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By: Jasmine Tse、Janice LoEdited by: Simran Vaswani

Society

Policy Address 2021 Key Takeaways: developing a metropolis and upholding 'one country, two systems'

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s fifth and final policy address of her current term surpassed last year’s to become the lengthiest address ever. Reading her 80-page policy blueprint over a record span of two hours and 38 minutes, Lam spoke about her government’s commitment to the ‘one country, two systems’ principle and introduced the usual extensive list of economic and social measures.  Here are five key takeaways from her speech today: 1.Increasing housing supply Lam said the government identified 350 hectares of land to produce 330,000 public housing units over the next 10 years, a slight increase from last year’s figures.  Lam also announced the Northern Metropolis Development Strategy, a project to transform 30,000 hectares of the northern part of Hong Kong into a metropolitan area. Lam said the completion of the project will contain more than 900,000 residential units — including the  existing 390,000 — to accommodate about 2.5 million people. However, local advocacy groups were disappointed by the policy address’ lack of plans in addressing housing needs in subdivided flats. 2.  Bolstering Hong Kong’s position as an international hub Noting the financial services industry as “an important pillar” of Hong Kong’s economy, Lam aims to better position the city in bridging mainland China’s market with the international market by improving the stock exchange’s listing regime and expanding offshore business to using yuan currency.  Lam seeks to further foster the city’s status in international trade by forming closer relations with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and seeking to join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. Lam also pushed for Hong Kong to become a leader in legal and dispute resolution within the Asia-Pacific. The Department of Justice will organise the Greater Bay Area’s legal professional exam and allow Hong Kong enterprises registered in Qianhai to adopt Hong Kong …

Society

Policy address 2021: Northern Metropolis development project to boost land supply, address housing woes

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: REN Ziyi David、Kylie Wong、Serena KongEdited by: Zhu Zijin Cora 朱子槿、CHEN Bingyi
  • 2021-10-06

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor proposed a large-scale development plan in the northern New Territories in her last policy address of this term. Creating a new town on the border with Shenzhen, the plan will develop 600 hectares of land capable of housing 2.5 million people to address the current housing shortage.  “We cannot avoid the question of how much land Hong Kong lacks, as the projected shortfall will guide our spatial development strategy,” Lam said. The plan was delivered as the government of one of the world’s least affordable real estate markets pledged to ease the housing problem under pressure from Beijing.  “There will not be much change in the short term as planning requires time,” said Yuen Wai-kee, associate professor of the department of economics and finance at Hong Kong Shue Yan University.  “What Lam puts forward now is merely an early stage conceptual layout while the actual implementation might take at least 10 years.” The plan will increase the city’s public housing, though Lam did not say by how many. According to reports released by the Hong Kong Housing Authority, the average waiting time for public housing in 2020 is about six years. For the single elderly applicants aged above 58, it is about four years.  Many waiting for public housing live in cramped subdivided flats. Currently, 209,700 people live in units averaging one fourth to one third the size of a standard flat, according to the 2016 population by-census.  in July, Xia Baolong, director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, urged Hong Kong to scrap subdivided flats and “cage homes” by 2049.  Beijing’s top representative in the city, Luo Huining, followed up by paying visits to such homes on National Day last week. Increasing land supply with more affordable houses has been a …

Society

Policy Address 2021: advocacy group surprised over lack of subdivided flats relief measures

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Karmen Li、Tracy LeungEdited by: Bowie Tse、WANG Yichun
  • 2021-10-06

