CONSULATE GENERAL OF SWITZERLAND IN HONG KONG
|A condensed press review prepared
the Consulate General of Switzerland in Hong Kong
ECONOMY & FINANCE
- With land reclamation, an area the size of Sha Tin could be added to Hong Kong, housing minister says (SCMP, July 3)
- Insatiable Hong Kong shoppers in HK$40.5 billion spending spree as city records fourth straight month of double-digit growth (SCMP, July 4)
- One million Hongkongers could lose their job to AI over next 20 years, study finds (SCMP, July 10)
- Next lot of tariffs in China-US trade row will hit Hong Kong harder, minister warns (SCMP, July 12)
- Hong Kong may impose more curbs on non-local homebuyers (SCMP, July 13)
- Hong Kong's economic health will slow down under 'dark cloud' of US-China trade war, says financial chief Paul Chan (SCMP, July 14)
- US-China trade war: Hong Kong businesses 'anxious and concerned' over impact of second round of tariffs, commerce chief Edward Yau says (SCMP, July 17)
- Taxi drivers put on notice as Hong Kong government brings in stiffer penalties to combat city's notoriously bad service (SCMP, July 19)
- With crackdowns on Uber and Airbnb, does the sharing economy have a future in Hong Kong? (SCMP, July 20)
- America is like 'a captain set to jump ship' on global trade, says Hong Kong commerce chief, vowing to press Washington (SCMP, July 20)
- Elderly Hong Kong workers paid so badly they can hardly afford to buy lunch – but business groups insist they can't pay more (SCMP, July 23)
- Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam pushes for bigger role in China-led AIIB for city (SCMP, July 26)
- Hong Kong aims for cheaper, faster 5G roll-out with proposal to not charge telcos for spectrum (SCMP, July 27)
- Hong Kong's industrialists are moving out of mainland China to safer havens in Sino-US trade war (SCMP, July 30)
- Thousands march in Hong Kong to express discontent with city's governance (SCMP, July 2)
- Hong Kong residents more upbeat about 'one country, two systems' policy but concerns grow over freedom of speech, survey finds (SCMP, July 4)
- Veteran Hong Kong democrat Frederick Fung to quit party he founded 30 years ago (SCMP; July 11)
- Hong Kong lawmakers pass twice as many bills as previous year after 'effective' rule changes to tackle filibustering (SCMP, July 11)
- President of Hong Kong legislature easily survives vote of no confidence (SCMP, July 13)
- Liaison office legal chief tells Hong Kong: Basic Law is not your constitution (SCMP, July 15)
- Hong Kong court will hear application to temporarily ban controversial checkpoint plan before cross-border rail link opens (SCMP, July 16)
- Hong Kong separatist political party given 21-day ultimatum to contest unprecedented ban (SCMP, July 17)
- What Hong Kong crackdown on pro-independence party means for freedom in the city (SCMP, July 18)
- Freedom of speech fears see public confidence in Hong Kong sink to record low (SCMP, July 19)
- Threat of violence from Hong Kong National Party at heart of police bid to have it banned (SCMP, July 19)
- Hundreds take to streets calling for freedom of association after government seeks ban of Hong Kong independence party (SCMP, July 22)
- Election chiefs bring in 21 new Hong Kong district council seats, sparking gerrymandering concerns (SCMP, July 24)
- Advocacy of separatism will be suppressed, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam warns as she breaks silence on proposed ban for political party (SCMP, July 26)
- Police use of media interviews in National Party crackdown 'casts a shadow' over freedom of speech in Hong Kong, Journalists Association warns (SCMP, July 30)
- Take concerns over Hong Kong's human rights status to UN, British politicians tell their government (SCMP, July 10)
- Britain and the United States voiced concerns over the Hong Kong government's unprecedented attempt to ban a separatist party (SCMP, July 18)
- China committed to 'one country, two systems' for Hong Kong, Foreign Minister Wang Yi tells
Britain's Jeremy Hunt (SCMP, July 30)
LEGAL AFFAIRS AND HUMAN RIGHTS
- Giant step forward for equality' in Hong Kong as same-sex couples win right to spousal visas in Court of Final Appeal (SCMP, July 5)
- Let Hong Kong judges serve till 70 years old and magistrates till 65, government says in Legco plan (SCMP, July 12)
- 28 Uber drivers become largest group convicted in Hong Kong, hit with fines of up to HK$4,500 (SCMP, July 17)
- Former chief executive to serve 10-month jail term after Court of Appeal cites 'compelling' evidence that he concealed conflict of interest (SCMP, July 21)
- Hong Kong-born Nepali, 21, to speak at UN about local ethnic minorities' fight against racial discrimination (SCMP, July 30)
- Hong Kong's plan to steer 1.5 million people towards private health sector through Voluntary
Health Insurance Scheme will be 'challenging' (SCMP, July 4)
- Hong Kong's overstretched public hospitals see repeat visits from elderly lacking chronic disease and welfare help in community (SCMP, July 13)
- Hong Kong officials bowed to pressure from beauty industry and watered down regulation plans, lawmakers say (SCMP, July 17)
- As China's vaccine crisis unfolds, Hong Kong needs 'urgent policy' against 'coming influx' of visitors seeking jabs (SCMP, July 24)
- Spend public money on clean energy projects, not subsidised power bills, Hong Kong opposition lawmakers say (SCMP, July 5)
- Hong Kong's Chinese white dolphin numbers remains critically low – and reclamation and construction could make it worse (SCMP, July 12)
- Government to miss roadside pollution targets as Hong Kong levels remain 70 per cent higher than recommended by World Health Organisation (SCMP; July 19)
- Hong Kong spent billions sending construction waste to mainland China instead of reusing it in local projects (SCMP, July 22)
