CONSULATE GENERAL OF SWITZERLAND IN HONG KONG
|A condensed press review prepared
the Consulate General of Switzerland in Hong Kong
ECONOMY & FINANCE
- HK and Shenzhen set to partner for innovation and technology park in Lok Ma Chau Loop (SCMP, Jan. 4)
- Stronger HK consumption planned in face of economic uncertainties, acting finance chief reveals (SCMP, Jan. 4)
- HK economy set for tough year in 2017, economists warn (SCMP, Jan. 5)
- Tourist numbers dip 4.5 per cent for 2016 in biggest fall since Sars hit Hong Kong in 2003 (SCMP, Jan. 13)
- Increased stamp duties are working to cool Hong Kong's runaway property market (SCMP, Jan. 17)
- Full speed ahead for HK on the 'one road' strategy (SCMP, Jan. 19)
- HK the world's priciest home market for the seventh year (SCMP, Jan. 23)
- Can HK keep up with the rise of the robots? (SCMP, Jan. 25)
- Beijing official sets anti-independence limits for HK as thousands march against government push to disqualify lawmakers (SCMP, Jan. 2)
- HK and Taiwanese forum radicals accused of trying to 'split country' (SCMP, Jan. 12)
- Carrie Lam aims to 'reignite' HK as she officially announces candidacy for top job (SCMP, Jan. 17)
- HK Chief Executive CY Leung claims legacy in final policy speech (SCMP, Jan. 19)
- John Tsang formally declares bid to lead HK and vows to 'restore hope in time of great uncertainty' (SCMP, Jan. 20)
- In the company of HK's business elites, outgoing and incoming leaders, Beijing's top man in the city calls for unity (SCMP, Jan. 20)
Carrie Lam plays down Beijing help in HK chief executive race (SCMP, Jan. 25)
- Beijing warns Lion City about 'remarks' over army vehicles held in HK (SCMP, Jan. 10)
- Anxiety high over Beijing's stance on HK, but 'two systems' should be respected (SCMP, Jan. 10)
- United States Congress set to introduce HK human rights act 'in coming days' (SCMP, Jan. 17)
- HK denies Beijing role in seizure of Singaporean troop carriers (SCMP, Jan. 26)
- Chris Patten questions UK's 'sense of honour' over HK's future (SCMP, Jan. 26)
LEGAL AFFAIRS AND HUMAN RIGHTS
- Ex-HK leader Donald Tsang pleads not guilty to bribery charges (SCMP, Jan. 4)
- HK legal heavyweights warn against Beijing interpretations of Basic Law (SCMP, Jan. 10)
- Human rights in HK in rapid decline, global non-profit group claims in report (SCMP, Jan. 11)
- Recruitment of HK Palace Museum architect may have violated racial discrimination laws (SCMP, Jan. 12)
- Home burglaries on HK's richest up more than 70 per cent (SCMP, Jan. 25)
- Missing Chinese billionaire Xiao Jianhua 'last seen at Hong Kong's Four Seasons Hotel' before entering mainland (SCMP, Jan. 31)
- Grant better tax exemptions to grow HK voluntary health insurance, industry official urges (SCMP, Jan. 5)
- HK government unveils plan to regulate use of medical devices in beauty clinics (SCMP, Jan. 6)
- Bigger graphic health warnings on HK cigarette packs needed, anti-smoking group says (SCMP, Jan. 16)
- HK enjoys a breath of fresh air but it's not enough to meet annual quality goals (SCMP, Jan. 6)
- Smog from China shrouding HK poses 'very high' health risk (SCMP, Jan. 9)
- CLP Power to tap methane from Tuen Mun landfill for electricity (SCMP, Jan. 25)
CULTURE AND EDUCATION
- Calls to trim core secondary school subjects to make room for science electives (SCMP, Jan. 6)
- Online survey on Palace Museum project kicks off West Kowloon Cultural District consultation amid public criticism (SCMP, Jan. 11)
- All HK primary schools should take part in new competence exam, says education secretary (SCMP, Jan. 24)
Press articles related to Switzerland and Swiss matters
- Swiss banker becomes first foreigner charged in Singapore over 1MDB rort (SCMP, Jan. 6)
- Xi Jinping to be first Chinese president to attend Davos World Economic Forum (Reuters, SCMP, Jan. 11)
- Chinese president presses pro-trade message in Switzerland before landmark Davos address (SCMP, Jan. 16)
- Don't blame globalisation for world's ills, Xi Jinping tells Davos (SCMP, Jan. 18)
- China's Xi calls for a world without nuclear weapons (SCMP, Jan. 19)
- Xi Jinping portrays China as global leader as Donald Trump prepares to take office (SCMP, Jan. 19)
Economy + Finance
HK and Shenzhen set to partner for innovation and technology park in Lok Ma Chau Loop (SCMP, Jan. 4): HK Chief Secretary Carrie Lam and Shenzhen vice-mayor Ai Xuefeng signed a memorandum of understanding to jointly develop an innovation and technology park in the Lok Ma Chau Loop on the city's northern border, hailed as a project that would bring “unprecedented” opportunities for both sides. “It will be the biggest ever innovation and technology platform for HK,” Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said before the signing ceremony. Speaking before the event, Shenzhen mayor Xu Qun also said it was important for Shenzhen, if it wanted to become an international city, to beef up cooperation with HK.
