THE CONSULATE GENERAL OF SWITZERLAND IN HONG KONG

 

  Hongkong Economic Report 2013 (May 14, 2014)
(pdf, 14 p.)
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Occupy Central
Carrie Lam dismisses Occupy camp's proposals for ending impasse: The government and political heavyweights have dismissed suggestions of dissolving the legislature or triggering a de facto referendum with by-elections as solutions to the political impasse. "[These ideas] seem unrealistic," said Chief Secretary Carrie Lam on Nov. 2, warning a so-called plebiscite had no legal binding force and would cost more than HK$100 million. Lam was referring to the two ideas that have been floated by protesters to end the stalemate as the civil disobedience movement enters its second month with no sign of ending.
Federation of Students now HK’s most popular political group, poll finds: The Federation of Students is the city's most popular and best-known political group, according to a University of HK poll carried out amid pro-democracy street protests that the federation has been leading. The prolonged protests have apparently dragged down the pan-democratic and pro-establishment camps. 
Police can arrest protesters who obstruct bailiffs, High Court rules: Police can now arrest Occupy Central protesters who defy bailiffs trying to clear their sit-in sites in Mong Kok and Admiralty, the High Court has ruled. The court's authorisation for the bailiffs to get help from the police if necessary is a new addition to three interim restraining orders- on behalf of drivers' groups and the owner of a commercial building. The judge explained that he allowed the police to step in because the rule of law and due administration of justice were at risk of being "seriously challenged and undermined", as some protesters had been openly disobeying and flouting the court orders.
Obama says his priority for HK is to avoid violence at Occupy protests: US President Barack Obama said in Beijing his priority when it came to HK’s pro-democracy protests was to ensure that violence would be avoided. This is not the first time that Obama has commented on the Occupy Central movement in the city. Early last month, he called for the HK government to exercise restraint and said he hoped for a peaceful resolution to the political stand-off during a meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
US has no involvement in fostering Occupy protest, Obama tells Xi: The United States has no role in pro-democracy protests in HK, President Barack Obama said in Beijing. But that wasn't enough to avoid a stern warning from President Xi Jinping that the city's affairs were strictly China's business. It is the first time the US president has spoken in public about accusations made by some mainland media and Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. "We are going to consistently speak out on the right of people to express themselves and encourage that the elections that take place in HK are transparent and fair and reflective of the opinions of people there," added Obama.
Beijing bans student leaders from taking trip to mainland to press for democracy: Three student leaders at the heart of the Occupy Central protests are demanding the HK government explain why their travel documents were invalidated, hours before they were to fly to Beijing to press their demands for true universal suffrage. It is extremely rare for authorities to revoke a Hongkonger's "home return permit" before they even reach the mainland. The students and pan-democratic lawmakers said the decision was an "affront to the law" and a sign that Beijing would not listen to HK people's views.
Overwhelming majority of Hongkongers want Occupy protests to end: Nearly 83 per cent of Hongkongers want the Occupy Central protests to stop, while more than two-thirds believe the government should clear the protest sites, a University of HK survey has found. The survey findings were released a day after Dr Chan Kin-man, a co-founder of Occupy Central, urged protesters to consider ending their road blockades and instead refocus on winning the long-term support of the public.
Occupy condemns attack on Legco: Occupy Central leaders and pan-democratic lawmakers were quick to condemn - or at least distance themselves from - the crowd that stormed the Legislative Council building on early morning Nov. 19. The government and 41 pro-establishment lawmakers also denounced the clashes, with the legislators signing a petition saying the Occupy movement had failed in its promise to keep the protests peaceful.
Nathan Road cleared ... for now: About 6,000 police officers will be assigned to the cleared streets and nearby areas in Mong Kok until Nov. 30 to prevent a reoccupation by protesters angered by removal tactics. A total of 148 protesters including Joshua Wong  of Scholarism and Lester Shum from Hong Kong Federation of Students were arrested during the two-day operation in which the occupied area in nearby Argyle Street was reopened. All six lanes of Nathan Road, northbound and southbound, were reopened on Nov. 26.
After Mong Kok clearance, students vow to target government buildings: The Federation of Students has threatened to set its sights on government buildings in response to the police clearance of the Occupy camp in Mong Kok following violent overnight clashes. "The further actions include a possibility of some escalations pointed at government-related buildings or some government-related departments," federation core member Yvonne Leung said on Nov. 27.

Domestic politics
Former chief Tung Chee-hwa looks to future with launch of his think tank: Former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa launched his think tank on Nov. 10, asserting that its most urgent missions were to win support for the government's 2017 chief executive election plan, boost social mobility for the younger generation and groom
future political leaders. The foundation will start conducting studies on issues related to the city's long-term development early next year and submit its recommendations to the HK government.
Young people urged to form their own political party: Representatives from HK's political and business sectors should sit down with students to resolve the younger generation's concerns about housing and career development, Antony Leung proposed. Leung - a former financial secretary who has been tipped as a possible successor to beleaguered Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying - also called for young people taking part in Occupy Central protests to consider participating in the political system, either by forming their own political party or by joining existing groups or think-tanks.
Political reform consultation could resume this month, Carrie Lam says: The city will resume soliciting views about electoral reform at the end of the month at the soonest, but there is "no room for dialogue" with student protest leaders unless their views are "related" to the agenda the government is setting for the exercise, acting Chief Executive Carrie Lam says.

