CONSULATE GENERAL OF SWITZERLAND IN HONG KONG
|A condensed press review prepared
the Consulate General of Switzerland in Hong Kong
ECONOMY & FINANCE
- Hong Kong lags behind on technology, innovation and sharing economy, survey shows (SCMP, September 4)
- Mainland China's 'Belt and Road' trade plan 'welcomes both big and small Hong Kong
companies' (SCMP, September 5)
- Hong Kong Observation Wheel saved from demolition after deal struck with new operator (SCMP, September 7)
- 'Starter Homes' plan may offer prices 'lower than half of Hong Kong market rate' (SCMP, September 8)
- Call to introduce tax relief for Hong Kong business groups as part of reform (SCMP, September 12)
- Securities watchdog backs away from front-seat role in Hong Kong's stock listing process (SCMP, September 14)
- HKMA chief warns of money laundering risks associated with bitcoin and digital currencies (SCMP, September 18)
- Hong Kong's 'last chances' to maintain its global economic standing (SCMP, September 19)
- European fintech deals indicate change of stance towards booming industry by conservative Hong Kong (SCMP, September 22)
- Hong Kong poised to be toppled from top of global IPO league table for first time in two years (SCMP, September 25)
- Rule of law and English language are key assets for Hong Kong to win British business in wake of Brexit, says trade chief (SCMP, September 26)
- Hong Kong Airport Authority plans HK$5 billion in retail bonds to help fund third runway (SCMP, September 27)
- Hong Kong jumps three places in global competitiveness index to reach 6th (SCMP, September 27)
- Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam mulls huge cut to profits tax for city businesses (SCMP, September 28)
- HKMA sets out seven initiatives in effort to bolster fintech (SCMP, September 30)
- Law criminalising insults to national anthem passed by China's legislature, with detention for offenders (SCMP, September 1)
- Independence banners fly on Hong Kong campus on first day of academic year (SCMP, September 4)
- Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam condemns university posters on death of official's son, city's independence (SCMP, September 9)
- Ban advocacy of Hong Kong independence, Beijing mouthpiece says amid banner row (SCMP, September 11)
- Disqualified Hong Kong lawmakers launch appeal bid to regain Legco seats (SCMP, September 12)
- Hong Kong's opposition politicians get chance at game-changing comeback next March (SCMP, September 15)
- Pan-democrats blast Junius Ho for saying independence activists should be 'killed mercilessly' (SCMP, September 18)
- Carrie Lam voices support for universities' plan to remove Hong Kong independence banners (SCMP, September 19)
- China cannot 'choke off' Hong Kong's democratic aspirations, says former governor Chris Patten (SCMP, September 21)
- Beijing attitude won't change says Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam as Zhang Xiaoming takes new role (SCMP, September 24)
- Beijing 'unswerving' on 'one country, two systems', new chief of Hong Kong affairs says; lashes out at independence advocates (SCMP, September 26)
- Carrie Lam's popularity dips to lowest level since she became leader of Hong Kong – but it's still higher than her predecessor (SCMP, September 27)
- Hundreds rally to mark third anniversary of Hong Kong's Occupy democracy protests (SCMP, September 29)
- New liaison office chief in Hong Kong reaches out to opposition pan-democrats (SCMP, September 30)
- 'Important areas' of 'one country, two systems' under threat, UK foreign secretary says in report (SCMP, September 15)
- Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam lashes out at UK politicians for 'disrespectful' comments on jailing of activist trio (SCMP, September 21)
LEGAL AFFAIRS AND HUMAN RIGHTS
- Hong Kong police to set up special team to handle terror attacks and large-scale protests (SCMP, July 7)
- Hong Kong passes law making it easier to say ‘sorry’ without legal consequences (SCMP, July 14)
- Extra 500 beds for Hong Kong's public hospitals, but not enough for winter flu, authority admits (SCMP, September 1)
- Hong Kong scientists hope to create cheaper, more effective method for detecting Alzheimer's (SCMP, September 8)
- Monitoring standards for Hong Kong's drinking water to go beyond WHO levels, officials say (SCMP, September 22)
- Cash boost to help Hong Kong recyclers when mainland waste import ban kicks in (SCMP, September 4)
- Paper jam in Hong Kong as mainland China tightens requirements on waste imports (SCMP, September 6)
- Waste paper collection resumes in Hong Kong as firms call off strike early (SCMP, September 18)
- Hong Kong government investigated over planning for electric car roll-out (SCMP, September 29)
CULTURE AND EDUCATION
- Students fearing they may lose place at UK universities flood helpline set up by Hong Kong leader (SCMP, September 6)
- Five Hong Kong universities achieve best rankings in recent years on world list (SCMP, September 7)
- Henry Tang becomes first non-official to head West Kowloon Cultural District Authority (SCMP, September 19)
