CONSULATE GENERAL OF SWITZERLAND IN HONG KONG
|A condensed press review prepared
the Consulate General of Switzerland in Hong Kong
HK must prepare itself for the many challenges of a rapidly growing
integration. Experts say government needs to reassess its management
of resources in planning for ad coping with a surge of mainlanders
coming to HK. Experts have issued strong warning concerning the
possibility of a worldwide avian flu pandemics originating in China
and South East Asia. On the economic level, an IMF staff Mission
to HK noted that economic performance has improved markedly since
mid-2003. The economy has turned the corner "We are sustaining
our momentum well into the final months of this year..." said
the Financial Secretary.
Livelihood issues to be main focus of Tung: With political
tensions easing and the economy on the path of healthy growth the
Chief Executive will most probably turn to livelihood and quality
of life issues in his January yearly policy address such as environmental
pollution, public sector reform, medical financing and the growing
gap between rich and poor.
Beijing's warning on referendum: Mainland official underlined
that referendum supporters are playing with fire. A move towards
a referendum on universal suffrage would obstruct constitutional
development and be seen as a threat to the nation. For Beijing it
is a challenge to the country's political and constitutional system.
HK authorities draw critics with a cultural masterplan: The
40 h complex known as the West Kowloon Cultural District is attracting
worldwide interest. Government shortlisted three local bidders and
construction is due to start in 2007 with the first facilities opening
in 2010. The Guggenheim and Pompidou museums as well as famous architects
such as Norman Foster and Herzog & de Meuron have made proposals.
Local critics charge that it is primarily a property development
and not a cultural one, a joint venture between government and big
business with no real interest for the community. Chief Secretary
for Administration Donald Tsang defended the project in LEGCO saying
the aim of inviting private developers to build the culture zone
is to make use of their capital and corporate skills and to ensure
that the cultural district will receive adequate funding to sustain
it. A three months public consultation on the project has started.
HK at APEC Summit: In Santiago Chief Executive Tung met President
Hu who told him that development is key to HK's future. Commentators
in HK media have been rather critical of APEC stressing that the
organization should go back to business and not leave security issues
dominate the agenda and give economic liberalisation only a pro
Democratic Party in disarray: The party's chairman announced
his resignation taking responsibility for the party poor performance
and flagging fortunes.
HK' international advisers: On Nov. 4 Tung Chee Hwa and his
Council of nine International Advisers ended a two-day meeting in
HK and Guangzhou. The advisers could witness the complementary relationship
between HK and Guangdong as well as the potential of their co-operation
in developing the Greater PRD into one of the world's most vibrant
economic hubs within the next two decades. The council was established
in 1998 to advise the Chief Executive from an international perspective
on strategies for the long-term development of Hong Kong.
Rumours on FBI piracy team in HK unfounded: US officers recently
met in HK to coordinate regional law enforcement but no FBI piracy
team visited the city.
2005 WTO ministerial meeting preparations: HK police force
braces for violent protests at WTO talks and plans to head off turmoil
by preparing for worst case scenario.
President Bush re-election: The Chief Executive wrote to
Mr George W Bush to congratulate him on his re-election as the President
of the United States of America. "I am sure under your leadership,
the United States' relationship with China will become closer in
the years ahead. We in Hong Kong will continue our efforts to strengthen
friendship between Hong Kong and the United States," Mr Tung
said in the letter.
Credibility of HK media reports about social unrest in Guangdong
Province questioned by party secretary: Following articles in
HK newspapers of marching and striking Guangzhou factory workers
winning wages battle, the Guangzhou party secretary has criticized
the city's media for reporting that there was rising social unrest
in Guangdong. He added that HK people are very fond of marches but
that his city did not want to be like HK. Local authorities have
been accused of imposing a news blackout on protests.
Exchanges in fight against corruption: ICAC Commissioner
has recently visited Guangdong Province to exchange experiences
on anti-corruption work. Since 2000 the ICAC has arranged more than
1000 presentations in HK for over 320'000 mainland officials.
