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By: Gigi ChongEdited by: Sara Cheng

Culture & Leisure

Asian contemporary art gallery holds exhibition "Prism" to celebrate 3-year anniversary and promote Eastern art

  Soluna Fine Arts, an Asian contemporary art gallery with deep roots in South Korea, located in Sheng Wan, hosted a month-long exhibition themed “PRISM” from September to October to celebrate its three-year anniversary. Prism - an optical term - is a piece of glass or transparent material cut with precise angles to reflect or disperse a beam of light, forming a rainbow. It symbolises ways people used to see things with respective judgements and prejudices, the organiser said, as they filter facts and live under their own spectrum. The exhibition displayed 36 pieces of artwork produced by sixteen South Korean artists and one Hong Kong artist collaboratively. One of the exhibits was “Buncheong Tiger” - a pair of classical Korean pottery of white slip and transparent glazes covered with dark stones - crafted by artist Huh Sang-wook. Agnes Wy Ching-yi, the gallery operation manager, said the exhibition aimed to promote Asian contemporary art with its items representing a diversity of cultures and styles across countries. “Many people have known us as an art organisation with a lot of Korean artists, but we are starting to represent and excavate Hong Kong artists as well,” she said. “PRISM” was a milestone to the gallery as for the first time it launched an exhibition on its anniversary, she said, and it gave artists a platform to reflect on their work over the years. Over 500 visitors attended the exhibition, said gallery assistant Hannah Lee. It was open to the public for free. “Since we have to display the artworks from 17 artists in our gallery which is not very spacious, the balance of exposure gained by every single artwork is one of our concerns,” Wu said, speaking of the challenges her team faced in running the exhibition. They had to thus switch …

Society

Camping staycation: A new form of vacation apart from staying in hotels

Mawin Cheung Man-wai was heading to his office to take a break, but another group of campers showed up. So he welcomed them to his campsite instead. Mr Cheung is the chief executive officer of Easy Organic Farming, a campsite located in Yuen Long. Although Covid-19 restrictions mean they can only serve half the usual number of customers, the campsite is fully booked every day. Since the start of the epidemic in January 2020, staycations have been a worldwide trend. Not only are hotels used for staycations, camping is a popular alternative. According to the Annual Worldwide Independent Network of Market Research survey in January this year, Hong Kongers ranked fourth among 32 countries as most wanting to travel. Of those asked, 46% said they wanted to travel in 2021, while 74% said they would probably or definitely get vaccinated if that is what it takes to travel. In November 2020, Hong Kong and Singapore tried to form a “travel bubble”, where citizens might enjoy quarantine-free travel between the countries. However, the plan was put on hold when a fourth wave of Covid-19 hit Hong Kong. “I felt sorry to reject some of the customers’ bookings, but I want to ensure that campers can enjoy a safe and spacious environment during their stay at my place,” Mr Cheung said. “That is also the main reason why my campsite can attract that many people for staycation even during Covid-19.” Ricky Chan Wai-kit, 44, a loyal customer of Easy Organic Farming, regularly goes camping there with his children. It is not only an opportunity for him to bond with nature, but also allows him to reminisce about the past. “When I was young, camping was no different from military training. We had to do everything from scratch, such as looking for logs, …

Politics

RTHK producer conviction a ‘dark day for the Hong Kong press’, Hong Kong Journalists Association says

RTHK producer Bao Choy was found guilty of making a false statement and sentenced to a fine of HK$6,000 today at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Court.  Ms Choy obtained car license information from a publicly accessible database while producing an RTHK documentary on the Yuen Long mob attack in July 2019.  She was charged with making a false statement for saying the purpose was traffic-related. “I firmly believe registry search is not a crime, journalism is not a crime, uncovering the truth is not a crime,” said Ms Choy on Twitter, who emphasized that this will not stop her journalism career. Representatives of the RTHK Programme Staff Union showed their support for Ms Choy with more than 30 people hugging her before the trial.  Chris Yeung, the Chairperson of Hong Kong Journalists Association, described today as “a dark day for Hong Kong press and a day of shame in Hong Kong”.  “The trial is giving a fine of HK$6,000; it's a fine for all journalists.  Journalists are here to share the responsibility,” said Mr Yeung, emphasising that journalists must dig up truth for the public interest. He also criticized the judge for ignoring the role of journalists to monitor power.   Phoebe Kong, a journalist from Deutsche Welle, said the verdict will set limitations on investigative reporting.  “As a common method for journalists to investigate the truth, the criminalization of obtaining license information may result in the disappearance of previous stories and journalists may be afraid of being prosecuted,” said Ms Kong.   

