CONSULATE GENERAL OF SWITZERLAND IN HONG KONG
|A condensed press review prepared
the Consulate General of Switzerland in Hong Kong
A clear message came from Vice-President Zeng Qinghong: “HK
is back on track”. However, Mickey marched in smog: Disneyland
was opened in scorching heat and a blanket of thick smog.
Drafters asked to guide Basic Law: Beijing has asked the
drafters of the Basic Law to recall the intentions behind provisions
in order to avoid future disputes. There are four main points of
- Article 43 says the Chief Executive shall be accountable to the
central government. So can Beijing sack him or her?
- Articles 45 and 68 say electoral methods shall be determined in
accordance with the principles of gradual and orderly progress.
So when can HK have universal suffrage?
- Article 46 covers how long a chief executive serves.
- Articles 64 and 73 are unclear on Legco’s power to hold
Vice-President Zeng Qinghong’s visit to HK: He is the
first senior leader to visit after the July 1st, 2003 protests.
He attended the opening of Disneyland and delivered two main messages:
HK is back on track and all political sides should reach a consensus
on political reform for 2007-2008. His visit is seen as a charm
offensive by the state leadership to boost Mr Tsang’s credibility
ahead of the release of constitutional reform proposals and the
policy address next month. Zeng’s good words for Tsang are
in sharp contrast with Hu’s dressing down of Tung last December.
He added that HK authorities had accomplished good work but that
more should be done in order to secure the city’s stability
and prosperity. There was no direct contact with the pro-democracy
camp which had hoped for an ice-breaking meeting but its leaders
attended the official dinner.
Beijing to back Tsang in show of privileges: The central
government is expected to deliver wide-ranging economic and social
liberalization to HK, including allowing local banks to conduct
a wider scope of yuan business, national residency rights for SAR
students and allowing more service industries to set up mainland
Legislators’ trip to Guangdong: It is the first time
that some democratic legislators have been allowed into China since
1989. The journey offers a chance for progress of Beijing’s
charm offensive towards democrats and represents not merely political
expediency by the central government but a fundamental change in
its mindset towards political dissent. It marks a relaxation of
the no contact policy. During their trip pro democracy legislators
renewed calls to reverse the official verdict on the June 4, 1989
crackdown which provoked a tense exchange with Guangdong authorities.
The meeting was cut short but for most lawmakers the experience
was not a failure but a first step. An editorial stressed that breaking
taboos is vital for sake of harmony and that both sides need to
confront differences. The Chief Executive, somehow on the defensive,
said it was a candid and honest exchange of views.
HK prepares for WTO: The way the city handles globalization
foes will carry high stakes. The level of protest and dissension
permitted will be seen as a barometer of Beijing’s willingness
to uphold principles of freedom in HK. In a tough warning to anti-globalization
protesters the Secretary for Security vowed to bar known trouble
makers (those who throw stones and bombs and act against public
order) from entering HK during the WTO ministerial conference sparking
fears that authorities are compiling a black list of opponents.
US support for universal suffrage: In the strongest US support
for universal suffrage in HK, the new American consul general emphasized
that greater democracy promotes stability and that stability without
democracy would be illusory adding that universal suffrage could
have been introduced in 2007 despite Beijing’s decision against
it last year. The HK government answered it hoped foreign governments
would respect the principle that constitutional development should
be taken forward according to the Basic Law and the decision of
the National People’s Congress Standing Committee.
Help lacking over border: As the number of HK people travelling
and working on the mainland surges, a majority feels they are not
getting enough support from the HK government when they run into
trouble. Their number has almost tripled in the last ten years reaching
240,000 in 2004.
Buffer zone on border likely to be opened up: Low-density development
and eco tourism will be allowed on the land next to the China border
which has had restricted access until now.
China’s prime minister’s visit promotes better Shenzhen-Hong
Kong ties: Wen’s visit sets the tone for Shenzhen’s
attempts to reposition itself including working on stronger ties
with HK. It is expected that the central government give the border
city a freer hand to deal directly with the SAR. He told Shenzhen
authorities that their mission was to support the prosperity and
stability of HK and especially improve communication and coordination
in town planning, industrial development, major infrastructure projects,
public order and environmental protection. The aim of Shenzhen should
be to achieve a win win scenario through cooperation.
HK asks neighbours to track WTO protesters: Police have asked
their counterparts in Macau and Guangdong to help monitor the movement
of protesters coming to HK for the WTO conference.
HK must take the lead in its dance with partners across the border:
To ignore Guangdong’s party secretary pan-delta initiative
would be to risk ceding regional leadership to Guangzhou which is
eager to reclaim its historic role as South China’s leading
Guangdong in crisis: The province’s status as the mainland
economic leader is imperilled, admits Guangdong Communist party
chief. He cites the fierce competition from the Yang Tse River Delta
and the Baohai Rim as well as challenges such as air pollution,
food safety and security. He stressed that HK and Guangdong are
inseparable as 70% of Guangdong capital and 80% of its tourists
come from HK.
