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By: WANG Jingyan 王婧言Edited by: Alison Leung

Business

Hong Kong SME Leading Business Index hits 3-year high in Q3 as business confidence returns

  The overall Standard Chartered Hong Kong SME Leading Business Index rose by 4.4 to 46.6 in the third quarter this year, the highest since Q3 in 2018, as small and medium enterprises (SMEs) regained business confidence amid the gradual easing of the COVID-19 situation in the city, said the Hong Kong Productivity Council (HKPC). Edmond Lai, Chief Digital Officer of HKPC, said in a news conference on Tuesday, “The survey shows that SMEs are flexing their muscles to pick up their business as fast as possible by increasing investment and expanding staff size.”  Kelvin Lau, senior economist of Greater China at Standard Chartered Bank Hong Kong Limited, expected the positive momentum to remain intact in the second half of 2021, backed by further development in the IT industries and a recovery in the real estate sector. The overall index, which is compiled by HKPC and sponsored by the Standard Chartered Bank, rose for three consecutive quarters despite it was still below the neutral mark of 50.  All five component sub-indices were up and among which the “global economy” recorded the most significant growth to 52.8 from 43.6 a quarter earlier, said Mr. Lai. It was followed by recruitment sentiment of 50.9 and investment sentiment of 49.1. Talking about SME’s perspective and planning in response to the economic recovery this year. The business performance of information and communications was the best as 56% of the SMEs surveyed said that their business returned to the levels before the pandemic or fared better than that, while accommodation and food services were the most affected, with 81% of SMEs reporting a setback in business.   The retail industry index also recorded a surge, rising by 10.7 to 46.9 quarter on quarter due to the continued unwinding of social distancing measures since the first quarter …

Society

At least 33 die and more than 3 million affected in Henan by “once in 5,000 years” rainfall and flooding

  With 33 people dead and eight still missing by Thursday evening, and more than 3 million people affected by the torrential rainfall in central China, officials in Henan Province are calling the severe flooding the worst in 5,000 years. At 11 a.m. today, Henan’s Meteorological Administration updated a red rainstorm alert in the province with a population of about 99 million. The meteorological service expected the accumulated rainfall since the beginning of the storms to rise to more than 100 millimeters in the coming three hours in the regions of Xinxiang, Anyang, Hebi and Jiaozuo. The heavy rains, which started last week, caused economic damage of more than 1.22 million yuan in Henan province and almost paralysed the capital city, Zhengzhou, as flooding affected transportation, water supplies and power on Tuesday. Yang Dingqi, a university student who was attending a  class one block away from the hotel where she lives in Zhengzhou, said she had to wade through calf-deep water back to the hotel on Tuesday afternoon. “I was very nervous at that time because there was no power, no water supplies, and all the goods in the supermarket were sold out,” Yang told TYR during a telephone interview today.   Some areas in Henan experienced heavy rains from Sunday morning to Wednesday afternoon. According to the official website of Henan’s department of water services, 845 millimeters of rain were recorded from 8 a.m. Sunday to 2 a.m. Wednesday at the Xingyang Huncuiyu measuring station. Officials with the water services department said it was a “once in 5,000 years” storm because the amount of rainfall was the highest ever recorded in the region. Zhao Xiaomu, who works in Zhengzhou, said she spent almost three hours walking in the water to go home on Tuesday. She said it usually only …

