CONSULATE GENERAL OF SWITZERLAND IN HONG KONG
|A condensed press review prepared
the Consulate General of Switzerland in Hong Kong
Visitor spending up, but number of arrivals falls short of estimate:
Visitors to HK spent a record HK$119.43 billion last year, up 12.7%
on 2005 and exceeding the HK Tourism Board's tourist expenditure
forecast for last year by more than HK$4.7 billion. The strong showing
came as the board reported 25.25 million visitors last year, short
of its target of 27 million.
Easter boon for home sales: HK's property sales jumped more
than sixfold during the five-day Easter holiday from the same period
last year, fuelled by strong demand for luxury homes amid the city's
robust economic growth. About 585 deals in the primary market were
recorded during the holiday break, compared with about 90 units
during the four-day break a year earlier.
Slower earnings growth expected for local banks: HK lenders,
which enjoyed fast earnings growth last year, were likely to see
growth slow this year amid the volatile stock market and potential
tightening in interest-rate spreads. The lender's strong income
growth was mainly driven by a sharp increase in net interest income,
amid a widening gap between prime lending rate, from which they
draw income, and the HK interbank offered rate, a benchmark for
funding cost. Lenders also benefited from the buoyant equity market,
which helped boost non-interest incomes such as fees and commissions
from handling stock transactions and selling wealth management products.
Jobless total sees first rise since August: The number of
people without jobs last month increased for the first time since
August, rising by about 5,700 to 152,500, even though the unemployment
rate remained unchanged at 4.3%. The March unemployment rate is
in line with consensus estimates and is at post-Asian financial
HK dollar slides to near 22-year low: The HK dollar hit its
lowest level in almost 22 year, undermined by strong corporate demand
for the US currency. The HK dollar stood at 7.8211/12 to the greenback,
the lowest level since September 1985, according to the HK Monetary
Consumer prices rose: Consumer prices rose 2.4% year on year
last month, compared with February's 0.8% and January's 2%, the
government said. The fluctuations over the first quarter are a result
of the waiver of public housing rents by the Housing Authority and
Housing Society for February.
Property confidence in HK remains high: Confidence among
HK homeowners in the residential property market remains high even
though Polytechnic University's quarterly BRE Confidence Index for
Residential Property dipped three points in the first quarter of
the year to 703 from December.
Concrete action in tax report ruled out: No concrete measures
will be recommended in a forthcoming government report to solve
the challenges faced by HK's tax system, although the majority of
the public agree the city needs to broaden its tax base. A report,
expected to be released next month, will summarise the submissions
and analyse the data from a nine-month tax reform consultation.
It is expected the report will point out that there is a consensus
of the public that HK's tax base is too narrow and that they agree
we should not avoid the problem, although they are opposed to introducing
Tsang vows to shed elitist approach and listen to the people:
Chief Executive Donald Tsang has conceded that his “elitist
approach” to governing the city should change, and has promised
to be more sensitive to the needs of the people. Mr Tsang, who won
a second five-year term in office in the Election Committee poll,
said he had learned from his election campaigning that he had to
give the public a chance to “reject” him.
Pan-democrats doubt vow to move away from elitism: Chief
Executive Donald Tsang’s pledge to discard his elitist approach
to governance has drawn scorn from the pan-democrats, who say they
have seen no evidence of his intention to hear different opinions.
On the day Mr Tsang was formally appointed to another term, Civic
Party leader Audrey Eu attacked officials who claim to represent
the whole community when only a select few appointed them.
Tsang gets glowing report from Beijing: Donald Tsang was
given a glowing report card by Wen Jiabao as the premier formally
appointed him to serve as chief executive from July 1. Mr Wen signed
the State Council order for the appointment at a cabinet meeting
in Beijing. Mr Tsang will fly to the capital to receive the instrument
of appointment. The premier said Mr Tsang's victory had met the
expectations of the HK people and reflected their trust in him.