CULTURE AND EDUCATION
- Education centre with aim to promote Chinese national identity opens in Hong Kong (SCMP, July 7)
- Hong Kong graduates could struggle to find work if university English and Chinese language requirements lowered, headhunters say (SCMP, July 11)
- Job uncertainty gnaws at Hong Kong's contract teachers in public schools and causes low morale, union survey finds (SCMP, July 13)
- Mainland-born scholar Zhang Xiang takes office as University of Hong Kong chief and vows to pursue talent for institution (SCMP, July 17)
- More problem gamblers request bans from Macau's casinos as gaming hub vows to tackle addiction (SCMP, July 17)
- 500 Macau canidrome dogs to live in lap of canine luxury courtesy of unlikely partnership (SCMP, July 29)
Economy + Finance
With land reclamation, an area the size of Sha Tin could be added to Hong Kong, housing minister says (SCMP, July 3): An area the size of Sha Tin could be added to Hong Kong if the government decides to go ahead with reclamation to expand land supply, the city's housing minister Frank Chan said. But Chan's remarks drew a backlash from green groups, who warned that the environmental impact of such large-scale reclamation could not be underestimated. Land reclamation is one of 18 options for Hong Kong to get 1,200 hectares of land for development in the next three decades. These options were compiled by a government-appointed task force, and a public consultation is ongoing.
Insatiable Hong Kong shoppers in HK$40.5 billion spending spree as city records fourth straight month of double-digit growth (SCMP, July 4): Hong Kong shoppers spent a whopping HK$40.5 billion (US$5 billion) in May as the city's retail sector recorded its fourth consecutive month of double-digit growth. The Hong Kong Retail Management Association said that the 12.9 per cent increase stemmed from a rise in tourists and an uptick in local consumption. Sales in all types of retail outlets recorded increases, while eight posted double-digit growth. Sales of jewellery, watches, clocks and valuable gifts performed the best, tallying increases of 23.8 per cent. Thomson Cheng, the association's chairman, cautioned that a volatile stock market and the looming US-China trade war, as well as a recent fall in the yuan against the Hong Kong dollar, could affect growth later in 2018.
One million Hongkongers could lose their job to AI over next 20 years, study finds (SCMP, July 10): More than one million Hongkongers are at risk of losing their jobs to artificial intelligence over the next two decades, according to a new study by the One Country Two Systems Research Institute. It unveiled research which estimates about 28 per cent of the city's 3.7 million jobs are vulnerable to automation. These workers, which include secretaries, accountants and auditors, face a 70 per cent chance of being substituted for machines before 2038, the pro-Beijing research unit said. But Hong Kong employees face a lower risk of encroachment from AI compared to their counterparts in other advanced economies such as the United States, Britain and Japan. The brighter forecast for the city was due to its economic structure, which included a smaller manufacturing sector.
Next lot of tariffs in China-US trade row will hit Hong Kong harder, minister warns (SCMP, July 12): Hong Kong, which is an export-oriented port, will be "hit harder and more imminently" in a fresh and escalated China-US trade row, the secretary for commerce and economic development has warned. From food to clothes, the list of consumer goods and the magnitude of tariffs were worries facing the city, Edward Yau told the Post after meeting with about 10 Hong Kong business chambers. He said they were already concerned about their business orders in the second half of this year after the US$34 billion trade sanctions took effect on July 6. But he stopped short of estimating the impact on Hong Kong of the US plan announced on July 11 to levy 10 per cent tariffs on US$200 billion worth of Chinese products.
Hong Kong may impose more curbs on non-local homebuyers (SCMP, July 13): Tighter restrictions may be imposed on non-local homebuyers if necessary to rein in runaway property prices even as Hong Kong maintains its open-door policy on mainland Chinese migrants, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said. Questioned at the Legislative Council on why the government was allowing an "influx" of migrants from across the border while home prices remained above the reach of most local residents, the city's leader said she was open to new measures to improve the severe housing shortage, but refused to elaborate. Chinese University associate professor of economics Terence Chong said increasing the stamp duty for non-locals would do little to help, as previous transaction records showed these buyers had been willing to pay to own property.
Hong Kong's economic health will slow down under 'dark cloud' of US-China trade war, says financial chief Paul Chan (SCMP, July 14): Hong Kong's economic health will slow down in the second half of the year under the "dark cloud" of a deteriorating US-China trade war, Financial Secretary Paul Chan warned. He expected the trade spat would linger, creating a challenge for the city's nascent economic recovery, that recorded its strongest first-quarter performance – 4.7 per cent growth – in almost a decade. "The dark cloud covers a wide area and has affected invested sentiment," Chan said on a radio show. "The trade war is worrying because it is affecting our biggest trade partner, China." Trade and logistics industries, one of the city's economic pillars, were vulnerable to risks, he said. According to the government statistics, these industries employ about 800,000 people, or about 20 per cent of the city's working population.
