CONSULATE GENERAL OF SWITZERLAND IN HONG KONG
|A condensed press review prepared
the Consulate General of Switzerland in Hong Kong
ECONOMY & FINANCE
- Hong Kong crowned world’s most competitive economy (SCMP, June 1)
- Flat buyers in for a rude awakening, Hong Kong officials warn (SCMP, June 6)
- Working hours plan cheats ordinary people, Hong Kong unionist says, but businesses warn of lay-offs (SCMP, June 14)
- HKMA raises rates after US Fed move, reiterates warning to home buyers (SCMP, June 15)
- HKEX plans third board for new-economy firms (SCMP, June 16)
- Incentives needed to drive Greater Bay Area plan, Tencent chairman tells Hong Kong seminar (SCMP, June 21)
- Hong Kong business slams decision to scrap pension fund offset mechanism (SCMP, June 24)
- Winning role required in economic numbers game (SCMP, June 27)
- Hong Kong set to enjoy economic tailwinds in the 2nd half, but beware of housing risks, BOCHK says (SCMP, June 28)
- China and Hong Kong sign two trade agreements giving local firms preferential investment access (SCMP, June 29)
- Tiananmen vigil draws lowest turnout since 2008 (SCMP, June 5)
- Hong Kong youth warned off ideas about separatism (SCMP, June 6)
- Pro-independence Taiwanese lawmakers launch support group for Hong Kong democracy (SCMP, June 12)
- Hong Kong cannot develop different set of politics from China, Beijing legal expert says (SCMP, June 16)
- China’s PLA ‘to play bigger role in boosting Hong Kong patriotism’ (SCMP, June 16)
- Chief executive-elect vows to pay close attention to rise of independence ideas and step up national education (SCMP, June 21)
- Carrie Lam unveils her ‘ideal team’ of mostly familiar faces (SCMP, June 22)
- Meet incoming Hong Kong leader’s hand-picked executive team (SCMP, June 23)
- Chinese President Xi Jinping to visit Hong Kong for handover anniversary (SCMP, June 25)
- Hongkongers’ rights and freedoms ‘fully protected’ since handover, top Chinese diplomat says (SCMP, June 27)
- New thinking needed from Hong Kong’s next cabinet, top Beijing official says (SCMP, June 27)
- Hong Kong leader’s glowing report card for his term omits key failings (SCMP, June 28)
- Four officials out at controversial think tank as incoming Hong Kong leader reviews its role (SCMP, June 29)
- President Xi Jinping lands in Hong Kong for three-day handover anniversary visit (SCMP, June 29)
- Risks and opportunities ahead for Hong Kong, top US envoy to city says (SCMP, June 15)
LEGAL AFFAIRS AND HUMAN RIGHTS
- Foreign judges must be retained in Hong Kong, former chief justice insists (SCMP, June 1)
- Enact national security laws step-by-step, says former Hong Kong justice secretary (SCMP, June 17)
- Hong Kong’s independent prosecutors ‘essential to rule of law’ (SCMP, June 23)
- Poor Hong Kong patients to see fees relief (SCMP, June 8)
- University of Hong Kong professor defends government study projecting manpower crisis in medical sector (SCMP, June 18)
- Patient numbers at public hospitals fall 7 per cent amid fee rise (SCMP, June 19)
- Exposure to pollution in Hong Kong is worst in the home, study reveals (SCMP, June 9)
- Landmark Hong Kong land swap deal is a win for environmental conservation (SCMP, June 15)
- Online shopping in Hong Kong ‘contributes to wasteful packaging’, DAB claims (SCMP, June 21)
CULTURE AND EDUCATION
- Five Hong Kong universities make the grade for first time in QS rankings (SCMP, June 8)
- University of Hong Kong alumni group backing reforms gains majority in school’s advisory body (SCMP, June 23)
- Hong Kong Book Fair organiser vows no political censorship yet urges exhibitors to ‘comply
with the law’ ahead of annual event (SCMP, June 27)
Press articles related to Switzerland and Swiss matters
- Hong Kong companies urged to take on more apprentices to encourage vocational training (SCMP, June 18)
Economy + Finance
Hong Kong crowned world’s most competitive economy (SCMP, June 1): Hong Kong was crowned the world’s most competitive economy for the second year in a row in an annual report from the International Institute for Management Development. The Swiss business school ranked Hong Kong first out of 63 economies based on four competitiveness indicators – economic performance, government efficiency, business efficiency and infrastructure. Switzerland placed second, followed by Singapore. Financial Secretary Paul Chan said the report was a “clear recognition” of Hong Kong’s “favourable business environment and robust financial system”. In the Asian region, the mainland saw the biggest improvement, climbing up seven places to rank 18th, attributing its achievements to its “dedication to international trade” and “improvement in its government and business efficiency”.
