CONSULATE GENERAL OF SWITZERLAND IN HONG KONG
|A condensed press review prepared
the Consulate General of Switzerland in Hong Kong
In February the media extensively covered the constitutional reform
debate and particularly the controversy about patriotism. Worth
mentioning is the assessment of HK made by a leading columnist:
"We work longer for less money in a more polluted city, but
we are still better than our regional counterparts, that is a summary
of six hard years on Hong Kong since Asian markets plunged."
Political reform debate: The main topic of interest has been
the debate on patriotism referring to Deng Xiaoping's assertion
that a patriot is someone who loves China, supports reunification
and does not damage the stability and prosperity of HK. Sources
close to Beijing have accused democrats of being anti-patriots and
even of conspiracy to overthrow the Chinese government. Beijing
has decided to play hard ball in the constitutional debate. It occupies
the driving seat and its bottom line is that HK should be governed
by HK people with patriots as the main body. Many papers have regretted
this disappointing start to what is supposed to be an open debate
mainly because the patriot requirement is hard to re-conciliate
with universal suffrage and democracy. Debate has become very emotional
with personal attacks and an atmosphere of witch hunt. Beijing's
position is seen as an attempt to stop democrats from winning half
Legco's seats in September. The message is clear: it does not want
the democratic camp to have any part in the governance of HK. According
to a known political commentator HK has become one of the most important
and difficult issues facing the central government since President
Hu came to power one year ago. It is said that the leaders are more
concerned about HK than about Taiwan because they have little experience
in playing politics in a democratic environment. They fear about
the prospect of having an administration and legislature run by
unpatriotic people who would constantly challenge the authority
of the central government. The majority of the Chinese language
press is of the opinion that heated discussion on patriotism as
a political consideration will cause splits in the society.
HK's government has printed newspapers advertisements asking the
public its views on reform. Respondents can reply by post, fax,
e-mail or by filling a web form.
International reactions to constitutional reform debate:
The British government has called for early progress to be made
to achieve the goal of universal suffrage in HK with the Foreign
Secretary saying that he understands the need for consultations
between Beijing and HK and hopes it will not take too long to resolve
the issues that need discussing. The US State Department annual
report on human rights is critical of the fact that no timetable
has yet been announced for consulting public on political reform.
HK legislator refused visa to Mainland China: Beijing authorities
have refused to give a visit visa to a democratic legislator invited
to take part in a conference in China.
New political group formed in HK: Some leading businessmen
have formed a new political group called HK Development Forum to
defend their interests and especially the functional constituencies
in order to balance the populist policies of the democrats.
Creation of new think tank: Beijing has established a think
tank on HK's reforms called "HK and Macau Research Institute",
sign of a more pro-active approach of the central government in
handling constitutional reform.
Controversy over education funding: The undergoing large
scale review of HK university system envisages a small number of
comprehensive institutions which conduct research along with a number
of complementary specialized institutions. The beneficiaries will
be the universities able to compete internationally.
Consular representations in HK: Their number has risen since
the handover. Today there are 56 career consular posts and 53 honorary
consuls. Kenya, Albania, Ukraine and Romania have recently or are
about to open representations.
Extradition case casts shadow on relations with Australia:
The decision by Australia's justice minister not to allow the extradition
of two men wanted in HK for alleged involvement in a serious crime
threatens to undermine the good cooperation between the forces of
law and order of HK and Australia.
Visa free access to Japan: HK authorities have secured visa
free access to Japan for HK passports holders.
Violation of pharmaceutical patents: US accuses HK of allowing
generic drugs to be registered regardless of whether they violate
patents of other drugs and urges the government to improve generic
WTO meeting: As the global group fails to set a date for
the next round of talks, hopes are dashed for hosting WTO forum
in HK in 2004.
HK's protest against Art. 23 inspires Mainland activist:
Chinese dissident and legal scholar Wang Yi said that if HK people
can enjoy human rights but people outside the city cannot, mainland
people are second class citizens. The contrast cannot be explained
by "one country, two systems" which refers to two different
institutional frameworks, not to two sets of universal values.
Falungong link threatens Bowie concert: Bowie's drummer wants
to have booths jointly put together by friends of Falungong and
Amnesty International. A Canadian follower of Falungong was prevented
to enter HK.
US annual report on human rights: Sex slaves and illegal
workers continue to be smuggled in large numbers through HK.
Bird flu coverage: Guangdong official criticizes HK media
over irresponsible bird flu coverage.
General framework of cooperation: Close cooperation is the
best remedy for Pearl River Delta region says Guangdong Governor.
HK should shed its need to compete with and dominate its prosperous
Tobacco executive arrested in anti-corruption probe: The
suspect is accused of taking big bribe to help syndicates smuggle
cigarettes into the Mainland.
