CONSULATE GENERAL OF SWITZERLAND IN HONG KONG
|A condensed press review prepared
the Consulate General of Switzerland in Hong Kong
Economy + Finance
IPO alarm for HK bourse: HK may soon be facing a threat to
its status as the primary capital-raising center in Greater China,
as the Shanghai Stock Exchange begins courting foreign firms and
US listings of Chinese firms reach near-record highs. "This
is a potential threat the HK stock exchange needs to monitor,"
said KGI Asia head of research Ben Kwong. "As the China stock
market is very hot, it provides an opportunity for those companies
to raise funds there and get a higher valuation."
Taxman took record HK$155b last year: Tax revenue in the
last financial year was a record HK$155.1 billion, but the government
expects that tax relief measures set out in the budget will reduce
the figure by HK$11 billion this year. Revenue last year was up
7% from 2005-06. The take from stamp duty raised the most, up 40%.
HK benefits as funds flow south: Six years after proposing
"channelling water from the north to south", the hopes
of HK Monetary Authority chief executive Joseph Yam finally became
reality when the mainland announced that domestic banks could invest
in the city's stock market. Mr Yam was the first HK official to
bring up the idea to let mainland capital invest in the city in
2001. But that was not Beijing's priority at that time, as it needed
to boost the mainland's economy and stock market.
Slower GDP growth seen as healthy: Lacklustre investment
in machinery equipment, building and construction slowed economic
growth in the first quarter to 5.6%; a level the government believes
is more in line with HK's mature economy. "It's still a very
good number because the economy has been growing very strongly for
14 consecutive quarters," acting government economist Helen
Chan said. The official full-year projection remains 4.5 to 5.5%.
The latest quarterly result comes off robust 8.1% growth a year
ago and falls short of consensus estimates of 6.4%.
HK rents for expats the highest in 92-city survey: HK continues
to be the most expensive city in the world for expatriates to rent
a three-bedroom unfurnished flat, according to an annual survey
by ECA International, a human resources association.
Yam warns of interest rate shock: The HK Monetary Authority,
the territory's de facto central bank, said it is worried about
the persistent weakening of the HK dollar as the city may suffer
from an interest rate shock if lagging local rates suddenly jump
to match US rates. The local currency hit a 22-year low, trading
at 7.8256 to the US dollar as the HK dollar has been used by many
arbitrage traders as a "carry trade" tool owing to its
relatively low interest rates.
Offshore funds choose HK to dodge tax risk: Offshore private
equity funds aiming to seize opportunities in the booming mainland
economy may prefer to set up their regional offices in HK rather
than across the border due to the corporate income tax law announced
earlier this year, a PricewaterhouseCoopers partner at tax services
said. Offshore private equity funds investing in mainland firms
might have to pay tax based on income they generate both inside
and outside China if they were recognised as a tax resident enterprise
by the central government.
Tsang promises to adopt new approach towards policymaking:
Chief Executive Donald Tsang pledged a full-scale change in the
government's attitude to policymaking, with public opinion at the
core of its new approach. As well as seeking deeper and broader
public involvement, the government would establish communication
channels with the public early in the process, Mr Tsang said. "The
key to getting the chief executive's job done is to get out of Government
House," he said, in a reference to his re-election campaign
Tsang set to name old faces in his next team: Donald Tsang's
next administration looks set to be dominated by old faces - serving
and former civil servants, with the exception of one or two newcomers
he is still trying to bring on board. Sources close to the chief
executive said Mr Tsang was still finalising the government list
for his new term, which begins on July 1, but a broad line-up had
already taken shape.
Pan-democrats push for 2012 universal vote: Pan-democrat
legislators launched a seven-week public campaign to seek backing
for their proposal to have dual universal suffrage elections by
2012. Under the proposal, signed by 22 pan-democrats, the next chief
executive will be elected by the people and not an election committee,
and every member in the Legislative Council will be returned through
Don't insist on 2012, warns chief: Chanting slogans demanding
universal suffrage by 2012 without regard to the means of achieving
it shows an outdated attitude and will not win the public's respect,
the chief executive warned pan-democrats yesterday. Donald Tsang
said the subject of political reform had tortured society for two
decades, and it was time it was brought to a full stop.
