector may be hit further as a result of Britain's vote to leave the EU, according to analysts. Experts now say they expect tourist numbers to decline and outbound travel to grow on the back of a stronger US dollar and weaker Chinese yuan, meaning less spending here. HK retail sales have hit a wall since tourist numbers from the mainland started declining sharply a year ago. But analysts say the worst may not be over, after the shock decision by Britain triggered global risk aversion, and will continue to push higher the value of US dollar. “The retail downturn is going to continue,” Morgan Stanley said in its latest snapshot of global reaction to the Brexit, noting HK's outbound travel is already growing due to the stronger local currency, which is pegged to the US dollar.

Domestic politics
Sea of candles in HK at June 4 vigil despite boycott calls (SCMP, June 5): Tens of thousands of candles lit up Victoria Park in what was at the same time communal mourning for pro-democracy protesters killed in and around Tiananmen Square 27 years ago and a show of defiance to those who believe the gathering is a waste of time. Despite a student-led boycott of the annual candlelight vigil – which saw a much smaller number gather at alternative events across the city – organisers put the turnout in the park at 125,000, 10,000 down from last year and the lowest since the 20th anniversary vigil in 2009. A total of about 2,500 joined alternative events at two universities where student unions staged their own forums to focus attention on HK's own future. China's foreign ministry, meanwhile, responded angrily to the US State Department's statement demanding an end to the harassment of commemorators and a full public account of what happened on June 4, 1989.

Denise Ho urges L'Oreal boss in HK to explain concert cancellation SCMP, June 13): Canto-pop star Denise Ho has ramped up the pressure on L'Oreal, directly contacting the ­cosmetic giant's top official in HK to demand a “sincere” explanation about its controversial cancellation of her mini-concert. L'Oreal has been accused of ditching Ho, an outspoken democracy activist who joined the Occupy protests, for fear of losing business on the mainland. Ho urged public support for an online petition created by retired Paris-based teacher Beatrice Desgranges demanding L'Oreal reconsider the cancellation of the concert. The petition had more than 66,000 signatures by 10.30pm June 12. The decision to cancel the concert due to “possible safety reasons” was made after Beijing newspaper Global Times accused Lancome, a ­L'Oreal brand, of inviting “a HK independence advocate”. Many mainland internet users threatened to boycott the brand.

Former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa cites lack of party politics for poor HK governance (SCMP, June 14): Former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa has urged HK's government and pro-establishment politicians to build a close partnership to overcome the failures of an executive-led system and solve the city's myriad problems. Tung admitted that the past three administrations – including his own – had failed to run an executive-led government as envisioned in the Basic Law while it had been the model of the colonial government before 1997. “The problem is the chief executive does not lead any political parties, while the lawmakers are popularly elected,” he explained. “They represent different interest groups, and have thus constantly run into disputes with one another and the SAR government.” The government and its traditional political allies should work more closely to forge “a closer partnership relationship” he said, and allow politicians to have a greater say in policymaking. Tung, a vice-chairman of the National Committee of the ­Chinese People's Political and Consultative Conference, also appealed to the pan-democratic camp to be rational and constructive, warning independence advocates of consequences.

Bookseller Lam Wing-kee reveals explosive details of his mainland China detention, claims Lee Po told him he was 'taken away from HK' (SCMP, June 17): Lam Wing-kee, one of the five Causeway Bay booksellers who went missing last year and turned up in mainland custody blew the lid on what happened to them, revealing that he had been kidnapped at the border and put through eight months of mental torture. “It can happen to you too,” Lam Wing-kee warned Hongkongers as he revealed that he had met one of his previously missing associates, Lee Po, who told him he had also been abducted in HK. The Causeway Bay Books store manager said he had decided to risk his personal safety in speaking out because this was a matter that jeopardised the “one country, two systems” policy under which HK is governed. The mysterious disappearances of the five men involved in selling books full of gossip about China's leaders began in October last year. Gui Minhai vanished first from Pattaya in Thailand. Lam, Cheung Chi-ping and Lui Por went missing while on the mainland. Lee Po disappeared from HK in December. All five eventually surfaced on the mainland, appearing on state media to claim they had gone there voluntarily.

Bookseller Lam Wing-kee leads thousands in protest through streets of HK (SCMP, June 19): Thousands of protesters took to HK's streets in a strong show of support for a bookseller who returned from mainland custody to claim he had been kidnapped, even as his previously missing colleagues disputed his story and police on both sides of the border said they were discussing cooperation to resolve the controversy. Lam Wing-kee led an estimated 6,000 people on a march from Causeway Bay to Beijing's liaison office. Police said the turnout was 1,800 at its peak. On revealing he had been nabbed after crossing the border into Shenzhen last October, Lam also claimed that his Causeway Bay Books associate Lee Po had told him he was kidnapped from HK in December. Lee has consistently said he went to the mainland voluntarily. Speaking to the media for the first time since Lam's claims, Lee said: “It's true that we have met. But I didn't tell him how I returned to the mainland. I decline to admit what he said about me.”