Stronger HK consumption planned in face of economic uncertainties, acting finance chief reveals (SCMP, Jan. 4): The HK government plans to beef up local consumption to mitigate risks arising from overseas uncertainties surrounding the unpredictable trade policy of the new United States president and a strong HK dollar, according to a senior official. Acting Financial Secretary Professor Chan Ka-keung said mounting external uncertainties – several rounds of US interest rate increases as well as unclear policy initiatives under Donald Trump, who campaigned for trade protectionism, and geopolitical tensions in Europe would all weigh heavily on the city's export-oriented economy. “The focus of economic development in the coming year is to expand domestic demand,” Chan said.
HK economy set for tough year in 2017, economists warn (SCMP, Jan. 5): HK's economy is set for a challenging year with a strong local currency and anticipated interest rate rises in the United States, economists have warned. Despite recent signs of improvement and figures showing the city on track to meet its 1.5 per cent growth target for 2016, the local economy is likely to record slower growth in the year of the rooster, under pressure from weak exports, a slumping property market and slowing private consumption.
Tourist numbers dip 4.5 per cent for 2016 in biggest fall since Sars hit HK in 2003 (SCMP, Jan. 13): Visitor numbers to HK slumped 4.5 per cent last year, the worst figures since 2003 when the city was struck by the deadly severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) outbreak. The decline widened from a 2.5 per cent fall in 2015. Tourism Board chairman Peter Lam blamed travel restrictions imposed on Shenzhen residents and warned of an “uncertain” Year of the Rooster, citing the weakening yuan, a sluggish global economy and fluctuations in major currencies. In April 2015, Beijing limited Shenzhen permanent residents to just one visit per week, a move aimed at reining in parallel trading activities. The move reduced the number of visitors holding multiple-entry visas or those allowing just one entry a week by 36.7 per cent in the first half of last year.
Increased stamp duties are working to cool HK's runaway property market (SCMP, Jan. 17): The government's increased stamp duty on property transactions for non-first-time buyers (to 15 from the lowest rate of 1.5 per cent) introduced in November has cooled the HK property market. But acting Financial Secretary Chan Ka-keung said the government has not yet decided on any other major changes to its property policies. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) issued a report in which it said the city's growing property bubble, along with an ageing population and the slowdown in mainland economic growth were the major risks faced by HK.
Full speed ahead for HK on the 'one road' strategy (SCMP, Jan. 19): Chief Executive Leung Chun- ying underlined HK's commitment to mainland China's global trade strategy while warning of the threats posed by political developments abroad. Delivering his final policy address, he said the city would continue to forge links with markets overseas while developing tourism, IT and other sectors at home. He promised to expand the Belt and Road Office he created last year and step up exchanges with countries included in Beijing's “One Belt, One Road” economic strategy. The city would also take part in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), the Beijing-led alliance financing the strategy. Domestically, IT companies would be encouraged through a greater land supply, along with tax and financial concessions, while the struggling tourism industry would be given a HK$200 million shot in the arm. Leung has pursued HK's role as a super connector between the mainland and 65 countries in belt and road strategy since President Xi Jinping launched the initiative in 2013.