A timetable for suffrage in the offing: Beijing will offer
HK a fixed timetable for universal suffrage if the constitutional
reform plan launched by Chief Executive Donald Tsang can forge a
consensual model to develop democracy in a gradual and progressive
way as stipulated in the Basic Law, a pro-Beijing heavyweight believes.
Cheng Yiu-tong, an executive councillor and president of the pro-Beijing
HK Federation of Trade Unions, said he felt the earliest date universal
suffrage can be introduced in the SAR is 2017, not 2012.
British foreign secretary calls for democracy: Margaret Beckett
has pinpointed political reform in HK as one of the SAR's toughest
challenges over the next 10 years, and said Britain would like to
see universal suffrage introduced in the territory as soon as possible.
"Democracy is the foundation of a thriving economy and stable
society. The move toward universal suffrage is difficult, which
I don't underestimate, but the prize is worth it," the British
foreign secretary said.
Relations HK - Mainland China
Legco censure of Beijing blocked: Legco president Rita Fan
blocked the tabling of a motion condemning Beijing for its crackdown
on the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy movement, saying it would
be "out of order" for the legislature to criticise the
central government. The Legislative Council, being a local legislative
body under the central government, also had no right to demand an
end to the one-party rule the Communist Party enjoys under the constitution,
she said in ruling against legislator "Long Hair" Leung
Kwok-hung's proposed motion.
Fury at DAB chief's Tiananmen tirade: HK will not be ready
for universal suffrage until around 2022 because the people lack
national identity and many still believe there was a massacre in
Tiananmen Square in 1989, the leader of the main pro-Beijing party
said. In remarks that drew immediate condemnation from the pan-democratic
camp, the chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment
and Progress of HK, Ma Lik, said local students had not received
proper "national education" since the handover and many
still "care nothing" about the mainland. He said one example
to show HK society was not mature was people's belief that pro-democracy
activists were "massacred" in Tiananmen Square in 1989.
Beijing may veto leader under universal suffrage: Beijing
could refuse to appoint a HK chief executive elected by universal
suffrage, a member of Donald Tsang’s cabinet has warned. Executive
Council convenor Leung Chun-ying said people calling for universal
suffrage had the responsibility to address the "constitutional
clashes" that might arise. Mr Leung said people should not
just focus on when universal suffrage could be implemented. "People
will eventually exercise the power to elect the chief executive,
but Beijing also has the power to appoint or veto. How are we going
to resolve the clash when two powers are exercised together?
Shenzhen official hopes for better HK relations: Shenzhen
deputy Communist Party secretary Bai Tian expressed the hope that
senior officials from the border city and HK can improve exchanges.
"We should discuss the system and the contents of the co-operation
[on building an international megalopolis] and define the detailed
rules," he said during the 10th Guangdong party congress.
72% of foreign investment in Pearl River Delta comes from HK:
HK-funded enterprises accounted for most foreign investment in the
Pearl River Delta region - 72% - a survey by the Federation of HK
Industries found. It showed that half the manufacturing enterprises
in the region were fully or partially run using HK capital. The
numbers of factories involved was 57,500 and they employed 9.6 million
Tsang calls for freer goods flow in southern China: Chief
Executive Donald Tsang called on pan-Pearl River Delta members to
further improve customs clearance and remove barriers to a smooth
cargo flow within the region. Addressing the opening ceremony of
the Pan-PRD Customs Trade Facilitation Forum, Mr Tsang said that
HK would work jointly with the mainland to achieve the ultimate
goal of "an integrated electronic customs clearance system"
and "a shared electronic database platform".
