CONSULATE GENERAL OF SWITZERLAND IN HONG KONG
|A condensed press review prepared
the Consulate General of Switzerland in Hong Kong
ECONOMY & FINANCE
- Hong Kong must attract top companies and experts to become innovation centre, Science Park chairwoman says (SCMP, April 1)
- HSBC's new compliance rules require clients to provide more account information (SCMP, April 3)
- Hong Kong employer and worker representatives fail to agree on provident fund offsets (SCMP, April 6)
- Rethink needed to attract millennials and fill talent void in Hong Kong's IT sector (SCMP, April 9)
- New HK$10 billion public annuity scheme can be expanded if popular, Chief Executive CY Leung says (SCMP, April 11)
- CY Leung seeks to plug housing loophole with stamp duty rise for multiple flat purchases (SCMP, April 12)
- No vicious competition between Hong Kong and other cities in bay area plan, constitutional minister promises (SCMP, April 13)
- Hong Kong's wealthiest still concerned with quality of life and education (SCMP, April 19)
- Property developers and Hong Kong authorities should co-develop land to increase land supply: think tank (SCMP, April 28)
- Hong Kong moves closer to dual-share listings as SFC backs consultation on third board (SCMP, April 28)
- Lam pledges to convey Hong Kong pan-democrat call for restart of political reform during talks in Beijing (SCMP, April 4)
- Veteran Democrat Martin Lee sets next Hong Kong leader two conditions to get party on board (SCMP, April 7)
- Michael Tien quits New People's Party as rift with Regina Ip widens (SCMP, April 10)
- Localist Hong Kong lawmaker faces charges for turning flags upside down in Legco chamber (SCMP, April 11)
- Xi Jinping reminds Carrie Lam of need to solve Hong Kong's conflicts and challenges (SCMP, April 12)
- U-turn as Occupy amnesty call by Hong Kong Democratic Party chairman flops (SCMP, April 18)
- CY Leung leads Hong Kong delegation on Greater Bay Area tour as part of integration drive (SCMP, April 20)
- CY Leung considered pardon for Occupy protesters and police, but says he cannot override legal proceedings (SCMP, April 22)
- Hong Kong chief executive candidate Regina Ip has second thoughts about joining Executive Council (SCMP, April 26)
- 'One country, two systems' for Hong Kong could be scrapped if it is used to confront Beijing, official says (SCMP, April 30)
- EU presses for Hong Kong electoral reform after 'politically challenging' 2016 (SCMP, April 28)
LEGAL AFFAIRS AND HUMAN RIGHTS
- Labour Department considers harsher penalties for contractors flouting safety rules amid spate of workplace deaths (SCMP, April 16)
- Hong Kong justice chief warns cross-border legal links can't be rushed (SCMP, April 24)
- Disqualified Hong Kong pro-independence lawmakers Yau Wai-ching and Baggio Leung charged with unlawful assembly (SCMP, April 26)
- Hong Kong poultry sellers call for financial help to fight bird flu threat (SCMP, April 5)
- Hong Kong mulls food safety law after scare caused by toxic chemicals in hairy crabs (SCMP, April 7)
- Under 18s will be allowed to donate organs only if big majority backs it, Hong Kong minister says (SCMP, April 22)
- Green group calls on Hong Kong government to cut back on Lantau reclamation project (SCMP, April 17)
- Guaranteed earnings cut for Hong Kong power firms (SCMP, April 26)
CULTURE AND EDUCATION
- Hong Kong government almost triples 'One Belt, One Road' sponsorship funding (SCMP, April 5)
- Hong Kong teachers' union calls for an extra HK$10 billion to be spent on schools (SCMP, April 20)
- Hong Kong Heritage Museum features works from the Louvre to mark 20th anniversary
of city's return to Chinese rule (SCMP, April 25)
- Chinese state leader Zhang Dejiang to visit Macau early next month for 'major announcement' (SCMP, April 29)
Economy + Finance
Hong Kong must attract top companies and experts to become innovation centre, Science Park chairwoman says (SCMP, April 1): For Hong Kong to capitalise on the opportunities triggered by the future technology park at the Lok Ma Chau Loop, the city must create the necessary environment to attract top companies and experts, Science and Technology Parks Corporation chairwoman Fanny Law said. “Developing IT requires more than infrastructure. We need an innovation ecosystem that addresses investment, policy support and human capital among others,” Law said. In order to attract investments, Law said there had to be an efficient way for investors to recoup their money. Law said Hong Kong should allow dual-class listing to allow founders and key people in IT companies to retain control of their firm after it goes public.