HK the world's priciest home market for the seventh year (SCMP, Jan. 23): HK kept its ranking as the world's least affordable urban centre to buy a home for the seventh year running, in a survey that's likely to throw a perennial problem back into focus during an election year for the city's chief executive. The city's apartments cost 18.1 times gross annual median income in the third quarter of 2016, according to the Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey's study of 406 cities around the world. Sydney was the second least affordable housing market, with prices at 12.2 times median income, followed by Vancouver at third place.
Can HK keep up with the rise of the robots? (SCMP, Jan. 25): Japan has been a leading nation for embracing innovation and technologies. Professor Michael Wang from HK University of Science and Technology (HKUST) said there had been a very strong sense of the need to build an innovation ecosystem. Wang, founding director of the Robotics Institute at HKUST, said one of the university's five strategic areas was to boost research in robotics and automation technologies. Harry Shum, executive vice-president of artificial intelligence and research group at Microsoft, said the city had huge potential to develop artificial intelligence in the medical and transportation fields. While the city had the research capabilities and infrastructure, the biggest problem was funding, according to Wang and many of his fellow researchers. Wang said over the years, gross expenditure on research and development in the city contributed less than 1 per cent of gross domestic product, lagging far behind its regional counterparts.
Beijing official sets anti-independence limits for HK as thousands march against government push to disqualify lawmakers (SCMP, Jan. 2): Thousands of Hongkongers marked the first day of 2017 with a street protest against the government's push to disqualify four pro-democracy lawmakers, while Beijing's top man in the city spelled out the limits as he warned against independence advocacy. The Civil Human Rights Front, which organised the New Year's Day rally, put the turnout at more than 9,000, and apologised for the relatively low number. Police put the turnout at 4,800 at the peak. The organiser attributed the low turnout to the lack of a central figure to draw opposing crowds after Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying announced last month that he would not seek a second term because of family reasons. Zhang Xiaoming, director of Beijing's liaison office, broke his silence in an exclusive interview with state broadcaster CCTV. He said the “one country, two systems” policy had achieved “universally acknowledged success” in the 20 years since its implementation, but the rise of radical separatism in HK should be faced squarely. He spelled out three bottom lines that should not be breached: harming national security; challenging the authority of the central government and Basic Law; and using the city as a base to infiltrate and subvert the mainland. The theme of this year's
march was to oppose the government's court campaign to unseat four pro-democracy legislators – Nathan Law, Edward Yiu, Lau Siu-lai and Leung Kwok-hung – over improper oath-taking.
HK and Taiwanese forum radicals accused of trying to 'split country' (SCMP, Jan. 12): The Taiwan Affairs Office in Beijing has condemned the “collusion” of “pro-independence elements” behind a recent visit by HK localist lawmakers to a political forum in Taipei. A spokesman for the Taiwan Affairs Office, Ma Xiaoguang, said: “HK independence elements colluded with Taiwan independence forces, intending to split the country and destroy HK's 'one country, two systems', and [the city's] prosperity and stability. “This is doomed to failure. And it is not supported by the people.”
Carrie Lam aims to 'reignite' HK as she officially announces candidacy for top job (SCMP, Jan. 17): The former No 2 official considered Beijing's preferred choice for HK next leader officially declared her bid for the city's top job, promising good governance with greater transparency and “new blood” in her cabinet. Carrie Lam confirmed her candidacy hours after her resignation as chief secretary was formally accepted by Beijing, along with that of her former colleague and potential arch- rival John Tsang, who was understood to be determined to run, despite remaining outwardly coy. Lam also vowed to continue with outgoing Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's “good policies” aimed at solving key issues such as housing and youth. Lam's resignation was approved by Beijing four days after she tendered it, while it took more than a month for the simultaneously approval of John Tsang's departure as financial secretary. Tsang was replaced by development minister Paul Chan, while Secretary for Labour and Welfare Matthew Cheung took over from Lam. The Post has learned that Beijing's liaison office informed senior editors of the city's pro-Beijing newspapers that Lam was the preferred candidate.
