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Hong Kong faithful mourned John Paul II. In a declaration following the pope’s death, the Acting Chief Executive, Mr Donald Tsang said “To me as a Catholic, sharing the same vision as all Catholics on earth, it's an enormous grief in the death of our Pope John Paul II… He is forever my Holy Father. I will remember his laughter and his holiness…” The catholic diocese of Hong Kong will continue to act as a bridge between China and the Holy See in the papacy of John Paul II’s successor, a Vatican official said. As to domestic politics, on April 27, Beijing ordered that HK’s next chief executive will serve only the two years remaining of the previous Chief executive’s term.

Domestic politics
Next chief executive will serve two years: The NPC Standing Committee officially decided on April 27 that in the event of the office of chief executive becoming vacant, the next chief shall serve out the reminder of his predecessor’s five-year tenure. So HK’s next leader will serve just for two years until July 2007. This ruling supersedes anything local courts could decide and will stave off legal challenges that may delay or derail the election of July 10. For the opposition it sets another bad precedent showing Beijing’s overall power and disdain for the rule of law. Critics say that now the door is open for an always more flexible interpretation of laws by the central government. If it turns out in the future that the way a law is written does not suit the government, the authorities now have the ability to argue that the spirit behind the law was actually different and therefore the law as written should be ignored or revised to suit the circumstances of the moment. The popular mobilization against the NPC’ interpretation has been minimal with two public protests, a silent rally by lawyers fearful for the rule of law and a march by a few hundred people.
Citizens’ trust swing towards HK leaders: For the first time in four years people trust the HK government more than they trust Beijing according to a recent poll. The popularity of acting chief executive D. Tsang has hit a all time high as well as that of Secretary for Justice Elsie Leung.

International affairs
WTO meeting: HK's commerce chief is optimistic that WTO members can achieve a breakthrough on trade liberalisation talks at a summit in the city later this year. "We do not expect the talks to conclude this year, but we need to bring it forward a significant distance so we can conclude the Doha round in 2006" Mr Tsang said. He added that HK was a natural host for the meeting since, as a financial centre and free port, it had no conflict of interest in controversial agricultural and tariff issues. He said HK would push for a greater market access in services such as logistics, telecommunications, to other WTO member states. But he said HK and the mainland would not work together during the talks because the differences in their interests were too great.
City braces for WTO farm protest: as many as 8000 militant South Korean farmers are preparing to come to HK in December. The total number of protesters is estimated at around 20’000.
Popes: According to HK’s catholic Bishop Joseph Zen Ze-kiun Pope John Paul II’s one regret must have been that he never had the chance to visit China or even Honk Kong. The Bishop noticed that kind words came from Beijing which raised some new optimism about the re-establishment of Sino-Vatican diplomatic relations: along with Beijing’s condolences the two conditions for eventual rapprochement were reiterated; firstly to sever ties with Taiwan and secondly to stop interfering in Chinese affairs, even in religious matters. Bishop Zen stressed that the problem is not about Taiwan (Cardinal Sodanos’s words made it clear that the Holy see is ready to take the step of severing ties with Taiwan) but interference: Calling the appointment of bishops by the pope an “interference in internal affairs of China” is obviously a misunderstanding he said. He added that it is a purely religious matter accepted by all big nations but that he understands that before full mutual trust can be built, the Holy See may accept some participation of the Beijing Government. Bishop J. Zen praised the election of Pope Benedict XVI describing him as a man to chart a course of stability for the catholic church in a chaotic world. He said that the new pontiff would bring fresh hope that the Vatican and Beijing could rebuild diplomatic relations broken for half a century.
American consul general calls for more democracy: In his goodbye address he made a thinly veiled call for greater democracy insisting that HK people deserve the trust of their government. He also appealed to preserve the rule of law.

Transborder Affairs
PPRD visit to HK: A delegation of representatives from the Pan-Pearl River Delta (PPRD) General Co-ordination Offices of the nine provinces in Mainland and the Macao SAR visited HK to foster closer relationships and help in exploring new co-operation opportunities. The PPRD or “9+2” region comprises nine provinces/area in the Mainland - Fujian, Jiangxi, Hunan, Guangdong, Guangxi, Hainan, Sichuan, Guizhou and Yunnan - and Hong Kong and Macao SARs. HK Government stated that Hong Kong had to maintain and strengthen its status as an international transport hub and maritime centre and would encourage enterprises in the PPRD region to set up branch offices and to list in Hong Kong. In accordance with Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA), HK would progressively enhance their provision of professional services in the Mainland, especially in the "9+2" region.
Mainland mums may get $20’000.- hospital bill: Health authorities ask that Mainland China pregnant women who abuse HK’s public hospital system should pay a penalty.
HK used to channel out corrupt money from mainland: Prosten Technology Holdings, a HK listed company, served as a conduit for USD 1 million bribe paid to the former chairman of China Construction Bank. With this type of affair HK runs the risk that Beijing will intervene more in the future to investigate firms that support illegal activities on the Mainland.

Legal Affairs and human rights
ICAC ordered to halt bugging of suspects: district judge ruled that the use of hidden electronic bugs by ICAC violates Art. 30 of the Basic law which protects the right to private communication.
Tough battle ahead for gay groups: while gay groups see the legislation to be soon discussed as a necessary step towards equal opportunities, Christian and family concern groups believe it would unleash a dangerous tide of tolerance and upset society’s values.
Odd man out on equality panel: the first member of the 350’000 strong Asian community has been appointed to the Equal Opportunities Commission. When the anti-racism bill becomes law, the EOC’s mandate, which already encompasses gender and disability biases, will become more important.