Legal affairs and human rights
Chief has duty to consider minimum wage, court told:
The chief executive is constitutionally bound to consider setting
minimum wage levels to guarantee a "decent living" for
employees in HK, a court heard. The claim came at a judicial review
of the government's refusal to countenance establishment of a minimum
wage. The review, brought by a cleaner and by legislator "Long
Hair" Leung Kwok-hung, is being heard by Mr Justice Michael
Hartmann in the Court of First Instance.
Minimum wage could cost jobs, court told: Forcing the government
to implement a minimum-wage scheme was a bad idea that risked putting
people out of work and destabilising the economy, a court heard.
The warning was issued on the second day of a judicial review into
whether the government's refusal to consider such a scheme was constitutional.
Bosses and workers to duel over plan for minimum wage: Employer
and labour groups are set to face off in the Labour Advisory Board
's first round of negotiations over setting benchmarks to gauge
the success of the government's controversial "wage protection
Lawyer warns over trademark claims by bogus companies: Bogus
companies that claim to have the right to license international
trademarks for use on the mainland are increasingly being set up
in HK, Sebastian Hughes, a solicitor with the international law
firm Jones Day said.
Measures deter mainland mothers: The number of mainland mothers
admitted daily for emergency births has dropped nearly 80 per cent.
Acting deputy director of immigration David Chiu told legislators
that an average of five non-local women a day were arriving at accident
and emergency units in public hospitals compared with about 25 in
February and March last year.
Database to help curb disease threat: A HK$100 million communicable-disease
information system - aimed at creating a comprehensive database
for disease analysis - will provide HK with more resources for controlling
disease outbreaks, the new head of the Centre for Health Protection
Chamber hopes to clear the air with anti-pollution pilot scheme:
Almost 600 companies have joined the HK General Chamber of Commerce's
air pollution initiative since its launch more than a year ago and
hopes are high that a pilot scheme for 10 signatories will encourage
firms to become more energy efficient. But David Eldon, the chamber's
outgoing chairman, said the number of Clean Air Charter signatories
was still "woefully low". "Many of these things are
not, unfortunately, going to work without legislation, but I think
the business community should opt to work towards doing things for
themselves," said the former top banker.
Air pollution paper 'will not be enough': The Council for
Sustainable Development's consultation paper on air pollution, due
to be published in less than a month, has already come under attack.
The document is said to list three broad categories - road pricing,
energy consumption and what to do on days of high air pollution
- for public discussion and comment. But Choy So-yuk, a member of
the Legislative Council's panel on environmental affairs, believes
it will not go far enough. "The measures are mainly about roadside
pollution," said Choy, a member of the Democratic Alliance
for the Betterment and Progress of HK. "Maybe because roadside
pollution affects our international image the paper is concentrating
on it, but there are more points that should be considered."
Guangdong's dirty seas put HK at risk: Guangdong's coastal
waters have been turned into a huge rubbish dump, with massive amounts
of pollution being discharged into the sea, according to an official
report. Feng Weizhong, a senior engineer with the State Oceanic
Administration's South China Sea Marine Prediction Centre, said
HK was badly affected by pollution carried by currents from Guangdong.
UN expert: HK must set own target on emissions: HK has been
urged by a leading international environmental scientist to set
its own target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, even though
Beijing has yet to set any national targets. The call, from Ogunlade
Davidson, came on the eve of a three-day international conference
on climate change that has brought hundreds of representatives from
26 nations to HK.
Shots fired at Macau rally: Police fired shots in the air
and beat protesters back with batons as a Labour Day march in Macau
by thousands of workers erupted in violence. Incensed by a lack
of jobs and low pay while mainland labour floods in to drive Macau's
casino boom - and accusing the government of corruption - the protesters
mounted the most direct challenge yet to Chief Executive Edmund
Ho, calling on him to step down.
Macau could learn from HK's success stories: Scholars have
divergent views on the future of Macau following Tuesday's violent
protest march in which one person was struck by a bullet, with some
suggesting the government could learn something from HK and others
expecting a short-term bounce back.