Flat buyers in for a rude awakening, Hong Kong officials warn (SCMP, June 6): Hong Kong’s top financial officials issued their strongest warning yet to homebuyers about escalating risks in the “exuberant” market, revealing that prices were now nearly 90 per cent above their peak in 1997. Principal government economist Helen Chan told a Legislative Council meeting that if currently low interest rates went back to a “normal level” – which would mean a 3 per cent rise – home owners would have to set aside 86 per cent of their monthly income for mortgage payments. Financial Secretary Paul Chan, warning that the chance of a US interest rate rise this month was 100 per cent, noted that mortgage payments were already taking up 66 per cent of home owners’ income and the ratio could increase further. “The risk in the property market is very high; sentiment in the property market is very exuberant,” Chan said.
Working hours plan cheats ordinary people, Hong Kong unionist says, but businesses warn of lay-offs (SCMP, June 14): The government’s proposal to regulate working hours for the low-paid has been dismissed as useless by some workers, while businesses fear higher costs might trigger lay-offs. The proposal, which was passed by the Executive Council on June 13, mandates employers to negotiate and indicate clearly the number of working hours in written contracts with employees earning HK$11,000 or below a month. As the city’s monthly wage averaged around HK$15,500 in 2016, unionists and grass-roots workers expressed anger at the framework, saying it would not improve the situation. On the opposite side, Simon Wong, president of the Hong Kong Federation of Restaurants & Related Trades, believed operating costs could increase. “I can understand the needs of normal workers to have standardised working hours as they crave more protection,” he said, “but the new framework could lead to more lay-offs as operating costs will increase.”
HKMA raises rates after US Fed move, reiterates warning to home buyers (SCMP, June 15): The Hong Kong Monetary Authority raised its base rate by 0.25 percentage points, following the US Federal Reserve’s overnight move. In announcing the decision, HKMA chief executive Norman Chan reiterated his warning to Hong Kong home buyers that mortgage rates will rise in the near future. The city’s average home prices have soared for many consecutive months to a record, making Hong Kong the world’s most expensive major urban centre. The exuberance is raising concerns among policymakers that a sudden downturn in the property market may leave banks and borrowers alike struggling.
HKEX plans third board for new-economy firms (SCMP, June 16): Hong Kong may have a brand new market next year for “new-economy” companies, allowing companies ranging from start-ups and technology firms with a dual-share structure to list, according to a consultation paper by Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing. The proposal, announced in the paper to collect views over the next two months, recommends that the new board will not accept listings by any traditional or old-economy firms, but only those classified as technology or new-economy firms. HKEX chief executive Charles Li said the current rules banned overseas-listed Chinese companies with a dual-class structure from listing in Hong Kong, but the new board would change that.
Incentives needed to drive Greater Bay Area plan, Tencent chairman tells Hong Kong seminar (SCMP, June 21): Business leaders and experts at a high-powered economic seminar have called for preferential policies and other incentives to create a world-class technology hub through the ambitious Greater Bay Area project to integrate Hong Kong, Macau and nine cities in Guangdong province. Pony Ma, founder and chairman of Chinese internet giant Tencent, urged mainland authorities to attract entrepreneurs by easing tax rules for people working in the planned global innovation hub. The mainland’s personal income tax rate is capped at 45 per cent, compared with 15 per cent in Hong Kong. Financial Secretary Paul Chan made a case at the forum for Hong Kong to play a “super- connector” role to help the region link up with the rest of the world, as the city was looking at the Greater Bay Area as “the next economic growth engine”.