Key points of the HK-Guangdong Co-operation Joint Conference:
1) Set up notification system on food-safety measures. 2) Relax
rule on provision of drivers for cross-border commercial vehicles
and extend contract of cross-border transport joint venture. 3)
Release daily air monitoring data from regional network in HK and
Guangdong this year. 4) Step up co-operation in cross-border business
sectors, including initiating a clean-air charter and further studies
into industrial restructuring and development in the west of the
delta. 5) Joint overseas promotion of the Pan-Pearl River Delta
region. 6) Joint research and development platforms and improved
exchanges between R&D institutions. 7) Strengthened co-operation
on series of infrastructure developments, including HK-Zhuhai-Macau
bridge and regional express rail link. 8) Attract more Guangdong
enterprises to invest in Hong Kong, and vice versa.
Cost disputes halt HK-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge project: Plagued
by disputes over financial planning, the HK-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge
project has come to a standstill. The deadlock was the result of
disagreements over different proposals concerning supporting facilities
for the bridge.
Legal Affairs and human rights
Activists demand law reform to combat domestic violence:
Frustrated by what they perceive as the government’s reluctance
to adopt a “zero tolerance” attitude towards domestic
violence, activist groups, especially the Women’s Coalition
for Equal Opportunity, are putting intense pressure on the government
to reform the law.
Falun Gong faithful on watchlist: In an undergoing judicial
review of the case barring entry to Falun Gong members for security
reasons, the lawyer of the group contended that the decision of
the immigration director was unlawful and unreasonable because it
was in fact solely based on religious belief and amounted to a form
of religious discrimination. A High Court judge issued a sharp rebuke
to the administration saying the latter cannot hide behind the word
“security” in barring Falun Gong members.
HK pledges to adopt UN child-protection law: During a UN
Convention on the Rights of the Child hearing in Geneva the HK government
representative declared that there is every intention to apply to
HK the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution
and Child Pornography.
Opening of HK Disneyland on 12 September: It launches HK’s
“tomorrowland”. Mainland tourists are expected to spend
more and stay longer in HK after the opening of Disneyland Resort.
Chinas VP Zeng Qinghong assisted the opening ceremony on 12 September.
Chief Executive Donald Tsang expects that the Park would provide
thousands of direct and indirect jobs and, over the long term, bring
billions of dollars of benefits to the HK economy. The opening ceremony
was accompanied by protests of activists from political, religious
and labour concern groups. HK puts HK$23.4 billion into the project
and owns 57% of its stake. A government fact sheet says the opening
will generate 18,400 jobs, which will grow to 35,800 over the next
20 years. The net economic benefit will reach to HK$148 billion
over 40 years. However, many economists are doubtful about the figures.
They admit nothing will be measurable until the park has been up
and running for at least a year.
Economic growth: HK registered 6.8% economic growth for the
second quarter of 2005, far exceeding original estimates of 4.5
to 5.5%. Officials are reluctant to adjust their projections for
the entire year because of uncertainties ahead: HK will remain vulnerable
to runaway of oil prices, growing protectionism in trade and bubbles
in the US property market. Consumer spending jumped 7% to reach
HK$17.4 billion year on year in July despite soaring oil prices
and rising interest rates. Improvement in employment conditions,
inbound tourism and healthy development of the property market had
all benefited retailers. The robust economy is expected to boost
government receipts of salaries and profit tax this financial year
by almost $4 billion compared with the previous year. Unemployment
rate stood at 5.7% in August, remaining unchanged for 4 straight
months. The total no. of jobs increased to an all-time high of 3.39
million but the labour force also surged to a record high of 3.6
million. Exports in August rose 13% to HK$206 billion, year-on-year
basis, after growing 8% in July. Imports increased 13% to HK$210
Tourism: A total of 2.07 million visitors arrived in July,
up 3.8% year-on-year basis, despite the fact that July is a traditional
low tourism season. According to HK Tourism Board, tourism is expected
to hit an all-time high next year with a projected 27 million visitors,
up from an estimated 23.4 million by the end of this year. They
are expected to pump HK$114 billion into the economy, a 16% increase
from this year’s estimated HK$98 billion.
Record number of foreign firms in HK: The number of overseas
and mainland firms with regional or local offices in Hong Kong reached
a new high in 2004, partly thanks to the Closer Economic Partnership
Arrangement (CEPA) between Mainland and HK. 5,943 mainland and overseas
companies had either regional headquarters, a regional office or
a local office in HK in 2004 (5,414 in 2003 and 4,867 in 2002).
Mainland companies were increasingly using Hong Kong as a springboard
to overseas markets. 257 mainland enterprises were granted approval
to invest in Hong Kong between September 2004 and August 2005. The
projects involved investments totalling HK$ 8 billion. According
to InvestHK, the latest statistics shows that Hong Kong is host
to over 6,200 overseas and mainland companies - strong evidence
that international businesses continue to prefer managing their
regional operations from HK.
Pay rises at Asia’s second lowest: HK’s salary
growth (3.4%) will be the second lowest in Asia Pacific next year
despite its fast economic growth in the first half, according to
a survey by a global human resources firm.
