CONSULATE GENERAL OF SWITZERLAND IN HONG KONG
|A condensed press review prepared
the Consulate General of Switzerland in Hong Kong
“HK has now fully emerged from the Asian financial crisis
and has regained its strength and vitality. Our domestic economy
has been moving forward with increased momentum, and we are better
placed to ward off external shocks. I am cautiously optimistic about
this year’s economic outlook.”
(Financial Secretary Henry Tang, Budget Speech of February 22, 2006)
West Kowloon project: Plans for the West Kowloon cultural
district - including the controversial mandate for a canopy - have
been scrapped and will again be redrawn because the three short-listed
developers were unhappy about changes to the initial proposal. The
unexpected announcement stating that the project is going back to
the drawing board was made by Chief Secretary Rafael Hui, who is
overseeing the project and allowed that "there is a significant
gap between public demands and market reality." A developer’s
group welcomed the government decision to rethink the West Kowloon
project, while a delay in the area's home supply may benefit the
district's residential market, according to other real estate interests.
Pro-Beijing camp wary of Tsang's new think-tank: Formation
of a think-tank spearheaded by former top officials close to Chief
Executive Donald Tsang has sparked fears in the pro-Beijing camp
that he is trying to surround himself with allies and further marginalise
the camp. They view the establishment of the Bauhinia Foundation
as paving the way for a return of the chief executive's former civil
service colleagues to the top levels of government if he serves
a second term.
Freedom of media wins Legco vote: Legislators have passed
a motion calling on the government to respect editorial independence
and to defend the freedom of the press. This is part of the debate
on the review by the government of public broadcasting (RTHK) in
Bishop Joseph Zen becomes cardinal: The elevation could anger
Beijing - Zen has been a harsh critic of the HK and central governments
- but it would not affect Sino-Vatican relations on a longer term.
Most Catholics see the nomination as recognition of his social stance.
During article 23 security legislation saga he was branded by Pro-Beijing
camp as a “Pathological Saint”.
Stay out of politics, Beijing warns Zen: The [Chinese] Foreign
Ministry yesterday warned HK's Catholic leader Joseph Zen not to
interfere in politics, a day after he was named cardinal. “We
have taken note of Zen's appointment. We advocate that religious
figures should not interfere with politics," said Foreign Ministry
spokesman Liu Jianchao in Beijing Thursday. Speaking a day after
he was named a cardinal, Zen said while he might try to be more
"cautious," he did not think he would change anytime soon.
"I'm 74 now, and I'm afraid it will be quite hard to change
at this point."
A little something for all: Proclaiming an early victory
over the government's persistent budget deficit, Financial Secretary
Henry Tang put a little something into next year's financial plan
for almost everyone. Homeowners will be able to deduct their interest
payments off their taxes for a few extra years. The income of middle-class
workers will be taxed at a slightly lower rate. Hospitals will get
some money to improve clinical care. And the unemployed will get
new help finding work.
Tang defends the lack of giveaways: Budget delivers minor
tax cuts, spending boost. I'm looking long-term, says Henry Tang.
The Financial Secretary yesterday rejected suggestions he was a
miser, after the minor concessions unveiled in his budget failed
to win legislators' applause. In one of the shortest budget speeches
delivered to the Legislative Council in recent years, Mr Tang announced
the expected return to surplus after eight years of deficits - three
years ahead of schedule. But he cautioned against lavish spending,
citing uncertainty in the external economic environment, and higher
oil prices and interest rates.
Fortress HK is warned to think nationally, Middleman role push
for SAR in row with Taipei: The commission on strategic development
issued a paper to its executive committee ahead of a discussion
on HK’s role in national integration, peaceful diplomacy,
the national economy, social harmony and cultural revival request
the committee to consider the roles and responsibilities of HK in
the mainland’s “economic, social and political revival”
and whether it is necessary to form a new department to coordinate
and implement HK’s external relations policies. It mentioned
HK’s “historical responsibility” to assist in
the integration of the mainland and Taiwan. This is seen as an extension
of HK’s role in the diplomatic sphere. It also pushes for
fostering patriotism in schools by strengthening the Chinese history
Tsang aide tells of Beijing despair at vote: It may have
had a negative impact on democratic development on the mainland
adding that the democrats have missed a golden opportunity to set
an example of gradual democratization for HK and the mainland.
Tap HK’s research skills: After Beijing outlined an
ambitious plan to close the gap with developed countries and transform
China into a leading technological power, researchers in HK say
that some innovative technological projects should be conducted
in the city where researchers have a wide international exposure.
HK’s expertise lays in biomedicine, logistics, information
technology and applying technology to international business.
