CONSULATE GENERAL OF SWITZERLAND IN HONG KONG
|A condensed press review prepared
the Consulate General of Switzerland in Hong Kong
Economy + Finance
HK's economic growth slows to 2.9pc in third quarter: Economic growth in HK has slowed for the first time in six quarters. Output was up 2.9 per cent in the third quarter from a year ago, compared with expansion of 3.2 per cent in the second quarter. Acting government economist Andrew Au cut the official forecast for full-year growth to 3 per cent. “The pace of growth of advanced economies remains quite weak. That will be a drag on our export performance. However, there are still some positive factors. The mainland economy continues to be quite resilient. That will provide some support for our export performance." he said. The housing market remained quiet in the third quarter. But Au warned that prices were still 42 per cent higher than those of 1997, their previous peak. He said Hongkongers should not lower their guard about the possibility of the property bubble bursting.
OECD adds its voice to those saying HK port set for steady decline: HK's deep-sea port is set to go into steady decline as mainland terminals catch up, a new report by an international club of developed economies says. The growth in tonnage handled at the city's port has slowed to an average of 4 per cent a year in the past decade, compared with 16 per cent a year in Shenzhen and 18 per cent in both Guangzhou and Shanghai, according to the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Olaf Merk, OECD administrator for governance and regulation of ports, said the mainland could take an even larger bite of the city's market share if its shipping regulations were removed. The OECD said HK's port still maintained a competitive edge in its comparatively higher efficiency and turnaround times, high value-added services and strong maritime law.
Bosses cautious on pay rises - except for those in the finance industry: Employers remain conservative about pay rises for next year, with increases of about 4.4 per cent predicted, similar to those granted this year, according to a new survey. Financial companies are the exception, with rises of 7 per cent expected in the first quarter, up from an average 1.3 per cent this year. Construction, facing a labour shortage to handle big projects such as the bridge to Macau, is second behind finance, with an expected 5.8 per cent pay rise. Companies with 500 to 1,000 employees expect the biggest pay increase - 4.9 per cent - compared to smaller or bigger ones.
HK seeks to woo Qianhai firms in HK$100b plan: The Financial Services Development Council has proposed a HK$100 billion investment scheme in Qianhai under the qualified domestic institutional investor programme to encourage mainland companies to invest in HK. The plan is among 21 proposals that the council has suggested to further develop the city's yuan business. HK is facing tougher competition from London and Singapore to secure its position as the major offshore yuan trading centre. Other proposals include further relaxing cross-border yuan lending and allowing state-owned enterprises and China Investment Corp to invest in yuan products in HK. "These proposals will need the green light from Beijing. What we are suggesting here is in line with the country's policy to internationalise the yuan," said Laura Cha, the chairman of the council. The council also called for tax exemptions to draw private equity and mutual funds and encourage the creation of real estate investment trusts.
HK urged to be genuine fund management hub: BlackRock, the world's biggest money manager, says HK needs to speed up its development as a fund management hub for Asia so that global capital can be retained and contribute to the region's economic growth. "Policymakers should develop HK as a genuine fund management hub rather than an asset management centre," Mark McCombe, BlackRock's Asia-Pacific chairman, said. He said efforts should be made to turn a saving culture into an investment culture. Most Asian residents' capital was being held in deposits that did not generate any interest, causing a stagnation of capital, the flow of which was so necessary for economic growth.
HKTV row sends HK government's ratings to all-time low: Hongkongers' satisfaction with their government has fallen to an all-time low and public outrage over free-television licensing is partly to blame, a University of HK pollster says. Public sentiment is now lower than in 2003, when seething anger over the proposed Article 23 national security law led to a 500,000-strong march, an index compiled by the HKU public opinion programme shows. The government, meanwhile, sought to fend off accusations of a policy change that allegedly contributed to its decision to grant licences to only two instead of all three applicants. The decision left HK Television Network, chaired by high-profile investor Ricky Wong, out of the market, causing tens of thousands of people to protest at the government headquarters in Admiralty last month.
Poll reform consultation won't include public nomination: Issues such as the rules for shortlisting candidates and the number of contestants to be allowed in the 2017 chief executive poll will be key topics in the upcoming political reform consultation. But the consultation document on arrangements for the next chief executive and Legislative Council polls - due to be released by the end of next month - will not explicitly mention public nomination. A reliable source familiar with the matter said this amid debate on whether the idea of public nomination - in which all voters can nominate chief executive candidates - had been vetoed by Basic Law Committee chairman Li Fei during his recent visit to HK. Li said that the Basic Law put the right to choose candidates in the hands of a nominating committee - seemingly dashing pan-democrats' hopes that public nomination would be allowed for the 2017 poll.