US-China trade war: Hong Kong businesses 'anxious and concerned' over impact of second round of tariffs, commerce chief Edward Yau says (SCMP, July 17): Almost half the Chinese exports
passing through Hong Kong en route to the US would be affected by another round of tariffs in the ongoing trade war, the city's commerce chief Edward Yau has said. Yau said the tariffs were likely to directly affect about 0.1 to 0.2 per cent of the city's gross domestic product, although the long-term impact remained difficult to estimate at this stage. Yau said the government had actively explored market opportunities with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in the past year and signed a free-trade agreement with the nations that would take effect in January next year. "That will immediately bring down some of the tariffs imposed on us by Asean," Yau said. "That will offer a timely attraction to industries and investments to take advantage of Asean."
Taxi drivers put on notice as Hong Kong government brings in stiffer penalties to combat city's notoriously bad service (SCMP, July 19): Taxi drivers in Hong Kong who repeatedly overcharge or refuse fares will get bigger fines and more time in jail, as the government cracks down on the industry's notoriously bad service. Besides heavier penalties, the Transport and Housing Bureau confirmed it would roll out a demerit point system for cabbies but only for 11, instead of 18 offences as previously proposed. Drivers who accumulate 15 or more points within two years could lose their licence for three to six months. The move came after years of complaints of shoddy service by drivers of the city's 18,163 taxis, despite the threat of penalties stipulated by the city's laws.
With crackdowns on Uber and Airbnb, does the sharing economy have a future in Hong Kong? (SCMP, July 20): Drivers have been fined and home rentals face stricter laws, and while businesses and users remain hopeful, analysts say the hardline approach will continue to protect the vested interests of established competitors. The string of setbacks has raised questions about Hong Kong's aspirations to be a world-class "smart city". Critics have accused the government of favouring vested interests, and protecting the shareholders of firms under threat from the sharing economy. But others say these services are illegal and unsafe, and even economically inviable. Under Hong Kong law, letting property as short-term lodgings for a period less than 28 days without a licence is illegal. Economist Andy Kwan, director of the ACE Centre for Business and Economic Research, said Uber and Airbnb were in for a gloomy future as the government did not have the political will to address the legal challenges these firms presented. The vested interests among taxi groups and hoteliers were too strong, he believed.
America is like 'a captain set to jump ship' on global trade, says Hong Kong commerce chief, vowing to press Washington (SCMP, July 20): Hong Kong's commerce minister Edward Yau is planning to launch an all-out defence of the city's case against the China-US trade war in an official visit to Washington, vowing to speak out about the United States behaving like "a captain getting ready to abandon ship" in global trade. He also promised that the city's leadership would continue to adopt a multipronged strategy to safeguard Hong Kong's status as an international trading hub. Asked whether he would be visiting the American capital soon to discuss the issue, Yau said: "I'm planning to do so ... But visiting Washington is not the only way; occasions such as Apec and WTO meetings [are also opportunities to lobby]."
Elderly Hong Kong workers paid so badly they can hardly afford to buy lunch – but business groups insist they can't pay more (SCMP, July 23): Senior citizens and women have been the biggest losers when it comes to wage growth in Hong Kong, seeing the slowest rise in salaries in a six-year period compared to other groups. The findings prompted unionists to demand employers treat their staff equally, as they called for the hourly minimum wage to increase from HK$34.5 to about HK$44, a level they said would allow the underprivileged to live with dignity. But employers rejected unionists calls saying the demand for a rise of about 25 per cent would inflate business costs and could even render the workers jobless.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam pushes for bigger role in China-led AIIB for city (SCMP, July 26): Hong Kong would like to play a bigger role on the international stage by sharing experiences with emerging economies and helping them to set up regulatory bodies, the city's leader Carrie Lam told the Beijing-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). "In some of the emerging economies along the 'Belt and Road', whether in building up institutional safeguards, in sharing best practices in city management, in doing all sorts of training here and there, I hope the AIIB could also give us this opportunity when opportunities arise," Lam said.
Hong Kong aims for cheaper, faster 5G roll-out with proposal to not charge telcos for spectrum (SCMP, July 27): Hongkongers may get cheaper rates for superfast 5G mobile broadband services if a government plan to lower costs and speed up the deployment of the necessary networks goes ahead. The city's communications authorities proposed to not charge telcos for the use of spectrum – or radio frequencies – that would allow data to be transferred 20 times faster than existing speeds. Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau said it was appropriate not to call an open auction for spectrum given its "abundant supply". "That means it will greatly reduce the cost and also shorten the time involved," Yau said, referring to the roll-out of 5G networks by service providers.
Hong Kong's industrialists are moving out of mainland China to safer havens in Sino-US trade war (SCMP, July 30): Hong Kong's manufacturers, who relocated their production of toys, electronics, textiles and plastics to factories in mainland China three decades ago, are on the move again. This time, they are moving their production lines to Malaysia, Vietnam and lower-cost economies in Southeast Asia to avoid rising wages and land costs, and in search of safe havens from the escalating trade war between China and the US, said Clara Chan, President of the Hong Kong Young Industrialists Council. It represents 150 manufacturers with a combined workforce of 1 million and HK$200 billion (US$25.5 billion) in annual production.
Thousands march in Hong Kong to express discontent with city's governance (SCMP, July 2): Thousands of Hongkongers took to the streets on July 1 to express their discontent over democratic stagnation as the city marked the 21st anniversary of its handover to China. The Civil Human Rights Front, the organiser of the annual July 1 pro-democracy march, claimed more than 50,000 had joined – less than last year's 60,000 and hitting a three-year low – while the police put the turnout at 9,800, down from last year's estimate of 14,500 and its lowest level since 2003. In response to the march, a government spokesman said the administration had introduced measures to address people's aspirations and had been implementing the "one country, two systems" principle.