Hold back reforms until after elections: Chief Executive
Donald Tsang should not rush into presenting his proposals for constitutional
reform aimed at universal suffrage, but should wait until after
next year's legislative elections, lawmaker and Liberal Party chief
James Tien said. "Political lobbying for the support of 40
lawmakers should be made close to 2012, and not at the beginning
of a new term for the chief executive, who is to conduct a territory-wide
public consultation exercise from July this year for three months,
and formulate the mainstream proposals six months later for submission
One man, one vote for Legco unlikely in 2012: The government
put a damper on hopes that universal suffrage could be achieved
for both the Legco and chief executive elections in 2012, saying
it was more difficult to reach consensus on a system to return all
legislators than on selecting a new leader. The message, carried
in papers summing up discussions on electoral reform by a government
commission, was the clearest indication yet on the likely speed
of democratisation, after Donald Tsang's pledge to resolve the issue
within his new five-year term. Pan-democrat legislators decried
the report, saying it effectively ruled out an immediate move towards
Tsang to lobby for political solution 'acceptable to all':
HK will seek the views of central government leaders on the territory's
future political development and strive for a solution acceptable
to all sides, Chief Executive Donald Tsang said. "I hope to
be able to exchange views with them on my manifesto, particularly
in areas of common interest where we're able to complement each
other's development and make sure we develop a further win-win situation
for both sides in the coming five years."
DAB chief outlines his visions for democracy: HK people could
be choosing the chief executive through universal suffrage by 2017
"at the earliest", in line with the gradual and orderly
progress stated in the Basic Law, the DAB chairman says. But Ma
Lik, chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and
Progress of HK, said electing all the members of the Legislative
Council by one-man, one-vote should be later than 2017 because the
electoral arrangement was more complicated as it involved phasing
out functional constituencies.
Hu recognises HK's desire for democracy: President Hu Jintao
acknowledged the advancement of democracy as one of the common wishes
and fundamental interests of the people of HK, while insisting that
it should progress in a "gradual and orderly" manner.
The remarks were a rare recognition from Beijing of the importance
of democratic development to the city.
Pan-democrats see reform hurdles: Lawmakers said they feared
the government was encouraging conservative proposals on constitutional
reform by putting up hurdles. They aired their concerns as Beijing
loyalists floated another idea that would stop pan-democrats from
taking part in chief executive elections
Don't rush democracy, urges Henderson chief: Universal suffrage
should be introduced "the later, the better" because rushing
it would "mess up" the economy, says tycoon Lee Shau-kee.
Henderson Land Development's chairman described Chief Executive
Donald Tsang, who he voted for in last month's election, as a "good
steward" who was experienced in running the government. The
chief executive has vowed to resolve the issue of universal suffrage
within his five-year term. Mr Lee said he had personally benefited
from the improving economy and would like to see the status quo
being maintained, with a gradual move towards the ultimate goal
of universal suffrage. "If we rush to introduce universal suffrage
and mess things up, we will end up even worse than now. I don't
dare say 2012 is too soon, but the later, the better."
Civic and Democratic parties to join forces for this year's elections:
The pan-democratic camp is planning to field up to 300 candidates
in this year's district council elections, which will also see an
unprecedented partnership between the Democratic Party and Civic
Party in canvassing activities. Party leaders hope the combined
strength of the traditional Democratic Party and the new party with
a professional and middle-class image will help gain ground in districts
previously held by Beijing loyalists and conservatives.
Regional rivals look to challenge HK: The city's
position as the shopping destination of choice for mainland visitors
may be safe for now, although regional rivals such as Singapore
and Malaysia are stepping up efforts to pull more of the tourist
dollars, a new survey suggests. It shows the average mainland visitor
spends 4,700 yuan holidaying overseas, including in HK. This comes
as the city attempts to salvage a tourism trade battered by recent
allegations of shopping scams.
Taiwan suffers WHO blow: Taiwan's hopes of rejoining the
World Health Organization have been dashed after the United Nations
agency, headed by HK's former health chief, said the island's membership
is now a "non issue." In a stern reply to a recent letter
from President Chen Shui-bian to the organization, the WHO secretariat
said it will not consider Taipei's bid now or in the future because
Taiwan is not a sovereign state recognized by the world body.