Hong Kong business slams decision to scrap pension fund offset mechanism (SCMP, June 24): Hong Kong business groups have labelled as reckless the government plan to stop them using pension fund contributions to offset severance and long-service payments. They warned the plan would discourage entrepreneurs from starting businesses in Hong Kong and add pressure to small and medium-sized firms. Five major business associations issued a joint statement after theExecutive Council gave the green light for the scrapping of the so-called offset mechanism for the city’s Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF) scheme. The government will offer a subsidy of HK$7.9 billion to be spent over 10 years to ease employers’ financial burden. Labour unions were not impressed either. Labour Advisory Board member and unionist Tang Ka-piu said he was disappointed that severance and long-service payments would be reduced. He vowed to fight for support from the next government to meet labour demands.
Winning role required in economic numbers game (SCMP, June 27): In just 20 years since their reunion, the change in the relative economic sizes of Hong Kong and the mainland has been so dramatic that many have questioned the value of Asia’s most dynamic financial and business hub to the motherland. Thanks to phenomenal mainland growth, Hong Kong’s share of Mainland China’s gross domestic product has plunged, from 16 per cent in 1997 to about 3 per cent now. Before the handover, the city played a crucial role in the reform and openness policy of late paramount leader, Deng Xiaoping. After the introduction of the openness policy, Hong Kong played a significant role as a bridge between Mainland China and the outside world, conveying trade and investment flows both ways, particularly before Beijing joined the World Trade Organisation in 2001. But after 1997, the city’s importance declined dramatically in the wake of China’s rapid economic expansion, which saw its gross domestic product soar by nearly 13 times from US$965 billion in 1997 to US$12.4 trillion last year. Despite its declining significance to the national economy, analysts say the value of Hong Kong to China goes beyond numbers because statistics fail to capture its unique role in connecting the mainland to the rest of the world. For Beijing policymakers, the city remains invaluable because its status as the country’s only internationally recognized trade and financial hub is unlikely to change for the foreseeable future. For international investors, Hong Kong can continue to fulfil its function as a bridge to the vast mainland market with its distinct advantage of “being part of China but different from China”, a quality upon which the confidence of foreign investors depends.
Hong Kong set to enjoy economic tailwinds in the 2nd half, but beware of housing risks, BOCHK says (SCMP, June 28): Hong Kong should enjoy economic tail winds in the second half, thanks to an improving global outlook, although extremes in the housing market raise the possibility of unforeseen shocks, according to BOC (Hong Kong) Holdings. Hong Kong’s GDP growth will likely pick up to 2.8 per cent this year, near the upper end of the government’s forecast range, said BOCHK, the Hong Kong-listed arm of Bank of China and one of the city’s largest lenders. E Zhihuan, chief economist for BOCHK, said Hong Kong’s domestic demand will also remain resilient, supported by the low interest rate environment, which is beneficial for local asset prices. However, Ricky Choi, senior economist for BOCHK, warned of risks in the property market. Hong Kong has one of the world’s most expensive housing markets, with home prices nearly 90 per cent above their previous peak in 1997.
“The big trend is that interest rates will gradually rise in the longer term. The land supply is also rising,” Choi said.
China and Hong Kong sign two trade agreements giving local firms preferential investment access (SCMP, June 29): China is further opening its doors to Hong Kong investors after two bilateral trade agreements were signed on June 28, a day before President Xi Jinping’s arrival to mark the 20th anniversary of the city’s return to Chinese rule. With immediate effect, the agreements grant local businesses most preferential investment access to the world’s second largest economy – in both service and non-services sectors – and pave the way for the city to further participate in China’s go global strategy. The deals were the third and fourth agreements to be signed between the central government and Hong Kong under the framework of the Mainland and Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA), an economic scheme that allows qualifying products, companies, and residents of Hong Kong preferential access to the mainland market. Since 2003, 10 supplements and four agreements have been added to CEPA. Under the investment agreement, the most-favoured treatment enjoyed by Hong Kong investors on the mainland will cover non-services sectors such as manufacturing, mining and assets investment. The current provisions only include services sectors. Meanwhile, the economic and technical cooperation agreement sets forth a closer economic and trade tie between Hong Kong and the mainland in Xi’s flagship global trade plan called the belt and road initiative, which links more than 60 countries. It encourages the city to leverage its strengths in financial and professional services and capitalise on new opportunities.