Society

Job seekers find it tough despite falling unemployment

  More than 1,800 jobs are on offer at the “Embracing New Opportunities” job fair. Some 40 companies from different industries are taking part in the two-day event. There are vacancies for store clerks, security guards, programmers, nurses and much more, according to the Labour Department.  The fair is held by the Labour Department and the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions at MacPherson Stadium in Mong Kok. Ms Au, who was not willing to reveal her full name, was one of the representatives for Mou Mou Club Limited and Gyukaku Yakiniku Restaurant, offering opportunities for waiters and cooks. She said they have received more applications this year than in the past few years. “Competition for jobs (in the catering industry) has become more and more intense, so people are now seeking jobs in other industries,” she said.   Most of the vacancies at the fair offer monthly salaries from HK$10,000 to HK$20,000. Around 81% are full-time jobs, nearly 98% require senior high education or below and  61% do not ask for relevant job experience.   Ms Cu, who was not willing to reveal her full name, is among the job seekers. “ I used to work in the retail industry, but I have been unemployed since the beginning of this year because of  COVID-19,” she said.   Mr Ho, who didn’t provide his first name, also lost his job when the company he worked for downsized during the pandemic. “I used to be a civil engineer, but most of the jobs ( at the fair) are for clerical work, such as office assistants, and I’m not suited for that,” he said. He added that most of the jobs at the fair didn’t require specific knowledge, and he was worried that means he can easily be replaced.   CJ was a …

China’s GDP growth slows to 7.9% in Q2 after strong economic recovery from COVID in Q1

  • 2021-07-15

China’s economic growth slowed to 7.9% in the second quarter year-on-year from a record growth the previous quarter, showing increasingly steady trends in the second-half year, the National Bureau of Statistics of China said on Thursday. The gross domestic product (GDP) figure came in below the median forecast of 8.1%, polled by Reuters, and was lower than the 18.3% year-on-year increase in the first three months of 2021, which was boosted by the low base due to the pandemic. “The country’s economy continues to recover steadily with production and demand picking up, employment and prices remaining stable,” said Liu Aihua, Director of the National Economic Comprehensive Statistics Department of the bureau, at today’s news conference. She said market expectations were positive and major macro indicators were within the reasonable range. Industrial production increased 8.3% year-on-year in June, and 15.9% in the first half of the year compared to the same period last year.  Retail sales rose 12.1% in June from a year earlier and grew by 23% in the January-June period. Fixed-asset investment also grew 12.6% year-on-year in the first half of the year, and the jobless rate decreased 0.5% year-on-year to 5% this June, but Ms Liu predicted at the conference that the rate may increase as an estimated of 9.09 million university graduates would flood into the job market this year. “The pandemic is not yet stable globally, and the recovery of the domestic economy is not yet even,” said Ms Liu at the conference, adding that China's economy would sustain a steady recovery in the second half of the year despite facing such difficulties. She estimated that increasing domestic demands, enhancing market confidence, more policies to help small and medium-sized enterprises, and global economic recovery would further support the economic recovery. The Chinese government announced several measures …

Health & Environment

Hong Kong to ban plastic tableware at restaurants from 2025

The Hong Kong government planned to ban all types of disposable plastic tableware at restaurants from 2025, according to an announcement made on Friday. The city’s Environment Protection Department, which is seeking public opinion on the proposal during the next two months, said parts of plastic cutlery often packaged in take-away services would also be banned.  A consultation paper, released by the government on Friday, proposed to ban the local sale of disposable expanded polystyrene (EPS) utensils and discontinue their use at restaurants within four years. Wong Kam-sing, Secretary for the Environment of the HKSAR Government, wrote in the consultation paper that, “ practising ‘plastic-free’ at the source is the most fundamental way to achieve ‘waste free seas’.”  “Countless waste plastics enter the natural environment, including the ocean, each year,” he wrote in the document. “They will eventually be fragmented into microplastics and enter the human food chain.”  The department also suggested regulating the use of non-EPS plastic tableware for dine-in and take-away services in phases.  The first stage was to ban all types of disposable tableware offered to dine-in customers at restaurants, with disposable cutlery, such as straws, knives and forks, banned in take-away food and beverage services. Take-away services would be regulated the same as dine-in services in the second stage, according to the statement. Chung Wai-yi, the owner of a ramen restaurant, said they were using recyclable plastic chopsticks and plastic food containers for take-away services.   She supported the ban on disposable plastic tableware.  “I always support the environmentally friendly promotion in Hong Kong, but this time, I hope the government can make it a reality rather than just talking,” she said.  She expected the government to make laws and regulations on plastic use in the catering industry to ensure fair competition, and also find good substitutes …

