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By: YANG Zhenfei、WANG Jingyan 王婧言Edited by: Vikki Cai Chuchu、Kwok Chiu Tung 郭昭彤

Business

Policy Address 2021: Northern NT 'metropolis' to see massive housing development, increase to 350,000 units

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: YANG Zhenfei、WANG Jingyan 王婧言Edited by: Vikki Cai Chuchu、Kwok Chiu Tung 郭昭彤
  • 2021-10-06

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor announced a massive development plan, including  housing, commercial property, transportation infrastructure and technology companies, on the border with the mainland in her last policy address today. The Northern Metropolis Development Strategy will add around 600 hectares of land to the Northern District and Yuen Long District for housing and commercial use, including 165,000 to 186,000 additional housing units, she said, bringing the total number of units to 926,000 for around 2.5 million people.  “It is the most vibrant area in Hong Kong, where urban development and major population growth will occur over the next 20 years,” Lam said. The area is also expected to generate about 650,000 jobs, of which 150,000 will be IT related.  Some of the land to be developed is brownfield, undeveloped  land mainly used as open storage yards, warehouses and other industrial or rural workshops. The land-use efficiency of these brownfield operation sites is generally low.  Li Che Lan, professor in public policy at City University Hong Kong said land is one of the most pressing issues in Hong Kong. She said the development of the New Territories will alleviate the problems of high housing prices and a housing shortage in Hong Kong. Mee Kam Ng, Director of the Urban Studies Programme at Chinese University of Hong Kong, said that the development of New Territories Area can considerably increase land supply. Li said the government should emphasize environmental protection during the development. However, Ng said the development plan is more realistic and environmentally friendly, compared to Lantau Tomorrow Vision, which will be built on reclaimed land. “The New Territories is the largest area in Hong Kong with the most ample development space, which has rich cultural heritage and historic sites,” she said, expecting that the area can turn into a …

Explosive growth of short-sightedness among school children during pandemic

  • 2021-08-30

More school children have developed short-sightedness and the condition of those who are already myopic has worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic, a study by the Chinese University of Hong Kong has found.   Researchers say the suspension of face-to-face classes was the cause of the “myopia boom” as children are spending more time indoors and on the screens of electronic gadgets.   The research team from the university’s Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences compared the vision development of 709 children between the ages of six and eight from December 2019 to January 2020 (COVID-19 cohort) and that of another 1,084 children of the same ages who were the subject of a three-year vision study before January 2020 (the control group).   It found that almost 30% of the COVID-19 cohort developed myopia, and that the figure was 2.5 times higher than the 12% for the control group.   The study noted that the life mode of children before and after the COVID-19 pandemic changed, with the COVID-19 cohort spending just 24 minutes outdoors on average per day, or less than one-third of the control group’s 75 minutes.   Besides, while the control group spent just 2.5 hours staring at the screens of electronic gadgets on average per day, the COVID-19 cohort were spending as much as seven hours.   Speaking at a press conference on the study, 8-year-old Nicole Leung said she used to spend only half an hour a day doing homework, but during the pandemic she spent three to four hours.   "Before the pandemic, there were about two hours of outdoor activities a day, but now there are almost no outdoor activities during the weekdays, and few on weekends," she said.   Nicole's mother, who would only be identified as Jessica, said Nicole’s myopia worsened from …

Alliance of housing activists: Hong Kong needs more and better transitional housing

  • 2021-08-26

Hong Kong needs more transitional housing and more government support in helping families move from poor living conditions to public rental homes, a collection of non-government organizations that promote housing issues said during a news conference today.    The Concerning Grassroots' Housing Rights Alliance, created in mid-2010 and composed of various NGOs and neighborhood committees, put forward several suggestions to improve the city’s current difficult housing situation and called on the government to provide more assistance.   "We suggest that the government provide appropriate support to organizations interested in applying for land for transitional housing projects," said Mr. Chow Wai Hung, a representative of the alliance. "The government can also refer to the 'government-led' transitional housing principle implemented in other countries and take the initiative to find and manage land, so as to shorten the time for the completion of social housing and provide more units."   Currently there are 1,306 completed transitional housing flats in Hong Kong. According to a government projection the number of available flats will increase to 15,000 before 2023. The average waiting time for public housing is more than five years with about 250,000 applicants on a waiting list. There are nearly 220,000 people living in subdivided housing in Hong Kong.   Following Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s announcement last month of the 2021 Policy Address Public Consultation, during which she implored, “I sincerely invite members of the public to give their views on the 2021 Policy Address so that we can map out the future of Hong Kong together,” the alliance conducted a survey on transitional housing from July 29 to Aug. 16, releasing some results of the survey during the news conference.   Among the 218 respondents, nearly 90% said they are waiting for public housing. More than 60% of the respondents …