Tiananmen vigil draws lowest turnout since 2008 (SCMP, June 5): A sea of candle light blanketed Victoria Park as tens of thousands of people converged there to mourn those killed in Beijing’s bloody military crackdown in Tiananmen Square 28 years ago, but in numbers that were the lowest for nine years. Organisers said 110,000 people attended the event, the lowest turnout since 2008. The vigil, organised annually since 1990 by the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, is the only large-scale public memorial of the June 4 crackdown permitted on Chinese soil. The reduced number followed a boycott of the event by university student unions for a second consecutive year amid rising localist sentiment in the city.
Hong Kong youth warned off ideas about separatism (SCMP, June 6): Young people should guard against separatist ideas and learn the correct relationship between the city and the country, Beijing’s top official in Hong Kong said. The remarks by Zhang Xiaoming, director of Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong, came after the central government’s third-highest-ranking official, National People’s Congress Chairman Zhang Dejiang, called for the strengthening of national education for young people in Hong Kong last month.
Pro-independence Taiwanese lawmakers launch support group for Hong Kong democracy (SCMP, June 12): Some 18 pro-independence Taiwanese lawmakers have set up a platform to support Hong Kong’s democratic development and foster closer ties with pan-democratic and localist legislators. Three Hong Kong lawmakers – Raymond Chan, Nathan Law and Eddie Chu – attended a press conference to announce the move, along with former student leaders of the 2014 Occupy movement, Joshua Wong and Alex Chow. Law said the city needed international support and he was grateful to form the alliance in Taiwan. Wong stressed that they were not advocating Hong Kong independence. “We just hope to work with different parties who share the same values of democracy and freedom with us,” he said.
Hong Kong cannot develop different set of politics from China, Beijing legal expert says (SCMP, June 16): The legal chief of Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong says Hongkongers should wake up from the “illusion” that they can develop a different set of politics from China under “one country, two systems”, declaring that “all politics is central”. Wang Zhenmin from the liaison office echoed No 3 state leader Zhang Dejiang, who last month said in a high-profile speech that the central government had “comprehensive” sovereignty over the city and urged Hong Kong to enact a national security law to prevent separatist movements. While in federal countries political problems were solved at the local level, in a country like China, “all politics is central” according to the Chinese constitution and the Basic Law, Wang said, adding that the city had to side with the country on domestic and international issues.
China’s PLA ‘to play bigger role in boosting Hong Kong patriotism’ (SCMP, June 16): One of Beijing’s top men on Hong Kong matters said the Chinese army’s local troops will play a bigger role in
boosting the city’s patriotism, as the garrison celebrated the 20th anniversary of its establishment and the 1997 handover. Feng Wei, deputy director of Beijing’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, said the soldiers had been a “strong backup” for the authorities during the pro-democracy Occupy protests that filled the city’s major streets in 2014. Beijing officials have lamented that although the city is politically reunified with China, its residents’ “hearts have yet to be reunified”, a reference to Hongkongers’ weaker sense of national identity compared to mainland Chinese.
Chief executive-elect vows to pay close attention to rise of independence ideas and step up national education (SCMP, June 21): Hong Kong’s incoming leader has vowed to pay close attention to independence advocacy in the city and counter it with strict law enforcement as well as stepped-up national education to nurture a sense of “I am Chinese” identity among youth from as early as kindergarten. Chief executive-elect Carrie Lam, who has maintained that calls for separating Hong Kong from China have no mainstream support, told Chinese state media that she would still take separatist ideology seriously. She proposed instilling the idea of “I am Chinese” in children starting from kindergarten, and making Chinese history a compulsory subject in junior secondary-school level.
