CONSULATE GENERAL OF SWITZERLAND IN HONG KONG
|A condensed press review prepared
the Consulate General of Switzerland in Hong Kong
Tax-cut call with surplus $10b up on forecast: Pressure mounted
on the financial secretary to increase welfare benefits and tax
rebates after the government announced a $14 billion surplus for
the last financial year - nearly $10 billion more than estimated
in the budget nearly two months ago. Some lawmakers accused the
government of deliberately under-reporting the surplus to deflect
calls for tax concessions, but Financial Secretary Henry Tang, in
an uncharacteristically prompt response, rejected such criticisms
and refused to promise any tax cuts for next year.
Unions demand better pay and shorter hours: More than 500
unionists and lawmakers flocked to the Central Government Offices
in Central to demand a minimum wage and maximum working hours.
Cheung lashes out at Tsang: Civic Party lawmaker Fernando
Cheung has lashed out at Chief Executive Donald Tsang for being
manipulative and politically narrow-minded, saying HK's leader will
lose Beijing's support if he consistently ignores the will of the
people. "If Donald Tsang thinks that 'strong governance' means
bulldozing his way through opposition with the massive powers he
possesses, he is definitely wrong," Cheung said.
Public trust in Beijing and HK government surges: The central
government's non-intervention in HK affairs has helped boost public
trust in the SAR government and Beijing to post-handover highs.
In a survey conducted by the HK University's Public Opinion Programme,
68.8% said they had full trust in the SAR government.
June 4 vote lost, for the ninth time: A motion calling for
the commemoration and vindication of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protest
was defeated in the Legislative Council for the ninth time since
Tsang's the man for me, says Beijing envoy to HK: Foreign
Ministry Commissioner Lu Xinhua openly backed Chief Executive Donald
Tsang's bid for a second term - the first mainland official to do
so. "I support him serving for five more years," Mr Lu
said after a media reception at the Office of the Foreign Ministry
Commissioner in HK. Mr Lu, who became commissioner in February,
said he had a good impression of Mr Tsang, who, he said, enjoyed
Tsang urged to bolster alliance: The chief executive should
build a wider policy coalition among allies to help smooth governance,
the Liberal Party leader said. James Tien said he believed such
a move would speed the implementation of universal suffrage in HK.
The business-affiliated party chief said the city was economically
advanced, but politically handicapped.
Anger grows over suffrage: The government has not drafted
any universal suffrage proposals, lawmakers were told, even though
a mainland legal expert last month spelled out six preconditions
before full democracy could be introduced to HK. Wang Zhenmin, the
deputy dean of Tsinghua University Law School in Beijing, listed
the preconditions at a forum organized by the State Council's HK
and Macau Research Institute late last month. Wang said HK is not
ready for universal suffrage because there is no national security
legislation, no territory-wide consensus on universal suffrage and
a lack of civic education.
Broadside by Tsang turns up heat on opposition: Donald Tsang
launched his fiercest attack yet on opposition parties, accusing
them of undermining his government's authority and warning the public
would turn against those who "oppose for opposition's sake".
Speaking in the Legislative Council, he said: “Some oppose
to undermine the government's authority and popularity, for fulfilling
their self-image, for media publicity. To them, it doesn't matter
whether their actions are underpinned by any values of belief.”
Donald Tsang's attack was meant for the ears of Beijing, according
to a veteran politician.
'Welfarism' dangers seen on the path to democracy: Members
of a government-appointed panel exploring the path to universal
suffrage agree HK should maintain its capitalist system while evolving
to full democracy, with some warning of the danger of "welfarism"
during the process. Members agreed to take into account the implications
of attaining full democracy on HK's economic development and financial
Vatican ties «at risk» over bishop: The unauthorized
ordination of a new Catholic bishop in China will only delay the
establishment of formal diplomatic ties between China and the Vatican,
HK Catholic church head Cardinal Joseph Zen said. The state-backed
Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association ignored a request from the
Vatican for a delay and ordained Father Ma Yinglin, 41, as the new
bishop of Kunming in Yunnan province.
