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By: WANG Jingyan 王婧言Edited by: Vikki Cai Chuchu

Business

Hong Kong companies see increased cyberattacks last year as more work remotely, survey finds

Hong Kong companies reported increased cyberattacks over the last year, including ransomware attacks, as more employees work from home, said US security service provider Barracuda at a press conference in Hong Kong today. In Hong Kong, 76% of companies saw at least one cyberattack compared to 81% globally, according to a survey of 750 companies around the world conducted by UK market researcher Vanson Bourne and commissioned by Barracuda. A total of 66% Hong Kong companies interviewed reported ransomware attacks last year, and those with remote staff were more likely to be attacked.   Remote work may contribute to an increased risk of network security breaches and being attacked, Conrad Lee, senior sales engineer of Barracuda, said at the press conference. He also said that phishing has become more specific as hackers take advantage of wide-spread discussion of social issues on the web. “For example, attackers can make use of the discussion of COVID-19 on the internet to send phishing emails to several accounts or induce people to download apps,” he said, adding that the improvement of attack software could also be a factor. Hong Kong is a “relatively safe city” in network security but remote work and the use of web-based applications, such as Google Docs and Zoom, is a concern, Mr. Lee said. All Hong Kong enterprises in the survey reported concerns regarding security risks caused by the use of web applications, and 98% worried about problems of data leakage and ransomware gaining access through unmanaged devices. In another survey, 42% of Hong Kong companies reported ransomware attacks over the last 12 months, an increase of 1%, according to research by the Hong Kong Productivity Council in August and commissioned by Hong Kong Telecom. “The remote work will probably become the new trend and continue even though the …

Health & Environment

Online shopping creates excessive packaging waste, Green Sense says

Online shopping over the past year is estimated to have produced around 800 million pieces of packaging waste in Hong Kong, according to a local environmental protection group, Green Sense. On average, 2.32 pieces and 2.71 kinds of wrappers were used for each item, with some using up to nine kinds of packaging materials, such as cartons, sticky tapes, bubble wrap, and craft paper, Green Sense has found. Ma Ka-po, senior project officer of Green Sense, said at a news conference today that too many kinds of packing materials make it hard for consumers to figure out which ones can be recycled.   Excessive use of sticky tapes, she pointed out, is a common problem. “The tapes are usually used to secure the flaps of cartons, but we found some cartons with sticky tapes all over them, even covering unnecessary parts,” Ms. Ma said.   Of 209 people Green Sense interviewed this year, only 35% thought that Hong Kong has a serious or very serious problem of excess packaging. Last year, 51% said it was a problem. The research also found that only about 46% of the interviewees would recycle packaging materials such as paper and cartons, after receiving the package, but 43% of them would simply throw them away. He Songlan, a university student, shops online three or four times a week, but she doesn’t see packaging waste as a problem. “When I buy clothes online, there may be one or two plastic bags and bubble wraps in the package, and when I buy snacks, there may be one carton and some plastic bags,” she said. She admitted though that the delivery companies may add a lot of packaging. “But it is acceptable for me,” she added. Kor Mi-jing, a student who shops online occasionally, tends to keep the …

Business

Cathay Pacific’s H1 losses narrow on higher cargo yield and cost-cutting

Hong Kong flag carrier Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd (00293) on Wednesday reported a net loss attributable to shareholders of HK$ 7.57 billion for the first half of 2021, down by nearly a quarter from a year ago due to reactivated cargo business and decreased costs amid the impact of COVID-19. Tightening travel restrictions and quarantine requirements in Hong Kong and other main markets caused great challenges to the company, Cathay’s Chairman Patrick Healy said. “COVID-19 will continue to have a severe impact on our business until borders are reopened and travel restrictions are lifted,” Mr. Healy told a news conference after the results were announced, adding that the sudden increase in coronavirus infections in mainland China recently made the situation more unpredictable than previously. Cathay said its first-half losses narrowed 23.3% from a loss of HK$ 9.87 billion the same period a year ago. However, its total revenue for the six-month period dropped about 43% to HK$ 15.9 billion under the COVID-19. Shares of Cathay rose 3.55% to close at HK$ 6.42 after the results, outperforming a 0.2% gain on the benchmark Hang Seng Index. Passenger service remained badly affected in the first half of the year as the revenue plunged 93.2% to HK$ 748 million. Revenue passengers carried dropped 96.4% to 157,000, and passenger capacity decreased 85% compared to the prior year. Basic loss per ordinary share shrunk 46.5% to 122.1 HK cents, compared to 228.1 HK cents in the previous year, the company said in a statement. However, Cathay said it saw a 24.4% surge in cargo yield and only a 0.6% decrease in the revenue of cargo business during the first six months of 2021, which helped mitigate the company’s losses. Its total operating expenses decreased 39.2% compared to 2020, with a 33.4% drop in staff expenses …

Society

Mass Covid testing in Macau after Delta variant found in one family

More than 600,000 people in Macau have three days to get a Covid test or they may lose access to public transport. There have been long lines outside 41 Covid testing centres since 9 a.m this morning. The move came after a family of four tested positive for the Delta variant. A girl in the family visited Xi’an recently on a school trip. She and two people who sat next to her on a flight to Zhuhai all tested positive. Failure of an online booking system caused further chaos. Some people who thought they had booked a test showed up only to find there was no record of their booking. Xiao Heiwu, a senior high student told The Young Reporter that the queue stretched outside Macao Federation of Trade Unions Workers Stadium where she was waiting for her test. “I booked the test online, but I still needed to wait for an hour,” she said “People had to wait in the rain,” she added. People wait for their Covid test in the rain outside Macao Federation of Trade Unions Workers Stadium. (Video provided by Xiao Heiwu)   Jenny, a student from the University of Macau who didn’t provide her full name, said in a phone interview that she stood in line for over three hours to get tested. “Such a large number of people (should be tested) in such a short period of time,” she said. “Queues are inevitable.”   Macau health authorities announced last night that the health code on everyone’s mobile phone would change to blue from 9 a.m. today, indicating they must get a test. The code was supposed to turn green once a person tests negative. But those who do not get a test within three days will get a yellow health code, which means they …

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 …