- Hong Kong not equipping students for the future as well as Singapore or South Korea, study says (SCMP, September 20)
- Chinese University becomes first in Hong Kong to get department of biomedical engineering (SCMP, September 21)
- Macau suffers US$1.42 billion economic loss in wake of Typhoon Hato (SCMP, September 7)
- High voter turnout in Macau shakes up political status quo as youngest ever lawmaker elected (SCMP, September 18)
- More action needed on Hong Kong's ageing population, says commission chairman (SCMP, September 9)
Press articles related to Switzerland and Swiss matters
- Falling rocks kill Hongkonger and injure another during climb on Swiss mountain (SCMP, September 27)
Economy + Finance
Hong Kong lags behind on technology, innovation and sharing economy, survey shows (SCMP, September 4): Hong Kong is lagging behind other Asian cities in developing innovation and technology, and the government has a less open-minded approach towards a sharing economy, a survey of local residents has shown. The Sharing Economy Alliance, which commissioned the survey, urged the government to set up a task force to push for public debates and get consensus to produce draft policy on the matter.
Mainland China's 'Belt and Road' trade plan 'welcomes both big and small Hong Kong companies' (SCMP, September 5): The "Belt and Road" trade plan will have room for both big and small businesses, Hong Kong Trade Development Council has said, as the city gears up for its second summit on the China-led commerce strategy. This year's summit will focus on infrastructure investment and act as a platform for more concrete cooperation and opportunities, council chairman Vincent Lo said. "No matter how big the investment projects are – even those up to tens of billions of dollars – [these projects] will need the participation of small companies. The big corporations can't do it all," Lo said.
Hong Kong Observation Wheel saved from demolition after deal struck with new operator (SCMP, September 7): Hong Kong's waterfront Ferris wheel's future is secure after a deal was struck between the current and new operator. The current operator, Swiss AEX, who lost the rights to operate the Hong Kong Observation Wheel in a retendering of the site to newcomers The Entertainment Corporation, settled its differences after several days of talks, steering the wheel away from the threat of being dismantled.
'Starter Homes' plan may offer prices 'lower than half of Hong Kong market rate' (SCMP, September 8): A no-frills government-subsidised property scheme for young, first-time home buyers in Hong Kong might offer prices lower than half the market rate, a member of the Housing Authority said. Hong Kong's private residential property prices have surged for 13 months in a row, making the city – already the world's priciest home market – even more unaffordable. Stanley Wong, chairman of a government task force on land supply, said that the panel would first discuss about 12 plans for land supply proposed by different bodies before putting them up for public consultation in the first and second quarters of next year.
Call to introduce tax relief for Hong Kong business groups as part of reform (SCMP, September 12): A top government financial advisory body has proposed to allow business groups in Hong Kong to transfer losses among their subsidiaries as part of a planned reform to encourage innovation in companies through tax relief. The Financial Services Development Council unveiled the results of a study of group tax loss relief in 22 countries. The system allows a corporation to transfer the losses of its subsidiary to offset profits from other branches in the group, so that the company is taxed less as a whole. Council chairwoman Laura Cha said many developed countries had adopted the system and Hong Kong needed to catch up to stay competitive.
Securities watchdog backs away from front-seat role in Hong Kong's stock listing process (SCMP, September 14): Hong Kong's securities watchdog has agreed to back out of a front-seat role in approving new stock listings in the city, conceding to overwhelming opposition by stockbrokers, listed company representatives and other financial professionals after a five-month consultation. The Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing Limited HKEX will retain its primacy in approving listings in the city. The Securities & Futures Commission will be represented in a new committee that's to be established for setting listing policies, but will not be able to appraise the performance of the HKEX's listing division staff, the sources said.
HKMA chief warns of money laundering risks associated with bitcoin and digital currencies (SCMP, September 18): The Hong Kong Monetary Authority has joined the rising chorus of voices
warning about bitcoin and other digital currencies. HKMA chief executive Norman Chan warned banks and financial institutions trading or handling bitcoin or other digital currencies to be careful about breaching anti-money-laundering requirements. He added that investors needed to understand these commodities which had no monetary backing.
