CONSULATE GENERAL OF SWITZERLAND IN HONG KONG
|A condensed press review prepared
the Consulate General of Switzerland in Hong Kong
WTO - It's a deal: Round-the-clock negotiations by trade
ministers on the final day of the World Trade Organization ministerial
conference in HK yielded a last-minute deal as countries agreed
to preferential treatment for goods produced by the world's poorest
countries, and cuts in financial assistance for farmers and cotton
growers in richer countries.
Farewell to a dirty year in politics: Last week's constitutional
reform fiasco marked a breathless end to a year of roller-coaster
politics featuring the downfall of Tung Chee-hwa, the rise of Donald
Tsang and a new wave of democracy demands. As Mr Tsang reflects
on the political scene after concluding a duty visit to Beijing
- his first since taking up the post of chief executive - he is
likely to be baffled, if not awed, by the volatility of HK politics.
Article 45 group set to become new party: Founded in 2003
as a loose grouping of mostly barristers fighting for democracy,
the Article 45 Concern Group has decided to register as an apolitical
party underlining that a lot of HK people who support democracy
are looking for a political party that is more moderate than the
Lam hits hopes for universal suffrage timetable: A top official
poured cold water on any hopes the pro-democracy camp harboured
of bargaining with the government for a timetable for universal
suffrage. In describing the December 4 mass protest for full democracy
as "mission impossible," Secretary for Constitutional
Affairs Stephen Lam made it clear that, when dealing with the timetable
issue, the government cannot only listen to opposition legislators
without regard for other parties' views. "We have been very
careful in striking a balance between different parties because
the reform package's proponents won't support us unconditionally,"
Pro-Beijing camp fights back in reform row: The pro-Beijing
camp was going on the counter-attack against the democrats by forming
a coalition to gather signatures in support of government proposals
for the 2007-08 elections.
Reform row hits Tsang's popularity: People's confidence in
Donald Tsang as the chief executive has plunged as the constitutional
reform row has deepened, a university survey has shown. Mr Tsang's
popularity fell seven percentage points from early November to 68
per cent in the survey straddling the December 4 march for universal
suffrage, according to the University of HK's Public Opinion Programme.
"We want democracy" - HK people repeated their message:
Between 100’000 and 250’000 people marched peacefully
for democracy. Police figures were much smaller. Unlike previous
marches, no one could say people came out because they were unhappy
about the economy, suffered negative equity or didn't like former
chief executive CH Tung. They clearly flooded out because they wanted
to tell the authorities here and in Beijing they wanted universal
suffrage soon. What really unnerved the Chief Executive was not
the ten of thousands of marchers chanting for democracy, but the
presence in the streets of Anson Chan, the popular former government
No 2. One observer said she has shown her appetite to become chief
executive in 2007. CE Donald Tsang responded to the march that he
has heard their voices and felt their feelings.
Democrats chief blasted for lack of alternative plans: With
25 pro-democracy lawmakers seemingly set to vote down the government's
political reform package on December 21, a political academic blasted
local Democratic Party chief Lee Wing-tat for failing to offer an
alternative strategy for achieving universal suffrage.
Tsang in “animals” outburst at critics: In a
stinging attack on opponents of the government's political reform
plans, Chief Executive Donald Tsang has branded pro-democracy politicians
as a group of "horrifying animals." He also acknowledged
for the first time that he had underestimated HK's political climate
in trying to press ahead with his controversial political reform
package, which was on the brink of defeat when it was presented
to the Legislative Council.
HK lawmakers veto limited democracy plan: HK lawmakers rejected
government proposals to introduce limited democratic reforms for
election of the Chief Executive and Legislative Council, which pro-democracy
legislators say do not go far enough. Some 34 legislators voted
for it, 24 were opposed and one abstained (constitutional changes
need the support of two-thirds of the 60-seat chamber). “I
think we need a country that respects the aspirations of the people.