CY Leung's three-pronged strategy for settling bookseller row (SCMP, June 21): HK's leader promised he would write to Beijing to officially register public concerns about the bookseller controversy, making it a matter of importance on the record for the city and central governments. Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying also undertook to improve the notification system between police on both sides, and send delegates across the border to follow up if necessary. Responding for the first time to returned bookseller Lam Wing-kee's explosive claims about his abduction and eight months of detention on the mainland, Leung tried to reassure a jittery public that his administration would protect Hongkongers. But he refused to say what he would do if the mainland sought the return of Lam, who said he was nabbed by agents from a central special investigation unit when he crossed the border into Shenzhen in October. Lam ran afoul of mainland authorities by smuggling books that are banned across the border for their critical and gossip-filled content about China's leaders, and could still be wanted there.

Spell out how Hongkongers who break mainland law are dealt with, CY Leung says in letter to Beijing (SCMP, June 22): The city's leader CY Leung has written to Beijing over the bookseller controversy, seeking clarification on how it deals with HK residents breaking mainland laws and whether agents from across the border have operated beyond their jurisdiction. But Lam Wing-kee, the bookseller at the centre of the storm, told the SCMP that he had no doubt, after eight months of detention on the mainland, that the two officers who escorted him back to HK were carrying out unauthorised law enforcement work in the city. Lam's story has added to speculation that something similar happened to his four publishing associates who also disappeared under suspicious circumstances last year and turned up later on the mainland, even though they insisted they had gone there voluntarily. The crackdown on the booksellers, who specialised in publications full of gossip and criticism about China's leaders, sparked widespread public concern about protecting Hongkongers and whether “one country, two systems” had been compromised. It is understood that the chief executive's letter was sent to the State Council's HK and Macau Affairs Office.

Chief Executive CY Leung seeks new Beijing deal on detention as he gives strongest hint yet on being game for second term (SCMP, June 28): Beijing should inform HK “as soon as possible” when it detains its residents and improve the notification mechanism to the standards of the city's arrangements with foreign countries, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has told the SCMP. Leung also revealed his intention to wait until after September to decide whether to seek a second term, even as he gave his strongest hint yet that he was raring to go. The chief executive spoke of solving the notification problem as the central government agreed on June 27 to start discussions on the mechanism. This was in response to a request from Leung prompted by public concern about mainland authorities detaining HK booksellers without informing the city or giving them recourse to due process.

Use international treaty to improve HK-mainland China notification mechanism, experts say (SCMP, June 30): The notification mechanism between HK and the mainland on the detention of local residents should be improved with reference to the international treaty on consular relations, according to legal experts in the city. Their comments came after Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said the current cross-border notification arrangement should be raised to the same standard as the ones the city had with foreign countries. While Leung did not specify the specific standards the mechanism should be raised to, University of HK law professor Simon Young said improvements could be made by referencing the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. Former government chief prosecutor Grenville Cross echoed Young's comment, saying that any improvements should be modelled on the Vienna Convention. In response to inquiries by the Post, three foreign consulates in HK – Australia, Sweden and Switzerland – said their countries abided by the protocols stipulated in the Vienna Convention if a HK resident was detained in their countries.

International relations
EU envoy reassures Hongkongers on future after Brexit (SCMP, June 29): Vincent Piket, the European Union's top diplomat in HK, has reassured residents that its ties with the city will remain “very close” even after Britain formally leaves the union. Vincent Piket also dismissed concerns over access to the 27 member states for Hongkongers holding passports issued by the British government as “speculative”. He said Hongkongers will continue to “have full access to the EU” because the general practice is only to reject entry based on perception of illegal immigration.

Legal affairs and human rights
HK courts face unprecedented social and political challenges, says city's chief justice (SCMP, June 11): Despite facing unprecedented social and political challenges, HK courts would continue to apply the law “in an even-handed and principled manner”, the city's head of judges Geoffrey Ma pledged at a legal event. There had been recent events, he said, in which the courts' work had been debated by a polarised public. Ma reiterated that the courts' role was to adhere to the law strictly and apply it “in an even-handed and principled manner”. Although falling short of specifying the challenges, the chief justice's comment came just weeks after the visit of Zhang Dejing, chairman of the National People's Congress, who urged the government and judiciary to apply the law fairly and not to “tolerate illegal behaviour”. Protests at court buildings have become increasingly common and tense recently for politically related cases, sometimes with protesters outside fiercely criticising the decisions of judicial officers.