Legal affairs and human rights
Falun Gong documents 'too sensitive': Documents concerning
how four Falun Gong practitioners were placed on a Department of
Immigration watch list are too sensitive for open court, Chief Secretary
Rafael Hui has decreed. Mr Hui said the release of the documents
covered by a court order issued by Mr Justice Michael Hartmann,
who is hearing a judicial review brought by the four practitioners
in the Court of First Instance, was not in the public interest.
Third straight gain for economy gauge: HK's business activities
picked up for the third straight month in January, thanks mainly
to strong increases in output and new orders, according to the purchasing
managers' index. The Brunswick PMI stood at 53.7 for January, the
highest in eight months, up from 52.6 in December 2005, said NTC
Economics, which published the figures from Brunswick Group and
the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply HK. A reading of
more than 50 indicates the economy is expanding. "These figures
indicate that the HK economy remains robust and is on course for
continued growth for at least the next six months," said Ray
Bashford, a partner at Brunswick Group HK.
Flat rents likely to rise 15 % as foreign firms lift demand:
HK apartment rentals are likely to rise by about 15 % this year
in view of growing demand, according to Midland Realty executive
director, Vincent Chan Kwan-hing. Demand for rental accommodation
remained on the rise because HK's economic rebound lured more multinational
corporations to open offices in the city last year and this trend
would continue, he said. "Multinational companies are expected
to increase housing allowances to keep quality staff as businesses
grow," added Mr Chan, saying this would help push up rents.
Jobless rate falls, but so does labour force: HK's unemployment
rate dipped to a 52-month low of 5.2 % last month, the government
reported yesterday. But behind the impressive headline figure, down
from 5.3 % in December, the news on the unemployment front was not
so good, as the drop in the jobless rate was accounted for by the
reduction in the labour force. There were 174,000 people without
jobs last month, about 8,000 fewer than in December, the government
said. It is the first time the number of unemployed has fallen below
180,000 since August 2001.
Economy has grown, but not incomes: Figures to be released
by the financial secretary in Wednesday's budget are expected to
show that HK's economy is bigger than it was at its peak in 1997.
But people are still, on average, making less money than eight years
ago, and some economists are pointing to a widening gap between
the rich and the poor.
Julius Baer ready to play waiting game: Julius Baer Holding
will take at least a couple of years before it begins to recoup
the investment it is making in the new private-banking markets of
Asia and Latin America. "I think we will have to wait for two
or three years before we are fully loaded until we get our investment
back," said Alex Widmer, head of the Zurich-based bank's private
banking operations. Widmer is in charge of beefing up the operations,
most notably in Asia, where Julius Baer has only a small presence
through a recent acquisition. At the same time, Widmer said, his
priority is to "stop the offshore bleeding," or slow seepage
of client assets out of Switzerland that has caused Julius Baer
to report net outflows in recent years. Julius Baer is looking to
new markets to offset that. Widmer has already hired numerous employees
but cautions that costs will run high.
HK to be new home of Asia's biggest air show: HK has brushed
aside stiff regional competition to win Asia's biggest air show
to be held every two years from September 2007. The four-day event
could potentially contribute HK$ 2 billion to the economy every
two years. Air show organiser has chosen HK over Shanghai and Bangkok
to host the show, which has been held in Singapore for the past
Economic outlook bright for city, says IMF: The International
Monetary Fund gave HK an economic thumbs-up, predicting a return
to a balanced budget this year, growth in line with government estimates
and a sharp fall in the jobless rate to below 4 %. But it also warned
that an ageing population, a narrow tax base and long-term unemployment
remained key challenges.
Millionaires add to wealth, get younger: The wealth of HK
dollar millionaires surged last year, even as their numbers remained
stagnant, according to a Citibank survey. HK's 274,000 millionaires
increased their wealth 17.6 % on the back of strong economic growth
and a bullish stock market, the annual Citibank HK Consumer Wealth
Retail sales rose: HK's retail sales rose 6.9 % to HK$ 19.3
billion year-on-year in December 2005. It continued the growth recorded
in October and November, which saw sales rise by 4.2 and 4.8 %,
respectively. For 2005 as a whole, retail sales increased by 6.8
% in value, or 5.9 % in volume, over 2004.
HK should broaden tax base, says ratings firm: Despite improvement
in its financial strength, the HK government still needs to broaden
its tax base to fix its revenue structure, credit rating agency
Standard & Poor's said. "In the medium term, establishing
a sustainable revenue structure is still dependent on broadening
the tax base," S&P credit analyst Ping Chew said. "Spending
pressure remains high, particularly in relation to aging, health
care and redeveloping the economy, including education." Financial
Secretary Henry Tang said in his budget speech last week that the
government will launch a nine-month public consultation by mid-year
on a goods and services tax. If such a tax were adopted, it would
not be implemented before 2010.