Leung's administration hit by resignation of Julia Leung: The undersecretary for financial services and the treasury, Julia Leung, resigned on Nov. 27 without giving a reason - the fifth departure of a politically appointed official in Leung Chun-ying's administration. She will be succeeded on January 1 by James Henry Lau, 63, a former government administrative officer and former executive director of the HK Monetary Authority. It was also announced that the vacancy of undersecretary for development would be filled by engineer Eric Ma from January 6. The chief executive dismissed suggestions of low morale in his team and said his government was still able to attract talent.
Legco lawmakers slam former anti-corruption chief in unprecedented reprimand: Lawmakers have issued an unprecedented condemnation of a former anti-corruption chief Timothy Tong for his “deplorable” overspending. Committee chairman Abraham Shek used the term “deplorable” in condemning three breaches of the ICAC: for tarnishing the reputation of the graft-busters, eroding the credibility of the ICAC, and undermining the effectiveness of the Community Relations Department.
Beijing unhappy with Chris Patten's remarks on democracy: Chris Patten may have run HK for its last five years as a British colony, but to Beijing he is a foreigner with no right to comment on the city's political affairs. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs made this clear in the latest of a series of stern rebukes to overseas figures seen to have meddled in the electoral reform process. The ministry was responding to remarks by Patten in an interview with the Wall Street Journal in which said he wished Britain had gone further in introducing democracy before relinquishing control in 1997. It reiterated that HK's political development was its own - and China's - internal affair, and that the "one country, two systems" and "HK people ruling HK" principles had been successfully implemented since the handover.
Relations HK - Mainland China
'Beijing's opponents cannot become chief executive', says Li Fei: People opposed to the central government cannot become the chief executive, a Beijing official reiterated in HK on Nov. 22. Li Fei, chairman of the Basic Law Committee, made the remarks as he addressed about 100 guests at a luncheon at Government House. “The chief executive is accountable to the central government as well as the HKSAR, this means that the post must be taken up by a person who loves the country as well as HK – anyone opposed to the central government cannot [take up the top job],” Li said. He warned that having a person opposed to the central government leading the city could deal a serious blow to the relationship between Beijing and the city, as well as HK's stability. Li's predecessor Qiao Xiaoyang made similar comments in March, sparking worries among pan-democrats that Beijing was hinting that pro-democracy candidates could be ousted during the nominating process. Pan-democrats have been advocating public nomination to alleviate worries about screening.
Beijing to set up new think tank on HK affairs led by Chen Zuoer: Beijing will set up a high-level think tank next month to study HK affairs, including the Basic Law and political reform. The establishment of the National Association of Study on HK and Macau comes ahead of the HK government's launch of a public consultation on arrangements for the next chief executive and Legislative Council elections. It is expected to be headed by Chen Zuoer , a former deputy director of the State Council's HK and Macau Affairs Office.
HK denies Tiananmen activist Wuer Kaixi extradition to mainland China: The latest attempt by the "second most wanted" Tiananmen dissident to surrender to mainland authorities was dashed on Nov. 26 when he was deported back to Taiwan after a short stopover in HK. Wuer Kaixi arrived at Chep Lap Kok from Taiwan accompanied by Democratic Party lawmaker Albert Ho hoping the city would help to extradite him to the mainland. Wuer, who has spent most of the past 24 years in exile in Taiwan, wants to return to the mainland to see his ailing parents. He is wanted by Beijing for "conspiracy to subvert" while a student leader during the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. The Immigration Department said it would not comment on individual cases.
Families of Manila hostage victims hail sanctions vote: Families of the victims of the 2010 Manila hostage killings welcomed a vote by lawmakers in favour of a motion pressing the government to impose sanctions on Manila and cancel visa-free access for Filipinos. Lawmakers voted to pass a non-binding motion by People Power's Albert Chan calling on the government to impose sanctions. They also voted in favour of former security chief Regina Ip's amendment calling for visa-free access to be scrapped. The votes chime with a warning by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying that he would impose sanctions if Manila failed to meet the demands of the families of the eight Hongkongers killed by gunman Rolando Mendoza and the seven people injured in the bus siege and botched rescue attempt.
Deadline for bus hostage sanctions against Manila stays, despite typhoon: Asked if possible sanctions over the hostage incident - in which a sacked Filipino policeman shot dead seven HK tourists and injured eight others in 2010 - could be delayed, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam said: "There's no such plan at the moment." "The hostage incident is an issue that we have been pursuing for quite some time," she said, while typhoon relief efforts were "a humanitarian act". The government will seek Legco approval for a HK$40 million injection to its disaster relief fund. Only a portion of the cash will go to the Philippines.
Legal affairs and human rights
Calls for judicial review of HKTV case 'ironic', ex-top judge Andrew Li says: The former chief justice has weighed into the free-to-air TV licensing row, saying it is ironic some officials have urged a judicial review to deal with the issue. Andrew Li told a HK Bankers Club lunch the same officials had previously raised concerns that such court proceedings were being abused. Li said the courts were not there to solve political, social or economic problems, and could only determine the limits of legality. Li also addressed the Basic Law. He said: "In my view, the [National People's Congress] Standing Committee's power to interpret the Basic Law should not be exercised to override a court judgment in HK, especially one of the Court of Final Appeal."