Tenants living in the city’s cramped subdivided flats expected help from today’s policy address but were disappointed by a lack of concrete plans. Another 5,000 transitional housing units will be made available to people waiting for public housing, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said in her fifth policy address, after announcing earlier this week that the housing shortage would be the focus of her talk to the Legislative Council. The supply is expected to increase to 20,000 in the following years.  “The policy address failed to respond to the urgent housing needs of residents who are now living in subdivided flats and cage homes,” said Sze Lai-shan, a committee member of the local advocacy group Society for Community Organization. ”The number of transitional housing units should increase to 50,000 units in five years.”  In 2021, there were 226,000 people living in around 110,000 subdivided flats, according to the Hong Kong Legislative Council. Lam also said in the policy address that the previously-announced rent control measures for subdivided flats will go into effect in January to curb landlords from increasing rent for two years. Private housing between 70 to 99.9 square meters, colloquially referred to as subdivided flats, saw rent increase 42% between 2010 and 2019, according to SoCO. “Apart from the tenancy control, the regulations on the control of starting rents of subdivided flats are not proposed in the policy address after we have already expressed our demands to the government earlier,” Sze added.  “I am disappointed this time as I often hear that the government officials uphold the slogan ‘say goodbye to subdivided flats’ but it turned out that the government was only concerned about economic development,” said Li Miaorong, who has lived in a subdivided flat in Sham Shui Po for the last three years.  The family …

Society

Policy Address 2021: strengthen national education for students and teachers, Lam says

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Nola Yip、Tiffany MaEdited by: SHI Ruoshui、POON Hiu Lam、BellaHuang
  • 2021-10-06

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor highlighted national education in today’s policy address, saying that strengthening it is a way to cope with students who have been misled and participated in “extreme political activities”. This school year, liberal studies classes were replaced with the new subject “citizenship and social development” starting from form-4.  Lam said she would personally conduct classes for teachers of the new subject so that they may have a better grasp of the status and power of the constitution as well as the function of the chief executive under “One Country, Two Systems”. “It is hard to squeeze in time for national education elements on top of the current tightly-scheduled teaching curriculum. Giving classes for teachers would be unnecessary. Newly-joined teachers are required to take a three to six hour training course on national education,” said Ho Ho-ping, a secondary school teacher.  “Wide-ranging guidelines on national education would be confusing to teachers. There are doubts about the effectiveness of national security education,” Ho said. However, Ho said that highlighting civic education can emphasize the importance of being a law-abiding citizen for young people.  Lam said that a minority of students have been “deluded and radicalised to take part in illegal acts and even organise extreme political activities”, and called for cultivating the sense of “national identity, values and civic-mindedness.” Kevin Yeung Yun-hung, the Secretary for Education, has requested schools to formulate and implement formal plans on national security education as soon as possible. Universities are also advised to teach national education. Hong Kong Baptist University introduced a two-hour national security law education class as a graduation requirement this year.  Sami Luk, a third-year student from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said that she disagrees with Lam’s comments on the “deluded and radicalized” students.  “Some …

Society

Policy address 2021: No new measures announced to help Hong Kong's ethnic minorities access public education; experts say current system ineffective

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Kelly Pang、Malick GaiEdited by: Simran Vaswani、Jasmine Tse
  • 2021-10-06

Government subsidies to public schools to encourage the enrollment of non-Chinese speaking students over the last seven years will be assessed on their effectiveness, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said in her policy address today.  However, the Audit Commission already published a report in March, revealing that enrollment of non-Chinese speaking students increased by 12.6% from 2015 to 2019. Government spending to support non-Chinese speaking students also increased by 87% to HK$456.3 million in the same period. However, 17% of the schools which received subsidies over the five-year period were revealed to have “utilised less than 70% of the total amount of the grant provided,” according to the report. “Money is being put into NGOs and education for ethnic minorities, but it's at a very surface level,” said Jeffrey Andrews, manager at the Christian Action Centre for Refugees, who was the first ethnic minority to run for the Legislative Council.  Furthermore, the audit found the Education Bureau did not visit or monitor the use of the subsidies at 15% of primary, secondary and special schools. The Education Bureau has also “not set training requirements for primary, secondary and special schools on teaching non-Chinese speaking students Chinese as a second language,” the report revealed.  Lam said in the policy address that she hoped “language will no longer be a barrier for non‑Chinese speakers to integrate into the local community and enter the job market.” The government also introduced and implemented a non-Chinese Speaking Grant in 2020, providing over HK$450 million to cater educational needs of ethnic minorities. The funding allows non-Chinese speaking students to learn Chinese to ease the language barrier. However, other reports have made similar conclusions to the Audit Commission, highlighting the ineffectiveness of government funding for non-Chinese speaking students. “Support measures for primary and secondary schools should …