Link relisting: The Link Reit (real estate investment trust)
listing, tentatively valued at HK$34 billion, will be relaunched
in December with UBS, Goldman Sachs and HSBC as underwriters.
HK$10b land sale: Property prices look set to boom following the
better-than-expected results of land auction of 3 lots that raised
HK$10 billion. The HK Government said it was happy with the result
but dismissed fears of a new property bubble.
HK ranking dropped in two surveys: HK ranked 7th (4th in
last year) in the world for a business-friendly environment, due
to the fact that it takes longer for firms to obtain business licenses,
according to a survey by the World Bank. Concerns about judicial
independence, rising corruption and intellectual property rights
have led to HK's fall down the rankings (dropped seven places to
28th) of the world's most competitive economies, according to the
World Economic Forum WEF. Top officials of the HK Government including
Acting Financial Secretary, Secretary for Justice and Independent
Commission Against Corruption have hit back at the report and claimed
the WEF's concerns regarding Hong Kong were unfounded. Switzerland
ranked 8th in the report.
UBS’s stake in Bank of China: UBS announced that they
were investing 645 million Swiss francs (HK$3.9 billion) in state-owned
Bank of China, the nation's second-largest bank, to create a partnership
in investment banking and securities services for Chinese clients.
They were also in talks to restructure the operations of Beijing
Securities and planned to pay US$210 million (HK$1.6 billion) for
an equity stake in the Chinese brokerage.
Credit Suisse dropped offer to buy US$500m CCB stake: An
offer from Credit Suisse to invest US$500 million in China Construction
Bank's (CCB) upcoming global share issue has been abandoned after
months of negotiations. The decision was taken in order not to delay
the listing of the mainland bank any further.
Johnson Electric/Saia-Burgess: A 700 million Swiss Francs
offer by Johnson Electric, the world’s second-largest micro
motor manufacturer, to buy Swiss electronic firm Saia-Burgess is
now likely to proceed after a rival bidder dropped out the race.
Swatch eyes strategic stake in distributor: Listing candidate
Xin Yu Hengdeli, the mainland’s largest watch distributor,
is in talks to bring in the world’s biggest watchmaker, Swatch
Group, as strategic investor. Swatch Group may buy about 8.3% stake
or HK$115 million, market sources said.
Bats could trigger a sars-like epidemic: Expert warns that
bats (that can be used in Chinese traditional medicine) are the
reservoir of a Sars coronavirus-like virus according to HKU microbiology
Food safety: While the government has still to come up with
an effective measure to help restore people’s confidence in
the safety of their food, research shows that the local population
has temporarily changed its eating habits. Hong Kong and Shenzhen
officials agreed to set up a notification mechanism on food safety
across the border, with both sides promising to report suspected
cases to each other.
39% of HK people are overweight: According to the Department
of Health, HK ranks among the top three Asian countries in terms
of the number of overweight people.
Bird flu: HKU microbiologists have warned against misusing
oseltamivir (Tamiflu) – the antiviral drug that governments
are stockpiling against a potential pandemic caused by the H5N1
virus. Amantadine, a far cheaper drug than oseltamivir, helped control
the H5N1 outbreak in HK where it made the first known jump to humans
Pollution: The highest pollution level measured so far this
year in the HK Region was measured on September 12. The combination
of very little wind combined with high temperatures is believed
to be the main reason for this problem. Environmental groups criticised
the government suggesting it should push the city’s energy
companies to develop renewable energy for the Pearl River Delta
and also to pursue more aggressively measures to increase energy
Legislative elections in Macau: On September 25th, 12 of
the 29 members of the Legislative Assembly have been directly elected.
The competition was fierce with 127 candidates competing for the
12 available seats. Opponents to the government have scored well
mainly because the current economic boom has not yet brought any
benefit to large layers of the population. More than 1000 people
have been arrested in Macau’s biggest vote-buying scandal.
One of the candidates had asked employees and friends to vote for
him and bought their votes.
Macau government takes charge of North Korea-linked bank:
The Macau government has taken charge of Banco Delta Asia BDA, a
bank accused by the United States of aiding illicit North Korean
activities amid fears the allegations were ruining the lender. A
US Treasury Department report earlier this month put the bank on
an international watch list, accusing it of passing counterfeit
currency and engaging in money laundering for North Korean clients.
Banco Delta Asia customers withdrew some 10 per cent of the bank’s
capital after the report. The HK Monetary Authority said that they
would assess their implications for Delta Asia Credit, BDA’s
subsidiary in HK.
WTO MC: Detailed emergency plans are being compiled by every government
department to prepare for potential chaos during the WTO meeting
in December. The security arrangements have been described as “even
more intensive than for the handover ceremonies in 1997”.
Businesses have been advised not to schedule any important deals
during the week of the conference.
Protest leaders criticized the government for failing to cooperate
with groups wanting to hold peaceful protests during the WTO meeting.
A meeting with a WTO official and a representative of the HK government
has ended in frustration.
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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