HK must prepare for the many challenges of integration: HK
maternity wards are swamped by mainland pregnant women and jails
have more mainland inmates. Experts say government needs to reassess
its management of resources in planning for ad coping with a surge
of mainlanders coming to HK. In the region HK was compared to Los
Angeles, the Pearl river Delta to Greater LA and Guangdong to California.
Chinese airport to challenge HK: a new international airport
in Guangzhou is negotiating with neighbouring hubs in Shenzhen and
Zhuhai about forming equity alliances underscoring its intensifying
rivalry with HK. Misdirected spending in the region has resulted
in five airports within 90 km.
HK businessman unlawfully detained on mainland for 4 years: The
detainee's wife has appealed to local authorities to defend her
husband's rights. Commentators and NGO's have asked HK to take better
care of its citizens in the mainland.
Cooperation in higher education: Sun Yat-sen University (Zhongda)
looks to HK ties.
Legal Affairs and human rights
Coexistence of two legal systems possible: Two legal systems,
one country is no problem and can easily coexist for Justice Secretary.
Falun Gong followers escape convictions: Court of Appeal
has upheld fundamental freedoms of assembly, demonstration and expression
for religious activists. The coinvictions of the Falun Gong members
including four Swiss nationals for obstruction of a public space
were quashed in an unanimous decision by the court. The ruling will
help enhance HK's reputation as a tolerant, diverse society that
is committed to the rule of law
HK only a waiting room for 1,000 claiming political asylum:
As the UN Refugee Convention has been signed by China but not extended
to HK, the government accepts no responsibility for processing their
claims and leaves them to the cash strapped UNHCR.
An IMF Mission was in HK from Oct. 26 to Nov. 2 for the annual
Article 4 consultation.
Some highlights: Developments & outlook: Economic performance
in HK has improved markedly since mid-2003. Real GDP grew by 9 ½
percent (year on year) in the first half of 2004. IMF expects the
HK economy to grow by 7.5% amid strong domestic demand and exports.
Growth will moderate to 4% in 2005. CEPA is expected to foster deeper
trade end investment linkages between HK and Mainland economies.
Macroeconomic policies: While the deficit target for 2004/05
(before bond issuance) was set at 4.9 percent of GDP, indications
are that a significant over performance is again likely. The mission
again recommended to broaden the tax base through the adoption of
a goods and services tax.
Structural policies: The mission noted HK progress in the
enhancement of regulatory and supervisory arrangements and welcomed
the introduction of a deposit protection scheme in 2006. The property
market has rebounded, reflecting the economic recovery; the government's
continuing efforts to reduce its direct involvement in this market
Third quarter results: Exports of goods surged 15.3 % over
the same period a year ago, while exports of services rose 10.3
%. Consumer spending grew 5.1 % year on year, after rising 11.2
% in the 2nd quarter. Investment in machinery, equipment and computer
software rose 12.2 %. However, investment in construction fell 8.4
% compared with the corresponding period last year, following a
10.1 % drop in the 2nd quarter. The consumer price index rose by
an average of 0.8 % over a year earlier, reversing the 0.9 % decline
in the 2nd quarter. The property market regained momentum towards
the end of the 3rd quarter. By September, flat prices had risen
by about 6 % over June, resulting in a cumulative rebound of around
36 % from the middle of last year. HK is expected to face greater
inflationary pressure as a result of the plunging value of the US
dollar. But the weaker greenback would also enhance the competitiveness
of Hong Kong's exports and help attract international investment.
Outlook: The economy is likely to expand by 4 to 5 % in the
4th quarter over a year earlier following strong growth of 7.2 %
in the 3rd quarter. The government is sticking to its 7.5 % target
for full-year growth, the same as the revised forecast released
Goods and Services Tax: According to Financial Secretary
H. Tang a GST should not be brought in until at least 2009. The
government will offer tax concessions to alleviate the burden on
low- and middle-income earners when it introduces the GST. Tang
conceded that proposals such as a global tax on worldwide earnings,
capital gains tax were unlikely to proceed. But a "green"
tax on plastic bags and vehicle tyres has public support.