Society

University LGBTQ groups in China “muted” following social media account closures

With no warning and little objection, more than 10 social media accounts for university LGBTQ groups in mainland China were shut down on July 6, according to members of the LGBTQ community in China.    Posts and content published on the WeChat accounts, including WDH Purple from Tsinghua University, ColorsWorld from Peking University, and Zhi Heshe from Fudan University, were removed, according to members of those accounts. All of the account names were changed to  “unnamed official account” by Tuesday evening.   The closure of the accounts may have been connected to a student protest at Wuhan University in April 2021, according to the founder of an NGO in Wuhan that focuses on LGBTQ issues. The protest, in support of feminist issues in China, may have crossed the government’s “red line,” the person, who wished not to be identified by name, had written in a recent WeChat discussion with Cheung Kam-hung, a Hong Kong LGBTQ activist. During the protest, Chinese feminist activists, who are accused by the Chinese government of having been influenced or helped by foreign politicians, were mentioned.   The activist wrote that, following the university protest at Wuhan University, the Chinese government probably began to collect information about the social media accounts belonging to the university LGBTQ groups.   These digital social media accounts, mostly organised by student communities and teachers, were often used to share stories and research about LGBTQ groups.   A message on the main page of the closed accounts stated, “(WeChat) received relevant complaints that (the account) violates The Internet User Public Account Information Service Management Regulation. All the content in the account has been blocked and usage of  the account was stopped.”   RucSGS, an organization at Renmin University of China advocating discussion on gender issues, said it was affected.   The …

China’s ride-hailing app Didi still in use as authorities review cybersecurity

  • 2021-07-06

      Two days after mainland authorities ordered the removal of ride-hailing app Didi Chuxing from China’s app stores, it is still the preferred way of transport for many diehard customers   For 29-year-old engineer Li Haining, who works in Qingdao, hailing a car from Didi Chuxing to get to her office has become part of her daily routine.   “Honestly this incident will affect my choice in the future as I’m concerned about my privacy, but I will keep using this app as long as it’s the most convenient and affordable one for me,” she said.   The Cyberspace Administration of China ( CAC)  removed Didi’s app from local app stores last Sunday, shortly after it announced that it would start a cyberspace probe.    “Didi Chuxing app has serious violations of laws and regulations concerning the collection and use of personal information. The Cyberspace Administration of China notified app stores to remove Didi Chuxing in accordance with relevant regulations of the National Cybersecurity Law,” the CAC said in a statement on July 4.   Didi, a household name in China, raised US$ 4.4 billion in its IPO at the New York Stock Exchange on June 30. Its stock gained 1 percent on the first day of trading.   Besides Didi Chuxing, the CAC also launched cyberspace reviews into Boss Zhipin, Yunmanman and Huochebang, three other companies listed in New York this year, and removed their apps from the country's app stores on Monday.     When using those apps, customers need to provide their identity information such as identity card and phone numbers and their location.   Cao Jing, 40, who is used to calling a car from Didi to work almost every day, said the fact that Didi was collecting data was no surprise to her.   …