Hong Kong's 'last chances' to maintain its global economic standing (SCMP, September 19): Grabbing success from flagship Chinese economic initiatives such as the "The Belt and Road" and the "Big Bay Area", and the yuan's internationalisation represent Hong Kong's last opportunities to retain its global reputation in coming years, as it risks losing its former competitiveness as a financial hub, leading scholars have warned. "The reform and opening up by Beijing has offered chances to both the mainland and Hong Kong – many companies here survived by managing to keep their cost low by relocated their manufacturing to the mainland. But that model no longer works," said Anthony Yeh, chair professor of the Hong Kong University.
European fintech deals indicate change of stance towards booming industry by conservative Hong Kong (SCMP, September 22): Hong Kong is teaming up with British partners to boost its financial technology (Fintech) sector as two deals were cut in London to strengthen the city's role as a Fintech hub in Asia. The high-profile mission, organised by the Hong Kong Cyberport and Monetary Authority, signalled a reverse from the authorities' conservative stance towards the booming industry, as they have long been criticised for being too slow to adapt to the new business model due to its rigid regulatory approach. "Hong Kong is set to embrace innovation and technology, Fintech alike, making it a policy priority for building an even stronger economy, a more liveable city," Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury James Lau said.
Hong Kong poised to be toppled from top of global IPO league table for first time in two years (SCMP, September 25): For the first nine months of this year, there were a total of 98 listings on the two boards to raise US$9.14 billion, down 52.2 per cent year on year. The main board saw 50 deals worth US$8.65 billion to take a 7.2 per cent global share, ranking it third among the world's top stock exchanges by the amount of proceeds raised. It had topped the global rankings for the past two years. The financial sector accounted for the biggest share of listing proceeds raised in the city in the first nine months of this year, at 60 per cent
Rule of law and English language are key assets for Hong Kong to win British business in wake of Brexit, says trade chief (SCMP, September 26): Hong Kong businesses and officials need to seize the opportunities created by Britain's vote to leave the European Union, according to Trade Development Council executive director Margaret Fong. Fong said she believed both Britain and the EU will continue to grow in importance as trade partners to Hong Kong and that following last year's Brexit vote, more small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) would turn to Asia. Fong said in light of this trend, the council and the government needed to remind British businesses that Hong Kong, with its common law system and the popular usage of the English language, is the place to start and seek trading partners "outside their comfort zone".
Hong Kong Airport Authority plans HK$5 billion in retail bonds to help fund third runway (SCMP, September 27): HK$5 billion worth of retail bonds could be up for grabs next year as the Hong Kong Airport Authority revealed plans for raising HK$141.5 billion to fund construction of its third runway. The authority emphasised the plan would enable Hongkongers to enjoy the fruits of Hong Kong International Airport's success and denied it was a ploy to secure a stronger mandate for the controversial project. The authority expected the debts to be fully repaid by 2030 – six years after the third runway and its facilities are completed – although it could come sooner should the airport take in more surpluses in the future.
Hong Kong jumps three places in global competitiveness index to reach 6th (SCMP, September 27): Hong Kong has risen three places to reach sixth in the latest index measuring global competitiveness. The index was compiled by the Geneva-based World Economic Forum. "Hong Kong has made the largest leap among the top 10 economies this year," a report on the study reads. "The city is still endowed with the world's best physical infrastructure, and its healthy level of competition and openness ensure extremely efficient markets, which in turn are supported by strong and stable financial markets." Switzerland tops the table, followed by the United States and Singapore.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam mulls huge cut to profits tax for city businesses (SCMP, September 28): Chief Executive Carrie Lam is looking to go beyond her election campaign promises and reduce Hong Kong's profits tax rate from the current 16.5 per cent to below 10 per cent for all businesses. The new tax rate would apply to the first HK$2 million of profits made by businesses of all sizes. The city was sitting on a huge fiscal reserve of about HK$1 trillion, which could keep the government running for two years without any revenue, she said.
HKMA sets out seven initiatives in effort to bolster fintech (SCMP, September 30): Hong Kong Monetary Authority Chief Executive Norman Chan has announced a series of initiatives that it claims will open up "a new era of smart banking" in Hong Kong. The new initiatives were cautiously welcomed by analysts and market participants, as they suggest that the HKMA is willing to draw technology companies more closely into Hong Kong's financial services sector. The seven initiatives announced by Chan include a repackaging of the faster payments system which will be launched in 2018, opening up the HKMA's fintech supervisory sandbox to technology firms, and the creation of a new policy around opening up banks' application programming interfaces to technology players.
