By: Shameel IbrahimEdited by: Simran Vaswani

Society

Australia passes media law forcing tech giants Facebook and Google to pay news publishers

Digital platforms including Facebook and Google will now have to pay Australian news publishers, under a new law, the world’s first, passed by Australia on Feb. 25.   Under the News Media Bargaining Code, tech firms are obligated to pay news companies if they have an annual income exceeding AU$150,000 (HK$905,585), a move seen to mostly benefit Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, which owns most of Australia’s major newspapers.   If tech companies do not pay, then they will be fined  AU$10 million (HK$60.1 million) or 10% of the annual turnover of the digital platform.  The code also allows news companies to negotiate payments with tech firms over the next three months. If they do not reach an agreement by that time, arbitrators from the Australian Communications and Media Authority, a government statutory body, would make the final decision on the payment. "For every $100 of online advertising spend, $53 goes to Google, $28 goes to Facebook, and $19 goes to other participants," said Josh Frydenberg, the Treasurer of the Australian government at a press conference.  Facebook suspended hundreds of pages from Australian news outlets, personal blogs and government departments on Feb. 18 following the amendment proposal.  The social media giant said in a statement in August last year that it will stop people from sharing local and international news if the law is passed.  “Assuming this draft code becomes law, we will reluctantly stop allowing publishers and people in Australia from sharing local and international news on Facebook and Instagram,” the statement said.  The platform also said in a statement that the code “fundamentally misunderstands the relationship” between its platform and publishers who use it to share news.   Facebook accepted the code after last-minute changes to the bill, which included a three-month negotiation period with an additional two months for mediation between …

Bail applications for 47 political activists under review for more than 20 hours

  • 2021-03-02

47 democratic politicians charged with conspiracy to commit subversion have waited for more than 20 hours as the West Kowloon Magistracy continues to consider their application for bail. As of 5 pm, 20 of them have yet to learn of the outcome. Lawyers of the defendants have asked for further details of the charges put forward by the prosecutors. But the prosecution side refused, saying they will produce evidence later in the trial. Dozens of people lined up outside West Kowloon Magistrates’ Court at 7 am, hoping to hear the proceedings. Some supporters of the 47 defendants arrived with banners.  “I also came to court yesterday. I stayed till 3 am last night nearby after the police chased us away. I don’t understand how an internal election breaches or threatens national security,” said Ms Chan who refused to give her full name. Alexandra Wong, also known as “Grandma Wong” came to West Kowloon Magistrates’ Court  both days to support the 47 democrat activists. She unfurled a British flag and yelled, “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong” outside the court building. She pledged to wait outside the court until the hearing is over.  More than 50 police were on guard outside the court.  Consideration for bail was suspended at 2 am last night after several politicians fell ill. Clarisse Yeung Suet-Ying, Leung Kwok-Hung, Roy Tam Hoi-Pong and Mike Lam were sent to hospital after 12 hours of hearing yesterday.   

Supporters shout banned slogans as pro-democracy defendants face trial

  • 2021-03-01

Hundreds of people dressed in black shouted slogans outside Western Magistracy today as 47 pro-democracy activists faced “conspiracy to commit subversion” charges. They belted out slogans such as "five demands, not one less," "no rioters, only tyranny," and "liberate Hong Kong, revolutions of our times," all of which were used during the 2019 protest but have since been outlawed under the national security law.    The defendants inside faced charges in connection with participation in the primary elections held last July, ahead of the Legislative Council polls.  “The DAB [and] pro-Beijing parties organised the primary election too. It is very common in Hong Kong and other places, how can that be a crime?” said Emily Lau, a former legislator. “I didn’t feel lucky at all for not participating in the primary election. I prefer to be one of the 47 arrested,” said Herber Chow, a pro-democracy activist as well as the CEO of the children clothing brand, ChickeeDuck. “It’s the most ridiculous case in Hong Kong. We should be here to witness history,” Mr Chow told The Young Reporter. He said some of those in the trial were his high school friends. A 64-year-old woman, Alexandra Wong held a British flag outside the court building. “I hope the whole world will stand together with us for freedom. One dream, one world,”  she said. Among those waiting was 89-year-old Catholic cardinal, Joseph Zen. Like hundreds of others, he was unable to get into the building. Trade unionists and members of the Civic Party held up the three finger salute in support of pro-democracy protesters in Myanmar. A large number of police vans lined the street. Officers held up the purple flag this afternoon to warn the crowd that their slogans were in contravention of the national security law. They also raised the blue …

