CONSULATE GENERAL OF SWITZERLAND IN HONG KONG
|A condensed press review prepared
the Consulate General of Switzerland in Hong Kong
On the political front the campaign for the September elections
is in full swing with registration of candidates and voters. For
the moment the debate among the various contenders has lost in acrimony
as they all want to appear reasonable to the voters. All the economic
indicators remain positive.
Hong Kong chief of health quits: The Secretary for Health
resigned along with several other officials amid SARS furore following
a legislative report noting that he did not show sufficient alertness
when the disease was spreading rapidly throughout nearby Guangdong
Province in January 2003.
Beijing knows best: During the last session of the current
legislature the Chief Executive advised parliamentarians to look
at Beijing's point of view and to understand how HK's development
may affect the interests of the country and the safety and well
being of mainland compatriots. While the policy gulf between parties
remain the same, the session lacked the vitriol of past exchanges.
For a well known Chinese University professor, member of Article
45 Concern Group, politics in HK has become a house of mirrors full
of distorted and confusing images. So far lots of talk has been
followed by little substance and Democrats are still excluded from
the real process of decision making.
Election fever: All parties are preparing for the September
elections and registration of candidates and voters is in full swing.
Democrats face tough fights in LEGCO polls and it appears that safe
victory is assured in just half the geographical constituency seats.
In that context Anson Chan declared that the city needs better political
parties and urged Hongkongers to prepare for universal suffrage
after 2008 in agreement with Beijing.
ICAC raids: ICAC (Independent Commission against Corruption)
staged high profile raids on newspaper offices as part of an investigation
into the leaking of a protected witness' name. A lawyer was also
arrested. Several papers protested against this intimidatory operation
describing it as cow boy tactics and a danger against freedom of
Beijing envoy slams US policy on Taiwan and HK: In a rare
news conference the Chinese Embassy spokesman in Washington declared
his country was gravely concerned that US policy on Taiwan and HK
will undermine progress on US-China relations. He added that Chinese
officials appear to believe that US policies on human rights, democracy,
Hong Kong and other issues « added up » to
a policy aimed at regime change in Beijing.
Critical British government report: According to an official
report of the Foreign Office Beijing's intervention over HK's universal
suffrage is inconsistent with the high degree of autonomy guaranteed
to the city under the Sino-British Joint Declaration. The report
adds that Beijing has eroded HK's autonomy but lauds moves to talk
with pro-democracy lawmakers. The Chinese foreign ministry expressed
strong dissatisfaction and resolutely opposed the improper comments
made by the British government. The Chinese commissioner in HK personally
rejected the report and criticised as groundless the comments of
his British colleague who had said in a BBC interview: « Beijing
intervened pretty directly on its own initiative and kind of set
out some ground rules about what they were prepared to tolerate
or not tolerate. We were rather concerned about that because it
is not very autonomous if you are told what you can do and what
you cannot do. »
Human Rights and Legal Affairs
Debate on gay rights: Government officials are intending
to formally reopen the debate on gay rights, a positive development
which will eventually lead to the required legislation be put in
place. Some observers have noted the cautious official approach
on the issue reminiscent of the snail-like progress of moves to
bring in laws against racial discrimination.
Falungong case appeal: an editorial noted the unusually long
delay in treating the pending appeal in the Falungong in which several
Swiss citizens are involved. This delay was mentioned in the British
report on HK.
Threat against freedom of press: Following ICAC press raids
the Committee to Protect Journalists expressed its concern and the
International Federation of Journalists wrote a letter to the Chief
Executive condemning the raids and calling on him to protect journalists'
rights. US authorities also voiced their concern.
Pan-Pearl River Delta Region: Guangdong is drafting an agreement
to demolish trade barriers among the nine provinces that make up
the pan-Pearl River Delta regional economic co-operation grouping.