Revitalised Central Market opens its doors to visitors

  • 2021-08-23

Central Market at 93 Queen’s Road Central welcomed visitors again today after a four-year face lift.   The $500 million makeover has transformed the long disused building into a complex of shops and food stalls. What used to be the atrium of the building is now a seating area for visitors.   Listed as a grade III historic building, Central Market is a collective memory for generations of Hong Kongers. The Bauhaus style structure was completed in 1939 but closed in 2003. Six years later, the government announced a revitalisation plan, overseen by the Urban Renewal Authority (URA).  After many rounds of planning and revising, reconstruction began in 2017. The revitalisation project has retained a lot of the original characteristics of the building. On entering the main doorway, visitors can see 13 original stalls previously used for the sale of produce. The main staircase still has the stone bannister, but a new metal railing has been added to make it more user friendly. The atrium on the ground floor retains the open-air design and is now used as a resting space and for holding large-scale events in the future.    An on-site staff told The Young Reporter that "the market looks almost the same as it was 60 years ago from the outside!" Central Market was once the largest meat market in Southeast Asia. But hte new building is now a complex for shops and food stalls with space available for exhibitions and start-ups. 77-year-old Leo Ng was among the first group of visitors. For him, Central Market holds some of his childhood memories.   "I think there should be some change. We cannot completely copy the original layout," Mr. Ng said while pointing at an ice cream shop.  “For example, snacks are popular among young people, and only such …

Sports fans cheer and wave to Hong Kong Tokyo Olympic team during triumphant welcome back parade

  • 2021-08-19

  Snapping mobile phone photos and waving Hong Kong flags, hundreds of sports enthusiasts cheered members of the city’s record-breaking Tokyo Olympic team during a Thursday morning parade through the streets of Kowloon to welcome back the athletes and their coaching staff.   Aboard two open-roofed double-decker buses, two-time swimming silver medal winner Siobhán Bernadette Haughey, karate bronze-medalist Grace Lau Mo-sheung, and the bronze medal women’s team table tennis team of Doo Hoi Kem, Lee Ho Ching and Minnie Soo Wai Yam waved to fans who lined the streets from the Hong Kong Coliseum in Hung Hom to the Xiqu Centre in West Kowloon Cultural District .    "Hong Kong people attach great importance to sports and have great respect for Olympic athletes," said Mr. Lai, who said he likes Miss Haughey very much and was very excited to see her today.    "It's a pity that Edgar Cheung Ka Long, the fencing champion, and Sarah Lee Wai Sze, who won the bronze medal in the cycling race, failed to come. They are going to Xi'an to participate in the National Games." said him. From 9:30 to 11 a.m. the buses snaked along Nathan Road, Salisbury Road and Canton Road, before arriving at the Xiqu Centre, where the Hong Kong government hosted a reception for the Olympic team.   As the buses drove along Salisbury Road in Tsim Sha Tsui, about 100 sports fans gathered in front of the Space Museum, holding up their mobile phones to take photos of the two dozen or so members of the team taking part in the parade. Some fans even chased the buses and waved to the athletes, while for others the drive-by was too quick.   "The bus drove too fast, there were only about ten seconds and I didn't see them …

Society

Beware of overseas relocators’ hidden charges and delivery delays, says Consumer Council

The Consumer Council has received 20 complaints against overseas removal companies in the first seven months of this year, as the number of people emigrating overseas soared.   Most of them related to last-minute price increases, hidden charges or delivery delays. The government has no official estimates on the number of people who have emigrated, but the latest population tally suggests that there was a net outflow of 89,200 people between mid-2020 and 2021. By mid-2021, the city had 7,394,700 people, or 1.2% less than a year ago.   The consumer watchdog advises people relocating overseas to watch out for hidden surcharges after an undercover investigation by the council found that shipping charges quoted by relocators varied by a great deal.   The investigation involved Consumer Council staff members posing as customers to ask for quotations of the costs of shipping to London in Britain and Toronto in Canada.   Of the 14 relocators that responded, the quoted charges for shipping 40 to 50 boxes to London ranged from $20,000 to $50,000.   Half of them did not remind consumers that the actual charges may be different from the estimates, and a similar number of companies said they would charge extra fees if the boxes had to be carried upstairs, though some were unclear about the charging scales.   For shipping to Toronto, although eight of the 11 responding companies took the initiative to tell customers that the final charges may be different from the quotations, most of them said it was  difficult to provide a precise delivery time and the cost of upstairs unloading.   Besides, most companies said it was difficult to accurately determine when the goods could be shipped and when they would arrive, said Nora Tam Fung-Yee, chairman of the council’s Research and Testing Committee.   …

China’s Olympic volunteers train for Winter Games in Beijing bubble

  • 2021-08-12

Training for China’s Olympic volunteers is in full swing as the country prepares for the Winter Games while unveiling strict COVID-19 precautions.   Around 27,000 volunteers selected from more than 1 million applicants will be part of the Olympic bubble in Beijing that will isolate staff, athletes and others connected to the event from the rest of the country.   China’s measures are much stricter than those in Japan, which wrapped up its Summer Olympics with more than 400 reported COVID-19 cases.   “The Winter Olympics are expected to be held as scheduled, but it will be blocked to a certain extent,” said Wu Yifei, chairman of the Hebei Tourism Investment Group Co., Ltd, who is responsible for constructing hotels for the volunteers. “This will lead to a decline in the income of the Winter Olympic industry, but the safety of athletes always comes first.”   Hou Peiqi, a student at Hebei Medical University, signed up as a volunteer because she said she wants to contribute to her hometown. “Since the end of 2019, I have received volunteer training on etiquette, skiing, English, first aid and so on,” she said, “Now I'm good at skiing. The Winter Olympic Games have prompted my interest in ice and snow sports.”   “We will show the world China's style again,” Miss Hou said. “Many people in China are now looking forward to the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games.”  

