CONSULATE GENERAL OF SWITZERLAND IN HONG KONG
|A condensed press review prepared
the Consulate General of Switzerland in Hong Kong
Hong Kong's international business community is urging the government
to act quickly to tackle air pollution before conditions deteriorate
further and deter top expatriate professionals from moving to the
Think-tank must heed UN, says Emily Lau: Lawmaker Emily Lau
urged the government to present to members of its prime policymaking
body observations of the UN Human Rights Committee calling for universal
suffrage to be implemented in HK. She said she feared members of
the Commission on Strategic Development would choose to further
enhance business interests if they were not reminded of the UN body's
DAB wants to co-operate, says Ma Lik: A pro-government party
vowed not to work against the administration, after the second appearance
in a week of senior government officials at party executive meetings.
In an unprecedented move, Chief Secretary Rafael Hui and the minister
for constitutional affairs, Stephen Lam attended the Democratic
Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of HK's annual strategy
camp in Dongguan over the weekend. The presence of the two ministers
came just four days after Chief Executive Donald Tsang took the
extraordinary step of attending the party's caucus meeting.
Look beyond your ratings, Tsang told: Lee Cheuk-yan (general
secretary of the HK Confederation of Trade Unions) warned the chief
executive against being carried away by his high popularity rating,
saying he had yet to resolve deep-rooted conflicts in the community.
Donald Tsang should know that his personal popularity alone did
not guarantee he could finish the job. "At the end of the day,
the chief executive will be judged not by how many marks he scored
in opinion polls, but on what he has delivered." Mr Lee said
Donald Tsang and his government had failed to resolve the overdominance
of big business in both economic and political spheres, and the
growing wealth gap.
Democrats unite in key polls fight: The two largest pro-democracy
parties have announced an initiative that they say will make their
presence strongly felt in the Election Committee - and even win
them enough places to put up one of their own in next year's chief
executive election. In December, about 160,000 electors from 38
subsectors will choose the 800-member Election Committee that nominates
candidates and elects the chief executive.
“Bewildered” Tsang dismisses claims of full democracy
in 2012: There are no plans to introduce full democracy in 2012,
a government spokesman said. The administration was reacting to
a local media report that Chief Executive Donald Tsang is seeking
Beijing's approval to give HK universal suffrage in 2012. The spokesman
said the report only "bewildered" Tsang and his top officials.
"There have been no behind-the-scenes bargaining with Beijing.
It is not foreseeable in the near future that there will be any
talk of politics with the central government," the spokesman
Red flags raised on universal suffrage: Top mainland law
experts yesterday (27.4.2006) delivered an unexpected attack on
hopes for universal suffrage in Hong Kong, with one laying out six
conditions that must be met before it can be achieved. The remarks
from the so-called "guardians" of the Basic Law were made
at a seminar on the mini-constitution held in the capital. Beijing
has previously spoken through the legal experts on controversial
constitutional issues, including political reform and the length
of Chief Executive Donald Tsang's term.
Shenzhen out to lure SAR banks' business: The Shenzhen government
is offering cash and land-purchase incentives to HK financial institutions
and benefits for their senior management in a bid to lure their
back-office operations across the border. The new policies are an
attempt to tighten ties between HK and Shenzhen in the financial
sector rather than compete in the high-value-added industry, said
Shenzhen mayor Xu Zongheng at a seminar on Shenzhen-HK financial
cooperation. He said HK's position as an international financial
centre was irreplaceable.
New HK-Shenzhen alliance to foster better business ties:
Cutting cross-border red tape and fostering government co-operation
will top the agenda of a new Shenzhen-HK business alliance set up
to exploit investment opportunities in the twin cities. The Shenzhen
and HK Investment Alliance will comprise about 40 HK and 40 Shenzhen
Shenzhen eager to mine HK's brain power: Shenzhen is banking
on HK's brain power to help the border city become a national centre
for innovation, its leaders say. The central government has given
Shenzhen the task of developing high technology and innovative industries.
But while the city has made some progress, with technology firms
such as Huawei, it lacks first-class universities and research centres.
Shenzhen's leaders see HK as the best solution to the problem.
Cross-delta bridge ruled out for at least five years: A senior
Guangdong official said it was "definitely impossible"
for a cross-delta bridge linking HK, Macau and Zhuhai to be ready
in the next five years - even by the most optimistic estimation.
Legal affairs and human rights
Beijing urges HK efforts to promote the Basic Law: Senior
mainland officials have called on the HK government to step up efforts
to promote the Basic Law to the community. The remarks were made
during Secretary for Justice Wong Yan's first working visit to Beijing
as justice minister. Mr Wong said he believed the central government
understood HK people's reservation about "casual" interpretations
of the mini-constitution, although the issue had not been not discussed
Mainland, HK close to pact on court judgments: HK and the
mainland are on the verge of signing a long-awaited agreement to
make commercial court judgments delivered in each others' courts
enforceable on both sides of the border. The legal community welcomed
as a "cautious first step" the impending pact between
HK and the mainland. They said the arrangement's scope would be
limited and that many other jurisdictional issues still needed sorting
out between the two sides, but that it could open the doors to more
Small government best plan of attack: The "small government"
policy is HK's best weapon to avoid being marginalized by the mainland
and meeting the challenges of globalization, a top government official
said. Speaking at a conference on civil service reform, Chief Secretary
for Administration Rafael Hui said HK will maintain a "business-friendly
environment" to remain "one of the world's leading business
Premier Wen eases worries on marginalization: The debate
on HK being marginalized by the rapid development across the border
has gained new impetus, with Wen Jiabao saying it will not happen.