Law criminalising insults to national anthem passed by China's legislature, with detention for offenders (SCMP, September 1): China's top legislature passed a law that will eventually apply in Hong Kong, criminalising disrespect for the national anthem and laying out stiff penalties for offenders, including periods in detention. Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen said the local version of the law would maintain the original intent of the mainland legislation while safeguarding Hongkongers' basic rights and freedoms. Opposition pan-democrats in Hong Kong's legislature urged the local government to hold a formal public consultation before a final bill was introduced.
Independence banners fly on Hong Kong campus on first day of academic year (SCMP, September 4): The controversial issue of Hong Kong independence made a high-profile comeback despite Beijing's stern warnings in recent months, as banners advocating it surfaced on the Chinese University campus overnight. University staff later removed the pro-independence banners and a string of posters. A Chinese University spokesman said it was the school's long-standing position that it was "absolutely not in favour of Hong Kong independence". Chinese University political scientist Ivan Choy said the pro-independence banners clearly crossed Beijing's red line, but it was not clear how it would affect the room for manoeuvre for other democracy activists.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam condemns university posters on death of official's son, city's independence (SCMP, September 9): Hong Kong's leader denounced posters at Education University congratulating a senior education official on the death (suicide) of her son as "extremely callous and insulting". Chief Executive Carrie Lam claimed the entire city had been "shocked, grieved and enraged" by their appearance. Lam also insisted academic freedom and university autonomy were no excuse for propagating fallacies as she condemned posters at Chinese University advocating Hong Kong's independence from Beijing. She asserted their message ran counter to the "one country, two systems" principle and the Basic Law, the city's mini-constitution.
Ban advocacy of Hong Kong independence, Beijing mouthpiece says amid banner row (SCMP, September 11): The commentary, titled "A rule must be set to make Hong Kong independence criminal", was published on the People's Daily overseas edition's website after pro-independence banners and posters were put up at Chinese University and five other institutions earlier this month, reigniting the debate over whether it was illegal to discuss the city's separation from the mainland. The article added that according to Hong Kong's Public Order Ordinance, a person can be sentenced to jail for putting up posters that are "likely to cause or lead to a breach of" public peace. "Even Article 16 of the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance says the exercise of the right to freedom of expression can be restricted by law for the protection of national security or public order," it added.
Disqualified Hong Kong lawmakers launch appeal bid to regain Legco seats (SCMP, September 12): Two deposed pro-democracy lawmakers argued that a High Court judge got it wrong when he ordered they be booted from the Legislative Council chamber, as they filed appeals in a bid to reclaim their seats. Leung Kwok-hung and Lau Siu-lai said it was an error to think they had declined to take their oaths, which Leung swore whilst holding the pro-democracy symbol of a yellow umbrella, and Lau punctuated with deliberately long pauses.
Hong Kong's opposition politicians get chance at game-changing comeback next March (SCMP, September 15): Opposition politicians are looking to make a game-changing comeback when Hong Kong holds by-elections in March to fill four seats in the legislature vacated by their colleagues who were disqualified over improper oath-taking. The government announced that the polls would be scheduled for March 11, setting the stage for a showdown between former lawmakers, young democracy activists and pro-establishment district councillors. There will be more by-elections further down the line for seats vacated by two other opposition lawmakers, Lau Siu-lai of Kowloon West and Leung Kwok-hung of New Territories East. The pair have filed appeals against disqualification.
Pan-democrats blast Junius Ho for saying independence activists should be 'killed mercilessly' (SCMP, September 18): Hong Kong's pan-democrats have "strongly reprimanded" pro-Beijing lawmaker Junius Ho over claims on September 17 that pro-independence activists should be "killed mercilessly". The event was attended by thousands demanding that the University of Hong Kong sack Occupy Central co-founder Benny Tai, whom they claimed should be blamed for the social unrest and pro-independence sentiment in recent years. During the rally, Yuen Long district councillor Tsang Shu-wo warned on stage that no one should advocate Hong Kong's independence from China. "If he advocates Hong Kong independence, he's not Chinese, he's an outsider and must be killed," Tsang said. In response, Ho, who was among a group of pro-Beijing activists standing with Tsang on the stage, chanted: "No mercy!" In a statement, 22 pan-democratic lawmakers said Ho, as a legislator and lawyer, had "gone beyond the bottom line of freedom of speech and morals".
