CONSULATE GENERAL OF SWITZERLAND IN HONG KONG
|A condensed press review prepared
the Consulate General of Switzerland in Hong Kong
According to a recent World Bank report, HK’s governance has
improved since 2002. This contradicts many assessments by insiders.
HK emerges as the world leader in regulatory quality thanks largely
to its free economy and low tax regime. It also fares particularly
well in corruption control.
The campaign for the election of the new chief executive has just
Growing predictability of chief executive’s election:
Donald Tsang, the favourite of Beijing, resigned as acting chief
to run for the top HK post and Henry Tang took over as acting chief
executive. He endorsed Tsang’s candidacy who also received
support from many business and political leaders. Earlier lawmakers
amended the election law with a 33-21 vote. It was a last step in
resolving a legal battle around the chief executive’s term.
There are two other candidates: Lee Wing-tat, the chief of the Democratic
Party, and Chim Pui-chung, a veteran lawmaker known as the “angry
man from Chiu Chow” who said he was motivated by a desire
to avoid an uncontested election. The candidate from the Democratic
Party will campaign with a platform including the defence of HK’s
autonomy, the introduction of universal suffrage by 2007, a strong
lobbying effort for the city’s interests in Beijing and the
maintenance of low tax and competitiveness. Some observers say that
the main danger to Donald Tsang could come from Beijing loyalists
who are numerous in the Election Committee. They feel shabbily treated
by the central government and are obsessed by the vision of a former
colonial officer, whom they accuse of opportunism, being handed
the top job in what is supposed to be the new post-colonial era.
Direct elections not so important says HSBC outgoing CEO:
For him HK needs forceful leadership rather than an elected chief
executive to secure its future. He added that a very facilitative
civil service that got things done has lately been partly eroded.
Topping the policy agenda should be the maintenance of HK’s
status as an international financial centre which on the short term
is secure because Shanghai would remain focused on the challenge
of managing China’s own growth.
Officials escape blame for Legco’s poll chaos: the
special panel report on last September LEGCO elections weaknesses
listed a catalogue of mistakes which can be avoided: lack of training,
flawed design of ballot paper and boxes leading to chaos. However
it stressed that there was no fundamental or major problem in the
existing electoral system and procedure
Is HK still dying? The answer of an editorial published in
the Wall Street Journal is that the central issue of HK’s
future remains the unreformed nature of the dictatorship in China,
a dictatorship that has changed very little in the past decade and
which has spawned a web of attempts to stamp HK’s miracle
out of existence.
World Bank assessment: According to a World Bank study HK
is better governed than three years ago, but has a long way to go
to match many western democracies. The city scored higher marks
for accountability, effectiveness of government and anti-corruption
efforts last year than in 2002. Its ratings on three other governance-related
indicators - political stability, the quality of regulation and
rule of law - were also up, according to the survey of 209 states
and territories. An observer warned against complacency and said
that the rule of law had been damaged by Beijing’s decision
last year to rule out early universal suffrage.
PLA could be called in for WTO meeting: The Chinese armed
forces role would be confined to electronic surveillance of airspace
if Wanchai is declared a no-fly zone. Stating that it has become
commonplace to secure the airspace directly above high-profile international
meetings, the article mentioned that “During the World Economic
Forum in Davos in January, the Swiss authorities strictly regulated
helicopter traffic ferrying dignitaries, and civil aircraft were
allowed in and out of the "exclusion zone" subject to
Low turnout for demonstrations: Only a few thousands marked
May Day with calls to protect workers by legislating on minimum
wages and maximum work hours. A 44 hours per week was proposed by
Democrats. The turnout for the annual march commemorating the 1989
Tiananmen massacre hit a new low with only 1400 people joining the
protest. The July 1st mass rally will be used by the democratic
camp to hold a mock referendum on public support for electing the
chief executive and the legislature by universal suffrage.
WHA: In his first visit to Europe, the Secretary for Health,
Welfare and Food, Dr York Chow, attended the World Health Organisation's
58th World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva. He participated as a
member of the Chinese delegation.