Warning on massive bird flu outbreaks: The state agriculture
minister has warned that further large-scale bird flu outbreaks
are possible, after the mainland reported two more human cases and
another poultry outbreak at the weekend. The warning was followed
by the release of a set of emergency plans issued by the State Council.
In view of the current situation, the possibility of a massive bird
flu outbreak cannot be ruled out," Du Qinglin was quoted by
state media as saying yesterday.
Bird flu scare over smuggled poultry: Three people from a
village near the border were in hospital isolation being tested
for bird flu after having eaten a chicken, smuggled in from the
mainland that had been housed with another that died of the H5N1
virus. The news fuelled fears of an outbreak among poultry on HK's
doorstep in Guangdong, as preliminary tests showed another wild
bird was infected with the deadly virus.
Finally, a deadline for ban on live chicken sales – 2009:
Live chickens will be banned from HK's wet markets by 2009, more
than 10 years after the idea was first flagged, a senior government
source revealed. The source said the Health, Welfare and Food Bureau
would next month present the Legislative Council with a timetable
to phase out the sale of live chickens, to coincide with the plan
for setting up a central slaughterhouse in the northwest New Territories.
Property sector will be hit by smoking ban, says agency:
Property became the latest industry to claim it would be dealt a
severe blow by the government's proposed smoking ban. An executive
of one of the city's biggest estate agencies said property prices
could plummet as bars and restaurants lost business and closed because
of the ban. But the chief of another big agency disagreed, saying
entertainment venues were facing intense competition from Macau
and the mainland and were using the looming smoking ban as an excuse
to shut down.
Warning of disaster from HK's pollution: Pollution fighter
Anthony Hedley has called for a 10 points plan to clear HK's air
before a disaster hits the city. His plea was sparked by pollution
levels earlier this month when nitrogen dioxide and particulate
levels in the air reached 150 to 200 micrograms per cubic metre.
Professor Hedley, chair professor in community medicine at the University
of HK, said the levels were more than seven times those considered
as dangerous in Canada and New Zealand for particulates, and more
than five times the WHO European guideline for nitrogen dioxide.
No more river polluters, vow mayors: No more polluting businesses
or factories will be built on the banks of the Dongjiang, the river
that supplies most of HK's drinking water, two Guangdong mayors
have vowed. "Due to various historical reasons, there were
some very heavily polluting factories on the riverside, but we [the
government] have relocated two thirds of them, and closed the remaining
third," Huizhou Mayor Huang Yebin said on the sidelines of
the Guangdong People's Congress.
Macau property race is on despite risks: At a convention
in Shanghai, a group of investors with US$110 billion (HK$858 billion)
in funds between them asked a property (and decisions) expert where
in Asia he would put his money. "Without hesitation, Macau,"
answered Peter Barge, author of The Little Book of Big Decisions
on how to be decisive. Barge, also Asia head of property consultants
Jones Lang LaSalle, has two "opportunity funds" for property
in the former colony, which is rushing to build huge casino resorts
to draw mainland gamblers in their millions. Other foreign investors
are following. What was once a speculative residential property
market, supplied by local developers, is starting to attract bigger
international names interested in building shopping centers, offices
and flats. Citigroup has hooked up with private developer Macau
Land to build two luxury high-rise apartment blocks.
Muslims march to protest at cartoons: Around 3000 Muslims
marched peacefully TST to protest Danish cartoons.
Press articles related to Switzerland
« Medicine for the soul »: (Post Magazine, 5 Feb.
2006): The father of LSD, Albert Hofmann employed by Swiss chemical
firm Sandoz Laboratories, has seen his «medicine for the soul»
transformed from scientific wonder to outlawed, feared street drug.
In 1938, the doctor synthesised the 25th chemical: lysergic acid
diethylamide (LSD). Sandoz was keen to find a use for this new compound
and Hofmann thought it could have an important role to play in psychiatry.
After animal tests showed it to be virtually non-toxic, it was made
freely available to qualified clinical investigators: “Properties:
causes hallucinations, depersonalisation, reliving of repressed
memories and mild neuro-vegetative symptoms”, read the Label
on the bottle
Vastness, magnificence and simplicity: (Weekend Standard, 21
Feb. 2006): Marc Progin, born in Switzerland, living in HK for
28 years, was initially interested in endurance sports; this led
him to a 7500 km bike journey across a land without fences: Mongolia.
The exhibition, held at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club,
attests to what he saw and how he saw it. “The physical journeys
are not what I want to elaborate on,” he explains. “It’s
the resulting interior voyages that interest me”. (FCC, 2
Lower Albert Road, Central, HK, from 21.02 until 20.03.2006)
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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