HSBC's new compliance rules require clients to provide more account information (SCMP, April 3): HSBC Holdings is stepping up its compliance procedures this year to meet higher global standards as part of the deferred prosecution agreement with the US Department of Justice following the bank's US$1.9 billion penalty in 2012 for breaching American money-laundering rules. Global banks from HSBC to Standard Chartered have been stepping up their financial controls to comply with US and European regulations to prevent money laundering and terrorist financing and enforce financial sanctions against rogue nations.
Hong Kong employer and worker representatives fail to agree on provident fund offsets (SCMP, April 6): The first meeting of the Labour Advisory Board to discuss the abolition of the Mandatory Provident Fund's offsetting mechanism ended without consensus. Employee and employer representatives remained divided over the formula for calculating compensation. Business groups want the abolition of long-service payments, a proposal rejected by labour unions. Currently, sacked employees are entitled to long-service or severance payments under the law. But a mechanism in the MPF allows employers to offset this amount using money deposited into employee accounts. This arrangement has drawn fierce criticism from labour groups.
Rethink needed to attract millennials and fill talent void in Hong Kong's IT sector (SCMP, April 9): Companies need to adapt to the work habits of millennials in order to fill Hong Kong's chronic shortage of IT and fintech talent, according to the chief executive of an international recruitment agency. Half of the 150 IT-sector companies polled by the Hong Kong Institute of Human Resource Management last year were found to have talent shortages. Figures from the government's foreign direct investment department, InvestHK, showed the number of start-ups in Hong Kong increased 23.6 per cent between 2015 and 2016, with many of those firms involved in the burgeoning fintech industry.
But Adecco Group chief executive, Alain Dehaze, said instead of searching for talent, companies should consider fostering their own through apprenticeship programmes.
New HK$10 billion public annuity scheme can be expanded if popular, Chief Executive CY Leung says (SCMP, April 11): The city's new HK$10 billion public annuity scheme can be expanded if it proves popular, according to Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. The government announced that the Hong Kong Mortgage Corporation would launch in the middle of next year a HK$10 billion public annuity scheme under which retirees will be able to invest a lump in exchange for a guaranteed monthly income until death. People aged 65 and above will be allowed to invest between HK$50,000 and HK$1 million.
CY Leung seeks to plug housing loophole with stamp duty rise for multiple flat purchases (SCMP, April 12): First-time Hong Kong homebuyers purchasing multiple flats in one go will now have to pay a 15 per cent stamp duty as the government finally seeks to plug a legal loophole open to exploitation by speculators. The new cooling measure, which came into effect at midnight, means those buying several flats with just one sales and purchase agreement will now have to pay 15 per cent stamp duty for each of the properties. Under the old system, the Inland Revenue Department regarded such acquisitions as one transaction only, thus allowing buyers to evade stamp duty.
No vicious competition between Hong Kong and other cities in bay area plan, constitutional minister promises (SCMP, April 13): The chief of Hong Kong's mainland affairs bureau Raymond Tam has promised that the state planning agency will ensure the city and its neighbouring mainland counterparts will not be locked in vicious competition during the development of the “Greater Bay Area”. Tam said the scheme, first proposed by Shenzhen, had grown to become a national strategic project after Premier Li Keqiang included it in his annual work report last month. Tam said the idea was to promote “complementarity” among Hong Kong, Macau and nine cities in Guangdong province. Hong Kong would keep its leading financial centre status, he said, but it should no longer be competing in the container terminal business. It should develop maritime services such as insurance and legal services to serve the ports in the region.