Carrie Lam voices support for universities' plan to remove Hong Kong independence banners (SCMP, September 19): Hong Kong's top official believed pro-independence banners flying over university campuses in the city "should not be allowed to continue" and that her administration backed individual university heads making clear they would remove the provocative messages. Chief Executive Carrie Lam also expressed confidence in how universities were handling the matter and claimed the government had no intention to intervene in the matter. On September 15, Chinese University vice-chancellor Joseph Sung issued an ultimatum to the school's student union to take the messages down, while leaders of the city's 10 universities issued a joint statement decrying freedom of speech "abuses" on their campuses.
China cannot 'choke off' Hong Kong's democratic aspirations, says former governor Chris Patten (SCMP, September 21): China cannot "choke off" Hong Kong's aspiration to be more democratic, and that aspiration can still be realised if change comes from within China, according to the city's last colonial governor. Chris Patten said he still believed Hongkongers would enjoy democracy in the future, under the Chinese sovereignty. Patten, who recently criticised calls for the city's independence from China as "diluting supporting for democracy", made clear that his hope lay in change within China. He added he was not convinced that Chinese people do not care about human rights and politics.
Beijing attitude won't change says Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam as Zhang Xiaoming takes new role (SCMP, September 24): The central government's attitude towards Hong Kong will not be altered by the recent personnel changes in Beijing, the city's leader Carrie Lam claimed. Lam's remarks came days after the appointment of Zhang Xiaoming, the director of Beijing's liaison office in the city known for his firm stance against the opposition camp, as the new chief of the State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office. Lam said the central government would maintain its policies towards Hong Kong and would continue to uphold the "one country, two systems" blueprint and Basic Law as usual.
Beijing 'unswerving' on 'one country, two systems', new chief of Hong Kong affairs says; lashes out at independence advocates (SCMP, September 26): The new chief of Beijing's office responsible for Hong Kong affairs said the Chinese government would continue its "unswerving" implementation of the "one country, two systems" governing principle despite a reshuffle of officials. Zhang Xiaoming also lashed out at advocates of Hong Kong breaking away from Chinese rule, describing them as "intolerable". Zhang, formerly director of Beijing's liaison office in Hong Kong, replaced Wang Guangya as the new director of the State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office in Beijing. Zhang's role in Hong Kong was filled by Wang Zhimin, who previously headed Beijing's liaison office in the former Portuguese enclave of Macau, which is also governed under "one country, two systems".
Carrie Lam's popularity dips to lowest level since she became leader of Hong Kong – but it's still higher than her predecessor (SCMP, September 27): Public confidence in Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has dipped by as much as 8 percentage points to reach its lowest level since she took office on July 1. The slump in support came amid heightened tensions in the city after some university students called for Hong Kong to break away from Chinese rule. Both Lam's popularity rating and the level of public confidence in her were at a record low since the start of her term almost three months ago, according to the latest edition of the University of Hong Kong's public opinion programme, done from September 12 to 15.
Hundreds rally to mark third anniversary of Hong Kong's Occupy democracy protests (SCMP, September 29): Hundreds of people gathered in Hong Kong's financial district to mark the third anniversary of the start of the Occupy pro-democracy protests, with street booths, banners and yellow umbrellas reappearing in scenes reminiscent of the sit-ins of 2014. The three co-founders of the civil disobedience movement, Benny Tai, Dr Chan Kin-man and Reverend Chu Yiu-ming, returned to the site in Admiralty, outside the Hong Kong government's headquarters that protesters occupied for 79 days. Addressing the crowd, Tai said the local administration was "an autocratic government which is trying to force the people to obey it with intimidation and lies". The trio, together with six other leading Occupy protesters, are facing variations on a public nuisance charge stemming from the movement.
New liaison office chief in Hong Kong reaches out to opposition pan-democrats (SCMP, September 30): Wang Zhimin, the new head of Beijing's liaison office in Hong Kong, has pledged to reach out to "friends" from all sectors of the community, including the opposition pan-democratic camp, while warning that advocating independence for the city will not be tolerated. He also praised Chief Executive Carrie Lam for "bringing a good atmosphere and new hopes" to the city. He stood firm on the red line that Beijing has drawn against the idea of Hong Kong independence, warning it was "seriously violating the laws" and "absolutely impossible".