Surrender of Fugitive Offenders: HK and the Republic of Finland,
signed a bilateral agreement concerning the surrender of fugitive
offenders. The agreement is the 14th bilateral arrangement that
HK has signed on the surrender of fugitive offenders. It sets out
the conditions for the surrender of fugitive offenders between the
two places, and contains safeguards found in similar international
A HK outsider aids a troubled Manila: Tony Kwok, former head
of HK’s Independent Commission Against Corruption, has become
adviser to the Filipino government on how to combat corruption.
His three years assignment is an indication of increasing regional
cooperation to fight corruption.
Legco slams “distortion of history” by Japanese:
Legco passed a motion condemning the Japanese books which distort
historical facts and has appealed to Tokyo to abandon militarism.
Vatican could abandon Taiwan for Beijing: The head of HK’s
catholic diocese Bishop Joseph Zen said the Vatican is anxious to
open talks with Beijing and is ready to give up its ties with Taiwan.
Transfer of Sentenced Persons: HK and Macao signed the Arrangement
on Transfer of Sentenced Persons (TSP) between the two Special Administrative
Regions. HK has a programme to establish a network of bilateral
TSP agreements with other jurisdictions. TSP agreements have been
signed with the United States, the United Kingdom, Sri Lanka, Italy,
Thailand, the Philippines and Portugal.
Hongkongers in mainland detention: There are often complaints
about the lack of consular protection for HK citizens arrested in
China. The last case is about the correspondent of the Singapore’s
Straits Times, a HK citizen, who was detained as he was travelling
in the mainland. There is confusion occurring about the reasons
of his arrest. Some reports say he was collecting secret interviews
with Zhao Ziyang, a Communist leader purged for opposing the 1989
Tianamen square massacres. Others state he was spying.
Integration - HK & Guangdong: The Chief Secretary for
Administration, Mr D. Tsang, and the Executive Vice-Governor of
Guangdong Province, Mr Tang Bingquan, co-chaired the Fifth Working
Meeting of the HK/Guangdong Co-operation Joint Conference in HK.
They agreed on priority areas for the coming few months: economic
and trade co-operation, construction of major infrastructure and
co-operation at control points, tourism co-operation, logistics
development, co-operation in technology and co-operation in language
Pan-PRD co-operation: A team of HK’s government visited
Yunnan Province to enhance understanding of the province and foster
closer working relations and communication between the two governments,
with a view to enhancing co-operation in the Pan-Pearl River Delta
(PPRD) region. This is the seventh visit made by the HKSAR Government
to the PPRD region. The first six visits (to Hainan, Jiangxi, Sichuan,
Fujian, Hunan and Guangxi provinces) took place from December 2004
to April 2005. The PPRD region includes nine provinces in the Mainland
- Fujian, Jiangxi, Hunan, Guangdong, Guangxi, Hainan, Sichuan, Guizhou
and Yunnan - and HK and Macao Special Admistrative Regions.
Police clash with workers at HK firm: Some 500 workers at
a Guangdong jewellery factory owned by a HK businessman clashed
with police during a protest against harsh working conditions, which
they claim have left many of them with a disabling lung disease.
The workers accused the factory of not providing them protective
gear. The factory stopped production in February after more and
more workers were found to have the disease. The workers suspect
the HK owner was trying to escape his responsibility after they
found he had been secretly transferring machinery and equipment
to another factory.
Shenzhen on the brink: The Special Economic Zone has expanded
so rapidly that it is running out of space and resources. It needs
a profound restructuring since energy shortages have become endemic
recent years. There is also an increased thirst for water and scarcity
Legal Affairs and human rights
Racial harmony plan to go ahead: Bowing to pressure the government
will launch a pilot community development project to promote racial
harmony targeting initially Nepalese and Pakistani communities.
Laws against racial discrimination should be in place by 2006 to
outlaw race discrimination. Four years ago the UN called on HK to
compete legislation requiring compliance with the International
Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination.
Shop staffs are considered the most racist, a Home Affairs Bureau
study on public attitudes has found.
UN says more work needs to be done on rights law: The UN
Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has called HK
to expand its anti-discrimination laws to cover sexual orientation
and age and to establish a human rights institution. It also appealed
to include new arrivals from the mainland under the proposed anti-racial
discrimination law. The committee welcomed raising the age of criminal
responsibility to 14, the establishment of the Poverty Commission
and the Sexual Minorities Forum as well as the enactment of the
Marital Rape Ordinance and the Law on Prevention of Child Pornography
but criticised the lack of protection against discrimination and
abuse of foreign domestic helpers as well as a clear asylum policy.
