CONSULATE GENERAL OF SWITZERLAND IN HONG KONG
|A condensed press review prepared
the Consulate General of Switzerland in Hong Kong
August saw robust economic growth and a proposed ice-breaking trip
for democrat legislators (barred since 1989) to Mainland. However,
there were increasing concerns on the food safety in HK.
New talent plan meets opposition: Chief Executive Donald
Tsang is likely to shelve his plan to appoint assistants to ministers
in the face of opposition from senior civil servants and officials.
Chief Executive attempted to groom talent from political parties,
civil service and wider community.
No timetable for universal suffrage: Top policy adviser to
HK Government said HK people should concentrate on the economy rather
than constitutional reform. The latest government assessment showed
that the public's highest priority was stability, not a political
reform plan. Chief Executive Donald Tsang called on the pro-democracy
parties to soften their demand for universal suffrage or risk facing
standstill over elections. He said that there would be no timetable
for universal suffrage and the HK Government had no power to act
without the consent of Beijing Government.
Executive order issued to regulate the use of covert surveillance:
Chief Executive Donald Tsang issued a rare executive order (second
one since 1997) to regulate the use of covert surveillance by law
enforcement authorities. The decree followed by rulings by two courts
that such clandestine means by the Independent Commission against
Corruption breached the Basic Law. The HKSAR Government argued that
the executive order would make the process of covert surveillance
more transparent and give a clearer legal backing to law enforcement
officers. Also, it would only be an interim measure as the Government
would introduce legislation to govern covert surveillance. However,
the Bar Association, some members of the Legislative Council and
critics accused the chief executive of overstepping his powers by
issuing a constitutionally dubious executive order on covert surveillance.
They were very disappointed that Donald Tsang bypassed the Legislative
Council and did not seek to address the problem with legislation.
Chief Executive popularity dropped: Public support for Chief
Executive Donald Tsang has slipped for the second time in two months
in an university poll due to the controversy surrounding his Executive
Order regulating covert surveillance and the recent spate of food
Chief Executive defended unannounced visit by Chief Secretary
to Beijing: Chief Executive Donald Tsang stated that government
ministers would continue to pay frequent visits to Beijing and meet
state officials. But he promised that such future visits would be
announced in advance, after Chief Secretary Rafael Hui was found
to have made a secret visit to meet Beijing officials.
HK legislators, including those barred from Mainland, invited
to Guangdong: Beijing has invited all 60 HK legislators, including
the democrats barred from entering the main land, for a two-day
official trip to Guangdong.
European Commission (EC) Annual Report on democratisation in
HK: The EC report raised concerns about democratisation in HK
that Beijing produced a ruling allowing for only minor changes to
the electoral system in 2007-08. It was inconsistent with the high
level of autonomy granted to HK under the Basic Law. The EC hoped
for significant progress in the implementation of universal suffrage.
The HKSAR Government responded that these comments reflected a misunderstanding
of HK's constitutional development.
Japan's envoy on a damage-control mission: Following the
recent violent anti-Japanese protests in China many business and
leisure travellers from Japan have avoided HK which is seen as part
of China. Realizing the need to clarify the situation, the Japanese
Consul General has held a number of talks with officials and media
from his country stressing HK's uniqueness as a mature and law abiding
society distinct from the Mainland.
Hospitals on full alert for WTO conference: Public hospitals
will be on their highest alert since Sars for emergencies - including
a terrorist attack - when HK hosts the World Trade Organisation
ministerial conference in December. Staff in key service areas have
been asked not to take leave during the conference from December
13 to 18.
Terror threat lingers ahead of WTO talks: HK's international
role as financial hub puts it at risk. HK has a moderate chance
of being struck by terrorists in the lead up to the WTO meeting
in December, police believe. "This threat assessment is based
on our contact with international intelligence services," said
Chief Superintendent Alfred Ma Wai-Luk.
Victoria jail could hold 700 WTO protesters: Victoria prison
could hold up to 700 protesters if trouble flares during the WTO
ministerial meeting in December, the security chief said.
New air-services agreement with China: HK has signed a new
air-services agreement with China to increase the number of passenger
flights between HK and 12 second-tier Mainland cities such as Nanjing,
Hangzhou and Changsha. The agreement allows for an immediate 57%
capacity increase on all routes.
Funding problem for delta bridge: An academic and advisor
in Mainland said that the reluctance of the Macau and Guangdong
governments to put money into the bridge project (which will link
HK, Macau and Zhuhai) could delay or threaten its construction.
The proposed 28km cross-delta link (cost at US$3.8 billion) is unlikely
to start this year.
Growing pains for some Pan Pearl River Delta provinces: It
was heralded as a way of sharing prosperity in Southern China, but
one year after the Pan Pearl River Delta Economic Zone was established,
some inland provinces are still waiting to see its first benefits.