Mainland refuses to help HK probe locally listed companies from
China: Beijing has consistently rejected requests for information
by HK regulators investigating locally listed mainland companies
and businessmen. This has far reaching consequences over cooperation
and communication between the two sides and could seriously erode
HK's reputation as a leading financial centre upholding international
Business expectations: for the first quarter of 2004, the
volume of business/output in the manufacturing; wholesale and retail;
import and export trade; restaurants and hotels; transport and related
services; banks, financing and insurance; and real estate, business
services and telecommunications sectors, is expected to increase
in the first quarter of 2004 over the fourth quarter of 2003. On
the other hand, the volume of output in the construction sector
is expected to fall over the same period.
New business portal: A new business portal, business.gov.hk,
was launched on 4 February to provide local, Mainland and overseas
investors with essential information on how to start or expand a
business in Hong Kong. The website provides detailed information
under the following headings: Start your Business Finance your Business
Grow your Business &Manage your Business.
Bird flu: On 4 February 2004, Financial Secretary Henry Tang
said in Legco that the bird flu outbreak spreading in Asia and the
Mainland would have little impact on Hong Kong's economy. He said
Hong Kong had experience in dealing with outbreaks of infectious
Civil service: 13,000 jobs will have to go by 2007. With
the government desperate to reduce the deficit, civil servants have
already suffered a staggered average pay cut of 6 per cent. The
size of the civil service is also being reduced from 173,000 now
to 160,000 by 2006-7 to help reduce the government payroll. Their
numbers would be cut to 167,000 by March next year.
HOFEX 2004: the 10th Asian International Exhibition of Hospitality
Equipment, Supplies & Technology, Food & Drink (HOFEX 2004)
opened on February 10. Some 950 international suppliers and manufacturers
from 46 countries were participating in the exhibition and over
28,000 visitors were expected.
Intellectual property: Hong Kong Customs, Intellectual Property
Department, tourism-related bodies, consumer protection agency and
owners of intellectual property rights showed their commitment to
promoting Hong Kong's image as a shopping paradise for genuine goods
by pooling their resources to roll out new measures and a series
of publicity programmes starting 14 February. The Commissioner of
Customs and Excise said "We now have a very strong platform
for co-operation in IPR protection and eradication of counterfeiting
and piracy. He added "
in enforcement terms, we are starting
a new chapter of our anti-piracy campaign." In March, the Customs
will form the Intellectual Property Rights Protection Alliance with
the copyright and trademark industry.
Fashion industry: The Government is actively following up
recommendations on how to enhance training, improve capabilities,
promote branding, and strengthen infrastructural support. On suggestions
to develop a fashion centre, the Secretary for commerce , Industry
& Technology, Mr. J. Tsang, said that "
it is imperative
that the local manufacturing sector move up the value chain, and
increase the creative and intellectual property content of products.
Creativity, novelty, design, and branding are conducive to enhancing
the competitiveness of Hong Kong products."
Airport's privatisation: The government is planning to cash
in $6 billion of its $37 billion investment in Chek Lap Kok over
the next year, a move that will see the Airport Authority buy back
its shares ahead of privatisation. Government sources said that
if approved by Legco by the end of March, the airport's capital
restructuring plan could be completed in the 2004-05 financial year.
The proposal forms the first part of a two-stage plan to push ahead
with the airport's privatisation. The next step is to launch public
consultation on details of the airport's listing on the stock exchange.
The consultation will begin next month.
Merger: The Government announced that the MTR Corporation
Limited (MTRC) and Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation (KCRC) have
been invited to start negotiations on a possible merger. The negotiations
are to be conducted on the basis of the parameters set by the Government.
The two railway corporations have been given six months to conclude
their negotiations. The Government will then decide whether or not
to proceed with the merger having regard to the outcome of the negotiations.
Graft busters: Twenty financial executives including an analyst
at investment bank UBS have been arrested by anti-graft fighters
as part of an investigation into alleged share price manipulation
and a stock placement on the Hong Kong stock exchange. The Independent
Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) investigation involves the
alleged payment of more than $6 million in bribes. UBS released
a statement saying it had immediately suspended Hong Kong-based
small-companies research analyst Nicholas Tan pending the outcome
of ongoing investigations.
Money laundering: Japanese organised crime figures allegedly
have been laundering money through the Hong Kong branch of Credit
Suisse (CS) as part of a scheme that has seen at least six billion
yen (HK$432 million) move illegally through the SAR. CS Hong Kong
spokesman Martin Somogyi said Swiss confidentiality law prevented
him from confirming or denying if his bank was involved. He explained
that the Japanese case first came to light last December, when a
Zurich district attorney was contacted by Swiss anti-money laundering
officials and froze Swiss bank accounts.