Falun Gong victory on right to protest: The Court of Final
appeal has unanimously overturned the convictions of 8 Falun Gong
members for assaulting and obstructing police in a case that was
widely seen as the test of judicial independence and the right of
protest in HK. It underscores crucial differences between the treatment
of dissidents in HK and the mainland.
Hundreds march for law to protect gays: The march marked
the 1st International Day against homophobia.
Economic situation: The growth momentum of the HK economy
continued with GDP growing solidly further by 6.0%. On a seasonally
adjusted quarter-to-quarter comparison, GDP expanded for the seventh
straight quarter, by 1.5% in real terms in the first quarter of
2005. Externally, merchandise exports grew by a further 8.9% in
real terms over a year earlier. Exports of services attained a further
notable growth at 8.6% in the first quarter over a year earlier.
Private consumption expenditure went up further by 4.6% in real
terms in the first quarter over a year earlier. Overall investment
spending reverted to a 2.2% increase in real terms in the first
quarter of 2005. Not only that investment in machinery, equipment
and software resumed positive growth in the quarter, building and
construction activities also turned around to a modest increase
after nine straight quarters of fall-off. The seasonally adjusted
unemployment rate fell to 6.1% in the first quarter and further
to a 41-month low of 5.9% in the three months ending April 2005.
In the first four months of 2005, the year-on-year increase in the
Composite Consumer Price Index was 0.4%.
Trade outlook: It’s increasingly overshadowed by a
number of risks in the external environment: sustained high crude
oil prices, the Mainland economy may settle back due to the government's
recent tightening measures to cool down the overheated property
market, should the US dollar continue to strengthen it would entail
a relative loss in HK's export competitiveness, and actions by the
US and the EU to set new curbs on imports of Chinese-made textiles.
Overall, the GDP is expected to attain growth of 4,5-5,5% in real
terms in 2005. The official forecast of inflation rate for 2005
HK’s economy ranked the most competitive in Asia and second
in the world: only to the US in the annual survey of 60 economies
conducted by the International Institute for Management Development
(IMD) in Switzerland. According to the director of the survey, HK’s
scores in the key areas of economic performance, government and
business efficiency and infrastructure had all improved. He attributed
the city’s strong position largely to its ability to ride
on China’s economic coattails.
CEPA: Visiting London the Secretary for Commerce, Industry
and Technology, Mr John Tsang, said that the Mainland and HK Closer
Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) is the key to the future
economic integration of HK and the Mainland. In response to claims
that CEPA does not offer any advantages to the Mainland, he said
CEPA was by no means a one-way street. It enables HK to connect
the Mainland's nascent services industry with the rest of the world,
and acts as a stepping-stone for the Mainland to progress towards
its World Trade Organization commitments to liberalise its services
sector. Besides, CEPA would help expose Mainland enterprises to
international experiences and practices, and improve their corporate
management through the engagement of HK professionals. Noting that
the Central Government introduced in last August a new initiative
to streamline the application process for Mainland enterprises wanting
to set up business in HK, Mr Tsang pointed out that in the last
four months of 2004 alone, 68 Mainland enterprises were granted
approval to invest US$470 million in HK, nearly half of the total
for the whole year. "It seems that Mainland enterprises are
finding HK as useful a platform to access world markets as international
companies find us to access the Mainland market," Mr Tsang
HOFEX, hospitality and tourism: The 11th Asian International
Exhibition of Food & Drink, Hotel, Restaurant & Foodservice
Equipment, Supplies & Services (HOFEX 2005) attracted over 1800
companies and 30’000 industry buyers from 70 countries and
regions. In his opening speech, taking a closer look at the food
and hospitality industries in HK, S. Ip, the Secretary for Economic
Development and Labour declared that HK’s restaurants and
hotels contributed over $27 billion towards HK’s total GDP
in 2003. At the end of 2004, restaurants, fast food shops and hotels
accounted for over 8% of the city’s workforce.