Delays, cancellations and chaos on first day: The
first day of faster rail services between Guangzhou and Shenzhen
was marked by delays, cancellations and chaos as travellers waited
hours to board trains.
More HK workers losing jobs to mainlanders in delta: More
Hongkongers' positions in Pearl River Delta enterprises have been
taken up by mainlanders, and the trend is continuing, a study by
the University of HK has found. The study showed that the ratio
of HK staff to mainland employees in companies interviewed in the
delta had dropped from 1:120 in 2003 to 1:170 last year.
Co-location of border checkpoints approved: The Legislative
Council approved a bill authorising the co-location of HK and mainland
checkpoints at the Shenzhen end of the Western Corridor, which links
Shekou in Shenzhen and Ngau Hom Shek in the New Territories. The
passage of the bill is the first time that HK's jurisdiction has
been extended across the border.
Legal affairs and human rights
Handicapped might get minimum wage: The
Labour Department will study setting a minimum wage for the less-capable
and the handicapped later this year. Permanent Secretary for Economic
Development and Labour Paul Tang said it was one of the options
being considered while preparing for the possible drafting of a
minimum-wage law. He said the department would make a decision after
a fact-finding trip later this year to Australia, which had introduced
a minimum-wage system early in the last century.
Lawyers sought to cut court burden: Increasingly sophisticated
crimes and a rise in Court of Final Appeal cases has forced the
Department of Justice to launch a major recruitment drive to ease
the strain on overworked government lawyers, Director of Public
Prosecutions Grenville Cross said. To ease the workload of the "short-staffed"
prosecutions division last year, more than 35% of 2,446 prosecution
cases were briefed out to lawyers in the private sector, accounting
for 62.6% of the 6,975 court days.
Law to control fertility clinics finally on way: The city's
fertility clinics may finally be regulated from July, seven years
after a law was passed banning commercial surrogacy, sex selection
and human cloning. But the licensing system will give clinics and
embryo researchers a further six months' grace to meet standards,
meaning they could continue to practise controversial fertility
techniques during this time.
Green group urges climate action: A green group has called
on the government to reactivate a co-ordination panel on climate
change after a study by the Environmental Protection Department
showed that the city would face a higher risk from infectious diseases
because of global warming.
Study won't stop wall effect, says Civic Party: A study of
the local wind environment to identify climatically sensitive areas
in HK for air ventilation assessment will be completed in 2009,
says the housing minister. But the Civic Party says this will be
too late to stop the wall effect created by huge developments now
being planned or built.
HK orchestra chief moves family to US to escape pollution:
Conductor Edo de Waart is moving his family out of HK after just
three years here, to protect them from the "terrible"
air pollution. The Dutch maestro, who has repeatedly stressed his
commitment to the city since taking up the baton of the HK Philharmonic
Orchestra in 2004, is in the middle of relocating the family home
to the United States.
Fast-food chains urged to cut down on waste: Fast-food outlets
should consider doing away with wrappers for chopsticks, dispensing
sugar from common containers instead of individual packets and other
ways to cut down on disposable waste, a concern group says. Targeting
three popular fast-food restaurants - Cafe de Coral, Fairwood and
Maxim's - a Green Sense survey found diners on average threw away
more that 10 million disposable items a month.
Macau beats HK in GDP growth: Macau’s casino-driven
economy has overtaken HK in per capita gross domestic product growth
for the first time, sparking warning of worsening social problems
and an overheating housing market. Figures released by the Macau
government show per capita GDP last year was 227,508 patacas, compared
with HK’s HK$214,710.
Casino executive sees no threat to Macau: Macau's position
as the No1 casino destination will not be threatened by Singapore
or other parts of Asia, according to an executive from Stanley Ho's
firm. Even when Singapore's two multibillion-dollar casino developments
open in 2010, the former Portuguese colony could still hold its
position in the expanding gaming market, said Ambrose So, a director
with Sociedade de Jogos de Macau.