Yuan: The Hong Kong Monetary Authority said 27 banks began
offering personal Yuan services on 25 February, while 12 others
banks had expressed intention to offer such services soon.
Pearl River Delta Integration: A new Greater Pearl River
Delta Business Council was created. It aims at fostering closer
economic co-operation in the delta region and at shaping government
strategy on its economic development. It will complement the official
HK-Guangdong Co-operation Joint Conference.
Hong Kong in figures
End-2003 Population: The Hong Kong Population was 6 810 100
(provisional) at end-2003, representing an increase of 24 000 (provisional)
or 0.4% (provisional) over end-2002.
Foreign currency reserves: at the end of January 2004 the
official foreign currency reserve assets of Hong Kong amounted to
US$123.6 billion 4 (end-December 2003: US$118.4 billions). Hong
Kong is the world's fifth largest holder of foreign currency reserves,
after Japan, Mainland China, Taiwan and Korea.
Hong Kong's export in January grew at their lowest rate in
20 months, surprising many who had been expecting continued stringer
growth. Analysts blamed the slowdown on several factors including
a reduction in value added tax rebate for exports on the Mainland
and the timing of Lunar New year this year. In January 2004, the
value of total exports of goods (comprising re-exports and domestic
exports) increased by only 0.2% over a year earlier to $135.3 billion,
as against a year-on-year increase of 15.8% in December 2003
Companies Registry: 50,049 new companies registered in 2003,
up 7.51% ( from 46,554 in 2002). The number of new overseas companies
establishing a place of business in Hong Kong and registered under
Part XI of the Companies Ordinance in 2003 was 724, an increase
of 3.43% from 700 in 2002. The total number of overseas companies
registered under Part XI of the Companies Ordinance stood at 6,983
at the end of the year, 273 more than 2002.
Hong Kong "Culinary Capital of Asia" has close
to 10,000 restaurants providing a wide range of dining options.
Counterfeiting: The customs detected 641 cases involving
offences about trademark counterfeiting and arrested 707 persons
in 2003 in connection with seizures of counterfeit goods amounting
to a total value of $169 million. In 2002, 669 cases were detected
and 626 persons arrested with seizures valued at $122 million in
Tourism: HK recorded 15.5 million visitor arrivals in 2003,
a 6.2% decrease year-on-year basis due to the devastating impact
of SARS. Arrivals from the Mainland were 8.46 million (54.5% of
total visitor arrivals), up by 24%.
In order to prevent avian influenza Hong Kong has stepped up measures
of prevention. These include a total ban of imports of poultry from
Mainland China. Even though the Bird flu has reached the doorsteps
of Hong Kong, as the death of black swans at Shenzhen zoo (just
across the Hong Kong border) is blamed to the bird flu H5N1 virus,
the territory stays free of avian influenza.
Macau more connected to Mainland than HK: In 2003 90% of
Macau residents visited the Mainland as opposed to 56% of HK residents.
Integration between Macau and Zhuhai is more advanced than the one
between HK and Shenzhen.
HK looking for new identity: According to the government
HK is Asia's world city but this has always been seen to be more
of an aspiration than a statement of fact. Future HK could be a
science and technology hub or a centre for the arts, a prime tourism
destination and a magnet for Mainland tourists. It could either
be an international city or a Chinese city and dragon head for the
Pearl River delta. The creation of a creative class should be a
Press articles about Switzerland
South China Morning Post, 2.2.04: "Success engineered
in very Swiss family way: Schindler is, indeed, very Swiss. On a
recent visit to Hong Kong to promote his firm's most advanced lift,
he squeezed 90 minutes of content into a 45-minute interview with
compact, no-nonsense answers to questions ranging from how he globalised
a once Euro-centric company hailing from tiny Lucerne (population
350,000) to how such a closely held firm can continue to compete
against industrial giants such as United Technologies - which owns
industry leader Otis - and Mitsubishi. Mr Alfred Schindler said:
"The Swiss don't like to talk a lot. They prefer action to
South China Morning Post, 27.2.04: "Ingenious choreography
lifts abstract ballet. Renowned Swiss choreographer Heinz Spoerli
directed the Zurich Ballet in its welcome HK debut. Spoerli's ingenious
and fluent classical choreography sets the ballet in a flurry of
activity. So, bravo the Hong Kong Arts Festival for staging pure-dance
South China Morning Post , 29.2.04: "Hong Kong is very
conservative about art. As a result, we don't get the artists who
are showing now in cities around the world" "
think the stuff I will show will shock. They are disturbing because
they are so attractive." " (Dominique Perregaux,
a Swiss citizen who opened a New Art Gallery in Hong Kong).
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
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