British human rights panel claims 'severe breach' by China in its actions towards HK (SCMP, June 29): Britain should comprehensively review its policies towards China in view of its human rights crackdown, a Conservative Party panel made clear in a report citing the disappearances of HK booksellers as part of a “severe breach” of the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law. In response, the HK government said in a statement that the city “had been operating smoothly under the principle of 'one country, two systems'” in accordance with the Basic Law.

Health
Solder and collective failure to blame for HK tainted water scandal, report finds (SCMP, June 1): An independent investigative panel issued a damning report on last year's lead-in-water scandal, blaming it on a “classic case of buck-passing” and urging the government to retest drinking water at all the city's public housing estates. The commission, led by a High Court judge, was satisfied that leaded solder in the pipes had directly caused the contamination, even though, on paper, the Housing Authority, Water Supplies Department, their contractors and licensed plumbers were all supposed to use lead-free solder in fresh water pipes. “In practice, however, this multi-barrier checking system turned out to be no more than a paper system in which every party transferred the duty of supervision to the other, resulting in a classic case of buck-passing,” the report concluded.

New hand, foot and mouth disease outbreak at child care centre takes total incidents to 241 in just five months (SCMP, June 3): The Centre for Health Protection has warned of the danger of hand, foot and mouth disease after another child care centre experienced an outbreak, pushing the number of such incidents at educational and child care institutions this year to 241. The spokesman of the Centre reminded the public, especially the management of educational and child care institutions, to maintain good air circulation, clean children's toys and other objects thoroughly, and keep children's hands clean.

Livelihoods on the edge after bird flu discovery sparks city-wide suspension of live poultry trading (SCMP, June 6): Trading in live poultry has been suspended city-wide after the potentially deadly H7N9 bird flu virus was found in a bird's faecal sample, leaving vendors and shoppers who relied on live chicken devastated. Supply and trading of all live poultry – both imported and local – has been suspended in the city during follow-up investigations to trace the source of the virus. Meanwhile, the Hospital Authority would monitor whether any patients developed symptoms that could indicate the virus and review their history of contact with other people. The Centre for Health Protection would keep track of poultry workers' health.

CY Leung apologises to residents affected by lead-in-water scandal (SCMP, June 7): Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has apologised for the distress caused to public estate residents affected by the last year's lead-in-water scandal. These were his first remarks on a report released by an independent investigative panel. “We will seriously follow up on the advice [on improvements] from the investigative panel,” Leung added. On May 31, the investigative panel issued a report on the lead-in-water scandal, in which drinking water in 11 public housing estates was found to have a lead level of more than 10 micrograms per litre – the maximum recommended by the World Health Organisation. The reports blamed the scandal on a “classic case of buck-passing” and urged the government to retest drinking water at all the city's public housing estates.

Critical condition? HK health minister says medical council reform under threat as another party withdraws support (SCMP, June 29): The health minister expressed concerns that the government plan to reform the medical watchdog had been politicised and would not win legislative passage as one more pro-democracy party backtracked its support. Dr Ko Wing-man's comments came after pan-democratic lawmakers U-turned one after the other and withdrew their support for the Medical Registration Bill, which is to see more lay members added to the Medical Council. The Medical Association has called on doctors as well as concerned members of the public to join a sit-in protest outside the Legislative Council to voice their opposition to the bill, which they feared would open the door for government intervention of the regulatory body.

Environment
Trash talk (SCMP, June 13): The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department FEHD hopes these new bins with smaller openings and bigger warning notices will reduce the problem of people placing oversized rubbish in, around and on top of them. About 800 bins will be replaced in the first phase. There were about 40,000 receptacles across the city as of 2014, The FEHD is also considering cutting down the number of bins on the streets after already reducing the number by 15 per cent, ahead of the government's planned levy on municipal solid waste.

Controversial ivory trade to continue for five more years before full ban imposed (SCMP, June 21): Local ivory traders will get a five-year grace period to liquidate their legal ivory stocks before a full ban on the domestic trade is set to come into effect in 2021, but compensation is not likely, according to the government's latest legislative plan. Other measures proposed include uniform maximum penalties for both commercial and non-commercial offences. The bureau proposed making the offences indictable and to “increase the maximum fine and imprisonment term by drawing an analogy with other local ordinances concerning trade in controlled items... and international references on offences of a similar nature.”