Carrie Lam unveils her ‘ideal team’ of mostly familiar faces (SCMP, June 22): With just over a week to go before she takes over as Hong Kong leader, Carrie Lam has unveiled a cabinet dominated by old faces, calling it the “ideal” team to launch her new style of governance and rebuild social harmony. But the chief executive-elect brushed aside queries on whether Beijing had rejected her first picks for the dream team she had sought, and was vague on how she would handle mounting pressure to relaunch two contentious tasks shelved by her predecessors – enacting national security legislation and making national education compulsory in schools. Of her 16 ministers, six are incumbents, including the top three principal secretaries – for administration, finance and justice. Eight others are internal promotees – four deputy ministers will now become heads of their bureaus and four civil servants have been elevated to ministerial rank as political appointees. The only new face, who could arguably be held up as an example of including opposition figures, is Law Chi-kwong, a founding member of the Democratic Party and a social-policy scholar. As for the lack of young faces in the line- up, Lam said principal officials required experience. Commentator and adviser Professor Lau Siu-kai said Lam’s team looked “conservative” and it would depend on her own will to usher in the reform and changes she had promised.
Meet incoming Hong Kong leader’s hand-picked executive team (SCMP, June 23): Hong Kong’s leader-in-waiting Carrie Lam introduced several new faces to her top executive body, including a moderate pan-democrat and a finance heavyweight. Executive Council, comprising the principal ministers and 16 non-official members, works with the chief executive to improve policies that have been discussed in policy bureaus to ensure successful passage in the Legislative Council. Incumbent Exco member Bernard Chan, also the head of Lam’s campaign office, has been elevated to convenor of the top government decision-making body. Lam also broke away from CY Leung’s practice of not appointing pan-democrats to Exco by picking former lawmaker Ronny Tong. Tong quit the Civic Party in 2015 and later founded middle-of-the-road think tank Path of Democracy. Finance heavyweight Joseph Yam, former chief executive of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, is another newcomer, while Laura Cha, who chairs the Financial Services Department Council, will remain. Lam earlier dubbed Chan, Yam and Cha as the trio that she could rely upon on when it came to financial affairs. Another new face is Lam Ching-choi, head of NGO Haven of Hope Christian Service. He is chairman of the government’s Elderly Commission.
Chinese President Xi Jinping to visit Hong Kong for handover anniversary (SCMP, June 25): Hong Kong is making final preparations and unprecedented security arrangements for President Xi Jinping’s visit, which has been confirmed for July 29 – July 1, to mark the 20th anniversary of the city’s handover from British to Chinese rule and swear in a new administration. Xi’s packed itinerary includes overseeing the swearing-in of the new chief executive Carrie Lam and her cabinet on July 1. Both incoming and exiting chief executives expressed their “deepest gratitude” to Xi for the coming visit. C Y Leung said it showed the importance Beijing attached to Hong Kong, while his incoming successor Lam noted Beijing’s support for the city since the handover. Security minister Lai Tung-kwok said the government would remain vigilant against the threat of terror attacks, and that the city’s police force had enough staff to handle any emergencies during the president’s visit. He said the authorities were particularly concerned about “lone wolf” terrorists who have been responsible for attacks overseas.
Hongkongers’ rights and freedoms ‘fully protected’ since handover, top Chinese diplomat says (SCMP, June 27): A top Chinese diplomat said that the rights and freedoms of people in Hong Kong
had been “fully protected” and that democracy had “steadily progressed” since the handover 20 years ago. State Councillor Yang Jiechi said the central government would stand firm on its “one country, two systems” principle in ruling Hong Kong. The diplomat was speaking at the opening ceremony of an exhibition on the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong's handover in Beijing. China’s No 3 leader Zhang Dejiang was also present but did not give a speech. Yang said the central government would support the Hong Kong government in “governing according to laws” and improve cooperation between the mainland and the city. Outgoing chief executive Leung Chun-ying said “one country, two systems” had proven to be the best system for Hong Kong.
New thinking needed from Hong Kong’s next cabinet, top Beijing official says (SCMP, June 27): Wang Guangya, head of the Beijing government department that handles Hong Kong matters, has called for “new thinking” from all members of incoming chief executive Carrie Lam’s cabinet. At a later event that was closed to the Hong Kong media, President Xi Jinping praised “one country, two systems” as the best way to ensure the city’s long-term prosperity and stability, “not just the best proposal to resolve an historical question”. Leading his six other Politburo Standing Committee members to visit the exhibition on the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong's handover, Xi said the central government would unwaveringly, comprehensively and accurately implement the Basic Law, according to state news agency Xinhua. Hong Kong’s post-handover achievements were “well regarded by the whole world”, Xi added.