Society

Prison rights group calls for transparency in complaint system

Beyond the high grey walls and barbed wire fence, only a little sunlight shines through the barred windows into the cells where prisoners spend their days. Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre is a medium-security facility where people who are denied bail are often held while awaiting trial. Mr Ma, who doesn’t want to reveal his full name for fear of retaliation, was arrested in November 2020 due to the social movement. He has been in solitary confinement for more than a month, and he doesn’t know when he will get out.  “You lose all your rights in solitary cells where you spend 23 hours a day facing four walls,” said Mr Ma, who has been in the Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre since late November 2020.  “Everything is worse in solitary cells.” Solitary confinement should only be used as a last resort and never longer than 15 days, according to the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners. But Mr Ma didn’t file a complaint. The Correctional Services Department introduced the Complaints Appeal Board CSDCAB in 2016, chaired by the deputy commissioner of correctional services. It serves to improve the transparency and credibility of the Correctional Service Department’s complaints handling mechanisms. The appeal board is responsible for re-examining complaints and making final decisions on the appeal cases against the findings of complaints investigations.  But those held behind bars have limited channels to cry for help. Complaints in Hong Kong’s 24 prisons are first investigated internally. In 2019, prisoners, members of the public and prison staff filed 504 complaints to the Complaints Investigation Unit of the Correctional Service Department, according to the department’s website. Only two were substantiated and close to 60 percent were found to be unsubstantiated. Social organisations and prison right activists call for transparency to …

Compulsory Covid testing at Hong Kong Baptist University

  • 2021-03-30

Hundreds of people at Hong Kong Baptist University have to undergo compulsory Covid-19 testing on Tuesday after a student tested positive for the coronavirus on Saturday. They include students and members of staff who visited three buildings on campus where the infected student had classes

Society

HKBU student tests positive for COVID-19

The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) announced today at a press conference that a 22-year-old local male student from Hong Kong Baptist University tested positive for COVID-19 on March 26. The source of infection is unknown. The student had a runny nose on March 25, and tested positive for COVID-19 the following day. He is from the Faculty of Social Sciences, and visited the HKBU campus in Kowloon Tong on March 18 and March 22. He attended at least two classes and a meeting in three separate buildings. According to Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan, the head of the Communicable Disease Branch of the Centre for Health Protection,  the students interacted in one of the classes and thus increased the chance of spreading the virus. Hence, more than 40 students and a teacher in one of the classes have to be quarantined. People who also went to the buildings that the student visited, including the HKBU Communication and Visual Arts Building, the Academic and Administration Building, and the Lui Ming Choi Centre at Sin Hang Campus, will have to take compulsory tests. Ms Jenny Lam, a senior lecturer who taught a three-hour lecture which the infected student attended on March 18, said she is not worried about the situation. “The students in that class wore masks throughout the lesson. There was no class discussion and interactions of any kind,” Ms Lam said. She has taken a COVID-19 test at the Hang Hau Community Testing Centre and the result is negative. According to Ms Lam, the classroom is 1100 sq. ft. and there were 25 students in class on the day. The infected student sat on the last row with a friend while other students were at least three rows away from them. Ms Lam said that only one student who attended her …

Business

Hong Kong excluded from Index of Economic Freedom, Singapore climbs as top

Hong Kong was excluded for the first time by an influential index that ranks the freedom of the world’s economies while the city’s official and scholar said the move was based on “political bias” and would not affect the economic development of Hong Kong. Hong Kong and Macau were removed from The Heritage Foundation's 2021 Index of Economic Freedom released on Thursday. Before that, the city was ranked as the world’s freest economies for 25 years straight before 2020 when it was taken over by Singapore, which also topped the list this year. "Developments in Hong Kong and Macau in recent years have demonstrated unambiguously that the policies are ultimately controlled from Beijing,” said Heritage Foundation in its report. The Washington-based research and educational institution said classifying Hong Kong and Macau economies under China was a reflection of Beijing’s “ultimate control” over the cities. Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po said the move made by The Heritage Foundation was unjustified. During a webinar organised by the South China Morning Post, Mr Chan said, “It seems to me when they arrived at that decision, it must have been clouded by their ideological inclination and political bias.”  A Hong Kong Government spokesperson said Heritage Foundation’s ranking is ill-conceived in the press release yesterday. "We take strong exception to the Foundation's claim that Hong Kong's economic policies are 'ultimately controlled from Beijing,” Hong Kong government spokesperson added in the press release. The Heritage Foundation’s ranking cannot be valid, because it was evaluated from a different perspective, it should not be generalised as a whole, said Dr Chong Tai-Leung, the director of Economics and Executive Director of Lau Chor Tak Institute of Global Economics and Finance of the Chinese University of Hong Kong. The Fraser Institute of Canada ranked Hong Kong as the world’s freest …