“Moat city”: Covid policy raises questions in Shijiazhuang

  • 2021-08-10

Since the beginning of this month, Covid precautionary measures in Shijiazhuang, the capital of Hebei province have forced the closure of cinemas, and cancellation of face-to-face classes in kindergartens and tutorial schools. Some events have been cancelled and department stores have stepped up their disinfection routines.   However, there has not been a single case of Covid in Shijiazhuang for more than five months.   A staff member of UME cinema answered the hotline and said that the policy was implemented with very short notice. They do not know whether they will be paid during the closure.   “We are still waiting for a further plan from our company,” she said.   Party officials explained that the city should act as a “moat” to protect Beijing from the pandemic. Geographically, Beijing is surrounded by Hebei province. For years, Shijiazhuang and Hebei province have seen themselves as the “capital political moat”, safeguarding the stability of Beijing.   On August 5, Wang Dongfeng, the secretary of Hebei provincial Party committee, said at a conference dealing with COVID-19 that Hebei would do a good job in pandemic prevention and control, and resolutely acted as the moat of the capital with practical results. The policy is leaving some cinema-goers baffled. According to an announcement posted by China Film Administration on August 4, cinemas in medium and high risk areas should be closed temporarily, but in low-risk areas attendance can be up to 75%.   Kang Hongming, a university student living in Shijiazhuang thought that it was not reasonable to close the cinemas. “Beijing has 23 confirmed cases now but the cinemas there are still open. Shijiazhuang has zero cases but all the cinemas are closed. It's weird,” he said. “ Sometimes the local government considered Beijing first instead of its own citizens,” he added. Wang …

Water World to open on Mid-Autumn Festival

  • 2021-08-09

Water World, Ocean Park’s new attraction, will open on September 21, the day of the Mid-Autumn Festival.   The initial signs are that people are looking forward to trying out the new water rides as "early bird discount" tickets for the first week were sold out in the first 17 minutes after sales opened online at 5 pm today (August 9).   Originally scheduled to open in 2017, Water Park is expected to boost the fortunes of Ocean Park, which has suffered financial losses in recent years because of falling numbers of local and overseas visitors due to the social unrest in 2019 and the COVID-19 pandemic since early 2020.    The amusement facility was saved from financial collapse by a $5.4 billion bailout by the government last year. A subsequent $6.4 billion rebirth plan was approved by the Legislative Council in March.   Built near the sea, Water World is the first facility of its kind in Asia that opens all year round. It has five theme zones and 27 indoor and outdoor attractions, including the city’s first-ever surf rider, nine dynamic water slides and several water play zones.   A visitor to the park, who would only be identified as Ms. Wong, said that she would definitely take her two children to Water World as they both like playing in the water very much.   “(However) I won't do it for the time being because I'm still worried about the spread of the (Covid-19) virus,” she said.    “We know that many people are looking forward to it and many people will go there, but epidemic prevention in the water is difficult to guarantee. You can't swim with a mask."    Ocean Park officials say tourists will be required to wear masks on leaving the pools and moving …

Hong Kong residents and university students arriving from mainland scramble to adapt to latest Return2HK scheme

  • 2021-08-05

After completing the mandatory coronavirus test, passengers on China Eastern flight MU507 from Shanghai, one of the few flights arriving today from mainland China, gradually exited the arrivals hall around 5:30 p.m., reluctantly ready to accept latest quarantine requirements of the Return2HK scheme. "The government did not give us time to respond,'' said Xindy, a passenger on the Shanghai flight who came to work in Hong Kong and will stay in a hotel for her quarantine. "People who do not have a place in Hong Kong have to book hotels to quarantine, but many hotels are fully booked and many don't provide the quarantine service. The time left for us was too short, and the government did not provide any help." The Hong Kong government announced yesterday that due to the sudden increase of coronavirus infections in mainland China, from midnight today (Aug. 5), Hong Kong residents returning from the mainland, except Guangdong Province, are subject to 14-day compulsory quarantine at home under the Return2HK scheme. They are also required to be tested five times for a coronavirus infection during and after the quarantine period. "The previous policy, even if it is urgent, is usually implemented from ‘next Monday.’ It's on short notice this time," said Xindy, who was unhappy with the sudden change and only provided her first name. The new quarantine policy also affects university students arriving from the mainland. Many students who returned to mainland China during summer holiday have to adjust their return plans. "I originally planned to return to Hong Kong after August 20, but now I may go to Shenzhen these days," said Charlotte Wang, an undergraduate film student at Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) who is now in Xi'an. "Since I have to either stay in Guangdong for at least 14 days or …