Harmful ozone levels drop in HK, Macau and Guangdong (SCMP, June 29): Concentrations of harmful ozone in the region have dropped to the lowest level since 2010 – but air pollution experts are sceptical that a downward trend can be sustained. Annual results from the Pearl River Delta Regional Air Quality Monitoring Network recorded annual average ozone concentrations 7 per cent lower last year compared to 2014, though 10 per cent up from a decade ago. “While the increase in regional ozone pollution appears to be slowing, it's difficult to determine whether this is a downward trend or just a year-to-year drop,” said Professor Wang Tao, an urban and regional air quality expert at Polytechnic University. The Environmental Protection Department cited key measures implemented in HK in recent years such as tighter emission caps for power plants, phasing out old diesel commercial vehicles and making oceangoing vessels switch to cleaner fuel at berth.

Culture and Education
HK universities lag behind in creativity and risk-taking, rankings compiler says (SCMP, June 13): The lack of creativity and a risk-taking attitude is stopping Asian universities, including those in HK, from competing with the likes of Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Times Higher Education has said. At the same time, Professor Tony Chan, president of the University of Science and Technology called for a new mindset and more to be invested in research and development. Chan also pointed to low spending on research and development in HK.

No school when red or black rainstorm warnings are sent before 8am, HK Education Bureau says (SCMP, June 16): School will be suspended all day if red or black rainstorm warnings are issued before 8am, but classes should continue if warnings are issued after 8am, the Education Bureau announced. This is under a new arrangement the bureau worked out with the HK Observatory so schools, parents and students will know about class cancellations as soon as possible. The suspension announcement will be issued simultaneously with a red or black rainstorm warning signal, the bureau said. The bureau has also required schools to draw up contingency plans to cope with various situations likely to arise under extreme weather conditions.

University of HK no longer in top three Asian universities (SCMP, June 21): The University of HK has fallen out of the top three of an Asian university ranking system for the first time since its inception, while the University of Science and Technology climbed to sixth place – a new high. In the newly released Times Higher Education Asian University Rankings 2016, the city's oldest university dropped one place to fourth after being placed third for three years in a row. The ranking system, first published in 2013, looks at performance indicators, including those related to teaching, research, citations, international outlook, and industry income.

Press articles related to Switzerland and Swiss matters
The longest and deepest tunnel opens in Switzerland (Ming Pao, June 1): Gotthard Base Tunnel, which costs about CHF 12 billion, is regarded as a national pride of Switzerland. It overtakes Japan's Seikan Tunnel as the longest rail tunnel in the world. Full services are expected to commence before Christmas. Journey time between Zürich and Milan will be reduced from 3 hours 40 minutes to 2 hours 50 minutes. Freight train will also increase from 180 to 260 per day whereas passengers will increase gradually from 9,000 to 15,000 per day in 2020. In addition to economic benefits, some Swiss historians pointed out that the tunnel was a symbol of unity and co-operation in Europe. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi would attend the opening ceremony. Didier Burkhalter, Head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, mentioned earlier that it would be a good opportunity to discuss the challenges to the relations between Switzerland and the EU. A Swiss referendum rejected its entry to the EU membership in 1992. Instead, Switzerland succeeded to sign a series of bilateral agreements with the EU. However, a referendum to restrict EU migrants to Switzerland was passed with a narrow margin in Feb. 2014. The Swiss Government would like to work out a compromise, such as under certain circumstances, Switzerland has the liberty to apply a quota system for immigrants. However, the EU wanted the discussion to be adjourned until the outcome of the British referendum on June 23.

Swiss say 'no thanks' to unconditional basic income for all (AFP, SCMP, June 5): Swiss voters were on course yesterday to flatly reject a radical proposal to provide the entire population with a basic income, no work required, initial results and projections showed. National projections showed 78 per cent of voters had opposed the initiative. In a global first, the Swiss were asked whether they wanted all citizens, along with foreigners who have been legal residents for at least five years, to receive an unconditional basic income, or UBI. The group behind the initiative has suggested paying 2,500 Swiss francs (HK$19,900) a month to each adult – considerably less than most workers earn – and 625 francs for each child. But the idea was controversial from the start, with the government and nearly all political parties urging voters to reject the scheme. Authorities have estimated an additional 25 billion francs would be needed annually to cover the costs, requiring deep spending cuts or steep tax hikes. That argument likely hit home with the Swiss who have previously turned up their nose at initiatives that would have ushered in a minimum wage and increased paid holidays from a minimum four to six weeks, fearing they would hurt competitivity.

This is a review of the Hong Kong media and does not necessarly represent the opinion of the Consulate General of Switzerland. The Consulate General of Switzerland in Hong Kong does not bear any responsibility for the topicality, correctness, completeness or quality of the information provided. Liability claims regarding damage caused by the use of any information provided, including any kind of information which might be incomplete or incorrect, will therefore be rejected.

30.6.2016

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