Society

New covid rule requiring dedicated table cleaning staff leaves small restaurants short handed

All eateries have to assign dedicated staff members to clear and disinfect used tables and eating utensils starting from Thursday. Small restaurants say the new requirement makes them short-handed. The measure was introduced after a Covid-19 outbreak at a Chinese restaurant in K11 Musea shopping mall in Tsim Sha Tsui that involved a “superspreader,” infecting more than 50 people.  Eateries are also required to meet new ventilation regulations of at least six air changes per hour. Yeung Ho-yin, the owner of a cart noodle eatery, said he was short-handed after moving a staff member from helping with ordering to clearing tables. “We have a lot of take-away orders, so it was quite busy,” said Mr Yeung.  Staff members sometimes had to clear seats in front of customers who were eating to let other guests in, Mr Yeung said, which he found “less appropriate.” Wong Kit-lung, who runs 39 chain Chinese restaurants under the LH Group, was among the first restaurateurs to create the position “Table Clearing Commissioner” last July.  “Unless there is only one or two staff, it is actually achievable. We are just separating the work from staff members’ duties,” said Mr Wong. Eateries can provide safety vests for staff specialising in clearing tables to make them distinguishable, Mr Wong said, adding that employees should educate all staff about hygiene.   

Politics

Court charges 47 pro-democracy figures with "conspiracy to commit subversion” under national security law

47 people from the pro-democracy camp attended a hearing at West Kowloon Magistrates Court today in connection with their participation in holding primary polls ahead of the planned Legislative Council election last year. They face charges of "conspiracy to commit subversion" under the National Security Law. Former lawmaker Claudia Mo Man-ching, convener of Civil Human Rights Front Jimmy Sham Tsz-kit and others sitting on the bench waved at those in the dock, including Gwyneth Ho Kwai-lam and Lam Cheuk Ting. Before the hearing began, one of the accused, Ms Ho stood up and shouted that she had not met her lawyer. The first defendant, former legal academic, Benny Tai, 56, was accused of promoting “an agenda to obtain a controlling majority” in the Legislative Council. The prosecution argued that Tai’s '35+' campaign aimed to paralyse the government by getting Legco to indiscriminately refuse to pass the budget and ultimately to cause the dissolution of the Council and the resignation of the Chief Executive. Tai’s “mutual destruction” agenda, the prosecution said, was a conspiracy to “seriously interfere in, disrupt or undermine the performance of duties and functions of the government”. Mr Tai, along with ex-lawmaker Au Nok-hin and members of the now-disbanded group, People for Democracy including Chiu Ka-yin Andrew, Chung Kam-lun and Ng Gordon Ching-hang, allegedly conspired with the rest of the defendants who participated in the primaries. More than 600,000 people voted in the primaries held last July, but the Legislative Council election was postponed for a year because of the Covid pandemic. The police also alleged that Gordon Ng, 41, initiated a 'Say No to Primary Dodgers' movement, which directed readers of their articles to vote in favour of their stance in the primaries. The defendants’ activities such as crowdfunding, nomination and holding press conferences are cited as …

Society

Budget Address 2021: No cash handout amid recession; $5,000 e-vouchers for eligible residents

Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po announced in his budget speech Wednesday there will be no cash handout for this financial year. But electronic vouchers of HK$5,000 will be issued in instalments to each Hong Kong permanent resident and new arrival aged 18 or above to encourage local consumption. The measure, which involves about HK$36 billion, is expected to benefit more than 7.2 million people, Mr Chan said.  The government has not said yet where the vouchers can be spent or how they will be given out. “The HK$5,000 e-voucher cannot tackle the current situation and provides limited support to citizens who have been struggling throughout the pandemic,” said Owan Li, Tai Kok Tsui North district councilor.  The numbers have been grim. Under the global sweep of the coronavirus, Hong Kong’s economy has shrunk by 6.1% for two consecutive years, hitting the highest annual decline on record.  The unemployment rate surged to 7% in the fourth quarter of 2020, reaching a 17-year high.  Tourism-related sectors are hard hit as they reached the highest jobless rate since SARS in 2003.  Retail, accommodation and food services sectors have suffered a surge in the unemployment rate to 11.3%. Tourism sectors have frozen with extensive global travel restrictions, and the export travel service plummeted by 90.5% “I actually agree with the government decision to not launch another cash handout since it has not been effective,” said Angus Chan, an employee dismissed from the InterContinental Hotel during the pandemic and now works in the Rosewood Hotel.  He has one to two no-pay leave days per week at the new job, and some of his shifts are cut, he said.  As the world continues to restrict travel, the hospitality industry is uncertain about when it will recuperate from the pandemic. Small and medium enterprises are hoping the …