HK Chief Executive CY Leung claims legacy in final policy speech (SCMP, Jan. 19): With less than six months to go before retiring, HK's controversial leader sought to claim his legacy in his swansong policy speech, proposing plans ranging from economic development to sports to show he was not heading a lame-duck government for the rest of his term. The major policies he announced in his speech before the Legislative Council, covering aspects including sports, education, labour, health and tourism, would roughly add up to a one-off expenditure of HK$26.4 billion. Another highlight was the scrapping of the controversial practice of allowing employers to use their contributions to workers' pension funds to offset severance or long-service payments. On his pet subject, housing, Leung conceded problems in finding enough land to meet demand, urging the public to “dare to think out of the box and re-examine land use planning”. He revived the contentious idea of developing country parks, saying the city should consider allocating a small portion of land in protected green areas with “relatively low ecological and public enjoyment value” for public housing and non-profit-making homes for the elderly. Leung also proposed initiatives to support President Xi Jinping's “One Belt, One Road” development strategy, including a summit in September. As he ended his speech, Leung dropped his antagonistic tone at opponents as he warned against independence, saying HK's autonomy “was not absolute or arbitrary” but to be guided by the Basic Law. He skipped the issue of electoral reform for the second consecutive year, leaving it in limbo since it was voted down by lawmakers in 2015.
John Tsang formally declares bid to lead HK and vows to 'restore hope in time of great uncertainty' (SCMP, Jan. 20): Former finance minister John Tsang pitched himself as the man to heal HK's social ills and bridge political divisions as he announced his bid to contest the city's leadership election. While he vowed to rebuild trust and restore unity with the support of people across the political spectrum, Tsang sidestepped the burning question of whether Beijing had tried to dissuade him from running so that he would not challenge his former colleague, Carrie Lam. Tsang's entry has kick-started the four-candidate race (Carrie Lam, John Tsang, Regina Ip and Woo Kwok- hing) in which each will have to seek at least 150 nominations from a pool of 1,194 Election Committee members to qualify, and gain more than 600 votes to win on March 26.
In the company of HK's business elites, outgoing and incoming leaders, Beijing's top man in the city calls for unity (SCMP, Jan. 20): With HK's leadership race heating up, Beijing's top man in the city has called for unity and strategies to tackle economic, livelihood and social problems in order to achieve good governance and prosperity. Zhang Xiaoming, director of the central government's liaison office, also stressed the importance of HK recognising the “one country, two systems” policy as the “unshakeable foundation” of the city's stability. He praised Hongkongers for showing solidarity against two pro-independence lawmakers who were disqualified by the High Court over their anti- China antics during oath-taking in the Legislative Council last autumn.
Carrie Lam plays down Beijing help in HK chief executive race (SCMP, Jan. 25): Chief executive contender Carrie Lam said she had been exerting considerable effort to gain the support of residents and electors because she had “started late” while dismissing speculation Beijing's liaison office had been helping her behind the scenes. Lam, seen in some quarters as the central government's preferred candidate, was speaking as she and her rivals John Tsang and Regina Ip continued to meet members of the 1,194-strong Election Committee, the body that will pick HK's next leader on March 26.
Beijing warns Lion City about 'remarks' over army vehicles held in HK (SCMP, Jan. 10): Beijing warned Singapore to be careful about its “remarks and actions” as the island nation said it had written to HK's leader asking for the return of a batch of armoured personnel carriers “taken hostage” en route from Taiwan. Responding to media inquiries, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's office said HK customs was the authority tasked with investigating the matter. It also confirmed receipt of the letter from Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Beijing, already irked by Singapore's position on the South China Sea territorial disputes, called on the city state to be cautious in its handling of the incident. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said that the HK government was handling the incident according to legal procedures, after Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said the detention of the vehicles did not comply with international law. The episode triggered a sharp reaction from Beijing, which has routinely voiced its displeasure over Singapore's close military ties with Taiwan.