Society

Migration and misinformation amid uncertainty in Hong Kong

Jean Francois Harvey from Harvey Law Group, along with over 60 immigration companies, were at the International Immigration and Property Expo on March 27. However, what Mr Harvey witnessed there left him dumbfounded. “I saw consultants openly telling people to buy start-up visas. I also saw others squarely selling jobs — it may not be a real job, but it’ll get them the visa,” Mr Harvey recounted. Paying money for a job offer is illegal in Canada, but such blatant advertising at the expo shows how many people are not aware of Canadian immigration policies, making them susceptible to misinformation and fraud. Immigration fraud has long been an issue in Hong Kong, as Mr Harvey observed throughout his 29 years as an immigration lawyer. “But now, there’s a big increase in interest in immigration, so there’s more misinformation than ever,” said Mr Harvey. The number of Hong Kong passport holders applying for temporary or permanent residency in Canada reached 8,121 in 2020, hitting its highest point in at least five years despite border closures because of Covid-19, according to Reuters. And with misinformation comes fraud. Canadian Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Marco Mendicino released a statement on March 5 to commemorate the government’s Fraud Prevention campaign, saying, “Immigration fraud targets people who want to come to Canada in good faith. Sadly, the pandemic has exacerbated these troubling activities, with new ways for dishonest individuals to defraud clients.” A 2019 investigation by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation exposed how an immigration consultancy targeted Chinese nationals and charged them up to $170,000 Canadian dollars (HK$1,052,754) for a fake job. CBC also found that Hong Kong had reported “high rates of fraud or suspected fraud, and only 15-22% of arranged employment offers were found to be genuine.” Nancy Caron, a spokesperson for Immigration, …

Society

Ethnic minority entrepreneurs break the glass ceiling

It was almost 8 pm when Anushka Purohit walked into a bakery in Tsim Sha Tsui. Fixated at the smell of freshly baked, glossy and sweet bread that lingered hours after it came out of the oven, she hoped to buy a piece before the store closed.  As she was getting ready to pay, the cashier said to the rest of the staff, “Last order of the day.”  On her way out, Anushka noticed a tall pile of trays, with each one separated by a layer of assorted breads. “What are you going to do with all this bread,” she asked, curious to know what will happen to all the leftovers.  “Throw it,” the cashier said while the other staff prepared black garbage bags. Anushka was shocked by the amount of fresh bread that was going to waste.  Days later she saw someone drinking beer. That got her thinking about how to turn one fermented product into another and that’s when Breer was born.  Anushka and her three co-founders of Breer use unwanted bread to make beer.   In 2019, Hong Kong saw 109.5kg of domestic food waste and 51.5kg of commercial and industrial food waste per person, according to the Environmental Protection Department. With craft beer and breweries becoming increasingly popular in Hong Kong alongside what seemed like a never-ending food waste problem, Breer seemed like a good solution. She first came up with the idea for the Enactus Social Innovation Competition at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. After representing Hong Kong in the national competition, the team decided to pursue it full time, using the money they won from the competitions as capital.  Almost half of store-disposed foods in Hong Kong is leftover bread, according to a report by Breer. The city also produces 3,600 tonnes of …