Fear of casino turf wars as competition heats up: Casino
violence has shown signs of resurfacing in Macau as competition
heats up in an increasingly crowded gaming market. Analysts fear
underworld troubles could be rekindled to a level not seen since
the turbulent pre-handover period, when gambling-related crime was
rampant. Legislator Au Kam-san warned that casino turf wars and
murders might resurface in the wake of a decline in profits. "Nowadays
the casino middlemen can still survive without much fighting,"
Mr Au said, "but once the profits shrink further the situation
may get out of hand. Then the central government would have to intervene".
Macau police bracing for May Day protests: Thousands of Macau
residents are expected to take to the streets on May Day to protest
against labour policies and corruption. Police are determined to
prevent a repeat of the violent clashes that broke out last May
Day. Several interest groups, who staged the largest protest in
Macau in decades last year, are planning a new - and perhaps bigger
- turnout as they say their demands have fallen on deaf ears.
Macau to offer land by public bid: Macau will start a process
of open bidding for residential land later this year, Chief Executive
Edmund Ho said. He also announced an abrupt suspension of the city's
investment immigration scheme. But the scheme will not cover land
for casino-hotel development, which is spearheading the property
Crowded casino sector tipped to pare margins at Macau operators:
Macau will continue to outperform the Las Vegas Strip as the world's
largest gaming hub in the future, but increased supply will hurt
casino operators' margins, according to Morgan Stanley managing
director Rob Hart. Hart expects Macau gaming revenue to hit HK$70
billion this year, up 27% from HK$50 billion in 2006. He also upgraded
the annual growth rate of Macau's gaming revenue from 16% to 22%
until 2010, on the back of a strong economic performance in the
mainland. Last year, the former Portuguese enclave became the world's
largest single gaming market by revenue, surpassing the Las Vegas
Strip, which had US$6.39 billion in gaming revenue.
Labour shortages mounting in Macau: The Second Macau Investment
Forum closed yesterday (27.4.2007) with investors expressing concern
over the city's biggest problem - a dire labour shortage on one
hand and tough opposition to importing labour on the other. For
companies hoping to cash in on the casino boom, an eight-month wait
to import workers, with no guarantee of the outcome, can be costly
and exhausting, the two-day forum at Wynn Macau heard.
Big gamble on Macau: Gambling has a long history in China.
Some consider the art of playing cards to have evolved in China
more than a thousand years ago and implements supposedly used for
gambling have been found in China and dated to around 2300 BC. But,
for Beijing, it seems there is gambling and there is gambling. The
distinction appears to be political expediency. Today, China can
be considered the world's casino capital. Recently it was announced
that revenue in Macau alone surpassed that of the traditional casino
city, Las Vegas. With an annual turnover now of around US$7 billion,
Macau has become the biggest casino in the world. The basis of the
Macau boom is of course gamblers from the mainland. Some 29 million
are expected to jet or ferry in this year, an increase on the 22
million gambling souls who visited and emptied their pockets there
It's a 9-month party for our 10th birthday: The SAR's 10th
birthday bash will be spread over nine months and will cost HK$97
million. Describing the 460 celebratory events as "celebrations
for all", Permanent Secretary for Home Affairs Carrie Lam said
the government is confident the activities will manifest the vibrancy
and diversity of HK.
Quality-of-life issues become main concern: HK people are
attaching increasing importance to environmental protection and
urban planning and are less concerned about the economy, an annual
development index shows. As their concern with such quality-of-life
issues has risen, so their satisfaction with the city's performance
in these areas has fallen.
400 suspect watches seized in customs raid: Customs officers
raided a jewellery shop in To Kwa Wan and seized 400 suspected counterfeit
watches as travel agents warned that the growing scandal over fake
goods being sold to tourists could slash the number of visitors
during next month's Labour Day "golden week". "We
have reasons to suspect that those 400 watches, which belong to
a Swiss brand, were fakes, after a series of investigations,"
Samson Chiu Yuk-hung, customs' divisional commander of Trade Descriptions
Investigation, said after the raid.
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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