Anxiety high over Beijing's stance on HK, but 'two systems' should be respected (SCMP, Jan. 10): Major recent controversies such as the missing booksellers case and interpretation of the Basic Law to disqualify pro-independence lawmakers have left some Hongkongers anxious and doubtful about Beijing's respect for their autonomy, Kurt Tong, the United States' top envoy in the city, has warned. Tong also attributed the anxious sentiment to factors such as income disparity, polarisation of the Legislative Council and a growing awareness of its limitations, and implementation of the “one country, two systems” policy. Tong, who succeeded Clifford Hart in the post last August, said he hoped the city's next leader would see the US as a key partner.
United States Congress set to introduce HK human rights act 'in coming days' (SCMP, Jan. 17): The United States Congress looks set to introduce a human rights act on HK “in the coming days” as Donald Trump takes his anti-China rhetoric to the presidency, the Post has learned. The bill was proposed in the wake of the disappearances of five Causeway Bay booksellers in 2015 who later turned up in the custody of mainland authorities. It proposed punitive measures against any government officials in HK or the mainland responsible for suppressing basic freedoms in the city.
HK denies Beijing role in seizure of Singaporean troop carriers (SCMP, Jan. 26): HK's customs chief has categorically denied Beijing's hand was behind the seizure of nine Singaporean military vehicles that are due to be returned to the Lion City after two months of diplomatic wrangling that plunged Sino-Singapore relations to a new low. He also claimed that the Singapore government had never been a target for investigation since the Terrex armoured troop carriers were intercepted at Kwai Chung Container Terminals on November 23 on their way home from Taiwan. Singapore also kept it bilateral, with Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen saying it reflected the “good and friendly relations” between the city state and HK. Beijing said it hoped Singapore had “learned a lesson” and urged it to respect the one-China policy. “The Chinese side had made a representation to Singapore, and hopes Singapore can abide by the one-China principle,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.
Chris Patten questions UK's 'sense of honour' over HK's future (SCMP, Jan. 26): HK's last colonial governor has lambasted the UK for turning its back on the city and 'selling its honour' in exchange for trade deals with Beijing. Chris Patten also said London was failing to “stand up for HK” by not upholding the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration and the commitment guaranteeing various freedoms under “one country, two systems” until 2047. “I wonder what's happened to our sense of honour and our sense of responsibility, particularly in Britain,” Patten said on the BBC's Newsnight programme. Britain's Foreign Office told the BBC: “'One country, two systems' continues to be the best arrangement for HK's long-term stability and prosperity, as it has been for nearly 20 years.”
Legal affairs and human rights
Ex-HK leader Donald Tsang pleads not guilty to bribery charges (SCMP, Jan. 4): HK former chief executive Donald Tsang, the city's highest official ever to stand trial, pleaded not guilty to all charges he faces over a three-storey rental penthouse across the border in Shenzhen. Tsang denied three charges – two counts of misconduct in public office and one of a chief executive accepting an advantage – stemming from events between 2010 and 2012. The court heard that the trial would be determined by a panel of nine jurors.
HK legal heavyweights warn against Beijing interpretations of Basic Law (SCMP, Jan. 10): Beijing should avoid interpreting HK's mini-constitution in matters that could be handled by its own independent court system under “one country, two systems”, the city's justice secretary and Bar Association head said. The comments came as Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma stressed that the city's courts would rule impartially even in high-profile cases, as he said the government also needed to uphold the rule of law. In his last address at the legal year opening ceremony as secretary for justice under the current administration, Rimsky Yuen weighed in on the need for the National People's Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) to interpret the Basic Law in November after localist lawmakers took their oaths to insult China.
Human rights in HK in rapid decline, global non-profit group claims in report (SCMP, Jan. 11): HK's human rights situation is rapidly deteriorating, reaching its worst level since the former British colony's handover in 1997 to mainland China, non-profit human rights group Amnesty International said. The organisation released a report reviewing human rights in the city last year, and outlined major concerns over guarantees of HK's rule of law, freedom of speech, and human rights education. Last year, the city's human rights situation was marked by the disappearance of four Causeway Bay booksellers and their televised confessions, Beijing's intervention in the Legislative Council's oath- taking controversy, and various violations of press freedom, according to the report.
