CONSULATE GENERAL OF SWITZERLAND IN HONG KONG
|A condensed press review prepared
the Consulate General of Switzerland in Hong Kong
As usual, January was marked by the Chief Executive’s policy
address. This eighth edition took the form of a mea culpa which
“Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung, the maverick legislator,
considered as the confession of one’s guilt to Beijing. Another
important topic was the announcement of the decision to establish
a Commission on Poverty which will be chaired by the Financial Secretary.
It will study and identify the needs of the poor and make policy
recommendations to alleviate poverty. He observed that the HK’s
economy was at its best since the Asian financial crisis (it achieved
a growth of 7.5%).
Independence of courts highlighted: Judges will defend integrity
of courts and play their role as gatekeepers said publicly the Justice
Secretary seeking to dispel fear that the courts are abused for
Taipei mayor denied HK visa: After having been denied entry
to HK, where he had been invited to attend a seminar, the mayor
expressed deep regrets calling the decision a step backwards in
relations between Taiwan and HK and adding that HK was regarded
as the showcase of “One country, two systems” and was
supposed to be different from the Mainland. Some sources cite pressure
from the central government following his criticism of the anti-secession
law being enacted by Beijing. An editorial of the SCMP called the
refusal beyond reason because Taipei’s mayor is precisely
the kind of visitor HK should welcome being a supporter of reunification
with the Mainland and a friend of HK. The decision has needlessly
undermined the formula “One country, two systems” and
HK’s reputation as a city that is open to the outside world.
It amounts to a pre-emptive strike against free speech. The refusal
was also rebuked by US officials.
Mea Culpa of Chief Executive in annual policy address: In
an unexpected way he confessed to failures and acknowledged inadequacies
in the past years saying that his administration had often been
inexperienced, politically insensitive and indecisive and adding
that these shortcomings had undermined the credibility of his policy-making
capability and his ability to govern. In the rest of his address
called “Working Together for Economic Development and Social
Harmony” he gave a list of measures aiming at bettering governance,
fighting injustice and poverty and promoting economic freedom, environment
protection, culture and education. Critics stressed that empty words
won’t resolve the core problems of Mr Tung’s governance
and Legco united to attack his address with even the normally pro-government
DAB representative stating that the government had hastily introduced
many reforms and upset social harmony.
Zhao Ziyang mourned in HK: Zhao, who signed the Sino-British
Joint Declaration in 1984, will be remembered as a leader who was
prepared to listen to the HK people and was sensitive to calls for
democracy. Immediately after his death HK was the one place in China
where a public memorial service could be held and later there was
also a candlelight tribute drawing 15’000 people including
Mainland visitors. The President of Legco refused a request to observe
a minute of silence in his memory saying his contribution to HK
was not significant. A Beijing official added that mourning the
death of Zhao in Legco would contravene the Basic Law, a comment
seen by many as an ideological interpretation of HK’s mini-constitution.
Despite the refusal of the President, pro democracy legislators
staged a minute of silence prompting their other colleagues to boycott
the meeting and leave Legco.
Opposition sets out HK demands: The new head of HK’s
opposition Democratic Party laid out for the first time his demands
for political change. He stated that he was willing to back down
demands for an immediate move to direct elections if China would
commit to a firm timetable for such elections in the future.
Wanchai reclamation: Wanchai reclamation plan is back on
the road and three options are being presented for public consultation.
Low turn out for political rally: Postponed because of the tsunami,
the opposition January 1 rally took place a few weeks later with
a low turn out of around 2000 people. The protest march focused
on poverty, universal suffrage and collusion between government
and big business.
New era of consensus for pragmatism and less confrontation:
In a public interview the head of the government’ public policy
think tank said that after seven years of trial and error consensus
is emerging in HK and governance is moving from elite based to one
with broader public support.
Tsunamis: On January 25 a government spokesman said that
the Immigration Department's hotline had received 877 enquiries
and 1,426 requests for assistance. Meanwhile, there were still 29
unlocated HK residents, of whom 28 were reported to be in Thailand
and one in Indonesia. As of January 25th, 12 Hong Kong residents
were reported to have died.