Hong Kong's wealthiest still concerned with quality of life and education (SCMP, April 19): Hong Kong's growing number of millionaires are still worried about the city's education system and quality of life, according to a recent survey. Citibank's latest affluence study found the number of millionaires in the city – people with between HK$1 million and HK$10 million in liquid assets – grew
14 per cent, from 768,000 in 2015 to 878,000 in 2016. While multimillionaires said they were concerned about the city's quality of life and education system, half of them selected Hong Kong as their ideal place to retire. Canada was second at a distant 14 per cent.
Property developers and Hong Kong authorities should co-develop land to increase land supply: think tank (SCMP, April 28): A think tank founded by former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa has called on the government to co-develop land held by the city's property developers, which could contribute to over 9,000 hectares of land that the group said Hong Kong would need in the next three decades. In the long run, the group said, reclamation should be the main way to increase land supply. But critics said a public-private co-development model would raise suspicion of government-business collusion, calling the estimated future demand of land “unrealistic”.
Hong Kong moves closer to dual-share listings as SFC backs consultation on third board (SCMP, April 28): Hong Kong has edged closer to allowing companies with a dual-class share structure to list on the stock exchange after the regulator backed plans for a public consultation. The Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) said it supported the local bourse's proposed consultation exercise this quarter to gauge opinion on creating a third board aimed at technology start-ups and 'new economy' firms. The third board would for the first time permit dual-share listings, which afford one class of shareholder more rights than others. Their long-standing ban in Hong Kong is widely seen as a barrier to potentially lucrative initial public offerings, particularly by technology firms.
Lam pledges to convey Hong Kong pan-democrat call for restart of political reform during talks in Beijing (SCMP, April 4): Chief executive-elect Carrie Lam has promised to convey to state leaders
growing demands by opposition politicians for the revival of Hong Kong's stalled electoral reform process when she visits Beijing later this month. However, Lam cautioned that the city would still have to heed Beijing's ruling in August 2014, effectively rejecting the pan-democratic camp's call for scrapping the restrictive framework for achieving universal suffrage laid down by the central government.
Veteran Democrat Martin Lee sets next Hong Kong leader two conditions to get party on board (SCMP, April 7): Hong Kong's next leader Carrie Lam must restart the stalled electoral reform process and form her cabinet without Beijing's interference if she wants to get a Democrat on board, the party's founding chairman Martin Lee said. The Democratic Party's central standing committee decided to uphold its policy of barring members from serving as ministers or executive councillors until the city's leader was elected by universal suffrage.
Michael Tien quits New People's Party as rift with Regina Ip widens (SCMP, April 10): Lawmaker Michael Tien, a core member of the pro-Beijing New People's Party, quit amid reports of a widening rift between him and chairwoman Regina Ip. Tien has been unhappy over Ip's refusal to support his plan to run for a “super seat” in the Legco polls last year, and said he held opposing views with Ip on the Mandatory Provident Fund, the city's compulsory pension scheme. He stressed he would continue to remain patriotic.
Localist Hong Kong lawmaker faces charges for turning flags upside down in Legco chamber (SCMP, April 11): Localist lawmaker Cheng Chung-tai faces charges of desecrating the national and Hong Kong flags after he turned those displayed by pro-Beijing colleagues upside down in the Legislative Council chamber last year. Cheng called the move part of a “purge” before the administration changes hands in July after two winning pro-independence candidates were unseated and the government sought the disqualification of four pan-democrats over the way they took their Legco oaths. Legco president Andrew Leung said lawmakers' speeches made during meetings were protected from legal action but they had to be responsible for their conduct.