Recruitment of HK Palace Museum architect may have violated racial discrimination laws (SCMP, Jan. 12): The West Kowloon Cultural Authority amended the selection criteria for the design architect of the controversial HK Palace Museum from “a local Chinese” to “a local”, a day after the equality watchdog warned that singling out candidates in this way could have violated racial discrimination laws. Confusingly, a list of requirements included in a paper submitted to the Legislative Council by the Chief Secretary's Office mentioned the board had wanted “a local architect”. The Equal Opportunities Commission issued a statement that under the Race Discrimination Ordinance it might be unlawful for employers to single out people of a particular race for a job, unless they could prove race was a Genuine Occupational Qualification (GOQ).
Home burglaries on HK's richest up more than 70 per cent (SCMP, Jan. 25): High-end household burglaries involving losses of more than HK$500,000 at a time surged over 70 per cent last year, although the overall crime rate fell to its lowest level since 1978, HK's police chief revealed. Unveiling the city's crime statistics, Lo said a total of 60,646 crimes were reported last year – an 8.7 per cent drop from the previous year. The rate has been declining for 10 consecutive years. The crime numbers translate to an average of 825 cases per 100,000 people in HK. While home break-ins in 2016 dropped 5.9 per cent to 2,428 cases – a record low since 1969 – high-end burglaries totalling more than HK$500,000 in losses per case climbed from 31 to 54.
Missing Chinese billionaire Xiao Jianhua 'last seen at HK's Four Seasons Hotel' before entering mainland (SCMP, Jan. 31): The mystery of the whereabouts of high-profile mainland billionaire Xiao Jianhua deepened after sources said he was last seen at a luxury HK hotel last week. HK police also said they were investigating the tycoon's disappearance. Concerns over the fate of Xiao, the founder of • Beijing-based • Tomorrow Group, emerged after overseas Chinese media reported that mainland agents took him from HK on Jan. 27. HK police had asked their mainland counterparts to help find Xiao and check whether he was under arrest, the source said. The case comes about a year after five HK booksellers disappeared, triggering fears of mainland agents acting outside of their jurisdiction.
Grant better tax exemptions to grow HK voluntary health insurance, industry official urges (SCMP, Jan. 5): The insurance sector is calling for more attractive tax exemptions for HK's voluntary health insurance scheme after the government's proposal was watered down. But Elaine Chan, deputy
chairwoman of the Federation of Insurers' task force on health care reform, added that tax concessions would also have to be granted in parallel with regulatory control. It was recently revealed the government would drop two controversial requirements from the scheme's original 12 amid strong resistance from the industry. One included not having to cover high-risk patients or guarantee to cover anyone regardless of age or illness – known as a “high-risk pool”. The other requirement stipulated all policies be made portable.
HK government unveils plan to regulate use of medical devices in beauty clinics (SCMP, Jan. 6): Beauticians will be banned from operating common beauty devices such as skin lasers without the supervision of a doctor under a new government proposal. The Food and Health Bureau said in a paper submitted to lawmakers that they wanted to eliminate unscrupulous practices in the beauty sector by classifying medical devices into four categories according to risk. Devices defined as high- risk can only be operated by a doctor or under a doctor's supervision. Representatives of the beauty industry said the proposal was unfair to them and warned it would affect their business. Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko Wing-man denied the government was targeting the beauty industry, saying they wanted to ensure the safely of the public.
Bigger graphic health warnings on HK cigarette packs needed, anti-smoking group says (SCMP, Jan. 16): An anti-smoking body has pressed the government to speed up legislation on cigarette pack health warnings after a survey revealed almost 80 per cent of people desired sterner messages on smoking risks. Professor Judith Mackay, a veteran tobacco control advocate and senior policy advisor for the World Health Organisation, said a larger graphic warning would have an even bigger visual impact and induce more smokers to quit. She said in the long run the government should also further increase tobacco tax to make cigarettes less affordable.
