CONSULATE GENERAL OF SWITZERLAND IN HONG KONG
|A condensed press review prepared
the Consulate General of Switzerland in Hong Kong
The Government formally kicked off a consultation about possible
introduction of a goods and services tax (GST). It drew a lot of
criticism from citizens, traders, unions and major political parties.
There were rallies by two camps on 1st July, one celebrated reunification
with China whereas another marched to demand universal suffrage.
Retired senior officials of the HKSAR Government joined debates
Henry Tang sets the GST ball rolling: The government has
formally kicked off a nine-month consultation that could result
in the introduction of a goods and services tax GST. The new tax,
which is expected to yield annual revenue of $20 billion - after
deducting administrative costs and concessions - drew overwhelming
criticism from all major political parties. Unveiling the consultation,
Financial Secretary Henry Tang insisted the controversial policy
was being put forward for the long-term good of HK. Tax reform was
needed, he said, to broaden the city's narrow tax base, whereby
only 1.2 million of the 3.4 million working population pays salaries
tax; to allow for a possible cut in the profits tax rate to keep
pace with HK's competitors; and to meet a growing fiscal burden
presented by an ageing population. HK was also over-reliant on limited
and fluctuating revenue sources such as the government's land and
investment revenues, he said.
Big guns being wheeled out to fire first shots in battle over
GST: Trade associations and companies in at least 10 sectors,
including tourism, hotels, catering and jewellery retailing, have
formed an anti-GST coalition. They say their aim is to preserve
HK's advantages as Asia's "world city" and safeguard its
attraction as a "tax-free shopping paradise". Lawmakers,
traders and unions say the government's plan to widen tax base will
hit business hard.
Rating agency lifts the outlook for HK: Fitch Ratings has
raised the outlook from stable to positive for its AA- long-term
foreign currency rating for HK, reflecting the city's improved fiscal
health. But they warned the economy still suffered from unstable
revenue sources and was susceptible to external shocks and mainland
Slight rise in jobless but economy is still in good shape:
The economy remains robust, despite a slight rise in unemployment.
Unemployment crept to 5 % from 4.9 %, figures for April to June
show, while underemployment again rose, from 2.6 to 2.7 %.
Inflation in HK on the rise: Inflation in HK accelerated
in June as housing rents and prices of food rose, latest consumer
price index (CPI) figures showed. Consumer prices rose by 2.2 %
in June compared with a year earlier. This was larger than May's
2.1 % growth, according to figures from the Census and Statistics
Department. HK ended six years of deflation in 2005, as housing
rents increased and growing consumer spending propped up prices.
HK seen slowing on global downshift, forecasted by academics:
HK's economy will slow down in the second half of the year as the
global economy shifts to a low gear in the face of monetary tightening,
according to an economic research team's forecast. The APEC Study
Center of the University of HK said in its latest macroeconomic
forecast that third-quarter gross domestic product will "moderate
to 5.9% compared with the same period last year" while real
GDP growth in the second quarter will be “6.7% on a year-on-year
CEPA 4 lift for some: More HK service companies, from law
firms to travel agents, stand to benefit from improved mainland
market access from next year, after the central government and the
SAR administration agreed on new enhancements to the Closer Economic
Partnership Agreement. But HK bankers were particularly disappointed
as there was an unexpected delay in plans to set up a trading center
for yuan-denominated bonds in the city.
Empathy from Beijing ahead of rally: A mainland official
said it was understandable for people to express their dissatisfaction
on the ninth anniversary of the return to Chinese sovereignty. The
remarks by Chen Zuoer, Deputy Director of the HK and Macau Affairs
Office, came as the Democratic Party, Civic Party and their allies
drummed up support for their rally for democracy. Former chief secretary
Anson Chan made a last-ditch appeal for people to join the march
on her blog.
July 1 one big party for patriots, one big protest for democrats:
It was a day divided into very distinct halves. The morning was
a carnival-like celebration of patriotism and HK's reunification
with the mainland. But by 3pm, when thousands had gathered in Victoria
Park for the start of the pro-democracy march, the mood was more
serious. The moderate turnout for the march, despite former chief
secretary Anson Chan Fang's appeal for support, has exposed the
unfavourable political climate for the fight for democracy. Demonstrators
were noticeably less dissatisfied with both the HK and central government
than on any other July 1 march since they began in 2003 in protest
against proposed national security legislation.
Exco convenor takes a dig at former officials: Executive
Council convenor Leung Chun-ying said former senior officials should
not focus just on constitutional issues if they wished to get involved
in politics. Mr Leung said there were other issues that needed to
be addressed, such as livelihood and economic issues, and that the
electoral system was not the only concern of the people.
Chief poses challenge to democracy champions: Politicians
campaigning for democracy were challenged by Chief Executive Donald
Tsang to come up with concrete proposals rather than relying on
political slogans. He also described the suggestion of full democracy
by 2012 as “very controversial".
Regina Ip backs a second term for Tsang: Former security
chief Regina Ip backed Donald Tsang to run for a second term as
chief executive and said she had no intention of forming a party.
Mrs Ip, who announced the formal establishment of her Savantas Policy
Institute think-tank, said she had not decided whether to stand
in the 2008 Legislative Council election. She said that Savantas
would act as a watchdog to monitor public policies, supply in-depth
policy recommendations and foster HK's democratic development.
Chan seeks plan for universal suffrage: The former chief
secretary Anson Chan is forming a group to come up with a constitutional
reform proposal acceptable to the HK and central governments. Announcing
the move, she said the government's work towards universal suffrage
was too slow. She said she had no personal agenda and was not hungry
for power, but remained cagey about her political ambitions. The
Democratic Party said that Anson Chan should negotiate with them
and their allies at an early stage to iron out differences over
the electoral reform package she intends to put forward. Some democrats
have warned that they have no obligation to rubber-stamp whatever
Mrs Chan proposes.