Investment migration scheme: more than 500 applications were
made under the scheme (under which people can apply to move to HK
with their families by investing 6.5 million) in its first year,
of which 310 have been approved with 1.54 billion invested.
Mystery infection in Caritas hospital: 31 children have been
affected by infection which causes fever and respiratory problems.
Caritas isolation ward not ready for this mystery infection.
Japanese encephalitis threat: HK reacts quickly to virus
threat and takes cue from SARS in warning of risks posed by Japanese
Threat of pandemic should not be ignored: After WHO health
ministers meeting in Bangkok experts have hardened their pandemics
warning stressing that the figure of 7 million potential victims
of flu pandemics was may be too conservative and that the purpose
of the exercise is give an indication of the magnitude of the problem
and not to give exact figures. The fact is that the virus is more
deadly for chicken and has infected other animals such as tigers,
cats, ducks and pigs.
Tests for Bird flu in HK : About 100,000 wild birds and chickens
in markets and on farms were tested for bird flu in the first 10
months of this year in an effort to monitor the disease. Only two
dead birds tested positive for the H5N1 virus - a grey heron found
this month and a peregrine falcon found in January. Bio-security
measures, including inspections of chicken farms and covering them
with nets to keep wild birds away, will be stepped up. Farm chickens
will continue to be vaccinated.
Security Bill: The Macau government started drafting a national
security bill to satisfy Article 23 of its Basic Law. The bill is
expected to be completed next year after a public consultation.
Fastest growing market in the world for gambling: Unable
to repel a wave of foreign investors into once tightly controlled
Macau gambling market, Stanley Ho has joined forces with Kerry Packer,
Australia's richest man, who described the city as the fastest growing
market in the world for gambling.
Macau broadens its appeal to tourists: Competition in casino
and airline industries heats up and will draw more visitors. This
trend may help the territory to emerge one and for all from the
shadow of its larger and more economically vibrant neighbour HK.
Surveys: Competitiveness HK has been ranked 2nd in a World
Economic Forum (WEF)survey on urban competitiveness (the survey
rated 53 cities using an index on competitiveness focussing on quality
of public institutions, technological and innovation environment
and economic situations). Distrust: according to another WEF survey,
63% of HK people thought their business leaders were dishonest;
61% thought their political leaders were dishonest and 66% said
that the city's political leaders had too much power end responsibility;
37%thought the next generation would be less prosperous. Pessimism:
25% of HK workers believe it is very or somewhat possible they will
be laid off in the next year(down from 29.5% from the May survey).
New Index: From February the Creativity Index will assess
HK competitiveness in creative industries, with the idea that creative
industries, fine arts and cultural heritage could be the drivers
of future economic growth.
Final edition for a respected Asian newsweekly: The Far Eastern
Economic Review published in HK for more than half a century will
stop being published because of lack of advertisers and become a
monthly opinion magazine.
Poor air quality in HK: according to the Sunday Times travel
section air quality in HK is so poor that it poses a health risk.
Good quality of life in HK: HK enjoys a slice of the good
life according to Economist Intelligence Unit annual survey which
has ranked the city No 18 worldwide.
Press articles related to Switzerland
South China Morning Post, 9.11.04: Perfect ten tourist attractions
Weekend Standard, 13-14.11.04: Wolfgang Schmidt-Soelch, an
executive board member of giant insurer Winterthur tells of his
company's plans for Geater China.
South China Morning Post, 20.11.04: Swiss based fashion firm
's chairman, Marco Franchini, said in a interview that Bally "is
firmly entrenched in China and in the mind of the Chinese people
as one of the world's top luxury items..."
South China Morning Post, 25.11.04: Swiss envoy plans to
paint town red. In planning the promotion campaign "Switzerland
greets Hong Kong" he was most concerned with how best elevate
the excellent links between Hong Kong and Switzerland to an even
higher level. The answer was to stress more co-operation in cultural,
academic and scientific fields, resulting in a spectacular array
of events that includes film, music and arts festivals, business
seminars and healthcare exchanges.
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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