Hong Kong residents more upbeat about 'one country, two systems' policy but concerns grow over freedom of speech, survey finds (SCMP, July 4): Hong Kong residents' perceptions about the "one country, two systems" policy under which China governs the city have improved in the past six months although there are increasing concerns about freedom of speech, according to the latest findings of a survey. The poll, commissioned by the middle-of-the-road think tank Path of Democracy, asked 1,004 residents between May and June to evaluate the policy against nine areas, including judicial independence and an independent legislature. A governor of the think tank, Dr Sung Yun-wing, said violence in mainland China against Hong Kong journalists might have affected the score for freedom of speech.
Veteran Hong Kong democrat Frederick Fung to quit party he founded 30 years ago (SCMP; July 11): A veteran Hong Kong politician and democracy advocate is set to abandon the political party he co-founded three decades ago in what analysts believe is a ploy to bypass candidate selection procedures for a legislative by-election in November. Frederick Fung is expected to announce his resignation from the Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood (ADPL) amid speculation he will declare himself an independent candidate for the Legislative Council poll. Fung, who is known for his middle-of-the-road views, is expected to announce he will set up an advocacy group on Hong Kong's housing crisis and other issues affecting the poor.
Hong Kong lawmakers pass twice as many bills as previous year after 'effective' rule changes to tackle filibustering (SCMP, July 11): The number of bills passed by Hong Kong's lawmakers more than doubled this legislative year, following rule changes aimed at restricting filibustering. Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong chairwoman Starry Lee, who chaired the committee, attributed the increased efficiency to changes to Legco's rule book and better ties with the administration. "There is a big difference in the council's treatment of Chief Executive Carrie Lam and [her predecessor] Leung Chun-ying," Lee said. Last November, 24 rule changes were approved despite fierce opposition from the pro-democracy camp, whose influence in the chamber was much reduced after six of its members were disqualified by the courts for failing to take their Legco oath properly. The pro-establishment camp found the changes to be "effective" in ensuring the smoother passage of bills, Lee said.
President of Hong Kong legislature easily survives vote of no confidence (SCMP, July 13): Legislative Council president Andrew Leung easily survived a vote of no confidence as lawmakers split along party lines. Leung was accused by the pro-democracy bloc of unfairly helping the government to
pass controversial legislation. The motion was moved by pan-democrat Joseph Lee and backed by all 25 pro-democracy lawmakers. It was voted down by the 35 pro-establishment politicians in attendence. Pro-democracy legislators had been angered by Leung's handling of the contentious debate on the co- location bill, which dealt with the joint checkpoint at the West Kowloon terminus of the high-speed rail line linking the city with the mainland. He was also accused of lacking in impartiality, which Civic Party leader Alvin Yeung said had put the integrity of the legislature at stake.
Liaison office legal chief tells Hong Kong: Basic Law is not your constitution (SCMP, July 15): Beijing effectively sent Hong Kong a message, reiterating its stance on the Chinese constitution and the part it plays in the city's legal framework at a seminar on "one country, two systems". Wang Zhenmin, the legal chief of Beijing's liaison office in the city, said it would be wrong to regard the Basic Law as Hong Kong's mini-constitution. Wang's comments came after he laid out his thoughts on the principle of one country, two systems. He said the Chinese constitution fully applies in the city, apart from in areas covered by the Basic Law. "The constitutional order in Hong Kong must have the Chinese constitution as root and the Basic Law as supplement," Wang said. He also said in dealing with Hong Kong affairs, the central government did not have to follow Hong Kong laws.
Hong Kong court will hear application to temporarily ban controversial checkpoint plan before cross-border rail link opens (SCMP, July 16): A Hong Kong court will next month hear an application to temporarily ban a controversial joint-checkpoint plan for the new cross-border express rail link, ahead of its expected opening in September. Ronny Tong, a barrister and member of the Executive Council, which advises the city's leader, said that it was unlikely the injunction order would be granted, as the court would look at the prospect of the injunction application and whether damage to the government – if the order was granted – would be reversible.
Hong Kong separatist political party given 21-day ultimatum to contest unprecedented ban (SCMP, July 17): Hong Kong police are for the first time seeking to ban a separatist party in the name of protecting national security – the strongest and most controversial effort to date by the authorities to decisively crush an already marginalised pro-independence movement in the city. Secretary for Security John Lee gave the Hong Kong National Party an ultimatum to submit its case within three weeks as to why he should not act on the police recommendation. Lee pointed out that if the party was banned, it could still appeal to Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who could make a final decision in consultation with her cabinet, the Executive Council. While opposition politicians and some legal experts were quick to condemn the authorities for "political oppression", and warn it was effectively "giving life" to already sidelined independence advocacy, Lam rejected their concerns that the "one country, two systems" policy was under attack. "They [Beijing leaders] absolutely have no intention to undermine the Hong Kong system," she said. "But of course, one country does mean you have to respect national sovereignty and national interest. So, if this so-called red line or bottom line is breached, then the government, and myself as chief executive, will have to make it very clear that is not tolerated." The ban would be enforced by invoking the law known as the Societies Ordinance against a political party for the first time in the city's history.