I’m proud of being a Chinese if China is strong, not only
in terms of its military strength and its economy but rather a respect
for human rights and the wishes of the people,” Democratic
Party chairman Li Wing-tat said in the chamber after the vote. Tsang
said the government will not put forward any new proposals for 2007-2008.
"We have lost an opportunity to take a significant step towards
full democracy," he said.
Pressure mounts on Tsang for talks: Victorious pro-democracy
politicians put pressure on Chief Executive Donald Tsang to begin
discussions on a timetable for universal suffrage after his political
reform package suffered an embarrassing setback. But Rafael Hui,
chief secretary for administration, did not seem to be in any mood
for reconciliation as he launched a blistering attack on veteran
democrat Martin Lee and Bishop Joseph Zen, outspoken head of the
Catholic Church, for the reforms' collapse.
Beijing's trust will be hurt, warns Tsang: Mutual trust between
Beijing and HK lawmakers will suffer following the defeat of the
electoral reform proposal, Donald Tsang warned. Time would be needed
to mend the damage done by veto, the chief executive said. Mr Tsang
said he would gauge Beijing's reaction when he paid his duty visit
next week, but warned: "I think it will be out of the ordinary.”
Democracy put on hold for seven years: The central government
quickly came out in support of embattled Chief Executive Donald
Tsang following his failure to push through the contentious constitutional
reform package and warned that this has put the journey toward democracy
on hold for at least seven years. The State Council's HK and Macau
Affairs Office branded the rejection of the proposal by 24 pro-democrat
legislators as out of line with mainstream public opinion.
Tsang escapes blame: Donald Tsang came away from what could
have been a bad day with Beijing leaders saying Beijing's support
for his government is undiminished in the wake of last week's defeat
of the government's political reform proposal. After the meeting
with President Hu, the SAR chief executive said central leaders
remain "accommodating" and "selfless" in their
approach to HK and that their policy is "fundamentally unchanged
by the defeat" of the political reform proposals. Tsang said
he will continue to play his role as a "middle man enhancing
communications" with Beijing despite the setback over reform.
He insisted that communications between HK and the mainland must
involve "all parties" but that it requires "reciprocity,
understanding and sincerity" from everyone involved.
Beijing angered by US call for timetable: State Department
spokesman said that the people of HK are ready for democracy and
that the sooner a time table for achieving it is established the
better. Response of Beijing: foreign countries should note intervene
in Chinese domestic affairs.
European Parliament backs timetable on democracy: The EU
Parliament passed a non binding resolution inviting the HK government
to set a timetable for universal suffrage and to abolish the appointment
system in the district councils. The answer from HK is that the
administration is fully committed to achieving the ultimate aim
of universal suffrage.
Revision of GDP makes China the 6th-biggest economy: China
overtook Italy to become the world's sixth-largest economy after
the central government announced economic output last year was 16.8
per cent higher than previously reported. And it may not stop there.
Announcing the revision, Li Deshui, director of the National Bureau
of Statistics, hinted China would overtake France and Britain to
become the fourth-largest economy once this year's output figures
Economic rise no threat to anyone, Beijing insists: China
tried to allay fears it was a threat to its neighbours or the US
by repeating in a State Council white paper it would remain peaceful.
The paper was released by the State Council Information Office against
a backdrop of mounting pressure from the US and Japan over the mainland's
enormous economy and rising military power, and two days after the
mainland revised last year's GDP figures upwards by 16.8 per cent.
The document, "White Paper of China's Peaceful Development
Road", did not mention military development but went to lengths
to argue that China's rapid economic rise benefited the world, especially
MC6 Summary: Some 3,000 journalists and 2,000 members of
activist and business organizations flocked to the convention and
exhibition center as 6,000 delegates from 149 countries and territories
- with the late addition of Saudi Arabia - tried to agree on 53
points. There were cries from the outside by another 8,000 foreign
and local activists for them to pack up and leave, but this crowd
in turn was balanced by 9,000 police charged with watching the gate.