'Important areas' of 'one country, two systems' under threat, UK foreign secretary says in report (SCMP, September 15): The British government has warned that "important areas" of the "one country, two systems" model under which China governs Hong Kong have come under increasing pressure, citing reports of mainland security officials operating in the city and Beijing's increasing influence. In response to the report, the Hong Kong government said in a statement: "Foreign governments should not interfere in any form in the internal affairs of the city." The statement said the city has been exercising a high degree of autonomy and the principle of "Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong" in strict accordance with the Basic Law.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam lashes out at UK politicians for 'disrespectful' comments on jailing of activist trio (SCMP, September 21): Hong Kong's leader has strongly defended the city's judicial independence before top officials and business leaders in London, lashing out at "disrespectful" and "disturbing" remarks by British politicians and commentators who objected to the jailing of three pro-democracy activists last month. She expressed sympathy for the victims of terrorist attacks in Britain. Lam and Hammond also witnessed the signing of a Fintech bridge agreement. Hong Kong Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury James Lau said the agreement was meant to encourage cooperation between the governments, regulators and businesses in Hong Kong and Britain.
Legal affairs and human rights
The city's Counter Terrorism Response Unit inspected and patrolled just 200 'sensitive locations' in 2009 – now the number is triple that (SCMP, September 6): The number of sensitive locations that Hong Kong's elite counter terrorism officers inspect and patrol has increased threefold to 600 over the past eight years, in response to global terror attacks. A top police source said the surge was in response to terrorist activities around the globe in recent years, as attacks targeted large crowds to create large numbers of casualties and draw international attention. But the source stressed the city's overall terrorism threat level remained "moderate" and there was no intelligence to suggest Hong Kong had been targeted for attack.
Violence in Hong Kong Legislative Council chamber on rise, top prosecutor reports (SCMP, September 7): Hong Kong's outgoing director of public prosecutions has described his division's work last year as "most challenging," citing "a disturbing surge" in public order cases involving violence both "inside and outside" the city's legislature. In presenting the annual report, Keith Yeung pledged his staff would remain impartial, independent, and "apolitical" in handling cases.
Charges against Hong Kong Occupy leaders are 'prosecution overkill', barrister says (SCMP, September 20): A barrister representing the three founders of Hong Kong's 2014 pro-democracy Occupy movement demanded for prosecutors to account for the fate of 700 other arrested protesters who have yet to face legal proceedings. Gerard McCoy SC raised the issue as his clients – academics Benny Tai and Dr Chan Kin-man, and Reverend Chu Yiu-ming – and six other leading protesters arrived at the District Court for a procedural hearing. The group faces a variation of public nuisance charges. McCoy argued that the charge sheet for his clients was "overcomplicated and overloaded", and amounted to "prosecution overkill".
Former Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang pleads not guilty in high-profile bribery trial (SCMP, September 26): Former Hong Kong chief executive Donald Tsang denied a corruption charge at the High Court, raising the curtain on a high-profile bribery trial involving the retired city leader, a local radio station and a three-storey penthouse. Donald Tsang, the highest-ranking official to be prosecuted, faces one count of accepting an advantage as the chief executive from January 2010 to June 2012, in a trial that is expected to last 25 days. Five women and four men were chosen from a larger group to serve as jurors to decide whether Tsang is guilty of an offence that carries a maximum jail term of seven years.
Legal entitlements of Hong Kong's same-sex couples unlikely to change, experts say (SCMP, September 27): The decision to grant a spousal visa to a gay woman has been welcomed by business groups and banks and heralded as a mood change on LGBT rights in Hong Kong – but it won't affect the legal entitlement of same-sex couples to other benefits, according to experts. Duncan Abate, an employment lawyer, said it was "absolutely not true" that same-sex couples were now on level footing with heterosexual couples after the judgment, noting that the city still had no sexual orientation anti-discrimination laws, and the ruling had not changed the legal definition of a "spouse".
Justice chief defends Hong Kong courts after judicial independence ranking falls for third consecutive year (SCMP, September 29): Justice minister Rimsky Yuen put up a strong defence of Hong Kong's courts after the city slipped five places in the judicial independence category of the latest global competitiveness ranking, compiled by the World Economic Forum. "Judges and judicial staff at all levels in Hong Kong have been handling every single case professionally, dedicatedly and independently," he said. Yuen acknowledged that in the local and international community, there were some "subjective perceptions" about the city's judicial independence.