HK’s international role in humanitarian affairs: A
post tsunami forum held in HK has encouraged the SAR to become an
international player. If HK’s contribution to tsunami victims
($700millions) leading the world is rightly praised, there is a
necessity for HK to be more active internationally in areas such
as environment protection and disaster relief work. Though the territory
cannot establish foreign relations, it could very well develop external
relations in those areas.
Visit by foreign dignitaries: Canadian and Irish PM’s
paid visit to HK.
HK and Ireland signed a Memorandum of Understanding which marks
the establishment of a new bilateral Working Holiday Scheme. It
enables young people from both places to stay up to 12 months in
each other's territory for holidays and short-term employment. Participants
may take up temporary jobs for not more than three months with any
employer during their stay. The scheme will come into effect on
March 1 this year.
Chinese PM urges cooperation: Visiting Shenzhen Premier Wen
said that the city should work closely with HK on economic, science
and technology and cultural areas.
Mega-city planned for 2020: HK is part of the Pearl delta mega-city
blueprint sketched by Guangdong planners who envisage an urban cluster
of 65 million in the region by 2020.
Red ants invasion from China: Biting red ants have been found
in potted plants imported from China. HK officials have confirmed
that they were only informed the same day the outbreak was publicly
announced in China. Reports stating that the central government
had alerted provinces two months ago have resulted in complaints
about lack of communication between HK and its neighbour.
Legal Affairs and human rights
Significant events: The Movement Against Discrimination marked
the end of 2004 by selecting the top events related to discrimination
during the year. Among others: Government says it will legislate
to protect the rights of those with different sexual orientation
(December); Gay man launches challenge in High Court against the
criminalisation of consensual sex between men under 21 (December);
Survey of 400 people from ethnic minorities finds 30% are unemployed
(June); Polytechnic University is criticised for requiring Cantonese
for admission to some courses (June); the plight of Aids patients
who had contracted HIV through contaminated blood products before
1985 is finally revealed (December); Government consults the public
on anti-racism legislation (September) etc…
Policy address & economy/highlights: The Chief Executive
outlined ways to consolidate the economic recovery, alleviate poverty
and promote social harmony and stability. He said “Following
economic revival, our principal mission is to further consolidate
our achievements and accelerate economic restructuring. In the next
two and a half years, promoting development will continue to be
the Government’s focus.” Measures to Promote Development
will include, among others, the strengthening of the 4 core industries
(financial services, producer services, logistics and tourism),
fostering the benefits of CEPA and starting CEPA III, enhancing
co-operation between HK and Guangdong and within the Pan-Pearl River
Delta, as well as attracting more Mainland enterprises to HK. The
Government further intends to promote cultural and creative industries
and to attract talented people from the Mainland and overseas. Increasing
Employment: the Government will continue public capital
works to provide about 45 000 jobs annually and study the issues
of “maximum working hours” and “minimum wage”.
Business Environment: unnecessary regulations in
the construction/real estate and retail sectors will be removed.
No Goods and Services Tax will be introduced in the
next two and a half years. Helping the Poor and Needy:
a commission to alleviate poverty is to be established as well as
a HK$200 million Partnership Fund for the Disadvantaged to promote
a tripartite partnership between Government, business and the welfare
sector. Environmental Protection: the co-operation
with Guangdong will be strengthened.
HK was ranked as the freest economy in the world for the
11th consecutive year by the Heritage Foundation (HF) which released
its "2005 Index of Economic Freedom" on January 4th. According
to HF, HK’s virtues lie with its duty-free port with no barriers
to trade, low level of government intervention in the economy, very
low level of inflation, very low barriers to capital flows and foreign
investment, very low level of restrictions in banking and finance,
low level of intervention in wages and prices, strong property rights,
very low level of regulation, and a low level of informal market
2004 was a record year for investment promotion in HK: The
Director-General of Investment Promotion at Invest Hong Kong, Mr
M. Rowse, announced that the Department assisted 205 foreign companies
to set up or expand operations in HK during 2004 -- representing
a substantial increase of 44 per cent over 2003, itself a record
year. These projects led to the immediate creation of more than
3,000 jobs and the same companies plan to create an additional 4,600
jobs here in the next two years. Over HK$4.66 billion was invested.