The WTO's sixth ministerial conference began with delegates drastically
reducing their hopes of achieving anything. The EU warned that its
best offer was already on the table and there would be no further
concessions forthcoming. WTO director-general Pascal Lamy reckoned
it would take nothing short of a professional magic trick to conjure
up a deal. China, which has taken a low-profile approach to the
conference, raised its head to counter attacks from the US that
the mainland was not living up to its WTO commitments. Commerce
Minister Bo Xilai said China was the biggest victim of unfair anti-dumping
practices. Trade ministers finally agreed to eliminate farm export
subsidies by 2013, a date backed by the EU, although Brazil and
the US lobbied hard for 2010. Least developing nations got support
in the form of duty-free and quota-free access to wealthier markets
by 2008, but many countries will continue to protect "sensitive"
industries. The US, in a minor concession to C4 African nations,
committed to ending export subsidies for crops by 2006. But it can
continue subsidising production of cotton.
The siege of Wan Chai: Wan Chai (the district where the venue
of the MC6 is located) was under siege after more than 1,000 anti-WTO
protesters clashed with police in the worst violence HK has seen
in decades. The rioting injured 137 people, including 67 police
officers. 14 protesters were arrested and appeared in court on charges
of unlawful assembly. This followed the release of 944 people who
had been held.
Koreans regret riot but say mission accomplished: A group
of South Korean farmers apologised to HK people for riot - even
as they insisted it was relatively mild compared with protests at
home. South Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Lee Kyu-hyung apologised
to HK for the violent clashes largely orchestrated by militant farmers
and unionists from his country. Mr Lee was involved in negotiations
with the government to secure the return of the detainees.
Unemployment drives job-hunters across the delta: A sluggish
construction industry at home is leading more HK workers to look
for jobs in Macao, with casino-led development offering new work
opportunities, a union official said yesterday. "Some perceive
Macao as a place full of opportunities but many fail to realise
that its support facilities lag those in HK," he said.
Local pay rises second lowest in the region: According to
a study of a human resources firm, HK employees averaged a 2.9%
pay increase this year, the second worst in the region behind Japan's
2.4%, while the mainland's runaway economic growth helped boost
wages there by 8.1% in 2005. HK's average pay rise is forecast to
be 3-3.5% in 2006, according to two known consultant firms.
Upbeat for now, but costs hurt outlook: Companies in HK are
more optimistic about their business prospects for 2006. But concern
about rising overheads is dampening their outlook for 2007 and long
term, according to a survey of the HK General Chamber of Commerce.
Rising interest rates and sharp increases in commercial rents are
among the key concerns. Business confidence among companies in HK
is high, with almost two-thirds expressing optimism for prospects
next year and about half looking to expand over the next three years,
the American Chamber of Commerce said.
HK luxury goods sales take a hit: The Census and Statistics
Department said October's retail sales reached $16.6 billion. Sales
of cars and other luxury big-ticket items fell while total retail
sales managed a reasonable 4.8% increase. HK Retail Management Association
stressed that the cycle of rising interest rates was depressing
consumption in the shorter term, especially for the luxury sector.
Staff turnover rate highest in two years: Companies, especially
in the retail and financial services sectors, have suffered some
of the highest staff turnover rates since 2003 as workers take advantage
of the economic rebound and switch jobs, a quarterly survey has
found. In the third quarter of this year, the overall turnover rate
rose to 3.7% whereas the retail sector's turnover rate reached 9.6%
and that of banking and financial services also reached 8.6%.
Anything but a free economy: The HK's long tradition of monopolistic
and oligarchic practices lead to the steep cost of land, utilities
and food, argued a lawyer who inaugurated the Asian Competition
Law Conference. He added most developed countries have fair competition
laws that are considered integral to their diverse, flourishing
and open economies.
Joint study to help planning in delta: The HK and Guangdong
governments launched a study, commissioned by Peking University,
aiming to formulate HK and regional development strategy and analyse
the development direction of the delta under the `one country, two
systems' framework. It will cover background and overall development
strategy, cross-border co-ordinated development, environmental impact
assessment, resources protection and use and an "institutional
mechanism for co-ordinated development and co-ordinated issues for
HK throughput declines by 7.9%: HK ports posted their largest
monthly decrease in cargo throughput last month, moving 7.9% fewer
containers. The monthly fall means HK now lags further behind Singapore,
which earlier this year edged out HK as the world's busiest port.