HK enjoys a breath of fresh air but it's not enough to meet annual quality goals (SCMP, Jan. 6): Lower concentrations of harmful pollutants were recorded last year, including the tiny particulates that can penetrate deep into the lungs – but roadside-dominant nitrogen dioxide remains a headache for the city, with most figures failing annual air quality targets. And while ambient concentrations of hazardous ozone fell for the second consecutive year, they are proving stubbornly hard to cut having increased 15 per cent since 1999. The preliminary air quality data for 2016 was released by the Environmental Protection Department.
Smog from China shrouding HK poses 'very high' health risk (SCMP, Jan. 9): Several districts in HK experienced poor quality air on Jan. 8 that posed a “very high” health risk, as a monsoon from the northeast brought the dreaded smog that has shrouded large parts of the mainland. “HK is being affected by an airstream with higher background pollutant concentrations,” an Environmental Protection Department spokesman said. “The light wind hinders effective dispersion of air pollutants. The sunshine enhances photochemical smog activities and the formation of ozone during the daytime, resulting in high pollution in the region.”
CLP Power to tap methane from Tuen Mun landfill for electricity (SCMP, Jan. 25): The larger of the city's two electricity providers will seek approval for the installation of 14-megawatt electricity generating units powered by gas at a Tuen Mun landfill to expand its portfolio of “renewable” energy projects. CLP Power managing director Paul Poon said the large amounts of flammable gases such as methane, produced from the decomposition of municipal waste, could be tapped for power. About 7,300 tonnes of such waste is dumped in the landfill at the tip of Nim Wan daily. Poon said the waste- to-energy conversion was a better source of renewable energy than solar or wind, which required massive amounts of land and investment, adding: “On one hand it will help reduce [greenhouse gas]•emissions from landfills, and on the other, help replace the burning of fossil fuels to generate electricity.” The Environmental Protection Department welcomed the project and said it would facilitate implementation.
Culture and Education
Calls to trim core secondary school subjects to make room for science electives (SCMP, Jan. 6): Core subjects of the senior secondary school curriculum should be trimmed and basic and advanced level courses offered to provide space for students interested in advanced mathematics and science subjects, the former president of the University of HK Tsui Lap-chee has said. The Academy of Sciences of HK, which was co-founded by Tsui and promotes the advancement of science and
technology in the city, released a report that revealed only 54 per cent of students took at least one science subject in 2016's Diploma of Secondary Education examination. Under the Diploma of Secondary Education system, most students take four core subjects of English language, Chinese language, mathematics, liberal studies and two electives. Science subjects are not compulsory.
Online survey on Palace Museum project kicks off West Kowloon Cultural District consultation amid public criticism (SCMP, Jan. 11): HK residents are being asked to share their views on five areas concerning the operation of the HK$3.5 billion Palace Museum as a six-week public engagement exercise officially started on Jan. 11. The deal to create HK's own version of Beijing's museum to showcase national treasures from the Forbidden City has courted controversy since its surprise announcement on December 23, with Chief Secretary Carrie Lam – the city's No 2 official and a potential contender for chief executive in March – facing criticism over a lack of consultation and transparency in the deal as well as the appointment of its design consultant behind closed doors.
All HK primary schools should take part in new competence exam, says education secretary (SCMP, Jan. 24): Every primary school has the responsibility to participate in a new competence exam that will replace the unpopular Territory-wide System Assessment (TSA), HK's education minister Eddie Ng said. He added that the new assessment would be part of the daily curriculum. This comes a day after he announced that all primary schools were encouraged to join the test this year, without confirming whether it was compulsory. But lawmakers, teachers' groups and parent representatives remained concerned that such a move would put more pressure on schoolchildren, even though the Education Bureau had told schools not to drill pupils for the assessment.
Press articles related to Switzerland and Swiss matters
Swiss banker becomes first foreigner charged in Singapore over 1MDB rort (SCMP, Jan. 6): Singapore prosecutors filed 16 charges against the former local branch manager of Swiss-based Falcon Private Bank AG as part of an ongoing investigation tied to scandal-hit state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB). The bank, which is also under investigation at home, was the second Swiss lender whose Singaporean unit was ordered to cease operations last year after BSI Bank. 1MDB, founded by Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak, is the subject of money laundering investigations in at least six countries, including Switzerland, Singapore and the US. Singapore last year jailed three ex-BSI bankers, seized assets and sanctioned several lenders in what it has called its most complex, sophisticated and largest money-laundering case.