It seems that for the moment Guangdong has been the biggest beneficiary,
receiving power from Guizhou and Yunnan to keep its factories running
while inland provinces are yet to receive the promised industries
migrating from the Pearl River Delta and investments from HK.
Move to clarify benefits-fund rules: A new regulation requiring
HK, Macau and Taiwanese residents working on the Mainland to contribute
to the national social security fund will only cover those who have
signed Mainland employment contracts, according to a labour official.
However, human resources specialists said the regulation would still
affect most HK people working on the Mainland, who were required
to sign employment contracts with the foreign-invested enterprises
and joint ventures they worked with.
Cross-border deliveries hit by fuel shortage: The fuel shortage
on the Mainland is beginning to affect HK's cross-border delivery
business, with some drivers being forced to abandon their vehicles
in Guangdong and turn down orders from their customers.
Legal Affairs and human rights
Free-speech protesters to air their views: Almost 1,000 protesters
demonstrated in support of sacked radio talk-show host Wong Yuk-man
and freedom of speech. They called on the government to open more
radio frequencies so that the public could set up their own stations.
Journalist Ching Cheong charged with spying for Taiwan: HK-based
journalist Ching Cheong (Singapore Straits Times correspondent)
was charged by Beijing with spying for Taiwan. Local and international
journalists' groups, human right activists and democrats as well
as the US Government expressed great concern over the case declaring
that freedom of the press is a fundamental and internationally recognized
right. Chief Executive Donald Tsang said that his approach was to
work hard behind the scenes for the interest of Ching Cheong but
he knew it was a difficult case.
More companies incorporated in HK: Increased business optimism
saw more than 37,000 firms set up in HK in the first half of this
year, about 18% more than a year earlier. The net increase of about
5,600 new local companies has more than made up for a 25% drop in
the number of overseas companies setting up in HK.
Mainlanders prefer to buy in HK: HK has benefited as more
Mainland tourists have been shopping in HK after China eased travel
rules in mid-2003. Many Chinese prefer to buy in HK because they
know they are not being sold counterfeits. It is also cheaper by
10-20% as China imposes import tax on foreign-made goods and 17%
Retailers upbeat by relaxed policy: Local retailers are upbeat
as the Central government has relaxed limits of money Mainlanders
can take out when they travel abroad. Some credit cards limits are
scrapped as well. Given the opening of Disneyland in September,
they see the retail market heating up.
Growth of retail sales in Jan-June: Total retail sales increased
by 8% in value or 7% in volume for the first half of 2005 over the
same period a year earlier. Consumer demand continued to hold up
well, along with the increasingly entrenched economic recovery.
HK to develop watch component industry: More than $100 million
will be invested to develop a watch component industry, paving the
way for the first wholly "Made in HK" wristwatch that
could be ready in three years. The plan would also allow domestic
watch manufacturers to export their wares to the Mainland tariff-free
under the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA). Under
CEPA, at least 30 per cent of a watch's total cost must originate
in HK to avoid paying 12.5 per cent in Mainland tariffs. HK is far
behind Switzerland and Japan in making mechanical watch components
and may bring in experts from these two countries.
Unemployment statistics: Unemployment rate stood at 5.7%
in May - July 2005, same as that in April - June 2005. The unemployment
rate had not fallen because of the number of fresh graduates and
school leavers joining the labour force. Total employment recorded
a new high of 3.37 million in July 2005.
Mainland automobile maker considers to build cars in HK:
A Mainland automobile maker is prepared to commit HK1.44 billion
to build cars in HK. The HK Government will donate up to HKD350
million to set up a research and development centre for auto components,
and that a made-in-HK car will enter the Mainland duty-free under
the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement. It is estimated that
800 jobs will be created in this project.
Consumer Price Indices (CPI): According to the Composite
CPI, overall consumer prices rose by 1.3% in July 2005 over a year
earlier. This essentially was the natural phenomenon of the economic
upturn. Inflation is expected to climb up further along with the
gradual rise-back in unit labour, rental costs and higher oil prices.
External Merchandise Trade Statistics: For Jan-July 2005,
total exports of goods rose by 11.0% to HKD 1,232 billion over the
same period in 2004. Re-exports increased by 12.1% to HKD 1,168
billion, while domestic exports decreased by 5.3% to HKD 64 billion.
Concurrently, imports of goods increased by 8.7% to 1,286 billion.
The near-term outlook for exports remains fairly positive, as economic
growth in the US and the Mainland is still relatively robust. However,
soaring oil prices and protectionist sentiment in the US and the
EU against Mainland's products are sources of uncertainty to the
GDP Growth: GDP grew by 6.8% in real terms in the second
quarter of 2005, following a 6.2% growth in the preceding quarter.