"I don't think the economic development of HK will be marginalized
... I have sufficient confidence in the future economic development
of HK," he said in an interview with ATV. Wen was quoted as
saying that HK enjoys "the freest economy in the world, the
most comprehensive legal system, a group of entrepreneurs with international
experience and a wide economic network with different countries
Investor faith in the China boom is here to stay: The Hang
Seng Index is racing upwards alongside counterparts in New York,
Tokyo, and elsewhere, but this rally may show the local market is
now hitched more tightly to China's than that of the United States.
Optimism is infectious, but market watchers maintain that much of
the Hang Seng's momentum continues to stem from funds flowing into
HK in anticipation of a rise in the Chinese yuan.
HK supplies what mainland lacks, says AmCham chief: Thanks
to its link with the mainland, HK's future remains bright, according
to the president of the American Chamber of Commerce in HK. Jack
Maisano said he was confident HK would remain important to the mainland
and that it was taking every advantage of this. His comment came
after Premier Wen Jiabao called recently for an end to the debate
on the city's future competitiveness and said it would not be marginalised
by a booming mainland.
All firms in study raise pay after five years: The spoils
of the post-Sars economic rebound have finally trickled down to
all business sectors in HK, with 100 % of companies in a pay trend
survey reporting rises for the first time in five years. According
to the findings, all of the respondents reported pay rises this
year ranging from 2% to 2.9%.
CPI up 1.8% as housing rents accelerate: HK's consumer prices
rose 1.8% in March, driven largely by an acceleration in private
housing rents, a trend analysts predict will continue, pushing up
inflation for the rest of the year.
HK's jobless rate stable at 5.2%: HK's unemployment rate
was at 5.2% in the first quarter of 2006, the same as in the three
months to February. The latest level was also a 4.5-year low.
JP Morgan sees QDII boost for HK: US investment bank JP Morgan
says the mainland's move to relax restrictions on companies and
individuals holding foreign exchange and investing it externally
will boost sentiment on the HK stock market. The dollar amount of
qualified domestic institutional investment (QDII) funds released
by the measure and possibly destined to come to HK would be quite
small. But it is a boost to sentiment.
Official admits gaps in food safety: The government admitted
there are loopholes in the monitoring system guarding the safety
of vegetables and pledged to strengthen it. Permanent secretary
for Health, Welfare and Food Carrie Yau Tsang said a small quantity
of vegetables from local farms was not tested before going to the
markets. A Greenpeace report said that banned pesticides and chemicals
residues were found in vegetables sold in the two main supermarkets
HK told to clean up its act in delta: HK has "a duty
and an opportunity" to reduce the impact on the environment
from its factories in the Pearl River Delta, business council chairman
Victor Fung said. "HK owns and operates over 70,000 factories
in the Pearl River Delta, so it's only natural for HK and the PRD
to be concerned about air pollution," he said after a meeting
of the Greater Pearl River Delta Business Council.
Fears new Guangdong oil refinery will add to haze: A plan
to build an oil refinery just outside HK has sparked fears for the
city's air quality. The US$ 5 billion plant would be built at Nansha,
80km northwest of HK, in Guangdong. In addition to the impact on
air, green groups are worried about the refinery's effect on the
marine environment, and have asked the HK government to press Guangdong
for details of the project. The city is already neighbour to an
oil refinery in Daya Bay.
Guangdong getting dirtier, says expert: The concentration
of sulfur dioxide in Guangdong's atmosphere has grown by an average
annual rate of 7.8 % for the past five years despite government
targets for clean air that require a decline. The increasing pollution
may also have an ominous effect on HK, with the government under
increasing pressure to make the city more environmentally hospitable
Expats mobilised to press for air pollution curbs: Expatriates
in HK and foreigners planning to move to the city are being mobilised
in an online signature campaign to pressure the government into
taking urgent measures to curb air pollution. The move was announced
yesterday (21.4.2006) at an air pollution forum organised by think-tank
Civic Exchange and AsiaXPAT, an internet portal offering advice
and services to foreigners moving to the city.
Environment treated like “second-class brother”:
Strong governance may be the war cry of Chief Executive Donald Tsang
but the new Civic Party leader feels Tsang shows a vastly different
degree of determination on various issues. The obvious two examples,
Audrey Eu said, are environmental protection - which is always treated
as a "second class-brother" - and Tsang's pet project,
the new government headquarters at the Tamar site. "HK's environmental
problems are a grave concern," Eu said in an interview. "The
problem of sustainable development in HK is serious, whether it's
air pollution, water quality, food safety or waste management.