China's billion dollar "blind box" toys craze

  • 2021-04-15

Lin Tangtang is shaking a box against his ear in a brightly lit toy shop. He is trying to guess from the sound and the weight of the box to see whether the doll inside is the one he wants. “All of my friends are buying blind boxes,” the 21-year-old university student said. “Every time I go out to eat, I will go to the store to buy one or two of the new series of dolls. It’s already a habit of mine.” He has bought over 200 figurines since July 2019, each of them costing 59 yuan (HK$70). A blind box is a type of packaging that keeps its content hidden. The box is identical in every way and nobody--including the store owner--knows which toy is inside.  In recent years, the "blind box craze" has gradually become a phenomenon in China, attracting many young consumers to buy mystery boxes and in order to collect the toys inside.  Pop Mart, the largest company in the Chinese blind box industry, launched a US$674 million (HK$5.2 billion) initial public offering in Hong Kong last year. The driving force behind China's blind box business is pop culture. The market was valued at 29.48 billion yuan (HK$35.38 billion) in 2020, a 44% increase year on year, according to a Chinese data analysis platform iMedia. The products in the blind box mainly just toys with images authorized for production by the original creators.  There are mainly two types of intellectual property (IP) rights for Pop Mart’s blind box toys: existing IP from well-known movies, cartoons, games and historical figures with a story background such as characters from the Harry Potter books. Then there are original IPs designed by artists without story content, such as a popular green-eyed blonde hair pouting lips girl, Molly, designed by …

Society

A Hong Kong Calligraphy Master

Every corner, wall and even the floor of King Wah Signboards in North Point is covered with the calligraphy of  Au Yeung Cheong. There are also photos of his visitors, both local and from overseas.  It’s a kind of creative mess with ink, plastic boards and paper all over the floor.  The shop has been around for 30 years but recently relocated to Kam Ping Street after the State Theatre building was sold.  The 65-year-old Chinese calligraphy master is well known for his remarkable and unique real script Mr Au Yeung has created more than a thousand signboards in Hong Kong, starting from writing, text carving to installing lightboxes.  He started when he first arrived in Hong Kong in the 1970s and later set up his shop King Wah Signboard. “The real script was created and used by emperors as the official typeface since the Tang Dynasty,” Mr Au Yeung claimed.  He described the strokes as Guan Yu’s blade, clean-cut, awe-inspiring, which is different from the Song Ti font and regular script typeface.  “The Real script shouldn’t look as if they don’t have heads or tails. The characters are tightly structured and as sharp as a knife cutting a watermelon,” he explained. As  Mr Au Yeung demonstrated his calligraphy, he almost threw himself into a trance, savouring the connotation his work seemed to bring him. He then compared his work with the calligraphy of  Wu Zetian, the only empress of China. “Don't you think mine is more beautiful than hers?” he asked.  It might be a common misconception that expensive brushes and ink are needed for the artform. But Mr Au Yeung revealed that his brushes and inks were bought from a hardware store nearby.  “What matters most is the skill you have in handling the brushes and how familiar …

Health & Environment

Hong Kong priority groups get first doses of BioNTech vaccine today

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: AMALVY Esten Carr Claude Ole EriksenEdited by: Simran Vaswani
  • 2021-03-10

Priority group Hongkongers were given access to the German-made BioNTech vaccine today for the first time since the first 585,000 doses arrived in Hong Kong on Feb. 27.  In addition to the elderly, priority groups include food and beverages servers, food delivery workers, transportation operators, construction workers, property management staff, teachers, and tourism staff. Priority group Hongkongers can schedule bookings at any of the 29 community vaccination centres spread throughout the city, which opened their doors at 9 am.  At the EDB Kowloon Tong Education Service Center, people showed up in droves to receive their first shots. EDB Kowloon Tong Education Service Center is one of 29 vaccination centres in Hong Kong. “I got it this morning and at least for me I've had the whole morning already and I feel fine nothing feels any different I guess," said Priyanka, a local woman on site this afternoon to accompany her father to get his first vaccine.  Both Priyanka and her father opted for the BioNTech vaccine against the widely available Chinese-made Sinovac vaccine, as distrust of the Sinovac vaccine spreads among Hongkongers.  “According to all the available information, I think this is one of the most reliable, safe, and protective vaccines that we can get worldwide,” said Dr Y. K Lo, who also made his way to the Kowloon Tong Education Service Center this afternoon to receive his vaccine.  Dr Y. K Lo stands outside the Education Centre in Kowloon Tong after having received a BioNTech vaccine today. Distrust in the Sinovac vaccine started when a local woman, 55, and a man, 73, died this past week after receiving their first shot. Although Hong Kong health authorities have ruled out the vaccine as the main cause of death, Hong Kongers are not convinced.  The efficacy rate for the Chinese vaccine varies …