What Hong Kong crackdown on pro-independence party means for freedom in the city (SCMP, July 18): An unprecedented move by Hong Kong authorities to ban a small-time pro-independence party is being seen as a warning against separatist politics in keeping with the "red line" drawn by Beijing, but critics have raised the alarm over the perceived threat to freedom of speech and expression in the city. Lau Siu-kai, vice-chairman of semi-official think tank The Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, said the Hong Kong National Party was not a significant political force, but the government was acting under pressure to show Beijing it was serious about protecting national security. University of Hong Kong criminal law scholar Simon Young said the police force's recommendation to ban the Hong Kong National Party under Section 8 of the Societies Ordinance showed there was already legislation in place to prevent political parties from compromising national security. But Patrick Poon, Amnesty International's China researcher, warned this was a move to "silence dissenting voices" and if the party was banned, it would have a chilling effect on freedom of association and expression for Hong Kong.
Freedom of speech fears see public confidence in Hong Kong sink to record low (SCMP, July 19): Hong Kong's residents are more worried than ever about what they say in public or on social media, an annual survey on quality of life in the city has found. The study, conducted by Chinese University, said the public's belief in freedom of speech had sunk to a record low – amid government crackdowns on those judged to be undermining China's sovereignty over the city. Housing affordability also
contributed to drop in the index, with new figures suggesting it would now take a family 16.1 years to buy a 400 sq ft home. That estimate was based on a HK$300,000 (US$38,000) annual income, with the family forgoing eating and drinking, and spending the entire sum on housing.
Threat of violence from Hong Kong National Party at heart of police bid to have it banned (SCMP, July 19): The separatist party authorities are seeking to ban poses an "imminent threat" to national security because of its leaders' concrete actions to advance an independence agenda for Hong Kong and pledge to achieve it by "whatever effective means", according to an unprecedented proposal drafted by police. While acknowledging that the Hong Kong National Party (HKNP) had yet to resort to violence, Assistant Commissioner of Police Rebecca Lam argued in an 86-page document that the possibility should not be ruled out and pre-emptive action should be taken. But some legal scholars warned the reasoning cited by police did not justify such a crackdown, arguing such a drastic approach would put Hongkongers' freedom of association and expression at risk.
Hundreds take to streets calling for freedom of association after government seeks ban of Hong Kong independence party (SCMP, July 22): Hundreds of protesters took to the streets of Hong Kong on July 21, accusing the government of "foul play" for seeking to ban a political party over its independence agenda. While most pro-democracy groups did not condone calls for independence by the Hong Kong National Party (HKNP), they joined the march in defence of freedom of association and speech after police branded the party an "imminent threat" to national security and public safety under the Societies Ordinance. Participants blew black whistles, a reference to a Cantonese idiom for bending the rules, and warned the ban would pave the way for a return of national security legislation under Article 23 of the Basic Law, the city's mini-constitution. The Civil Human Rights Front, which organised the march, estimated 1,200 people had joined, while police put the figure at about 600.
Election chiefs bring in 21 new Hong Kong district council seats, sparking gerrymandering concerns (SCMP, July 24): There will be 21 new seats up for grabs in Hong Kong district council elections next year after the map was redrawn to take into account population growth, in a way one councillor said smacked of gerrymandering. While the newly created seats announced by the Electoral Affairs Commission were mostly on new public housing estates, the boundaries of 128 constituencies would also be redrawn under its proposals. But a number of pro-democracy district councillors said the borders of their constituencies would be altered "unreasonably", and that it might affect their odds should they seek another term.
Advocacy of separatism will be suppressed, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam warns as she breaks silence on proposed ban for political party (SCMP, July 26): Any advocacy of separatism in Hong Kong "most certainly will face suppression", the city's leader, Carrie Lam warned as she broke her week- long silence on the proposed ban of a pro-independence party. While signalling that the marginalised independence movement could face legal consequences for the first time, the chief executive also said any moves would be done lawfully. Meanwhile, the police, which recommended the ban on the Hong Kong National Party (HKNP) to the security minister, remained tight-lipped on whether they faced pressure from Beijing to push for a crackdown on the group. The force had earlier argued that the HKNP posed an "imminent threat" to national security although it had not been involved in any violence since being established in March 2016. The party has until August 7 to register its opposition to the ban. Legal scholars and pan-democrats argued that the proposed ban contravened human rights and people's freedom of association.
Police use of media interviews in National Party crackdown 'casts a shadow' over freedom of speech in Hong Kong, Journalists Association warns (SCMP, July 30): The Hong Kong Journalists Association warned that the police force's use of press interviews as evidence to crack down on a pro- independence political party could lead to media censorship. The association's chairman Chris Yeung also said Beijing's emphasis of "one country" over "two systems" is a knife hanging over Hong Kong that hinders the city's political development. He made the remarks as his association released a report called "Candle in the wind – national security law looms over diminishing freedom". The report contains five chapters analysing freedom of the press and of speech in the city. The association called on the government not to enact a national security law, Article 23 of the Basic Law, the city's mini-constitution, in the absence of local consensus. Critics have said the law would pose a threat to civil liberties.
Take concerns over Hong Kong's human rights status to UN, British politicians tell their government (SCMP, July 10): Members from both houses of the British Parliament have signed a letter urging their government to raise the "erosion of rule of law and basic freedoms" of Hong Kong in the United Nations. The UN's Human Rights Council periodically reviews the status of countries around the world, and the 31 signatories from across the political spectrum want Prime Minister Theresa May's government to raise China's approach to the former British colony with the council, as well as through high-level diplomacy. In a letter addressed to the British Foreign Secretary, and released through Hong Kong Watch, the human rights NGO, the letter said the city's human rights issues had been neglected in a previous review of China. They urged the British government to make a recommendation this time around, and said the country had a duty to Hong Kong after the handover in 1997. The UNHCR's review is due to take place in November this year, when Hong Kong's status will be examined in the China sessions.