Chamber asking big firms to come clean on pollutants: Major
companies will soon be called on to identify the type and amount
of air pollutants they emit and come up with measures to reduce
emissions. An alliance of business groups spearheaded by the HK
General Chamber of Commerce is drafting the guidelines. Leaders
are meeting to finalise the action plan for Project Clean Air, launched
by the chamber and the HK Business Coalition on the Environment.
The International Business Chamber and the Greater Pearl River Business
Council will also join the exercise.
Number of HK workers in Macau soars to record high: Macau's
economic boom is attracting a soaring number of HK workers, making
them the second-largest group of imported labour. HK workers in
Macau have overtaken labour from the Philippines, reaching a record
high of 7,540 in January, up 560 % over January 2005. There were
only 630 HK workers in Macau in January 2004. Mainland workers still
represent the largest imported labour group.
Macau's casino industry gets back on a roll: Macau's casino
industry has shown a strong recovery in the first two months of
this year after recording its lowest recent year-on-year growth
last year. Latest figures provided by the Macau government economist
Lao Pun-lap also show that the gaming sector remained its largest
source of tax revenue, despite Beijing's call for a more diversified
economy. The industry recorded gross revenue of $7.7 billion for
January and February, up 14.8 % over the same period last year.
The sector's annual revenue growth rate was 11.3 % last year, the
lowest since the handover of the former Portuguese enclave to China
Macau trumps HK for efficiency, says developer: Macau is
faster and more efficient than HK when it comes to completing negotiations
with developers on land premiums and grants, according to a developer.
Far East Consortium International deputy chairman David Chiu said
the government of the former Portuguese colony was more flexible
in approving large-scale projects.
Zen hopes for private papal audience in next few weeks: Cardinal
Joseph Zen is hoping to meet the Pope for a private audience in
the next few weeks to discuss the role of the leader of the Catholic
Church in HK in Sino-Vatican relations. Items expected to top the
agenda for the audience are the role Cardinal Zen can play in bridging
the Sino-Vatican divide, where the Holy See now recognises Taipei
but has a strong desire to switch diplomatic links to Beijing. The
cardinal said he would ask the Pope to take into account the welfare
and feelings of people in Taiwan over an imminent cut in diplomatic
Alarm raised as expats opt to shun HK: Warnings that HK is
becoming less attractive to top foreign professionals have been
underlined by figures indicating that the number of western expatriates
working and living in the city plunged last year. Arrival and departure
records of foreign expatriates showed the number of Americans, Britons,
Canadians and Australians dropped by 14 % - from 93,000 to 79,190
- continuing a steady decline in recent years. A top government
adviser and academics said the city must act quickly to restore
its appeal, which they said was being damaged by worsening pollution,
high costs and a growing tendency for foreign companies to base
their staff on the mainland.
Suicide rate dips to lowest in two decades: A booming economy
and a series of successful anti-suicide initiatives has seen the
number of people taking their own lives in HK drop by 18 % to its
lowest level in two decades. The number of people who committed
suicide in 2004, the last year for which full data is available,
was 1,053 – 18 % less than the previous year and the first
year-on-year decline since 1996.
Press articles related to Switzerland
Swiss set to take action over luxury watch tax (South China Morning
Post, 6.4.2006): The Swiss government is preparing to take action
against China in a trade dispute over a surprise move by Beijing
to slap a 20 % tax on luxury watch imports that has Swiss watchmakers
up in arms. Beijing imposed the tax on pricey watch imports - a
specialist industry in Switzerland - on April 1. Swiss watchmakers
say it will hurt their business on the mainland. "We will intervene
because we believe it is discrimination against Switzerland. In
the luxury watch segment, 99.6 % of the watches imported into China
come from Switzerland," said Christophe Hans, spokesman for
the Swiss Economic Affairs Department.
Quality of living (various local Chinese press, 11.4.2006):
According to a survey about quality of living conducted by Mercer
in 2006, Zürich ranks 1st, Geneva ranks 2nd and Bern ranks
9th out of 215 cities in the world. HK ranks 68th (pollution drags
down the ranking), Shanghai ranks 103rd, Beijing ranks 122nd and
Guangzhou ranks 133rd.
York Chow meets Swiss health officials (South China Morning Post,
20.4.2006): Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food York Chow
was on a visit to Switzerland - discussing healthcare funding and
ways to deal with bird flu. Dr Chow and Swiss health officials in
Bern also discussed measures to regulate health insurance products
and premiums. The Health Secretary visited the Swiss Federal Office
of Public Health as he began his official visit to Europe. Those
who met Dr Chow included Office Director Thomas Zeltner and deputy
head of Office's Health Insurance Supervision Division Theodor Laubscher.
Dr Chow said the meetings provided a good chance for HK to learn
more about the issue. This was because the Swiss health care system
was largely financed through a mandatory health insurance scheme.
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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