Extra 500 beds for Hong Kong's public hospitals, but not enough for winter flu, authority admits (SCMP, September 1): An extra 500 beds for Hong Kong's overcrowded public hospitals will not be enough to cope with the winter flu season, authorities have conceded. The increase by the Hospital Authority, which manages public hospitals in the city, will be implemented by January next year, but will fall short of the estimated 1,500 additional beds needed to meet anticipated demand. The figure amounts to less than 2 per cent of the 28,000 beds in public hospitals citywide. Public medical wards across the city saw occupancy rates of up to 130 per cent – meaning temporary beds had to be laid out in corridors.
Hong Kong scientists hope to create cheaper, more effective method for detecting Alzheimer's (SCMP, September 8): The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) is developing a new and cheaper screening method to detect Alzheimer's disease through blood and eye imaging that could be more accessible for elderly sufferers in Hong Kong. Scientists behind the study are recruiting 100 volunteers to test the screening system that could potentially replace the traditional brain scan.
Monitoring standards for Hong Kong's drinking water to go beyond WHO levels, officials say (SCMP, September 22): Hong Kong has launched a comprehensive safety overhaul of its drinking water and is seeking to adopt standards beyond guidelines set by the World Health Organisation after learning a bitter lesson from a lead contamination scandal in 2015. A citywide action plan will involve enhanced monitoring through a new approach to tap water sampling, testing for heavy metals, using collected data to adopt better standards, and stronger regulatory control of plumbing materials and
contractors. The Water Supplies Department said it would draw about 670 samples from taps across Hong Kong annually to test for six metals – lead, nickel, chromium, cadmium, copper and antimony.
Cash boost to help Hong Kong recyclers when mainland waste import ban kicks in (SCMP, September 4): A Hong Kong green fund has set aside HK$20 million to help the city's recyclers ride out a fall in business expected to hit later this year, when the mainland stops importing foreign waste. The cash, will be given in grants to help the businesses buy equipment to turn used plastic into clean pellets, which they will still be able to sell across the border. Recyclers and green groups welcomed the move by the Recycling Fund, but said the lack of a longer-term government strategy would only put more local recyclers out of business, shrinking the industry and adding to pressure on the city's overflowing landfills.
Paper jam in Hong Kong as mainland China tightens requirements on waste imports (SCMP, September 6): The mainland has been tightening requirements on waste imports since the State Council told the World Trade Organisation in July that it would stop importing 24 types of waste – including waste plastic and unsorted scrap paper – as part of a campaign against "foreign garbage" by the end of the year. In a rare move, China stopped issuing for approval notices allowing mainland Chinese workshops to import waste, for the month of September. Hong Kong recyclers collect some 2,500 tonnes of waste paper each day and almost all of it is exported to mainland China for processing due to the city's lack of capacity and space for sorting.
Waste paper collection resumes in Hong Kong as firms call off strike early (SCMP, September 18): A trade group of Hong Kong exporters has called off its stoppage of waste paper collection after just three days of industrial action. About 1,000 recycling plants across mainland China failed to get additional permits to bring in foreign waste for the current quarter, causing a logjam of stock in Hong Kong. Hong Kong's deputy director for environmental protection Vicki Kwok said the government had been working closely with relevant authorities at central and provincial levels, to find an acceptable solution for all sides.
Hong Kong government investigated over planning for electric car roll-out (SCMP, September 29): The Ombudsman has launched an investigation into whether the government could have planned better for the spread of electric cars, as the number of charging ports has nowhere near kept pace with the number of the cars on the city's roads. There are more than 150 times as many electric cars on the road today as there were in 2011, but the number of charging spots in car parks has not even doubled. The watchdog will look into that growth disparity, which came despite a government policy (tax break) of encouraging people to buy electric vehicles.
Culture and Education
Students fearing they may lose place at UK universities flood helpline set up by Hong Kong leader (SCMP, September 6): Students at risk of losing their places at British universities because of delayed visas flooded a helpline on September 5, with more than 1,000 calls and emails received in its first three hours. Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced that the 24-hour hotline and email address would be set up to help affected students report their cases. Lam added that Britain's top diplomat in Hong Kong had promised to speed up delayed visa processing and offer explanations to UK universities for students who risked losing their places. The cases range from pre-tertiary to university courses. British consulate has apologised for visa delays.
Five Hong Kong universities achieve best rankings in recent years on world list (SCMP, September 7): The University of Hong Kong maintained its top standing among institutions of higher education in the city, rising three places to 40th on the latest World Universities Ranking while five of six local universities also achieved their best positions on the list in the past five years. The University of Science and Technology climbed from 49th to 44th place, while Chinese University jumped 18 places from 76th to 58th. Polytechnic University rose 10 places from 192nd to 182nd, while City University remained at 119th. Baptist University was the only local institution to go down in the rankings, dropping from the 351-400 range to the 401-500 range.