US Dollar peg – introduction of a band: In the biggest
overhaul undertaken of the 21-year-old US dollar peg (US$1 for HK$7.8),
the HK Monetary Authority (HKMA) introduced 3 refinements to the
Linked Exchange Rate System on 18 May 2005: a) strong-side convertibility
undertaking to buy US dollars at an exchange rate of US$1 for HK$7.75,
b) weak-side convertibility undertaking to buy US dollars at an
exchange rate of US$1 for HK$7.85 in five weekly steps by 20 June
2005, c) within the zone defined by the levels of the convertibility
zone, the HKMA may choose to conduct market operations aimed at
promoting smooth functioning of the Linked Exchange Rate System.
The longer term objective of introducing the band was to snuff out
speculation on a revaluation of the HK Dollar linked to a possible
revaluation of the Yuan. Mr Tang, the Financial Secretary, said
that the Government has no plan or intention to change the HK’s
Linked Exchange Rate System. The IMF welcomed these 3 refinements.
The immediate effect was the rise of local interest rate and outflow
of “hot money“ betting on gains arising from a possible
appreciation of the Yuan.
SARS survivors face funding crunch: The HK$150 million trust
fund pool is dwindling, with hundreds of victims still suffering.
The nightmare for SARS survivors continues as they worry about the
government abandoning them to face impoverished futures in ill health.
While all are afraid of losing financial support when their individual
limits in the special SARS fund are reached, some are accusing the
government of planning to sweep them aside despite their disabilities.
SARS first emerged in southern China in late 2002 and struck HK
in March the next year. By the end of the outbreak in June 2003,
1’755 people had been infected locally and 351 had died.
Obesity: HK health officials may introduce laws to regulate
what food children get in their school lunch boxes amid growing
concern over rising childhood obesity levels. It is hoped legislation
could be put in place by 2007.
Air pollution: A co-operation arrangement between Mainland
China and the HKSAR on tackling air pollution was signed on May
26. Under the co-operation arrangement, staff from the two sides
will engage in regular exchanges of knowledge, views and experience
in air pollution control. Joint studies will be commissioned on
policies and technologies for tackling air pollution. The first
joint event under the co-operation arrangement will be a workshop
on in-use vehicle emission control and vehicle fuels to be held
later this year.
Tsang hit over green plan: Environmentalists have attacked
the Sustainable Development Council’s inaugural report as
trivial and vague and called for a more aggressive approach. They
have particularly criticized targets in the areas of waste management,
renewable energy and urban living space as too conservative and
lacking in meaningful action.
Cross harbour swim: The authorities said they hope to revive
in 8 years this HK tradition last held in 1978.
Disney will serve shark fin: Angry environmentalists have
hit out at the company’s “cultural sensitivity”
excuse for serving shark’s fin soup.
Olympic body to discuss HK equestrian events: Talks will
be held between the International Olympic Committee and the International
Equestrian Federation on whether to allow HK to host the equestrian
events at the 2008 Games.
Press articles related to Switzerland
Weekend Standard, April 30-May 1, 2005: High as a Swiss
train: The Glacier Express may be slow but the 250’000
passengers who travel across the roof of Europe on it don’t
seem to mind.
The Standard, 10 May 2005: SAR scientists in liver cancer
drug breakthrough: Scientists from the Polytechnic University
have created a drug they say can treat liver cancer and prolong
a sufferer’s life for several months without killing normal
cells. The university announced that the drug won two awards at
the 33rd International Exhibition of Inventions, New Techniques
and Products of Geneva recently.
Government’s Press Release, 17 May 2005: Granting
of the transfer of banking licence of Credit Suisse to Credit Suisse
First Boston: The HK Monetary Authority announced today (May
17) that it had granted the transfer of the banking licence of Credit
Suisse to Credit Suisse First Boston under the Banking Ordinance.
CSFB changed its name to Credit Suisse immediately following the
The Standard, 18 May 2005: Sport – Swiss Idol gets
vote as best of the best: Tennis ace Roger Federer was rewarded
for his magnificent 2004 season when he was handed the 2005 Laureus
World Sportsman of the Year award in Estoril, Portugal.
The Standard, May 2005, supplement: Where the industry
meets: BASELWORLD, in the eight days from 31 March to 7 April,
once again clearly confirmed its leading position as worldwide event
for the watch and jewellery industry.
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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