Xi Jinping reminds Carrie Lam of need to solve Hong Kong's conflicts and challenges (SCMP, April 12): In their first meeting since Carrie Lam was elected Hong Kong's next leader, President Xi Jinping reminded her of her heavy responsibility to resolve conflicts and challenges facing the city, while throwing his “full support” behind her. Wrapping up her duty visit to the capital, Lam told the media she had conveyed Hongkongers' concerns and sentiments regarding Beijing's rigid framework for the city's constitutional development, though she reiterated the blueprint would remain the basis for future political reform. All eyes were on the meeting in Zhongnanhai, the state leaders' compound, just hours after Lam received her official certificate of appointment as the city's chief executive from Premier Li Keqiang. Xi showered praise on Lam, but also reminded her of the need to resolve conflicts in the city as he pledged the central government would not sway in its determination to uphold the “one country, two systems” governing formula. It was the first time that Xi had spoken publicly about Hong Kong affairs since Lam, perceived as Beijing's favoured candidate, beat popular underdog John Tsang in the March 26 poll. But the call to “advance democracy” was conspicuously missing from Xi's remarks as well as in the opening remarks by Li Keqiang, who only urged Lam to develop the economy, unite all sectors of society and take the city to “a new level”.
U-turn as Occupy amnesty call by Hong Kong Democratic Party chairman flops (SCMP, April 18): Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai retracted his call for a legal amnesty for those involved in the 2014 Occupy protests, both activists and police, after opposition from all sides. Wu, who had argued the move could help achieve reconciliation between the government and the pro-democracy bloc, apologised for his contentious remarks. The call by Wu failed to even win the support of those in his own party. Fellow lawmaker Hui Chi-fung disagreed with the call for amnesty, saying it contradicted the rule of law. In the pro-establishment camp, Starry Lee, chairwoman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said an amnesty would signal that illegal means were acceptable.
CY Leung leads Hong Kong delegation on Greater Bay Area tour as part of integration drive (SCMP, April 20): Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying led a high-powered delegation to Guangdong with one thing on his mind: fitting Hong Kong into Beijing's “Greater Bay Area” integration scheme for the Pearl River Delta. The chief executive identified maritime services, including insurance and legal expertise, as well as cooperating with Shenzhen on technological innovation as areas to explore. The
integration scheme, first proposed by Guangdong officials several years ago, includes Hong Kong, Macau and nine cities in Guangdong – comprising a total area of 56,000 sq km and a population of more than 66 million. It was elevated into a national strategic project after Premier Li Keqiang endorsed it in his annual work report last month. The 35-member delegation included 10 top Hong Kong officials, four executive councillors and numerous advisers. The Hong Kong government will submit by June its proposal to the National Development and Reform Commission, which will complete the blueprint for State Council approval at the end of the year.
CY Leung considered pardon for Occupy protesters and police, but says he cannot override legal proceedings (SCMP, April 22): Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said he had considered pardoning those involved in the 2014 Occupy protests, but realised he could not override legal proceedings. Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai called for an amnesty for both Occupy activists and police in a bid to bridge the social divide in Hong Kong society. He later retracted the contentious remark. The chief executive has the power to pardon a convicted person or commute their penalties under Article 48 (12) of the Basic Law, but the mini-constitution does not prescribe in detail the circumstances under which the power can be exercised.
Hong Kong chief executive candidate Regina Ip has second thoughts about joining Executive Council (SCMP, April 26): Hong Kong legislative councillor Regina Ip has backtracked on her election pledge not to join chief executive-elect Carrie Lam's cabinet, admitting she is having second thoughts. Ip, who failed to secure enough nominations to enter the chief executive race last month, said the leader-in-waiting had invited her to be an executive councillor. “I need to consider whether I could be of any help to the administration and how it would affect the positioning of my party,” Ip said.
'One country, two systems' for Hong Kong could be scrapped if it is used to confront Beijing, official says (SCMP, April 30): The “one country, two systems” policy under which Hong Kong is guaranteed a high degree of autonomy for half a century may be scrapped if it becomes a tool to confront Beijing, the legal chief of the central government's liaison office in the city has warned. Wang Zhenmin was speaking at a seminar where outgoing chief executive Leung Chun-ying earlier told Hongkongers that the “no change for 50 years” assurance under the city's mini-constitution, the Basic Law, referred only to the capitalist system and did not mean Beijing's sovereignty over the city could be changed afterwards. Wang, a former Tsinghua University law dean, devoted a significant part of his keynote speech to attacking rising separatist sentiments in the city, as he reiterated that “one country” must come before “two systems”.