Xi Jinping to be first Chinese president to attend Davos World Economic Forum (Reuters, SCMP, Jan. 11): President Xi Jinping this month will become the first Chinese head of state to attend the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, which this year will dwell on the rising public anger with globalisation and the coming U.S. presidency of Donald Trump. Xi will take centre stage at the Jan. 17-20 forum with China presenting itself as a champion of globalisation. The Chinese president will be in Switzerland from Jan. 15-18 for a state visit and to attend the Davos meeting, Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a regular press briefing. He will also visit the United Nations offices in Geneva, and the offices of the World Health Organization and the International Olympic Committee, Lu said.
Chinese president presses pro-trade message in Switzerland before landmark Davos address (SCMP, Jan. 16): President Xi Jinping warned against protectionism and populism, ahead of his keynote address at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Xi made the remarks to business executives in Bern, Switzerland, a country China is seeking to consolidate relations with amid fears of a spreading anti-globalisation movement. “Protectionism, populism and de-globalisation are on the rise. It's not good for closer economic cooperation globally,” Xi said, adding that Switzerland and China would work together to reject all forms of protectionism. In talks with his Swiss counterpart Doris Leuthard on Jan. 15, Xi highlighted the importance of China-Switzerland cooperation in an international situation that was “complicated and fast changing”, Xinhua reported. The two leaders agreed to further boost bilateral cooperation in science and technology, innovation, connectivity, infrastructure construction, clean energy and regional-level exchanges. Zhang Shengjun, a professor of international relations at Beijing Normal University, said Switzerland was one of the more stable countries in Europe and well connected to other states in the region. Ding Chun, director of the Centre for European Studies at Fudan University in Shanghai, said Switzerland – the first European nation to recognise China's market economy status in 2007 – was amenable to Beijing's pro-trade agenda.
Don't blame globalisation for world's ills, Xi Jinping tells Davos (SCMP, Jan. 18): Amid rising fears of protectionism, President Xi Jinping used his keynote address to the World Economic Forum to insist that globalisation was not to blame for the world's economic woes. Xi promised to improve market access for foreign companies and said China had no intention of depreciating the yuan or launching a currency war. Xi told the 3,000 business and political elites at the Swiss ski resort that protectionism had to be opposed and the finger-pointing should stop. Xi said that even though globalisation had led to problems such as uneven development, there was “no point” blaming it for the Syrian refugee crisis or the 2008 global financial crisis. Xi's appearance at the forum comes as doubts rise over the role the United States will play in multilateral cooperation under the administration of Trump, who is generally seen as an isolationist. Europe is also in disarray over Britain's announcement of a “hard exit” from the European Union. Against that backdrop, Xi prescribed innovation and structural reforms – as well as changes to financial governance – as cures for the world's economic ills.
China's Xi calls for a world without nuclear weapons (SCMP, Jan. 19): Chinese President Xi Jinping called for a world without nuclear weapons at the UN and urged a multilateral system based on equality among nations large and small. His speech at the United Nations in Geneva came at the end of a diplomatic tour that included a landmark address at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Some experts have seen Xi's Swiss tour as a bid to capture the mantle of global leadership at a time when Washington is clouded by uncertainty with an unpredictable political novice about to take charge. In an address that stretched beyond 45 minutes, Xi also sought to make the case for a global governance system that strives for a level playing field among countries where interventionist tendencies are resisted. “We should reject dominance by just one or several countries”, Xi said, adding that “major powers should respect each other's core interests.”
Xi Jinping portrays China as global leader as Donald Trump prepares to take office (SCMP, Jan. 19): China wants to lead efforts towards building a “stable and balanced” framework for relations among the world's major powers, President Xi Jinping said at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva. His speech marked the end of a four-day diplomatic tour that included an address against trade protectionism at the World Economic Forum in the Swiss ski resort of Davos and a state visit to Switzerland. The trip came days before US president-elect Donald Trump is sworn into office and was viewed by analysts as an attempt by China to position itself as a global leader amid suggestions that the new administration in the White House might lesson its role on the world stage.
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