CONSULATE GENERAL OF SWITZERLAND IN HONG KONG
|A condensed press review prepared
the Consulate General of Switzerland in Hong Kong
Chief Executive Donald Tsang has nominated principal officials for
the third term of the HKSAR Government. The Government Secretariat
will be reorganised into 12 bureaux. The new officials will be sworn
in on 1 July, when Hong Kong marks the 10th anniversary of its reunification
with China. President Hu Jintao will visit HK and preside over the
Economy + Finance
New CEPA pact to expand trading ties: The Closer Economic
Partnership Arrangement between HK and the mainland is to be further
expanded with the scope of liberalization extended to more than
10 service areas and 17 goods items. The fourth supplementary pact
to the agreement will be signed on 29th June 2007. CEPA has been
instrumental to the SAR's economic recovery following the Asian
financial crisis, with more professionals and firms being granted
access to the mainland market.
Leung warns convertible yuan threat to SAR status: If HK
fails to take advantage of its status as China's financial center
and further develop its financial markets, the yuan becoming a fully
convertible currency in future will pose a threat to the city, former
financial secretary Antony Leung warned. "HK so far has three
advantages right now: a fully convertible currency, a separate set
of laws and an individual taxation system," Leung said. "Once
China's currency becomes fully convertible, more foreign enterprises
will consider raising funds in the mainland. And if HK does not
ride on its current advantages, its status as an international financial
center will be at risk."
Hands Off in HK: The head of HK's de facto central bank said
there is no need to intervene in the currency market if the HK dollar
remains within its trading band. HK's currency is pegged at 7.80
per U.S. dollar and is allowed to trade between 7.75 and 7.85.
Japanese experts see HK staying on top: A study by Japanese
think-tanks says HK will remain one of the world's most competitive
economies in the next 10 years. The study, which ranked HK No1 for
competitiveness out of 50 economies last year, says the city's strength
will continue to grow as it spearheads the heavy industrialisation
of the Pearl River Delta region. But pollution on the mainland remains
a problem and can threaten the city's development.
Lee eases fears of mainland fallout: HK stock market investors
need not be unduly worried about adverse effects of possible A-share
turmoil as the two markets operate pretty much independently of
each other, according to Charles Lee, former chairman of the HK
stock exchange. HK stockbrokers are not allowed to offer yuan-related
services in the mainland, and likewise, mainland securities brokerages
cannot offer similar services in the city.
Courage lost since handover: In a stunning outburst just
two weeks ahead of the handover anniversary, PCCW chairman Richard
Li claimed the SAR government is losing its nerve over the need
to consistently carry out the best and most stable policies for
HK - a failing he says might deter investment and harm the economy.
“I was disappointed that the courage of the prior [colonial]
government has been lost since the handover, and that the new government
has not stood firm concerning policies that will ensure a consistent
business environment," Li - the youngest son of tycoon Li Ka-
shing - told.
Wage calls grow as wealth gap widens: The latest household
income statistics showed inequality in the city as measured by a
statistical device called the Gini coefficient - high by international
standards - had risen significantly in the past decade while it
had been shrinking in other developed economies.
Tang hands all tax-base moves to future team: Any measure
to broaden the tax base would be left to the next administration,
Financial Secretary Henry Tang said on release of the government's
tax-reform report. A goods and services tax, initially advocated
by the government but later shelved, is among options to be discussed
in the future. But the report put forward other options, including
introducing a green tax, a land departure tax and luxury goods tax.
Impact of inflation on poor to be monitored: The government
is expecting inflation to rise over the next five years but will
closely monitor the financial impact of price increases on low-income
households, legislators were told. Financial Secretary Henry Tang
said the official inflation forecast for this year remained at 1.5
12.6pc rise in arrivals ends fears over scams: Mainland visitors
continued to pour into the city last month, pushing the total number
of tourist arrivals above 2.2 million, a 12.6 per cent jump on May
of last year, the Tourism Board said. Mainland arrivals topped 1.2
million, up 16 per cent from a year ago. The strong performance
of the mainland market is a confidence booster for Hong Kong, which
had feared the effects of news about recent shopping scams, and
waning interest in travel to the city during the mainland's "golden
HK yuan bond sale hailed as milestone: The first issuance
of China's yuan- denominated bonds in HK by China Development Bank
is available for retail subscription with the minimum investment
set at HK$20,000. "This is a very significant milestone for
Hong Kong being the country's international financial center,"
Financial Secretary Henry Tang said. "It signifies further
consolidation and development of the complementarity, as well as
cooperation between Hong Kong and the mainland."