Britain and the United States voiced concerns over the Hong Kong government's unprecedented attempt to ban a separatist party (SCMP, July 18): Britain and the United States voiced concerns over the Hong Kong government's unprecedented attempt to ban a separatist party, calling for the city's high degree of autonomy, rights and freedoms to be respected. The British foreign office said: "We note with concern the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government plans to prohibit the continued operation of the Hong Kong National Party." "The United Kingdom does not support Hong Kong independence, but Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy, and its rights and freedoms, are central to its way of life, and it is important they are fully respected," its spokesman said. He added that Hongkongers' freedom of association was stipulated in the city's mini-constitution, the Basic Law, as well as the Hong Kong Bill of Rights. Darragh Paradiso, a spokeswoman for the US consulate in the city, said it was closely following reports that the Hong Kong government was considering a ban on the HKNP. "Freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and freedom of association are core values shared by the people of the United States and Hong Kong, and should be vigorously protected," she said.
China committed to 'one country, two systems' for Hong Kong, Foreign Minister Wang Yi tells Britain's Jeremy Hunt (SCMP, July 30): Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi assured his visiting British counterpart that Beijing remained committed to the "one country, two systems" policy of governing Hong Kong, even as he warned against outside interference in the city's affairs. A group of British politicians had urged Jeremy Hunt, who replaced Boris Johnson as foreign secretary on July 9, to discuss Hong Kong with state leaders during his trip to Beijing, citing concerns that the Chinese government had "increased and intensified" pressure on human rights and civil liberties in the city. "Hong Kong affairs are the domestic affairs of China. We do not welcome nor do we accept other countries interfering in China's domestic affairs," Wang said. "But of course China will continue to support and will stay committed to one country, two systems." For his part, Hunt said while Britain fully recognised China's sovereignty over the city, the British government was "very much committed to the one country, two systems approach, which we think has served both Hong Kong and China extremely well".
Legal affairs and human rights
'Giant step forward for equality' in Hong Kong as same-sex couples win right to spousal visas in Court of Final Appeal (SCMP, July 5): Hong Kong's top court handed down a landmark ruling in favour of a lesbian expatriate, requiring immigration authorities to grant same-sex partners spousal visas previously available only to heterosexual couples. A jubilant moment for the local gay community, the ruling was also welcomed by a host of Hong Kong-based global financial institutions that have experienced difficulties relocating talent to the city because of the immigration restrictions. Apart from maintaining "stringent" immigration control, the immigration department's other aim is to attract overseas talent, something the Court of Final Appeal said would be boosted by allowing gay and lesbian employees to bring their spouses with them. Secretary for Security John Lee said the government respected the court's decision and would study the judgment in detail.
Let Hong Kong judges serve till 70 years old and magistrates till 65, government says in Legco plan (SCMP, July 12): Judges in Hong Kong will be allowed to serve until they are 70, and magistrates till 65, after officials backed a plan to extend their retirement age to address a manpower shortage in the city's courts. The judiciary hoped the proposal could prolong the service of judges "as long as practicable" and lure lawyers to the bench, a government paper submitted to the Legislative Council said. In the paper, officials supported the judiciary's mandatory retirement proposals, calling them "reasonable and essential" to sustain manpower across different levels of the city's courts. "This will
enable the retention of experienced senior judges, and attract experienced and quality private practitioners to join the bench," it said.
28 Uber drivers become largest group convicted in Hong Kong, hit with fines of up to HK$4,500 (SCMP, July 17): Twenty-eight Hong Kong Uber drivers were handed fines of between HK$3,800 and HK$4,500 (US$570) after being found guilty of driving passengers without a hire car permit. The group is the largest in the city to be successfully prosecuted for offering ride-sharing services. That came after the magistrate urged authorities to step up attention on the problem of personalised and point-to-point passenger services. Under Hong Kong law, driving a car for hire without a permit is a criminal offence punishable by a HK$5,000 fine and three months' imprisonment on first conviction, and HK$10,000 and six months' imprisonment on subsequent convictions.
Former chief executive to serve 10-month jail term after Court of Appeal cites 'compelling' evidence that he concealed conflict of interest (SCMP, July 21): Disgraced former Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang walked into court and left in a stretcher for hospital, after an appeal against his conviction for misconduct in public office was rejected. Three Court of Appeal judges unanimously ruled that the evidence was "as formidable as it was compelling" that Tsang, 73, had concealed a conflict of interest from the people of Hong Kong when he was the city's chief executive between 2005 and 2012. But Tsang, who had been out on bail after being found guilty of misconduct last year, managed to have his 20-month jail sentence reduced to 12 months. The conflict of interest centred on a three-storey luxury penthouse in Shenzhen, mainland China, that Tsang wanted to make his temporary retirement home. The court heard that, between 2010 and 2012, Tsang began negotiations on renting the penthouse, which belonged to a company chaired by mainland businessman Bill Wong. At the time, Tsang was also in charge of approving licence applications from radio station Wave Media, of which Wong was a majority shareholder.