Data protection law needs to evolve to tackle privacy challenges: HK's data protection law is “miles away” from developments internationally and does not fit with what is happening in society, critics have said. The law needs an update to enable the city to tackle privacy challenges and embrace innovation opportunities brought about by the use of public data in the information age, to maintain its laissez-faire culture and reputation as an international business hub, according to a senior lawyer Simon Deane, a lawmaker Charles Mok and a scholar Dr Marcelo Thompson. Lawmaker Charles Mok said many in the information technology sector were concerned about the current restrictions on the use of public data.
HK police stop-and-search tactics questioned after 1.6m spot checks last year: HK police carry out four times as many identity checks and on-the-spot searches as their counterparts in New York and London, official figures show, even though the effectiveness of the procedure appears to be in sharp decline. Experts on criminal law say the frequent searches could lead those searched to doubt the credibility of the police, while activists said members of ethnic minorities, especially South Asians, were more likely to be stopped and searched. The searches were four times as common as in New York - which has twice the crime rate of HK - and London, where the crime rate is 10 times as high. The population in these two cities is also about a million larger than in HK, which is generally considered to be one of Asia's safest cities.
Children under five to get subsidised jab against fatal bug: Up to 100,000 children under five who have not been vaccinated against a bug that recently killed two children would be subsidised for a jab, as soon as next month. The assistance for vaccination against streptococcus pneumonia serotype 3 is being offered despite advice from a government panel of experts that not all children need to receive the injection, which gives only 10 months' protection from the bacteria. The announcement came as parents rushed to private clinics for the vaccine, which is now in short supply. Affected children are those immunised under the standard vaccination programme before 2011. Since then, all children have been vaccinated against the potentially deadly strain.
Government to press on with plans to expand two landfill sites: The government has proposed creating a stretch of green belt to act as a buffer between an extended landfill in Tuen Mun and residential areas, in a bid to appease locals who have objected to plans to expand the landfill. Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing also announced that controversial plans to expand the landfill at Tseung Kwan O would be resubmitted to the Legislative Council early next year. A third expansion to the Ta Kwu Ling landfill is also planned. In a bid to galvanise support for the Tuen Man expansion, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam and Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing have taken over the chairmanship of a working group set up with the district council to examine local demands and proposals.
Culture and Education
HK's English language skills branded 'pathetic' as Chinese has 'negative influence': The English-language skills of HK's adult population have slumped to the level of South Korea, Indonesia and Japan, according to new rankings of 60 countries and territories. Experts put the blame partly on the switch from teaching mainly in English to mainly in Chinese since the handover. They said English skills must be improved if job-seekers were to remain competitive with mainlanders, whose English skills were improving. The annual rankings cover countries and territories in Europe, Asia, North Africa and Latin America where English is not the native language - HK ranked 22nd.
Chinese students flood HK universities' graduate programmes: Places on graduate programmes at universities in HK are increasingly being filled by mainlanders, who are flooding popular courses with applications. Some 99 per cent of students enrolled in Chinese University's Master of Science in finance are from the mainland. Of the students taking City University's Master of Science in applied economics, 80 per cent are from the mainland. Academic reputation aside, the city's proximity to the mainland and status as a free, cosmopolitan city are attractive factors. Another draw is that non-local graduates can stay in the city for one year to look for work and stand to gain permanent residency after seven years.
HK named one of world's best cities for students: HK has been named the seventh-best city in the world for students but remains behind Singapore, which is Asia's top-ranked city. Both cities leapt up the rankings in the QS Best Student Cities list. Cities were judged in five categories: university rankings, student mix, quality of living, employer activity in recruiting students and affordability. "With a maximum of 100 points awarded [in each category], HK's highest scores were 96 for employer activity, 94 for rankings and 85 for student mix," QS head of research Ben Sowter said. "With employment upon graduation an increasing worry for students around the world, the city's high employer activity combined with world class universities gives it a unique edge on the world stage."
Macau's residents each get 9,000 pataca handout, but critics not satisfied: Casino-rich Macau announced a record handout of 9,000 patacas for each of its 570,000 permanent residents on Nov. 12 as part of a basket of sweeteners that critics say are designed to head off growing public anger over bigger structural economic problems. Critics say Chui's package of direct financial handouts - which also includes a 7,000-pataca injection into the provident funds of eligible residents and a smaller (5,400 patacas) handout for non-permanent residents - mask his failure to come up with long-term solutions to labour and housing problems. In his blueprint for the year ahead Chui did, however, promise stronger supervision of the casino sector in an effort to expand job opportunities and boost upward mobility for Macau residents in the sector, which is the lifeblood of the economy. Direct taxes from gaming this year are expected to bring in about 95 billion patacas - more than 80 per cent of the city's total revenue of 115 billion patacas - according to official figures.
This is a review of the Hong Kong media and does
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of Switzerland. The Consulate General of Switzerland in
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