Economy + Finance
HK's financial secretary rejects call to change the currency peg: HK does not need to change its currency peg to the US dollar, Financial Secretary John Tsang said after the latest suggestion that the government should look to the yuan instead. "The only actual arrangement suitable for a small, open economy like HK is the linked exchange rate system. We see no need and have no intention to change it," Tsang said. The peg was introduced in 1983 as the HK dollar and the Hang Seng Index plunged due to uncertainty surrounding talks between Britain and China. 
HK's third quarter GDP beats expectations; full-year target adjusted: HK's economy grew at a faster-than-expected 2.7 per cent pace in the third quarter, but uncertainty surrounding the Occupy protests prompted the government to revise its full-year forecast to the lower end of its earlier estimate. Blocked roads in Mong Kok, Causeway Bay and Admiralty have dampened sentiment among small and medium-sized enterprises. She expected economic growth in the fourth quarter to decelerate significantly due to further weakening of investments, despite the launch of the "through train" programme that allows cross-border share trading from Nov. 17.
Connect all set to roll: The China Securities Regulatory Commission and the Securities and Futures Commission jointly announced Shanghai-HK Stock Connect would be launched on November 17. This was followed by HK Exchanges and Clearing saying key bilateral issues such as trading quotas, revenue sharing, cross-boundary cash transfers, IT connectivity, market surveillance and information exchange have been solved. HKEx chairman Chow Chung-kong said the trading link will allow HK to become the exclusive channel linking mainland stock markets to foreign investors, and is also a significant milestone for the opening up of China's financial markets. The linking of the HK and Shanghai stock markets will also propel the development of offshore yuan business in HK to new heights, HK Monetary Authority said. 
HKMA scraps 20,000 yuan daily conversion cap in landmark reform: HK will allow the city's residents to convert yuan freely from Nov. 17 - a landmark reform that marks the latest step in the internationalisation of the tightly controlled currency. The move will see the daily conversion limit of 20,000 yuan, in place since 2004 in a bid to stymie currency speculation, scrapped. The change takes effect on the day the 550 billion yuan (HK$700 billion) Shanghai-HK Stock Connect scheme to link share trading in China's two biggest financial centres begins. Controls will remain on yuan remittances to the mainland by holders of HK bank accounts. 
Chan Ka-keung defends stocks through-train after lopsided start: A leading HK financial official has dismissed talk that the city is losing out to Shanghai after a lopsided start to cross-border trading under a tie-up between the two stock markets. Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Chan Ka-keung said initial trading under the so-called through-train stock scheme had been carried out mostly by institutional investors. "The mainland market is dominated by retail investors who need time to learn about the scheme," Chan said in a media briefing on Nov. 18. "This explains why there are contrasting performances between the northbound and southbound fund flows under the scheme." Chan said the next priority was a much-awaited mutual recognition scheme to allow cross-border fund sales between HK and the mainland.
HKEx to step up pitch for mainland interest in HK stocks under tie-up: HK stock exchange's top man has pronounced the fledgling market link with Shanghai a success despite a disproportionate flow of northbound investments that has prompted a vow to step up promotions across the border. Chow Chung-kong, the chairman of HK Exchanges and Clearing, said its long-term success depended on international traders' interest in the mainland market and mainlanders' appetite for overseas investment. "HK will have a role to play in this capital flow," he added. The first three trading days under the scheme have been marked by a strong push by international institutional investors into the A-share market, but with relatively few mainlanders taking the opportunity to trade HK stocks directly.
Launch of iPhone 6 sees HK retail sales rise by 4.8pc in September: The launch of the iPhone 6 pushed HK's overall retail sales in September up 4.8 per cent year on year, the biggest growth since January, although questions remain whether the momentum is sustainable. For the first nine months, total retail sales fell by 0.4 per cent in value, or 0.3 per cent in volume, over a year earlier.
HK-Zhuhai-Macau bridge costs set to soar by HK$3.7 billion: The HK-Zhuhai-Macau bridge project will cost taxpayers at least HK$3.3 billion more than its HK$83 billion budget, according to an estimate construction experts called conservative. Such an increase would likely see the government forced to seek more cash from the Legislative Council, at a time when pan-democrats have pledged to delay funding requests for controversial projects to pressure the administration on political reform. It would be the latest in a series of large public infrastructure projects to bust its budget. 
5pc pay rise likely for city's white-collar staff, survey of big firms shows: White-collar staff can expect a pay rise of 5 per cent next year, the biggest increase in seven years, according to a human resources consultancy. Lee Quane, ECA's regional director for Asia, said most companies saw higher revenues this year. Pay rises were important for retaining talent in a city with a jobless rate of just 3.3 per cent.
CY Leung says HK is in discussions with Beijing over latest Cepa trade deal: HK and Guangdong are still working to tear down more barriers to cross-border trade in services, leaders of the two governments said on Nov. 6, as business chiefs bemoaned the long wait for details of the agreement. A scheme first touted in 2011 to allow HK businesses easier access to the Guangdong market in a range of services is under discussion, but no details emerged from the latest meeting between the two sides. Guangdong Governor Zhu Xiaodan said the pilot scheme, scheduled to be implemented this year, was still awaiting approval from the central government. 
CY Leung vows full support for Beijing's Apec free trade zone proposal: HK fully supports the formation of Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) agreement to strengthen economic integration in the Asia-Pacific region, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said during the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation Forum (Apec) summit. “We endorse the Beijing Roadmap for Apec’s Contribution to the Realisation of the FTAAP,” Leung said. 
Beijing summons top HK officials to discuss Guangdong's future: The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) has summoned top officials from HK including Chief Secretary Carrie Lam and three other ministers, Macau, Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Zhuhai, as well as the Guangdong provincial government, to the "Inter-ministries Joint Conference on the promotion of the Development and Reform of Qianhai, Nansha and Hengqin in Guangdong". It is the first time the commission has called a meeting on the future of the Guangdong region.