Invest HK’s target for 2005 is 220 completed projects, a 10%
increase over the 2004 target, and 7% more than the actual result."
The official foreign currency reserve assets of HK amounted
to US$123.6 billion at the end of December 2004 (end-November 2004:
US$121.5 billion). In terms of foreign currency reserves ranking,
HK is the world's sixth largest holder of foreign currency reserves,
after Japan, Mainland China, Taiwan, Korea and India. The total
foreign currency reserve assets of US$123.6 billion represent over
six times the currency in circulation or about 44% of Hong Kong
Unemployment: the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate decreased
from 6.7% in September - November 2004 to 6.5% (provisional figure)
in October - December 2004. Comparing October - December 2004 with
September - November 2004, decreases in the unemployment rate (not
seasonally adjusted) were mainly observed in the wholesale trade,
restaurants, business services and hotels sectors. The number of
unemployed persons (not seasonally adjusted) decreased by around
9 200, from 236 200 in September - November 2004 to 227 000 (provisional
figure) in October - December 2004, the lowest level since November
2001 - January 2002.
External Merchandise Trade: for 2004 as a whole, the value
of total exports of goods rose by 15.9% over 2003. Within this total,
the value of re-exports increased by 16.8%, and the value of domestic
exports went up by 3.5%. Concurrently, the value of imports of goods
increased by 16.9%. A visible trade deficit of $92.0 billion, equivalent
to 4.4% of the value of imports of goods, was recorded in 2004.
Bird flu spread now serious: HK government has stepped up
its surveillance and public announcement regarding the risk of bird
flu are now being broadcasted on planes flying to and from Vietnam.
The HK Center for Health Prevention monitors the situation.
2004, worst year yet for blanket of smog: HK’s airport
endured poor visibility on one day in four during last year.
Battery recycling: The Environmental Protection Department
will launch the rechargeable battery recycling programme in March
or April. It will collect spent rechargeable batteries, which will
be shipped to overseas recycling factories. Under the scheme, containers
will be distributed to schools, shopping centres, housing estates
and other public facilities to collect spent batteries. Friends
of the Earth has called on the government to extend the scope of
the year-long pilot campaign that covers only about 20 per cent
of discarded batteries. It said the government should also include
non-rechargeable batteries because they accounted for 80 per cent
of the 120 million batteries discarded each year and that some sub-standard
batteries were available in HK that contained harmful materials
such as mercury and manganese.
Year-end Clean-up Operation: To provide a cleaner environment
for the Year of the Rooster, the Food and Environmental Hygiene
Department (FEHD) has commenced a three-week territory-wide clean-up
campaign on January 17th. The Year-end Clean-up Operation 2005 should
feature a wide range of intensified clean-up actions, mosquito and
rodent control measures in all districts to tie in with the tradition
of cleaning up during the lunar year-end.
Impressionism masterpieces in HK: For the first time in HK
the public will have the opportunity to see 47 original masterpieces
of Impressionism by 13 French masters shown together in an exhibition.
The extraordinary exhibition - "Impressionism: Treasures from
the National Collection of France" will be held at the Hong
Kong Museum of Art from February 5 to April 10.
HKSAR biometric passports should be introduced in early 2007,
having regard to the international trend for enhanced passport security.
Each HKSAR biometric passport will be embedded with a contactless
integrated circuit chip containing the facial image and personal
information of the holder as it appears on the biodata page of the
HK's overall crime situation improved in 2004: The overall
law and order situation saw obvious improvement in 2004, with a
drop in most of the crimes, in particular homicide, robbery, burglary
and snatching as well as rape. The year to come will see Police
facing many new challenges including major events of different nature,
such as the Rugby Sevens in March, the Lions Club International
Conference in June, the opening of the Disneyland in September and
the World Trade Organisation Ministerial Conference in December.
Decline of English: Young people - and the government - should
do their bit to arrest the falling standard of English across the
city, said former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang. "We
need to do all we can to retain and sharpen this competitive advantage,
or run the risk of being overtaken by mainland cities." The
government needed to put more resources into training English teachers
and upgrading teaching materials.
Press articles related to Switzerland
Standard (21.1.05): HK ‘s Dickson Concepts is buying
Bertolucci, a Swiss maker of men’s and women’s watches.
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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