EU presses for Hong Kong electoral reform after 'politically challenging' 2016 (SCMP, April 28): The EU has urged Hong Kong to kick-start electoral reform, saying that would give the government greater legitimacy to tackle the city's social and economic challenges. That call was at odds with the opinion of Wang Zhenmin, the legal chief for the central government's liaison office, who recently rejected the need for development of democracy in Hong Kong over the next decade. The European Commission's 19th report on Hong Kong read: “The EU encourages the Hong Kong SAR and China's central government to resume electoral reform in line with the Basic Law and to reach agreement on an election system that is democratic, fair, open and transparent.” Chief executive-elect Carrie Lam, who has vowed to heal social rifts, did not commit to restarting political reform on the campaign trail, drawing the ire of pan-democrats. When Chinese President Xi Jinping met Lam earlier this month, he did not follow his predecessors' practice of calling for the city to deliver greater democracy.
Legal affairs and human rights
Labour Department considers harsher penalties for contractors flouting safety rules amid spate of workplace deaths (SCMP, April 16): The Labour Department will discuss with justice officials the possibility of beefing up penalties for contractors who flout construction safety rules, Commissioner for Labour Carlson Chan said in the wake of a spate of deaths this year. Chan said that the 11 fatalities at construction sites across the city in the first four months of this year had “sounded the alarm bell”, compared with the total of 18 deaths for the whole of last year. Chan Kam-hong, chief executive of the Association for the Rights of Industrial Accident Victims, said Hong Kong can learn from Britain and strengthen the maximum punishment to two years in prison, together with an unlimited fine.
Hong Kong justice chief warns cross-border legal links can't be rushed (SCMP, April 24): Hong Kong and Chinese mainland authorities are discussing greater mutual assistance on criminal cases, but the gap between the two legal systems is a challenge, the city's Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen said. But a leading justice at the nation's top court called the current level of cooperation far from ideal. Since the handover, mainland authorities have transferred 170 suspects to Hong Kong, but Beijing has voiced concerns over the lack of reciprocity. The disappearance of five Hong Kong booksellers last year, who later turned up in the hands of mainland law enforcement officers, has raised concerns over the absence of an official agreement on cross-border mutual assistance in criminal cases. But critics have raised concerns over whether such an assistance mechanism would be improperly used.
Disqualified Hong Kong pro-independence lawmakers Yau Wai-ching and Baggio Leung charged with unlawful assembly (SCMP, April 26): Two Hong Kong independence advocates who were disqualified as lawmakers last year were arrested and charged for trying to force their way into a meeting of the city's legislature in November. Baggio Leung and Yau Wai-ching, who lost their Legislative Council seats for distorting their oath of office during their swearing-in ceremony, were charged with unlawful assembly and attempted forced entry. The localist pair made headline news around the world when they first took their oaths at the inaugural meeting of the new Legco on October 12 last year. They used pro-independence slogans and language deemed insulting to China, earning themselves a ban from retaking their oaths at subsequent meetings. Within a week, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying took them to court, and they were disqualified on November 15. The case also prompted an interpretation by the national legislature to make such oath-taking offences punishable by disqualification.
Hong Kong poultry sellers call for financial help to fight bird flu threat (SCMP, April 5): Hong Kong poultry sellers have called for financial support from the government to introduce better facilities to separate consumers and live chickens in wet markets amid the threat of bird flu. This came as the government launched a two-month public consultation on the future of the city's live poultry trade on April 3, after a consultant study it commissioned concluded that live chicken sales should continue and a central slaughterhouse was unviable. But more stringent avian flu precautionary measures were suggested in the study, such as introducing physical barriers in poultry stalls to separate consumers from the live birds.
Hong Kong mulls food safety law after scare caused by toxic chemicals in hairy crabs (SCMP, April 7): Hong Kong is considering following the lead of Europe and Taiwan by imposing safety limits for dioxins in hairy crabs after a health scare last year in which excessive levels of the cancer-linked chemical were found in samples. The proposal, contained in a Food and Health Bureau document, is to be tabled for discussion at next Legislative Council panel meeting on food safety and environmental hygiene. The meeting will focus on levels of dioxins and dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyls (DL- PCBs). Panel members and crab traders largely welcomed the move.