Chief Executive unveils new cabinet: Chief Executive Donald
Tsang unveiled the team that will lead HK’s third post-handover
administration, and said the teething troubles of the ministerial
system were over. Eight of his current ministerial team will stay
on in the new cabinet, some with new roles. Of the six new faces
in the line-up, all have a civil service background except an academic
Chan Ka-keung as the Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury.
Some legislators including those from the Liberal Party and Democratic
Party criticized the dominance of former civil servants in the cabinet.
Nominating body 'not at odds with UN': Reasonable restrictions
on nominating candidates for direct election as HK's chief executive
could be consistent with international conventions. This view emerged
at a seminar marking the 10th anniversary of the Basic Law attended
by more than 30 delegates from HK, the mainland, Taiwan and Macau.
Most of them are academics and researchers.
Public urged to face reality on polls: HK cannot have universal
suffrage without Beijing's blessings, and HK people have to face
it, executive councillor and lawmaker Jasper Tsang said. Tsang,
a former chairman of the pro- Beijing Democratic Alliance for the
Betterment and Progress of HK, said there will be "party politics"
in future. "Sooner or later, the mainland leadership will realize
we can't ban political parties from the executive government forever".
Democracy is not a cure-all, says Tung: Universal suffrage
is not the solution to all of HK's problems, former chief executive
Tung Chee-hwa has said. "I can name many, many countries where
there is universal suffrage but the tension between the executive
and the legislative branches is enormous."
Trust in Beijing dives after autonomy remark: The public's
trust in the central government and the "one country, two systems"
principle has weakened significantly since a state leader's comments
about the limitations of the city's autonomy. The results of a University
of Hong Kong poll published revealed a drop of 8 percentage points
in people's trust in Beijing and a 5 percentage point drop in people's
confidence in the "one country, two systems" principle.
Democrats raise the pressure on suffrage: Lawmakers pushing
for democracy have stepped up pressure on the chief executive, with
a new opinion poll showing more than 50 per cent public support
for universal suffrage by 2012. The models proposed by democrat
lawmakers and former chief secretary Anson Chan on chief executive
elections also received 52 per cent and 45 per cent support respectively,
the study by the Public Opinion Programme of the University of Hong
Exco to stick to its discreet principles, says Donald Tsang:
The government said principles of confidentiality and collective
responsibility in the chief executive's cabinet would remain unchanged,
despite claims by the Liberal Party that rules would be relaxed.
Amid calls to clarify how the Executive Council is to operate after
July 1, Chief Executive Donald Tsang announced that all 15 cabinet
members would remain in his new term, with the outgoing chief secretary
Rafael Hui as the only new face.
Relations HK - Mainland China
NPC warns on HK autonomy: The head of the National People's
Congress has issued an unambiguous reminder to HK over the limits
to its power: it only has as much autonomy as already laid down
by Beijing. Wu Bangguo told a forum to mark the 10th anniversary
of the implementation of the Basic Law that there was no question
of the city being entitled to "residual power" - power
to manoeuvre in areas not overtly granted to it by Beijing.
Wu warning on limited power stuns HK: A stern warning from
National People's Congress chairman Wu Bangguo in Beijing that HK's
powers are limited has sent shockwaves through the territory. Legislators
held differing views on Wu's warning, while political commentators
said it served as a reminder to the people of HK about who was the
boss, and that the central government has adopted a hardline approach
toward the SAR's future political reform. Wu emphasized that the
SAR government was an executive-led system and should not blindly
follow Western models, as stated by the late paramount leader Deng
Xiaoping. Veteran Democratic Party lawmaker Martin Lee questioned
indignantly the motive behind Wu's comments on the eve of the 10th
anniversary of the handover.