The deal does not include HK or Macau, which are separate customs
Dispute over shipping channel: Despite the exchange of co-operation
vows between Hong Kong and Shenzhen, a plan for dredging a shipping
channel to Shenzhen through Hong Kong waters makes waves. Shenzhen
officials have been grumbling that Hong Kong is stalling the project,
which is perceived as a potential threat to the city's status as
a sea logistics hub. This "lose-lose" situation could
force Shenzhen to change its channel alignment and cause more environmental
damage to the Pearl River Delta estuary.
Power Shortage: Guangdong's worsening power shortage is starting
to strangle business at HK-owned manufacturing operations. In a
talk organised by the American chamber of Commerce in HK, entitled
"Power Panic in the Pearl River Delta", it was seen little
hope the problem could be alleviated this year. Many of factories
owned by HK companies had been forced to halt production several
days per week.
Worker Shortage: Guangdong and the Pearl River delta are
facing a shortage of at least 2 million workers as migrant labour
moves to better paying jobs in the Yangtze River Delta. Taken inflation
into account, wages in Guangdong have changed little over the past
10 years. Particularly affected are shoes, fashion, electronics,
hardware and food factories.
Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA): The CEPA
has produced a rise in job openings for Hong Kong professionals
in Shanghai (up 12%) and the Yangtze River Delta, a survey by Lingnan
University and the HK Professionals and Executives Association showed.
Mainland church counters negative image: The official Protestant
Church of the mainland is staging an exhibit on religious freedom
in HK to counter negative publicity on its record.
Economic Growth: Researchers at Hong Kong University said
local economy was growing by an estimated 11.2% in the second quarter
of this year over the same period last year. It is believed that
the city's recovery was sustainable.
Deflation stopped: Hong Kong's five-plus years of deflation
appear to have ended after government data showed prices in June
were virtually unchanged from a year ago. The composite Consumer
Price Index, which measures the cost of a basket of commonly used
goods and services, fell 0.1 per cent last month, the smallest decline
since the city slipped into deflation in November 1998.
Unemployment Rate: HK's Jobless rate fell to its lowest level
in two years, bolstered by an increase of service-sector jobs generated
by an influx of Chinese tourists. The unemployment rate fell to
6.9 % in the period from April to June, from 7% in the period from
March through May.
Goods and Service Tax: 22 trade associations and more than
100 companies launched the Coalition Against Sales Tax, which is
opposing the proposed introduction of a goods and services tax.
It said that a sales tax will affect the propensity of foreign investors
and tourists to invest and spend in HK.
HK$ 20 million bond offering: The sale of a HK$20 billion
debt issue will help fund the territory's HK$ 40 billion budget
deficit. The sale comes as the China-Hong Kong global bond market
is at its busiest in years. According to Financial Secretary Henry
Tang, the response from institutional an retail investors had been
good. A market source said, the central government has invested
in the bond offering slightly more than $1 billion or just over
5% of the total debt offering.
Employee Training Programmes: HK companies have doubled their
budgets for employee training programmes this year in the field
of communication skills, general computer skills, spoken English,
interpersonal skills and written English as well as Putonghua skills.
Economic Freedom: Even tough HK is experiencing political
difficulties, it retains the highest rating for economic freedom
according to an international survey produced by Cato Institute,
a Washington think tank. The "Economic Freedom of the World:
2004 Annual Report" shows Singapore ranked 2nd while the U.S.,
New Zealand, Switzerland and Britain are ranked 3rd. The survey
says the key ingredients of economic freedom are personal choice,
voluntary exchange, freedom to compete and protection of person
Terrorist threat against HK shipping companies: Police has
urged calm over terrorist threat to shipping after threat of an
Islamic group to attack ships from places including HK who carry
military supplies to US in Irak.
Press articles related Switzerland
Hong Kong Standard, Weekend Standard, 26-27.06.04: Credit
Suisse announced Oswald Gruebel will become sole chief executive
after co-chief executive John Mack "agreed with the board of
directors not to renew his contract". Gruebel and Mack managed
to achieve a turnaround in 2003, reporting net income of 5.21 billion
Swiss Francs compared with a 2002 loss of 3.3 billion. Credit Suisse
said it would "explore all options for capturing the value"
of its Winterthur insurance business, which Muehlemann bought in
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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