Recognise Beijing and we can settle row, Vatican told: “Religious
conflicts with the Vatican can only be addressed after diplomatic
ties are resumed with Beijing”. These comments by Anthony
Liu Bainian, vice-chairman of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association,
were the first official response to the Vatican's strong condemnation
of Beijing's move to appoint two bishops without its approval.
Zen urged to act as “courier”: Cardinal Joseph
Zen has a duty as a HK resident to help convince the Vatican to
accept China's views on how to put relations back on an even keel,
the mainland's most senior official in the SAR (Lu Xinhua, commissioner
of the Foreign Ministry) said.
Legal affairs and human rights
Spousal visa rule scrapped: Spouses of expatriate professionals
and capital investors in HK will no longer be required to apply
for separate work visas to take up employment. The department decided
to lift the restrictions, imposed in July 2003, to "enhance
HK's edge in attracting professionals and investors", an Immigration
Department spokesman said.
China moves towards HK accounting standards: China-listed
firms moved one step closer to international accounting standards
after signing an agreement to converge Chinese practices with those
in HK. At present, Chinese firms listed in HK have to prepare two
sets of financial statements - one to meet HK standards and one
to meet Chinese laws. HK has been in compliance with international
accounting standards since last year.
Talent gap hits businesses: It is boom time for HK's economy
- but without the sufficient manpower resources to capitalize on
surging demand, local businesses say they risk seeing business opportunities
slip right through their fingers. "HK needs to make itself
a more attractive location ... Accommodation is small and expensive,
the air pollution is bad and education costs may be higher than
people are used to elsewhere."
Mainland investment in HK forecast to continue rising: Mainland
investment in HK will continue to rise in the next few years as
businesses over the border capitalise on the city's international
marketplace to gain overseas exposure, InvestHK director-general
Mike Rowse said.
Jobless rate drops back to levels before Sars: HK's jobless
rate has dropped back to pre-Sars levels, reaching a 56-month low
of 5.1%. However, unionists and an analyst said further improvement
would depend on the government's ability to resolve inequalities
in the job market where there was overwhelming demand for skilled
workers, and few opportunities for unskilled ones.
Home rentals driving up consumer prices: Rising rentals for
housing will continue to be the main factor driving up consumer
prices, which rose by 1.9% year on year in April and are expected
to climb steadily in the coming months, economists say.
Nobel laureate warns against pegging HK dollar to yuan: HK
risks losing its status as an international financial center if
it links its currency to the yuan instead of the US dollar, said
Nobel Prize winning economist Robert Mundell. He said the pegging
of the HK dollar to the US dollar in 1983 allowed HK to ride out
the worst of the Asian financial crisis and gave the local unit
special prominence in the region.
HK widens its lead over Shanghai: HK's economic revival and
closer economic integration with neighbouring mainland provinces
have increased its competitive advantage over Shanghai, a survey
of business leaders in both cities shows. But academics warn that
the mainland's economic powerhouse will catch up quickly in sustainable
economic growth in the next five years.
Exports lift GDP-growth to surprising 8.2%: HK's economy
powered ahead in the first quarter, growing at a faster than expected
8.2% compared to a year ago, driven by surging exports and a pick-up
in consumer demand. But analysts and the SAR government expect the
growth to taper off the rest of the year, due to uncertainties over
interest rates and oil prices, and a less exciting stock market.
Tsang sets summit on China challenges: HK will host an economic
summit in a bid to avoid being overshadowed by the mainland's robust
economic development. The summit will be held in September to gather
views on short-term strategies for HK to better integrate with the
mainland's economy, Chief Executive Donald Tsang said. He warned
that despite HK's strengths in areas such as service industries
and ports, it could be overtaken by mainland cities such as Shanghai
in the longer term because of mainland China's rapid development.