Clashes lay bare a city's anger: The violent Labour Day clashes
in Macau exposed deep-rooted social problems that workers believe
stem from government corruption. Among the loudest calls at the
rally were for a transparent labour-import scheme and an end to
the influx of illegal workers. There were also fresh demands for
the resignation of Chief Executive Edmund Ho and an end to "land
giveaways", with angry workers expressing concern over developers
getting land at prices far below market worth.
D-Day for democracy: The violent Labour Day clashes highlighted
a make-or-break moment for the post-handover Macau government as
political reforms have become a categorical demand from the public.
The fury of 6,000 workers erupted from beneath a rosy economic outlook.
Per capita gross domestic product in the gambling capital of Asia
has risen about 60% since 2003 and stood at 227,508 patacas last
year, overtaking HK's HK$214,710. The city's gambling turnover outstripped
that of Las Vegas last year. But workers on the bottom rung of society
complain about a lack of jobs and low pay while mainland labour
floods in to drive the casino boom.
Problems cannot be solved overnight, says Macau casino investor:
Problems arising from the booming casino business in Macau would
not be resolved overnight, an investor said. But nearly a week after
the violent Labour Day protest during which a policeman fired five
shots, K Wah group vice-chairman Francis Lui said he was optimistic
about the city's economic outlook.
Macau reporters complain of worsening media censorship: Critics
are warning of worsening censorship despite the growth of the Macau
media market and are urging the government to stop meddling with
press freedom. The warning comes after a rare standoff between Macau
journalists and the government.
Delivery of panda pair spurs rise in satisfaction with Beijing:
Beijing's gifts of two giant pandas to HK has paid off, with a survey
showing people's satisfaction with state policy towards the city
surging to a 12-month high. Those happy with the central government's
policies rose 7.5 percentage points to 49.3% over the past two months,
according to the regular poll conducted by the HK Institute of Asia-Pacific
Studies of Chinese University.
UK snubbed for handover celebrations: The HK and central
governments have turned down requests for Britain to take part in
the celebrations planned to mark the 10th anniversary of the handover.
Officials have made it clear there is to be no role for HK's former
rulers in the ceremonies, which include a flag-raising event on
the morning of July 1 and the swearing-in of chief executive Donald
Tsang for a new five-year term.
Western expatriates continue to leave HK in droves: 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 again last year.
Arrival and departure records showed the number of Britons, Americans,
Canadians and Australians dropped by 10% - from 79,190 in 2005 to
71,150 last year. Figures from the Immigration Department showed
that between 2001 and last year, the number of western expatriates
dropped by one-third from 106,740.
HK media fostering free speech over border: The HK media
and the city's climate of free speech have played an important role
in promoting freedom of speech on the mainland, veteran mainland
journalist Li Datong said. The editor of mainland paper the “China
Youth Daily”, who was stripped of his position last year and
in 1989 for initiating dialogue between journalists and central
party leaders for reforming the mainland media, said although there
were still governmental controls on free speech, the "yearning
for free speech has never been more powerful" than today.
Mainland visitors up 30% despite fears of scams: The Labour
Day "golden week" holiday turned out to be a tourism bonanza
for the city despite initial fears to the contrary, with mainland
arrivals jumping 30% cent year on year to more than 500,000, according
to Immigration Department data.
Press articles related to Switzerland
Financial Secretary met Swiss bankers to promote HK's advantages
(Wen Wei Po, 18.5.2007): Financial Secretary Henry Tang met
Swiss bankers in Geneva and invited them to establish their regional
offices in HK. He talked about recent economic development of HK
and its status as an international financial centre. HK could serve
as a gateway for overseas enterprises to explore the market in China
and Chinese enterprises to go international.
Research offers bird flu hope (SCMP, 30.5.2007): Scientists
in Switzerland have reproduced antibodies that can neutralise the
H5N1 strain of bird flu, pointing the way to a treatment for people
stricken with the deadly disease, according to a study published.
"We are very confident that this data can be reproduced in
humans," said Antonio Lanzavecchia, co-author of the study
and director of the immune regulation laboratory at the Institute
for Research in Biomedicine in Bellinzona.
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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