Hong Kong-born Nepali, 21, to speak at UN about local ethnic minorities' fight against racial discrimination (SCMP, July 30): Suskihanna Gurung, 21, who graduated from the University of Hong Kong earlier this year, will take part in an NGO delegation, meeting experts and members of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The committee will hold hearings on August 10 and 13 to assess how Hong Kong has implemented provisions of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Gurung said one of the points she would raise in Geneva concerned Hong Kong's school system, where ethnic minorities struggle with learning the Chinese language, as teachers are not equipped to teach it as a second language. This means many students struggle with spoken Cantonese and find it difficult to obtain better-paying jobs. Racial profiling continued to be a problem, she added. Excluding foreign domestic helpers, ethnic minorities account for about 4 per cent of Hong Kong's population of 7.34 million.
Hong Kong's plan to steer 1.5 million people towards private health sector through Voluntary Health Insurance Scheme will be 'challenging' (SCMP, July 4): The Hong Kong government's plan to shift 1.5 million people towards private hospitals through a voluntary insurance scheme will be "challenging" because the plan carries potentially high premiums and excludes high-risk individuals, according to a Legislative Council paper. Under the Voluntary Health Insurance Scheme, subscribers will receive a HK$8,000 (US$1,020) tax break as an incentive to join the scheme, which seeks to ease the burden on the city's highly congested public health care system.
Hong Kong's overstretched public hospitals see repeat visits from elderly lacking chronic disease and welfare help in community (SCMP, July 13): Close to half of elderly patients admitted to public hospitals in Hong Kong could be treated within the community if there was sufficient care for chronic diseases and geriatric problems, a study by the think tank Our Hong Kong Foundation has revealed. It also found that because of insufficient welfare and social services, about 20 per cent of senior citizens who were treated in hospital were readmitted within a month of discharge. That showed the urgent need for the health system to focus on providing better primary care to serve Hongkongers who were ageing and suffering from chronic diseases, instead of relying on already overburdened hospitals, experts said.
Hong Kong officials bowed to pressure from beauty industry and watered down regulation plans, lawmakers say (SCMP, July 17): Government officials bowed to pressure from the beauty industry and watered down a proposal to protect customers from salons hawking risky treatments using medical
devices, according to lawmakers. The changes included the removal of recommendations to restrict the use of high-risk medical devices, including those used for laser surgery, focused ultrasound and intense pulsed light therapies. There are currently no rules on the use of medical devices. Manufacturers and importers can voluntarily inform the Department of Health of the types of items brought into the city, and report any adverse incidents. Helena Wong from the Democratic Party said it was important to legislate devices that could "harm people", adding: "I don't know what industry pressure has been put on the government." Labour Party lawmaker Fernando Cheung said: "I worry Hong Kong will become a dumping ground for unscrupulous equipment."
As China's vaccine crisis unfolds, Hong Kong needs 'urgent policy' against 'coming influx' of visitors seeking jabs (SCMP, July 24): Hong Kong urgently requires a policy to ensure local children receive necessary vaccines before an influx of mainlanders drives up demand in the coming months, experts have said. The warning from doctors and a lawmaker came on July 23 as China remained gripped by a public health scandal in which a major drug maker was found to have supplied inferior vaccines for babies. In Hong Kong, all vaccines for children are imported from foreign brands. Private clinics usually see about 20 per cent of their patients come from across the border to avoid jabs made on the mainland. With the latest crisis, that number is expected to soar in the coming one to two months, doctors warned. "If the Hong Kong government does not adopt a timely policy, it could turn out to be a political crisis for the administration," lawmaker Dr Kwok Ka-ki, also a private doctor, said.
Spend public money on clean energy projects, not subsidised power bills, Hong Kong opposition lawmakers say (SCMP, July 5): Hong Kong lawmakers questioned the logic behind a government proposal to spend HK$8.7 billion (US$1.2 billion) subsidising residents' electricity bills over the next five years rather than using public money to upgrade the city's "smart energy" energy infrastructure. The two power firms – CLP Power and HK Electric – told the government that to meet the city's emissions targets and use cleaner but more expensive natural gas in power generation, users would have to pay about 3.5 per cent and 2.8 per cent more in net tariffs, excluding rebates, up to 2023. According to the subsidy proposal the government would grant relief of HK$3,000 over 60 months – HK$50 per month – to each household. Wong claimed it would help offset most of the tariff increases for the five year period.
Hong Kong's Chinese white dolphin numbers remains critically low – and reclamation and construction could make it worse (SCMP, July 12): The number of Chinese white dolphins in Hong Kong waters remains "critically low", according to a new government report, with experts worrying that future reclamation and construction could lower it further. Just 47 of the pink sea mammals were spotted from April 2017 to March 2018, according to the latest report by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department. The dolphins have largely disappeared from northeast Lantau since 2012, when work on the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge started, and high-speed ferry traffic from the airport's Sky Pier increased. With the ongoing work on Hong Kong International Airport's third runway, and upcoming reclamation projects such as the Tung Chung New Town extension, the situation could worsen.
Government to miss roadside pollution targets as Hong Kong levels remain 70 per cent higher than recommended by World Health Organisation (SCMP; July 19): An HK$11.7 billion plan to phase out old diesel vehicles is one of a host of policies an environmental group said had only "minimal impact" on roadside pollution in Hong Kong. And the effectiveness of those policies may have now reached a plateau, said the Clean Air Network. Annual average roadside concentrations of PM10 – specks of tiny respirable particulates that can get deep into the lungs – dropped from about 53 micrograms per cubic metre of air in 2012 to less than 38mcg in 2017. But from January to June, average concentrations measured at roadsides rose to 40mcg, despite the progress report projecting a drop this year to 35mcg. The group urged the government to pursue more targeted policies focusing on traffic congestion, such as limiting vehicle growth and electrifying more public transport.