Dollar peg stays until yuan convertibility, says Tsang: Chief
Executive Donald Tsang reiterated the yuan will need to be fully
convertible before HK considers replacing its currency peg to the
US dollar, even as the SAR works to further enhance its links with
IPOs tipped to hit US$27b: Capital raised in the Greater
China region through initial public offerings is expected to reach
up to US$27 billion this year, of which 90% will be raised in HK,
said a financial specialist.
Market capitalisation climbs to record $10 trillion but adjustment
follows: The stock market made a double breakthrough with the
Hang Seng Index breaching the 17,000-point barrier for the first
time in almost six years and the market capitalisation hitting a
record high of HK$10 trillion. The index then adjusted to below
16,000 at the end of May, amid falling commodities prices and fear
of rising US interest rate.
Economic growth seen to be at risk: Rising oil prices, interest
rates and austerity measures aimed at reining in the mainland economy
are the main risks threatening local trade and economic growth in
the near future, the government says. "Some of these risks,
in fact, have intensified recently from the situation a few months
earlier. How these various risk factors will play out is critical
to HK's trade performance, and hence HK's overall economic growth
in the coming quarters," Financial Secretary Henry Tang writes
in a paper to be presented to the Legislative Council.
HK's hard and soft options for clearing the air: Restricting
the use of vehicles on high-pollution days and imposing an energy
tax during periods of peak power use are among measures to reduce
air pollution proposed by a government body headed by the chief
secretary. Foreign chambers of commerce would also be encouraged
to name and shame members who source goods from polluting suppliers.
The proposals are among 23 shortlisted by an air-quality study group
under the Council for Sustainable Development.
Wetland Park seen promoting HK as leading eco-destination:
The HK$520 million Wetland Park will open this month, with hopes
that it will attract 500,000 visitors in its first year and position
the city as a world-class ecotourism destination.
Stock exchange urged to push environmental protection: The
stock exchange should encourage local companies to embrace environmental
protection and social responsibility, says Philips Electronics Asia-Pacific
chief executive Andreas Wente. “Investors should not only
consider if they can make money. If they are investing in profitable
companies which are polluting the world, the investors themselves
will suffer in the end because of the poor living environment,"
said Mr Wente.
Firms urged to join air pollution battle: Faced with worsening
air quality in the SAR as a result of rapid industrial development
in the Pearl River Delta, a HK business group has invited its mainland
counterparts to sign a voluntary charter to combat air pollution.
A total of 206 organizations and companies, including power firms
HK Electric and CLP Power - which the SAR government claims is the
major source of local air pollution - have signed the Clear Air
Charter, HK Business Coalition on the Environment convenor James
Expats join campaign on “danger” air: More than
6,500 expatriates in HK have signed a petition to lobby the government
to combat the worsening pollution in the SAR. Together with local
policy think- tank Civic Exchange, the HK branch of Asiaxpat.com,
a guide for expatriates relocating to and living in Asia, has launched
a campaign to put pressure on the authorities to take action on
the "dangerous" polluted air.
HK's smog costs $1.7b in losses every year: Economic losses
as a result of air pollution have been estimated at HK$1.7 billion
a year, Secretary for the Environment, Transport and Works Sarah
Liao told the Legislative Council. In the past few weeks, Time magazine's
Asia edition published two articles on the subject - "While
Seoul cleans up, air pollution in HK only worsens.
Protesters, police clash in Macao labour rally: More than
5,000 Macao residents took their grievances over government labour
policies to the streets, staging the largest protest since the restoration
of Chinese rule in 1999. Demonstrators clashed with police near
Senado Square and outside the government headquarters. Twenty-five
officers and at least two female protesters were injured. Three
men and a woman were arrested.