Hong Kong leader’s glowing report card for his term omits key failings (SCMP, June 28): Hong Kong’s outgoing chief executive Leung Chun-ying has produced a glowing report of his five years in office, citing among his accomplishments the booming economy and the “orderly” ending of the Occupy protests and the Mong Kok riot. Conspicuously absent in the 90-page report was an accounting of his government’s inability to bring about political reform and achieve its public housing targets. The economy recorded annual average growth of 2.4 per cent in the past five years and outperformed other advanced economies, the report said. Civic Party leader Alvin Yeung criticised Leung for whitewashing his mistakes by omitting the failure of political reform. Yeung added that Leung’s rigid governing style was the catalyst for the Occupy movement and it was ironic that he included ending it as his achievement.
Four officials out at controversial think tank as incoming Hong Kong leader reviews its role (SCMP, June 29): Four top officials at the Central Policy Unit will not stay on after July 1 as the new administration seeks to review the role and operations of the controversial government think tank. They include Beijing-loyalist Shiu Sin-por, current head of the unit, and Sophia Kao, who was contentiously appointed by outgoing Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying in 2013 to vet appointments to government advisory bodies. The two other full-time advisers leaving their posts are Lee Tak-keung and Wong Chack-kie. Leader-in-waiting Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has pledged to revamp the unit
– which she called an opaque “black box”. She wants it to be “policy and project coordination unit” that fosters public participation in policymaking and to be responsible for research and coordination.
President Xi Jinping lands in Hong Kong for three-day handover anniversary visit (SCMP, June 29): President Xi Jinping arrived in Hong Kong ahead of the 20th anniversary of the handover and set out his aim to usher the city into a new future, drawing from the experiences of the “extraordinary journey” of the past two decades. He set out three purposes for his three-day tour of the city that will see him presiding over the inauguration of a new government as part of a packed programme in the run-up to the 20th anniversary of the return of the city to Chinese rule. First, he said, he hoped to convey his wishes and congratulations for Hong Kong’s 20th anniversary of handover. Second, his visit aimed to show the central government’s support. Third, he said his visit would be about mapping out a future for the city and ensuring one country, two systems would be “smooth and can be carried forward”. Apart from meeting the outgoing and incoming local governments, Xi is expected to view the latest infrastructure developments in Hong Kong, including the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge and West Kowloon Cultural District, which are both still under construction. Xi, who is also the head of China’s military, is also expected to inspect the People’s Liberation Army’s local garrison in Shek Kong.
Risks and opportunities ahead for Hong Kong, top US envoy to city says (SCMP, June 15): The top US diplomat to Hong Kong has maintained a cautiously optimistic attitude about the city’s retaining a high degree of autonomy under the “one country, two systems” framework, saying there are both risks and opportunities ahead. US Consul General Kurt Tong said in Washington that the model, as implemented through the city’s Basic Law, or mini-constitution, was “generally working reasonably
well”. But the greatest concern was that “the framework would somehow erode and no longer work as well as it had for the past 20 years”, Tong said. Tong said the feature that set Hong Kong apart from other Chinese cities was its high degree of autonomy. Hong Kong’s highly developed rule of law, independent judiciary, and respect for individual rights were fundamental to its way of life, as well as its economic prosperity, he added. “[But] some observers now see increasing risks that Beijing will be less tolerant of Hong Kong’s differences and therefore will seek to make Hong Kong more like the rest of China,” Tong said.
Legal affairs and human rights
Foreign judges must be retained in Hong Kong, former chief justice insists (SCMP, June 1): The proportion of foreign judges has declined from half in 1997 to just 6 per cent but they should remain a feature of the judiciary in Hong Kong, says former chief justice Andrew Li. Li said he hoped they would continue to make up 5 to 10 per cent of the total number of judges. Commenting on recent accusations that foreign judges were biased in favour of the pan-democratic camp, Li called for the issue to be discussed rationally. “I believe it is in the best interests of Hong Kong under ‘one country, two systems’ to maintain this arrangement (of foreign judges). First, it enables the court to benefit from comparative perspectives and experience. Second, this arrangement commands confidence in and outside Hong Kong, particularly our own citizens. Thirdly, this arrangement is conducive to enhancing confidence in the independence of our judiciary,” Li said.