Major ports in the mainland grew by 23.7%.
Jobless rate unchanged but labour market 'buoyant': Stagnant
employment prospects in the construction and restaurant sectors
kept HK’s overall jobless rate unchanged at 5.3 % last month.
Nevertheless, the working population continued to expand to a record
high of 3.4 million people, the government said. A government spokesman
described the overall labour market sentiment as "generally
New exhibition venue launched: AsiaWorld-Expo, HK's largest
and newest exhibition and event complex, was formally launched.
More than 30 events are scheduled for next year and are expected
to bring $4 billion to HK.
Easing inflation: Inflation eased slightly in November to
1.7% (1.8% in October) year on year after six straight months of
steady growth in the pace of consumer price rises. The government
pointed to a slower pick-up in prices for some basic foodstuffs,
jewellery and package holidays.
HKEx sees record year with market cap of $8 trillion: HK
Exchanges and Clearing had another record year, thanks to a large
number of new listings of mainland enterprises and volume of derivative
warrants. It ranks 4th in worldwide fund-raising. The stock market's
total market capitalisation was an all-time-high $8.26 trillion,
up 22% from a year ago, ranking 9th in the world. It is higher than
Switzerland's US$896.14 million.
City back on track as good times roll again: In a year that
was marked by major government reshuffles, health scares and public
unrest, HK has, quite convincingly, lived up to expectations that
2005 would be a banner year for the city's economic growth. In just
12 months, the unemployment rate managed to shed more than a full
percentage point to 5.3% and those with jobs are now shopping around
for better ones. Consumer prices have also risen to their highest
levels in more than seven years, underscoring the overall rebound
in the key property, tourism and retail sectors, while it has been
a record year for exports.
Roche grants mainland production licence for Tamiflu: Swiss
pharmaceutical giant Roche has granted a sub-licence to the Shanghai
Pharmaceutical Group to manufacture Tamiflu on the mainland. The
company announced yesterday that the move was part of its effort
to expand its global supply. It said the agreement signed covered
the overall production of oseltamivir - which is branded as Tamiflu
- for pandemic use on the mainland. The statement did not give details
about production capacity or cost. The Shanghai Pharmaceutical Group
said it would not sell under the Tamiflu brand name.
Questions raised on bird flu strategies: Health officials
have been urged to change their strategy of stockpiling Tamiflu
after more evidence that the bird flu virus has mutated quickly
enough to cause resistance to the frontline drug. The warning came
after four of eight patients treated in Vietnam for bird flu infections
died despite the use of Tamiflu.
94pc of Guangdong’s chickens vaccinated Guangdong has
vaccinated 94 per cent of its chicken population but a vaccine shortage
means some flocks which only received single doses may still be
vulnerable to H5N1 infection.
Minister defends air-quality index: The environment minister
defended the regional air-quality index, which has been criticised
for offering limited information, saying the public would not understand
the details even if they were disclosed. (….) An amendment
by Democratic legislator Sin Chung-kai calling for a fund to help
factories across the border install anti-pollution equipment was
Happy Hong Kongers?: They may be on the streets calling for
reform, but a recent survey has found that Hong Kongers are the
happiest they have been for three years. The “Happiness Index”
survey of 624 people, conducted by City University, rated the city’s
overall feelings at 7.32 out of 10, up from 7.24 last year and 7.11
Press articles related to Switzerland
Swiss international pilots face job losses (South China Morning
Post 27.12.2005): Swiss International Air Lines, which is being
bought by Deutsche Lufthansa, plans to dismiss 314 pilots from its
European fleet if they do not accept new job contracts by the end
of the year. The airline is reportedly asking the pilots to accept
pay cuts of as much as 40 per cent.
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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