HK tipped to get lion's share of bridge benefits: Hong Kong
will be the main beneficiary when the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge
is up and running, National Development and Reform Commission deputy
chairman Zhang Xiaoqiang said. A mainland study showed Hong Kong
would enjoy 64 per cent of the economic benefit brought by the long-awaited
bridge. "The bridge will be effective in helping Hong Kong
expand its hinterland," he said. The mainland study, which
projected the economic gain brought by an expected increase in cross-border
traffic, also estimated that Guangdong would secure 26 per cent
of the benefits and Macau 10 per cent. The 29km bridge is still
at the planning stage despite a decade of negotiations.
Think-tank floats levy of up to 5pc for health funds: A pro-government
think-tank proposed that all workers contribute between 1 per cent
and 5 per cent of their salary to a mandatory medical savings account
scheme. They said that there were three big problems with the health
care system: over-reliance on treatment, but insufficient emphasis
on prevention and personal health; an imbalance between the public
and private medical sectors; and an unsustainable financing system.
Air pollution top issue as SAR fails major green tests: HK
has received a failing grade in all major environmental areas 10
years after the handover, with air pollution remaining its worst
problem, according to a study released by Friends of the Earth.
The group, saying haze blanketed the city on more than twice as
many days last year than it did in 1997, urged the government to
formulate a strategy to boost environmental protection. The group
said it had chosen several indicators to illustrate the city's decline
over the past decade and that air quality remained the most discouraging
EDP consultant to clear the air: Tough measures are being
taken to fight HK's worsening air pollution which has been blamed
for a dramatic exodus of senior executives of multinational companies
from the territory, and made headlines in international news magazines.
The Environmental Protection Department has now hired a consultancy
firm to draw up a new set of air quality objectives.
Sewage treatment scheme 'a success': Secretary for the Environment,
Transport and Works Sarah Liao told an international conference
on marine pollution that a lot of improvements have been made including
the eastern and the central parts of Victoria Harbour.
Immigration underpins allure of Macau: The rising number
of expatriate workers and investment immigrants continued to underpin
demand growth for residential properties in Macau. Prices for residential
apartments and rents were on the rise amid brisk transactions in
the first quarter. With its prosperous economic outlook and relatively
stable political environment, Macau will continue to draw investor
Macau labour unrest prompts revision of law: Growing labour
unrest has prompted the government to update obsolete laws which
have been criticised for favouring employers. After a 10-year wait,
the legislature has been handed a labour relations bill by the administration.
It is expected a new labour relations law will be enacted by the
end of the year, replacing one that dates back to 1989.
Macau bank makes funds transfer: Most of the North Korean
assets held in a blacklisted Macau bank were transferred, raising
hopes that the deadlock over a nuclear disarmament deal will be
broken. The money had been frozen in 2005 due to US allegations
of money- laundering and counterfeiting.
Press articles related to Switzerland
Free rides for Euro 2008 ticket holders (The Standard, 1.6.2007):
Ticket holders at Euro 2008 will enjoy free public transport throughout
Austria and Switzerland, the first time that such a step has been
taken at a major sports event, organizers said. Tickets will cover
free rides on buses, trains and lake ferries in both countries on
their match day and for 12 hours thereafter. Services on local and
national transport networks in Austria and Switzerland will also
be expanded during the tournament, organizers said.
Swissair managers cleared in trial of collapsed airline (SCMP
& The Standard, 8.6.2007): All 19 managers and consultants
accused in the collapse of former national carrier Swissair were
acquitted and would receive compensation totalling more than three
million Swiss francs, the leading judge said. The defendants in
Switzerland's largest corporate trial had all denied charges that
included damaging creditors, mismanagement, making false business
statements and forging documents. Some blamed the big Swiss banks
and the September 11 attacks for the airline's downfall. Union representatives
and the courtroom audience expressed anger over the outcome.
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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