Enact national security laws step-by-step, says former Hong Kong justice secretary (SCMP, June 17): A former Hong Kong justice secretary Elsie Leung said that a highly controversial national security law should be enacted “step by step” after taking lessons from the failure to do so in 2003 after a massive street protest. Leung said it was “very unsatisfactory” that Hong Kong had failed to fulfil its mission to enact a law against treason, sedition, secession and subversion under Article 23 of Hong Kong’s mini-constitution. The issue became highly sensitive after some 500,000 protesters took to the streets in 2003, fearing the law would endanger various freedoms. The government later withdrew the bill. As justice secretary at the time, Leung was heavily involved in lobbying for the legislation. She admitted that the scope of the law proposed by the government was “too broad in one go”, and a future leader should therefore take a step-by-step approach in promoting it. “Separate it into different laws and enact them one by one ... Let the public digest them slowly before getting them passed,” Leung told i-Cable in an interview.
Hong Kong’s independent prosecutors ‘essential to rule of law’ (SCMP, June 23): Hong Kong prosecutors are not persecutors, and nor are they investment managers whose performance can be judged by rates of return, legal heavyweights said in retort to complaints over recent prosecutorial decisions. Prosecutions chief Keith Yeung Ka-hung said it was vital for the public to understand that the decisions are based entirely on the law and the facts. His views were shared by Bar Association chairman Paul Lam, who said such independence should not be seen as a privilege, but as essential. The same independence also entails the important corresponding duties for prosecutors not to be influenced by irrelevant considerations like the possible political effect or possible media and public reactions, Lam said. On the subject of the conviction rate, Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen said that it is “not the duty of the prosecution to secure conviction at all costs”. “Their performance should not be judged by reference to the rate of returns, nor should conviction rates be viewed as GDP, such that the higher the conviction rates, the better the prosecutorial system.”
Poor Hong Kong patients to see fees relief (SCMP, June 8): More Hong Kong patients may find themselves exempt from charges at public hospitals with a relaxation of the fee waiver scheme. The move comes ahead of an increase in charges from June 18, which will see the cost of accident and emergency services rising from HK$100 to HK$180. Under the new arrangement for the scheme, which exempts partial or full medical fees for low-income patients, asset limits will be relaxed for around 40 per cent.
University of Hong Kong professor defends government study projecting manpower crisis in medical sector (SCMP, June 18): The medical school dean of a Hong Kong university defended the government’s first comprehensive review of medical staffing against accusations that the study had failed to make accurate predictions. Professor Gabriel Leung of the University of Hong Kong also urged authorities to improve primary medical care services, just four days after the city’s Food and Health Bureau released a manpower review of more than 13 professions, projecting a manpower crisis
in nine of them, including dentists, general nurses, occupational therapists and physiotherapists. The shortage is a result of the city’s ageing population.
Patient numbers at public hospitals fall 7 per cent amid fee rise (SCMP, June 19): The number of people visiting emergency wards at public hospitals on June 18 dropped by 7 per cent compared with the past two weeks after a fee rise. Hospital Authority chief executive Dr Leung Pak-yin said he hoped that the increased fees would narrow the price gap between public and private medical services, contributing to patients with less urgent cases opting for private doctors instead, thereby reducing waiting times for public emergency wards. “We need to monitor for a longer period to assess the impact, especially on less urgent patients,” he said.
Exposure to pollution in Hong Kong is worst in the home, study reveals (SCMP, June 9): Exposure to PM2.5 particulates small enough to lodge deep in the lungs and most harmful to human health have been found to be just as high – or higher – inside people’s homes as they are outdoors or during the commute to work on an average weekday. Exposure to PM2.5 particulates small enough to lodge deep in the lungs and most harmful to human health have been found to be just as high – or higher – inside people’s homes as they are outdoors or during the commute to work on an average weekday. Co-author Dr Zhi Ning reported finding that people were exposed to air pollution risks not just outdoors but also indoors at home or the office.