GDP has expanded for the eighth straight quarter. However, according
to Financial Secretary Henry Tang, rising trend in interest rates
and increase in oil prices may impose a dampening effect on the
Heavyweight powers HSI past 15,000: Global banking giant
HSBC's buoyant interim results pushed the Hang Seng Index above
15,000 points for the first time in more than four years, with brokers
expecting more good times ahead. The benchmark index rallied 158.2
points, or 1.06 per cent, finishing the day at 15,137.08 - its highest
close since February 26, 2001.
Butcher catches pig disease: Supermarket butcher yesterday
became the third local victim of the pig-borne disease Streptococcus
suis in a month, bringing the number infected this year to nine
and sparking calls for an extension of the government's ban on Mainland
Crisis talks in Beijing over safety of HK food: Secretary
for Health, Welfare and Food York Chow is flying to Beijing for
crisis talks on food safety with senior Mainland officials. His
surprise trip comes after HK officials admitted the Mainland had
been slow alerting them to Guangdong's recall of eel products from
three provinces over their suspected contamination by the cancer-causing
chemical malachite green.
New rules on imports to restore faith in fish: The HK and
central governments moved to boost confidence in Mainland fish with
an agreement to immediately restrict exports to approved fish farms
and improve communication on food safety incidents. The new fish
regulatory system will be similar to the system of accredited farms
and processing plants for poultry, pig, cattle and vegetables.
Soaring suicide rate spurs WHO to seek action: HK is to come
under pressure from the WHO to do more to bring down the city's
soaring suicide rate, now more than three a day. The WHO is calling
for a unified public health approach to suicide prevention, a policy
the city's government has so far resisted.
Cautious HK welcome for bird flu vaccine: HK's Disease Control
Centre says it is encouraged by the development of an H5N1 bird
flu vaccine, amid reports that mass production could begin next
month. "When the vaccine is proven safe and effective and is
available, we will bring relevant information to the attention of
the [Health Department's] scientific committee on vaccine-preventable
diseases for consideration," it said. The comments came a day
after US government scientists said they had been successful in
human tests on a French-developed vaccine on humans that they believe
could protect against the H5N1 flu strain spreading among birds
in Southeast Asia and Russia.
Emission caps for power plants: The HK Government has imposed
emission caps fort he first time as a condition of renewing power
plant's license. Power plants are the source of 92% of all sulphur
dioxides, 58% of nitrogen dioxide and 46% of respirable suspended
particulates found in the air.
Cross-border emission trading scheme: According to Environmental
Protection Department, Asia's first cross-border emission trading
scheme, proposed between HK and Guangdong, is the most cost-effective
way of improving air quality of the Pearl River Delta. Emission
trading is a market-based tool used to reduce air pollution by providing
economic incentives for reducing emission.
All systems go for electronic tags at Chek Lap Kok: The Airport
Authority, backed by an extensive series of tests, has completed
the roll-out of Asia's single largest deployment of radio frequency
identification (RFID) technology at HK International Airport. The
$ 50 Million, RFID-enabled airport baggage-handling system - which
uses electronic tags to track luggage - started full operations,
accelerating the replacement of bar code-scanning facilities at
Comic fair draws record crowds and cash for happy exhibitors:
Record-breaking crowds at the Comic Festival helped turn the annual
fair into a paradise for exhibitors, who registered sales increases
of up to 100 per cent. A total of 421,000 visitors attended the
five-day fair, compared with 380,000 last year.
HK to push Tokyo from top spot on office costs: HK will soon
overtake Tokyo as the most expensive office location in Asia, with
a supply shortage likely to drive rents significantly higher over
the next 12 months, property analysts say.
Press articles related to Switzerland
South China Morning Post (SCMP), 1 August 2005: 12-page supplement
of the National Day of Switzerland included an interview with Consul
General, general information about Switzerland, bilateral trade
and investment statistics, editorial reports on finance, exports,
food, travel, Swiss companies in various business lines and advertisements.
South China Morning Post (SCMP), 23 August 2005: Switzerland
and Malaysia are two destinations on the China National Tourism
Administration's watch list after recent reports of theft and robberies
committed against Chinese visitors. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs
in Beijing issued a warning about thefts targeting Chinese tourists
in Switzerland, especially Geneva.
South China Morning Post (SCMP), 25 August 2005: Technology
reduces canine lifesavers to museum pieces: With the advent of heat
sensors and helicopters the St Bernard dogs have become obsolete
as life savers.
Various press, 27 August 2005: Johnson Electric bids to buy
out Swiss firm Saia-Burgess: Johnson Electric, the world's second-largest
micro motor maker in HK, has offered to buy out Swiss firm Saia-Burgess
for CHF 700 million. The board of Saia-Burgess has approved the
acquisition proposal and would recommend their shareholders to accept
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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