Business

Fairwood’s annual profit doubles due to government subsidies

Hong Kong’s second largest fast food chain Fairwood Holding Ltd (00052) reported net profit attributable to shareholders of HK$153.6 million in the financial year ended Mar 31, 2021, more than doubled from a year ago due to government subsidies. This was 152.4% above its yearly net profit of HK$60.9 million the previous year. However, its annual revenue dropped 12.7% to HK$2.65 billion under COVID-19. Shares of the company rose about 1% to close at HK$18 after the results were announced while the Hang Seng Index lost 0.97% to 28,983.89. Basic earnings per share of the company increased 152.2% to 118.59 HK cents, from 47.03 HK cents a year ago, it said in a statement. Fairwood, which operated fast food restaurants, institutional catering and property businesses, said mandatory social distancing policies and restricted opening hours for restaurants led to a significant reduction in restaurant patronage during the reported period. However, the increase in take-away services offset part of the loss in revenue. Businesses in mainland China were also affected with same-store sales down by nearly 27% in local currency. But the company was optimistic that its businesses in Hong Kong will recover as the pandemic is kept under control, and it will continue to expand in the mainland. With the completion of a bakery production line in April this year, the company would offer various bakery products and reduce costs, it said.  

Health & Environment

Hong Kong’s first Chinese medicine hospital to provide training for local students

        Construction of Hong Kong’s first Chinese Medicine Hospital is expected to start in Tseung Kwan O in a couple of days. Speaking at a launch ceremony today, Secretary for Food and Health, Sophia Chan Siu-chee described it as a milestone in the development of traditional Chinese medicine in the city.    Dr. Cheung Wai-lun, project director of the Chinese Medicine Hospital, said the facilities will include around 400 beds, 70 diagnostic rooms and 45 treatment rooms. The new hospital is expected to serve about 310,000 outpatients every year.    “About 200 Chinese medicine practitioners will participate in training and research at the Chinese Medicine Hospital,” Dr. Cheung said. The hospital will also recruit both full-time and part-time traditional Chinese medicine workers.   The hospital will be run by Hong Kong Baptist University under a private-public partnership arrangement and about 65% of the services will be government-funded.   At the moment, traditional Chinese medicine students in Hong Kong have to go to the mainland for their internships. But once the new hospital comes into operation, a third of the students from three local universities can do their internships in Hong Kong initially.   The hospital will come into service in phases from 2025 and eventually up to half of the local students can be trained there.   Professor Alexander Wai Ping-kong, president of Hong Kong Baptist University said the Chinese Medicine Hospital will hire Chineses medicine practitioners from Hong Kong, the mainland and other countries.   Yao Yuzhen, a mainland student studying Chinese medicine at Hong Kong Baptist University, hoped the new hospital will make it more convenient to conduct scientific research.   “Hong Kong does not have any inpatient department in traditional Chinese medicine right now,   so there can only be limited use of some …

Disposable face masks aggravate Hong Kong’s ‘already very serious’ waste problem, says local environmentalist

  • 2021-06-28

  As Hong Kong nears the one-year mark for mandatory face masks in public areas, the city’s already overstretched landfills are coping with more than 3 billion disposable masks, said Don Cheng, from local charity Greeners Action.   “This is a very heavy burden on our environment, our landfills and on the whole waste management system,” Mr. Cheng said in a phone interview.   Between 10 tonnes and 15 tonnes of masks are sent to Hong Kong landfills every day, Secretary for the Environment, Wong Kam-sing, said in a press release in May last year.    Mr. Cheng said that the waste problem in Hong Kong was already serious before the pandemic. “We dispose of over 11,000 tonnes of solid waste every day, and 21% of it is plastic,” he said.   Most single-use face masks are made of plastics such as polypropylene, which is recommended for preventing the spread of COVID-19 but may also contain cancer-causing toxins.   “These masks also contain other kinds of materials and metals. It is quite difficult to separate them,” said Mr. Cheng, adding that this makes them unsuitable for recycling.   “Quite a number of these face masks litter our natural environment, for example on hiking trails, at the beach and in the ocean,” he said.    Disposable face masks may take as long as 450 years to break down, according to Hong-Kong-based marine conservation organization OceansAsia.   Discarded masks are hazards for wild animals with environmental groups around the world reporting animals injured or killed after being caught in the straps.   Most Hongkongers use seven to 10 single-use masks a week, according to a survey last year by Greeners Action. That’s 4 million to 6 million face masks a day, said Mr. Wong.   Toni Lo, a local primary school teacher, …