Rapid change spurs Macao unrest: Long before a May Day demonstration
turned violent, Macao Chief Executive Edmund Ho had warned about
a time bomb of social unrest ticking away due to economic transformations
and contradictions that have turned the former Portuguese colony
from a tiny fishing village with gambling dens into a well-established
tourist spot with modern casinos. Ho last month told visitors that
because of the severe shortage of skilled and unskilled manpower,
the importation of labor had become a necessity.
Macau leader vows to settle labour dispute: In his first
public comments since the violent demonstration, Macau's chief executive
promised to mediate fairly in labour disputes. But Edmund Ho’s
comments were immediately dismissed by critics as "evasive"
and "disappointing". "The government has always attached
great importance to the labour issue. It is now working to solve
the problems of illegal workers and abnormal labour import,"
Mr Ho said. Demonstrators "must not affect the life of the
general public and the business environment", he added.
Crime rate jumps, but HK remains a safe city: HK remains
one of the safest cities in the world, despite more crimes being
recorded between January and March than during the same period a
year ago, the security chief said.
Five-day week 'to lift civil service morale': With workplace
stress in HK pushing family life and sleep to the margins, the government
has outlined plans to give most of the territory's 163,000 civil
servants Saturdays off. "We believe that the initiative will
bolster civil service morale, promote social harmony and have a
positive impact on the community," said Denise Yue, secretary
for the civil service. Workers will still put in 44 hours of work
every week, but will shift their Saturday hours to the working week
by coming in earlier or leaving later. Fears that the government's
five-day week would damage the economy were dismissed by Ms Yue.
More than half of HK software illegal: A study by the Business
Software Alliance found 54% of software running on computers in
HK last year was pirated, up from 52% in 2004.
Talks over raising of retirement age: The government's Commission
on Strategic Development is expected to begin discussions on a possible
extension of the civil servants' retirement age, according to a
government source. The move comes amidst concerns of an aging population
and a "brain drain" from the civil service.
Press articles related to Switzerland
Credit Suisse tops forecasts with profit surge (SCMP, 3.5.2006):
Credit Suisse has beaten the most optimistic forecasts with a first-quarter
net profit of 2.6 billion Swiss francs, led by its investment banking
and wealth management businesses. The bank also reported a net inflow
of 14.5 billion Swiss francs into its wealth management business,
beating analysts' consensus forecast of a 10 billion Swiss franc
UBS makes record gain (The Standard, 4.5.2006): UBS, the
world's largest wealth manager, reported a 33 in first-quarter net
profit to 3.5 billion Swiss francs, beating expectations in the
bank's best ever performance.
Revolutionary movement (SCMP, 4.5.2006): Every spring in
Switzerland, BaselWorld: the World Watch, Clock and Jewellery Show,
is held in the historic city of Basel, which straddles the Rhine.
This year the river was high, matching the expectations of the buyers
and sellers who made it a record year for the show. This is the
most important watch and jewellery exhibition anywhere in the world
and for this reason, most watch manufacturers launch their important
new products during the eight days of the show. Its importance can
be gauged by its size: this year it attracted 2,127 exhibiting companies,
covered a gross surface area of 160,000 sq m and attracted 94,200
visitors from more than 100 countries, a new record for the exhibition
and an increase of 5% over the previous year.
Federer on top of the world (The Standard + SCMP, 24.5.2006):
Roger Federer reasserted his status on top of the sporting world
by again winning the Sportsman of the Year title at the Laureus
World Sports awards on a big night for tennis.
Swiss don't mind paying to see boys from Brazil (The Standard,
24.+25.5.2006): World champion Brazil arrived in the Swiss lakeside
resort of Weggis to begin its training camp ahead of the World Cup.
A 5,000-capacity arena has been built - 1,000 more than the population
of the village - and organizers say tickets for all the planned
training sessions have already been sold. Brazil may keep the public
from attending its training sessions if the hysteria surrounding
the national team begins interfering with its World Cup preparations,
coach Carlos Alberto Parreira said.
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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