Relations HK - Mainland China
Poll finds fewer Hongkongers identifying as Chinese, thanks to Occupy: Hongkongers' sense of Chinese identity has hit a record low, a Chinese University survey conducted during the Occupy Central protests found, as local student organisers plan their overtures to state leaders in Beijing. Only 8.9 per cent of the 810 people polled last month identified themselves as "Chinese", according to the university's Centre for Communication and Public Opinion Survey. That was one of four options presented to respondents of the poll, 26.8 per cent of whom chose "Hongkongers" as their identity. 42 per cent chose "Hongkongers but also Chinese" and 22.3 per cent went with "Chinese but also Hongkongers".Professor Anthony Fung, director of the university's school of journalism and communication, said people's low sense of Chinese identity stemmed from news of the Occupy Central movement and conflicts between HK and the mainland that have permeated social media.

Legal affairs and human rights
Debate heats up over amending HK's equality laws: The rift over future anti-discrimination laws deepened, as the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce, the city's biggest business lobby group, warned that ideas put forward by the equalities watchdog would "wreak havoc", while diversity campaigners called for legislation that went even further. A consultation by the Equal Opportunities Commission on reforming the city's four antidiscrimination laws ended last month. Its suggestions included laws to extend benefits given to an employee's spouse to a partner in a "de facto" marriage, and equal pay legislation.
Top court judge defends integrity of HK's rule of law: The rule of law in HK will survive no matter how severely critics of the courts say it has been undermined, a founding judge of the Court of Final Appeal said. Mr Justice Kemal Bokhary rejected suggestions that High Court injunctions against the Occupy protesters had harmed the court's independence by involving it in a political issue, because the court "does not choose cases, but the cases are brought before the court".

Health
More local cases of dengue fever are likely, authorities warn: More locally contracted cases of dengue fever are likely, health authorities warned. Two men were the first patients to contract the mosquito-borne disease in HK in four years. Both cases are thought to have originated at a construction site. Food and Health Secretary Dr Ko Wing-man said on Nov. 4 that authorities would not slow their fight against dengue fever amid a spate of cases in neighbouring Guangdong province.
HK health leaders plan no new Ebola steps, despite acknowledging risk: HK health chiefs do not plan to impose tougher preventive measures against Ebola, though they acknowledged that the city remains at risk from the deadly disease. Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko Wing-man said frequent international travel meant the threat remained. The minister said the government was doing its best to identify suspected cases as soon as possible.

Environment
HK's climate change precautions outlined: Officials have outlined precautions against climate change in HK, including sea walls and flood-protection systems, as a top forecaster warns that if efforts to reach a global deal on cutting carbon emissions fail, "when it rains, it will pour". This came when officials from several departments took a rare chance to present preparedness plans and "adaption and resilience" measures at a three-day international climate conference that began on Nov. 27.

Culture and Education
'Are you sure?': Academics question claim mainland cities ahead of HK in English: Academics and politicians took issue with a global study of English-language skills that ranked HK adults marginally lower than residents of major mainland cities including Shanghai, Beijing and Tianjin. The annual study, known as the English Proficiency Index, is compiled by EF Education First. Professor Simon Haines, chairman of Chinese University's English department, asked people to "be cautious of rankings". International publications had raised questions over the methodology used in such test-based rankings because the sampling base varied across different regions, he noted.

Macau
Revenue at Macau casinos falls by a record 23 per cent in October: The mainland's crackdown on graft, protests in HK and a ban on smoking indoors combined last month to create a perfect storm for Macau's casino industry, with gross gaming revenue plunging 23.2 per cent year on year to 28.025 billion patacas. It was the fifth straight monthly decline and the largest on record since the city started collecting data in 2005. Chinese gamblers may also be travelling further afield, to gaming destinations such as Las Vegas, to avoid scrutiny.

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

28.11.2014

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