Under 18s will be allowed to donate organs only if big majority backs it, Hong Kong minister says (SCMP, April 22): Amendments to the transplant law allowing people under 18 to be living donors would be considered only if a significant majority backed it, the health minister said. Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko Wing-man was commenting as the government pledged to launch a public consultation soon on whether to amend the Human Organ Transplant Ordinance after a 17-year-old girl wanted to donate part of her liver to save her mother, but was barred as she was three months shy of the legal age to make a donation. Hong Kong's rate of organ donation is among the lowest in the world. In 2015, the city had 5.8 donors per million people, in contrast to the rate of 39.7 in Spain.
Green group calls on Hong Kong government to cut back on Lantau reclamation project (SCMP, April 17): A green group has urged the government to reduce the area of a proposed reclamation off the northern coast of Lantau Island by about 30 per cent to better protect the environment, especially a marine park which is only one kilometre away. A funding request for the HK$20.5 billion proposal to reclaim 150 hectares of land to offer 40,800 new homes will be debated in the Legislative Council later. An Environmental Protection Department spokesman said it had assessed the project's impact on the surrounding environment, including the marine park, and had set out proper measures to mitigate the impact.
Guaranteed earnings cut for Hong Kong power firms (SCMP, April 26): A long-awaited deal to lower the cap on guaranteed earnings for Hong Kong's two power companies was announced, but it fell short of public demands and locked the city into another 15 years of full dependency on them. Environment minister Wong Kam-sing said the agreement could see electricity tariffs reduced by up to 5 per cent, but CLP Power and HK Electric would not commit to this. The amount the two suppliers are allowed to earn will be slashed from 9.99 per cent to 8 per cent of their net fixed assets after a new 15- year regulatory agreement with the government, known as the scheme of control, replaces the existing one next year. “This will help maintain a reliable electricity supply and meet our carbon intensity reduction target to combat climate change,” Wong said, citing the impending shutdown of all coal-fired plants over the next decade as the power companies switch to cleaner, non-fossil fuel.
Culture and Education
Hong Kong government almost triples 'One Belt, One Road' sponsorship funding (SCMP, April 5): Permanent Secretary Betty Fung said the Committee on the Promotion of Civic Education had increased its budget to HK$8.2 million (from HK$2.9 million last year) to sponsor exchange programmes in “One Belt, One Road” countries organised by non-governmental organisations, charities and statutory bodies for those aged between 15 and 29. The “One Belt, One Road” scheme includes the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road initiated by President Xi Jinping. It covers about 65 countries spanning Asia, Africa and Europe.
Hong Kong teachers' union calls for an extra HK$10 billion to be spent on schools (SCMP, April 20): Spending on public education should rise from the current 3.3 per cent of gross domestic product to 4.5 per cent, a teachers' union has proposed. It also suggested the next government use the additional HK$5 billion a year chief executive-elect Carrie Lam said she would spend on education to tackle pressing matters such as increasing the teacher-pupil ratio and ensuring that each primary school had one social worker and one counsellor. The union hoped the next administration, which takes office on July 1, would inject as much as HK$10 billion next year.
Hong Kong Heritage Museum features works from the Louvre to mark 20th anniversary of city's return to Chinese rule (SCMP, April 25): An exhibition at Hong Kong's Heritage Museum, titled “Inventing le Louvre: From Palace to Museum over 800 years”, features 126 treasures from the world-famous institution in Paris. It is one of the major exhibitions being put on to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong's return to Chinese sovereignty as well as the 25th anniversary of the annual festival Le French May.
Chinese state leader Zhang Dejiang to visit Macau early next month for 'major announcement' (SCMP, April 29): Top state leader Zhang Dejiang will make a two-day visit to Macau early next month in his last trip to either of China's two special administrative regions before a key Communist Party gathering later this year. Sources in the casino hub with knowledge of the visit said Zhang, the National People's Congress chairman, would make a “major announcement” during the visit, expected to take place between May 8 and 10. Macau, the world's most cash-rich casino destination, has lately had some good economic news, with growing gaming revenues in the first three months of this year.
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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