Sino-Japanese relations & HK: The chief executive of the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce, warned that continued deterioration of Sino-Japanese relation would hurt their economic ties and it would in turn affect HK which traded heavily with both parties. Travel Industry Council chairman said about 30% of Japanese tourists had cancelled their visits to HK planned for May and June because of the recent anti-Japanese sentiment in the mainland. But the total number of tourists would not be much affected as Japanese visitors only accounted for 14 per cent of the total. He predicted the number of Japanese tourists would rise in the second half of the year.
CEPA - local watchmakers want tariff rule waived: The watchmaking industry is urging the HK Government to change the existing rule (30% value-added requirement in HK) for tariff-free products to Mainland China under CEPA. The watch industry said that it was difficult to meet the requirement. In the past 16 months, only about HK$2.5 million worth of HK watches were exported to Mainland China under CEPA. The total watch exports were about HK$45.6 billion during the same period.
Delta link bidding: International bidding for the US$3.8 billion Pearl River Delta bridge linking HK, Macau and Zhuhai is expected within months under a tight planning schedule that aims for building to start before the end of the year. The bridge could be completed by 2010. Hopewell Highway Infrastructure (HHI), is a strong proponent and front-runner for the project. The 28km bridge would connect with HHI's toll roads - the 122.8km Guangzhou-Shenzhen Superhighway, the 38km Guangzhou east-southwest ring road and the proposed 56.7km Guangzhou-Zhuhai superhighway - in a loop network at the heart of the Pearl River Delta. The bridge would cut travel between HK and Macau to about 30 minutes.
New trade fairs: HK is looking to bolster its role as one of Asia's leading trade fair locations by staging eight new events from next year, six of which will be located at the 66’000-square-metre Asia World-Expo site at Chek Lap Kok. The industries covered by the fairs will be printing and packaging, car parts, leisure vehicles, building materials and construction equipment, furniture, environmental technology, textile manufacturing; and medical and health care.
Close to balanced budget: HK Government achieved budgetary surplus of HK$21.4 billion due to increased tax revenue and cost-cutting efforts in 2004. If taking out issue of government bonds worth of HK$ 26 billion, it recorded a slight deficit of only HK$4.6 billion.
Unemployment: The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate stood at 6.1% (provisional figure) in January - March 2005, same as that in December 2004 - February 2005. The underemployment rate, however, moved up from 3.0% to 3.1% (provisional figure) between the two periods. The overall employment situation continued to improve but just offset by increase of labour supply. Total employment soared to an all-time high of 3 354 000.
More direct exports from China: Based on trade figures in March, economists warned that China has been exporting more directly to the rest of the world and not via HK. Ports in the Pearl River Delta pose mounting threats to HK, in particular Yantian port in Shenzhen. On the other hand, HK’s airport is much ahead of their rivals in China in terms of efficiency and traffic volume.
Inflation rate: The Composite CPI recorded moderate increase at 0.8% in March, suggesting that inflationary pressure remained benign. Consumer prices are expected to edge up gradually in the months ahead, as consumption demand strengthens and as higher retained import prices gradually feed through to the retail level.

Flu kits to be distributed: Prepare for pandemic urges flu kits to be distributed to households soon, it recommends that residents buy in an adequate stock of masks and pills. A flu information kit to be issued to households urges them to stock up on surgical masks and anti-fever medicine in preparation for a possible flu pandemic, the city's top disease control expert said yesterday. But Centre for Health Protection (CHP) controller Leung Pak-yin said he would not recommend people begin stockpiling remedies like Tamiflu yet, suggesting that individuals instead inquire whether their GPs have sufficient reserves. Dr Leung pointed out the flu preparedness plan was not aimed at averting a pandemic. The whole strategy of a pandemic preparedness plan is to decrease the mortality and morbidity. “In no way can you stop it," he said. Hong Kong's Preparedness Plan for Influenza Pandemic was drafted along the lines of the World Health Organisation's global plan, which was finalised recently in Geneva.

Pollutants: China Light Power, HK’s largest power supplier, emitted more key pollutants after turning to low quality coal to generate electricity in 2004. The power sector generally contributes about 89% of sulphur dioxide.
Cleaner harbour by 2013: HK harbour will be cleaner by 2013 with new sewage treatment facilities completed. This HK$8.4 billion programme will help improve dissolved oxygen level by 5%.

Casinos in Hong Kong?: Now that Singapore has announced its intention to open casinos, observers are asking whether HK will follow.
Action urged in deepening aging crisis: many observers fear that the declining fertility rate will have an negative impact on the quality of life in HK.

Press articles related to Switzerland
South China Morning Post, 15.04.2005: An article by Associated Press in New York states that a federal judge has awarded nearly US$ 22 million to heirs of two wealthy families victimised by the Holocaust. By far the largest single claim paid so far in a case against Swiss banks accused of selling out to the Nazis.
Post Magazine, 03.04.2005: an article on the exhibition "Photographs Sans Frontières” at the HK’s Foreign Correspondents Club presenting photographs by Swiss physician, photographer and author Dr Raymond Lasserre, 83. The article was published under the title “Lost worlds” and described the exhibition and Lasserre’s book “Médecin sur tous les fronts” as a testament to his life at a time he was dying of cancer.

See document (pdf, 7 p., 70 kb) presenting the “Switzerland greets Hong Kong” Media Coverage Part 2.  

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.


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