Landmark Hong Kong land swap deal is a win for environmental conservation (SCMP, June 15): An unprecedented land swap deal to protect one of Hong Kong’s most ecologically rich enclaves has been approved by the city’s top decision-making body, heralding what could finally be a permanent solution to a decades-old stalemate on how best to protect the area. The Executive Council agreed “in principle” for most of Tai Po’s Sha Lo Tung – almost entirely owned by a private developer – to be surrendered to the government in exchange for a tract of land at the Shuen Wan restored landfill near Tai Po industrial estate, which will be developed into a private golf course. Under the new plan, Sha Lo Tung will be placed under active management by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, which will in turn engage a non-profit organisation to implement and run the management plan.
Online shopping in Hong Kong ‘contributes to wasteful packaging’, DAB claims (SCMP, June 21): The popular trend of online shopping has contributed to the waste problem in Hong Kong, with the city yet to tackle excessive packaging, a lawmaker has warned. According to a survey carried out by the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong last month, products ordered online tended to be wrapped in three layers of packaging. It estimated that this could produce 1,460 tonnes of waste each year. The DAB’s Chan Hak-kan, who chairs the Legislative Council’s environmental affairs panel, called on the government to speed up the producer responsibility scheme whereby sellers and logistics companies would be charged for packing materials to discourage waste.
Culture and Education
Five Hong Kong universities make the grade for first time in QS rankings (SCMP, June 8): Hong Kong for the first time saw five of its universities placed in the top 100 of the QS World University Rankings. The improvement was based partly on the institutions’ high level of internationalisation, which mainly resulted from mainland Chinese academics working in Hong Kong, according to education information firm Quacquarelli Symonds, which compiled the list. The University of Hong Kong, the city’s highest ranked school, nudged up one place to 26th, closely following Tsinghua University in Beijing.
University of Hong Kong alumni group backing reforms gains majority in school’s advisory body (SCMP, June 23): A pressure group pushing for governance reforms at Hong Kong’s oldest university has taken a major step forward after gaining a majority in an advisory body to the school’s governing council. All six candidates aligned with the HKU Alumni Concern Group were elected into the standing committee of the University of Hong Kong Convocation. The alumni group now has 13 seats on the 24-person committee. The group seeks governance reforms to protect institutional autonomy and advocates stripping the city’s chief executive of the role of chancellor and removing his or her power to appoint the council’s chairman and other council members.
Hong Kong Book Fair organiser vows no political censorship yet urges exhibitors to ‘comply with the law’ ahead of annual event (SCMP, June 27): No political censorship will be imposed on titles sold at the annual Hong Kong Book Fair as long as exhibitors “comply with the law”, the organiser pledged, amid concerns publications advocating independence for the city will be removed. The Trade Development Council emphasised the fair would remain as liberal and open as possible, and expressed confidence that publishers would cooperate if their materials were flagged. Benjamin Chau Kai-leung, the council’s deputy executive director, said bans would only be applied to materials judged indecent or obscene by the Obscene Articles Tribunal.
Press articles related to Switzerland and Swiss matters
Hong Kong companies urged to take on more apprentices to encourage vocational training (SCMP, June 18): The government needs to do more to upgrade vocational facilities and encourage companies to take on students on apprenticeships, the head of Hong Kong’s largest vocational education provider has said. Vocational Training Council VTC chairman Dr Clement Chen noted that most Hong Kong companies, unlike their Swiss and German counterparts, were not so keen on hiring inexperienced young people. The VTC chairman suggested taking a page out of the Swiss training book. The country has one of the best education systems in the world and recently ranked first in a global innovation index for the seventh consecutive year. According to Dr Cornelia Oertle, director general of the Swiss Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training, the private sector in Switzerland was greatly involved in the apprenticeship system. She noted that about two-thirds of those aged 16 chose vocational education. “They train their own workforce and also [ensure apprentices’] competence sticks to what industry needs,” she said. Oertle explained this was a tradition in Switzerland, with companies viewing it as a social responsibility.
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