Henry Tang becomes first non-official to head West Kowloon Cultural District Authority (SCMP, September 19): For the first time in nine years, Hong Kong's arts and cultural hub will have a
chairman who is not a government official – Henry Tang – to head the project as it enters a "new stage of development". Chief Executive Carrie Lam reappointed Tang, who served as the former chief secretary from 2007 to 2011, as the chairman of the West Kowloon Cultural District (WKCD) Authority, who will assume the two-year position from October 1.
Hong Kong not equipping students for the future as well as Singapore or South Korea, study says (SCMP, September 20): Hong Kong students are less prepared than their peers in Singapore and South Korea for a future where technology will be king, migration will increase, and the environment will continue to worsen – and may lose out on jobs as a result, according to new research. Hong Kong came in 14th – behind Singapore, Japan and South Korea – in an Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) index, that assessed how well education systems prepare people aged 15 to 24 for the future.
Chinese University becomes first in Hong Kong to get department of biomedical engineering (SCMP, September 21): In a first for Hong Kong, Chinese University has launched a department of biomedical engineering, allowing students to apply for the undergraduate course from next year. In July, Chief Executive Carrie Lam identified biomedical technology as one of the potential new drivers of the city's economy. Lam said back then that the city had the potential to become the region's answer to Silicon Valley, by developing biomedical technology and artificial intelligence.
Macau suffers US$1.42 billion economic loss in wake of Typhoon Hato (SCMP, September 7): Macau suffered an economic loss of 11.47 billion patacas (about US$1.42 billion), with small and medium enterprises alone reporting losses of 3.63 billion patacas, after the city took a major hit from Typhoon Hato last month. The deadly storm claimed at least 10 lives in the former Portuguese enclave, leaving almost half of the city without water and electricity, and bringing businesses and public transportation to a standstill. Macau Secretary for Economy and Finance Lionel Leong remained cautiously optimistic about the overall economic outlook, saying the trend would be "heading toward a mild and stable development" for the rest of the year.
High voter turnout in Macau shakes up political status quo as youngest ever lawmaker elected (SCMP, September 18): High voter turnout in Macau legislative elections has shaken up the city's political status quo and delivered a black eye to top officials over their inept handling of a deadly typhoon that slammed the casino hub weeks before the polls. Among the trio of newcomers is pro-democracy campaigner, Sulu Sou, 26, who will become the youngest ever person to take a seat in Macau's Legislative Assembly. His New Macau Progressives group advocates a legislature fully elected by universal suffrage. The pro-establishment camp maintained its position as the biggest bloc in the assembly.
More action needed on Hong Kong's ageing population, says commission chairman (SCMP, September 9): Hong Kong needs to boost efforts to cope with its rapidly greying population, after new figures showed the situation is even graver than previously thought, Elderly Commission chairman Dr Lam Ching-choi said. As the share of Hong Kong's population over 65 swells, fewer and fewer working-age people need to support more and more old people. The trend is expected to add significantly to health and welfare bills. Raising the retirement age was one possible solution, he added.
Last year saw highest number of Hongkongers migrating to Canada since 1997 handover (SCMP, September 11): Figures from the Canadian consulate in Hong Kong showed that 1,210 Hong Kong people became permanent residents there last year, double the 630 figure for 2015 and 585 for 2014, the year of the Occupy protests. Applications also spiked from 977 in 2013 to 1,481 in 2014, before dipping to 1,096 in 2015 and moderating at 1,194 in 2016. Jeff Nankivell, the Canadian consul general in Hong Kong, would not speculate whether Occupy protests had played a role in the spike.
Press articles related to Switzerland and Swiss matters
Falling rocks kill Hongkonger and injure another during climb on Swiss mountain (SCMP, September 27): A Hongkonger was killed and another injured after the pair were struck by falling snow and rocks while climbing a Swiss mountain on Sept. 21. Two other male team members were
unhurt. They were part of a group of four Hong Kong mountaineers scaling the south face of Eiger, a 3,967-metre peak in the Bernese Alps, near Grindelwald in Bern. Local authorities in Bern are investigating. Officers from the Hong Kong Immigration Department arrived at the location to provide help to the group, liaising with the Chinese embassy in Switzerland.
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