Hong Kong spent billions sending construction waste to mainland China instead of reusing it in local projects (SCMP, July 22): Hong Kong spent HK$7.6 billion (US$968 million) over the past decade disposing of construction waste it could have reused for reclamation and building projects, the Post has discovered. Instead of recycling the material locally, a substantial amount of the waste has been shipped to mainland China and is being used for reclaiming thousands of hectares of land in neighbouring Guangdong province. Now, scholars and environmentalists are warning of a "severe case of overflowing", and urging the city to change its ways, as demand across the border for Hong Kong's
waste dwindles, while development locally continues to increase and the government is looking at large- scale reclamation to ramp up land supply for housing. Experts predict that in the next decade the city will generate more construction waste than it can handle, but with fewer options for disposing of it.
Culture and Education
Education centre with aim to promote Chinese national identity opens in Hong Kong (SCMP, July 7): A new education centre that aims to foster a strong sense of national identity with Hong Kong's youth opened its doors on July 6. The Centre of National History Education (Hong Kong) was established after repeated calls from state leaders, including President Xi Jinping, to strengthen national identity and patriotism among Hongkongers. However, its director, Ho Hon-kuen, denied there was any political "mission" behind the centre and said it received no money from Beijing's liaison office. The annual cost of running the centre was expected to be more than HK$1,000,000 (US$127,430), which will be continue to be raised through donations.
Hong Kong graduates could struggle to find work if university English and Chinese language requirements lowered, headhunters say (SCMP, July 11): Lowering the English and Chinese language requirements for entry into Hong Kong universities will make graduates less competitive in the jobs market, especially compared to international jobseekers, recruiters warned. Lancy Chui, a headhunter for the Greater China region, said many employers prefer hiring candidates with better language skills and jobseekers could use these to set themselves apart from others. The senior vice- president of Manpower Group said multinational companies, the banking industry and government were among those that valued language or "communication skills" the most. A source who works at one of the city's universities said the institutions already accept students who do not meet language requirements if they do exceptionally well in other subjects relevant to their chosen course.
Job uncertainty gnaws at Hong Kong's contract teachers in public schools and causes low morale, union survey finds (SCMP, July 13): At least 17 per cent of educators at Hong Kong's 844 public primary and secondary schools are on annual contracts earning less than permanent staff even when they have similar qualifications, and this is affecting both their morale and their ability to nurture pupils, the Professional Teachers' Union has found. The lack of job security has led to 31 per cent of teachers and close to half of teaching assistants surveyed saying they had considered leaving the education industry. Hong Kong's public primary and secondary schools, which have more than 550,000 students, traditionally uses educators on short-term contracts to boost manpower, as the number of permanent staff members is governed by the Education Bureau's pupil-teacher ratio.
Mainland-born scholar Zhang Xiang takes office as University of Hong Kong chief and vows to pursue talent for institution (SCMP, July 17): Renowned mainland-born scientist Professor Zhang Xiang took office as the 16th head of the University of Hong Kong, pledging to boost the profile of the city's oldest university and aggressively hire talent. "We are going to build a great university here that is not only [going to] train and prepare our next generation of leaders, but also make a societal impact in Hong Kong, Greater China and the world," the former professor of mechanical engineering at the University of California, Berkeley said. HKU has been embroiled in a number of political issues in recent years, including the appearance of banners and posters on campus advocating the city's separation from the mainland, a controversy over the council's rejection of pro-democracy academic Johannes Chan from a key managerial post, and a chaotic siege by student leaders of a university council meeting.
More problem gamblers request bans from Macau's casinos as gaming hub vows to tackle addiction (SCMP, July 17): Growing numbers of problem gamblers have asked to be banned from Macau casinos to cure their addiction, new data has revealed. Macau's Gaming Inspection and Co- ordination Bureau revealed 233 people filed formal requests to be excluded from casinos in the first six months of this year, 54 more than in the same period of 2017. The figures came after lawmakers in Macau passed a law banning casino employees from entering the floors when off duty. While officials hailed the data and employee ban as marks of the work they were doing to tackle problem and pathological gambling, the figures represented a tiny drop in the ocean when put in context of overall visitor numbers. An eye-watering 32.6 million people visited Macau in 2017 and, in a city which would struggle to exist without the gaming dollar, the bulk spent most of their time at the bustling baccarat tables.
500 Macau canidrome dogs to live in lap of canine luxury courtesy of unlikely partnership (SCMP, July 29): Angela Leong – one of Macau's most powerful businesswomen and fourth wife of gaming tycoon Stanley Ho – joined hands with redoubtable animal rights activist Albano Martins to announce a bold plan to secure the future of more than 500 greyhound racing dogs. The pair are set to build a new facility where – even if the animals fail to leave for an adoptive home – they will be able to live out their days in the lap of canine luxury. Leong's Macau (Yat Yuen) Canidrome Company has long been the target of animal maltreatment accusations by Anima, the rights group Martins heads. Leong has long faced accusations she did not care about the canines, which in the past were killed by the hundreds when they lost the ability to compete at Asia's last legal dog racing track, which is now closed.
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