Democracy timetable has stalled, says Britain: The British
government released a strongly worded report saying that HK had
made no visible progress on constitutional reform. In its latest
six-monthly report on HK it said universal suffrage would be the
only way to provide a mandate for strong governance. The warning
follows an increase in political temperature over constitutional
reform fuelled by retired chief secretary Anson Chan and former
governor Lord Patten.
Fighting pollution a top priority for Tsang: Chief Executive
Donald Tsang said tackling air pollution will be a priority for
the rest of his term, which expires in less than 12 months. The
chief executive said only a fifth of the city's air pollution was
generated in HK, with vehicle and factory emissions elsewhere in
southern China causing the rest. The government expected its negotiations
with the two local power firms on regulatory reform after 2008 to
eliminate about half the domestic pollution. Most of the rest came
from vehicle exhaust fumes, and the Environment, Transport and Works
Bureau was considering ways to reduce them.
Tougher air-quality standards promised for HK by 2009: HK
is to introduce new air quality standards by 2009 after the first
review in 20 years, made in the face of repeated calls from activists
and the medical community. A steering committee of government officials,
joined by experts and academics, will oversee a study to be launched
early next year on how to comply with new World Health Organisation
guidelines to be released in September. It will be followed by public
consultation in 2008 before a set of new air quality objectives
and an action plan are finalised, according to a paper to be discussed
by the Advisory Council on the Environment.
Neighbours to meet over pollution: HK and Guangdong officials
will meet early next month amid growing concerns over the region's
declining air quality. "If left unchecked, air pollution will
drive away talent, stifle investment, reduce tourism and ultimately
choke economic growth." Chief Executive Donald Tsang said.
He added that about 80 per cent of HK's pollution came from the
Pearl River Delta region.
HK-Macau-Zhuhai Bridge: Chief Executive Donald Tsang said
he expected the proposed HK-Macau-Zhuhai Bridge to be given the
go-ahead before the middle of next year. The HK, Macau and Guangdong
governments were striving to secure an early start on the project,
but two major issues needed to be resolved, he said. The three sides
were considering whether the mainland and both special administrative
regions should perform immigration and customs checks at a shared
checkpoint, or if setting up three checkpoints at different ends
of the bridge would be a better option. Mr Tsang said the other
issue was financing.
Legal affairs and human rights
Tsang team for law on fair competition: Legislation should
be introduced in HK against anti-competitive practices across all
sectors, a top-level advisory committee appointed by Chief Executive
Donald Tsang has recommended. The Competition Policy Review Committee
said a comprehensive law should specifically target anti-competitive
practices such as price-fixing, bid-rigging, market allocation,
sales and production quotas, joint boycotts, unfair or discriminatory
standards, as well as abuse of a dominant market position. But the
panel suggested that such a law will not regulate "natural"
monopolies, or mergers and acquisitions.
UN accused of depriving refugees of their rights: A human
rights group criticised the local office of the UN High Commissioner
for Refugees for breaching its own guidelines on handling asylum
cases. The Society for Community Organisation also called on the
government to formulate an asylum policy.
Influx of asylum seekers prompts tighter visa rules: The
number of asylum seekers entering Hong Kong each month has more
than trebled, says the United Nations refugee agency. An Immigration
Department source said they had tightened the visa policy after
finding claimants were abusing the refugee or torture claimant application
procedures. Last month, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
received 200 applications for refugee status from asylum seekers,
compared to a monthly average of 30-50 in 2004 and 2005.
Court go-ahead for wiretapping: HK's highest court has issued
a carefully calibrated verdict on the administration's surveillance
regime, which will allow the government to continue its warrantless
wiretapping while pushing ahead with plans to have lawmakers vote
its new snooping and surveillance bill into law on August 2.
Health chief warns of 'guerrilla' flu: Likening dealing with
bird flu to fighting guerrilla warfare, Secretary for Health, Welfare
and Food, York Chow told lawmakers that HK had to remain constantly
alert against the spread of bird flu. Dr Chow pointed to two human
infections on the mainland in March and June to emphasise his case.
He said: "The situation is worrying. There was no bird flu
outbreak among birds before these patients caught the virus. And
these cases all occurred in cities. “
China confident former HK health chief will be elected WHO director-general:
Beijing is confident that HK's former director of health, Margaret
Chan, will be elected the new head of the World Health Organisation,
a Health Ministry official said. The comments came after the central
government announced its decision to nominate Dr Chan for the top
job at the UN agency.
N Korea ultimatum on Macau cash: North Korea demanded access
to cash frozen in Macau bank accounts before it agrees to return
to six-nation nuclear talks. Senior US and South Korean officials
quickly rejected the call.
Tough anti-spam laws proposed for HK: The government has
set an ambitious target to curb all forms of electronic junk messages
sent to or from HK but has admitted its success will hinge on international
Press articles related to Liechtenstein
Liechtenstein cleans up its banking image - Tiny state implements
tight laws to fight money laundering and terrorism funding (SCMP,
3.7.2006): The cutting-edge architecture of a string of brand-new
banks might seem incongruous in a village topped off with a medieval
castle. But Liechtenstein - with 34,600 residents in an area a little
more than double the size of Manhattan - is no ordinary corner of
Europe. The nation sandwiched between Austria and Switzerland gained
what fame it has as a banking and financial services centre - a
place where ill-gotten assets could be safely stashed away and no
one would ask questions. Now the regulations have changed - and
it is time the rest of the world took notice of the efforts the
country is making, says Prince Alois von und zu Liechtenstein.
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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