Society

Hong Kong district councillors required to pledge allegiance to government or face a 5-year election ban

Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Erick Tsang announced that District Councillors may be required to pledge allegiance to the government, under a proposed amendment to the Public Offices (Candidacy and Taking Up Offices) (Miscellaneous) Ordinance.  Violators will be barred from running for office for five years.  Mr Tsang introduced a list of rules that disallow district councillors from running for office. The behaviours that are not allowed include committing acts which endanger national security such as refusing to recognise China’s sovereignty over Hong Kong, involving foreign government interference in the city and advocating for “Hong Kong independence” among others.  “I believe that, if according to the list, the individuals are sincere in upholding the Basic Law and swearing allegiance to the SAR government, they won’t have to be worried,” Mr Tsang said. Under Article 6 of the national security law, residents “who stand for election or assume public office shall confirm in writing or take an oath to uphold the Basic Law.” The ordinance also contains a clause that will remove any councillor who is “declared or decided” to have failed to fulfill the requirements of bearing allegiance to the city.  The first reading of the bill will commence on March 17. The second and third reading will be decided in the second quarter of 2021, according to the  LegCo document.  “If they disqualify a councillor, who came from the election, actually they are not only disqualifying us, but also disqualifying the citizens,” said Wong Tin-yan, a district councillor for the Lai King constituency.  The district councillors are also required to sing the national anthem of China as part of the proposed oath-taking requirement. Mr. Tsang said that four incumbent pro-democracy district council members --  Lester Shum, Tiffany Yuen, Tat Cheng and Fergus Leung --  would be expelled from …

Business

Budget Address 2021: tax concession reduced by half

Hong Kong’s Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po on Wednesday announced salaries tax breaks of up to HK$10,000 while raising stamp duties on stock transfers from 0.1% to 0.13%.  With 1.87 million Hongkongers benefiting from the tax break, government revenue will be reduced by HK$11.4 billion due to the waivers, said Mr Chan.  Last year’s tax waiver was capped at HK$20,000.  Meanwhile, the stamp duty increase will be applied to both buyers and sellers. This is the first increase since 1993, provoking complaints from the securities industry.  After the announcement, Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing’s share price recorded a 9% drop The Hang Seng Index faced its biggest drop of nearly 3% since May last year.  Cheung Tsz Wai, a 33 year old Uber driver, said he is disappointed in the budget. “It is no help to citizens like me,” Mr Cheung said.  “During the pandemic, everyone faced a financial crisis,” Mr Cheung said. “Not only the government did not distribute welfare this year, but they even reduced all kinds of allowance and subsidies.” Agnes Cheung, director and head of Tax of BDO Limited, said the budget was “as expected” and “shortsighted”. Ms Cheung said BDO had wanted a tax deduction for rental expenses, but the budget did not address the item this year.  “There are only “sweeteners” for the property owner from Home Loan Interest Deduction, but nothing for the rental paying group,” said Ms Cheung. “It just focuses on the current year measures, saving expenses, but didn’t take a broader approach to target Hong Kong long term economy growth.” Webster Ng, president of the Taxation Institute of Hong Kong, said the measures were normal. “Additional revenue from stamp duty will make room for tax relief,” he said.  “In this year, everybody including the government is suffering, we are all …

Society

Budget Address 2021: Hong Kong government rolls out plans to rescue the tourism industry

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Shameel Ibrahim、AMALVY Esten Carr Claude Ole EriksenEdited by: Simran Vaswani
  • 2021-02-24

  Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po announced HK$934 million for the pandemic-stricken tourism sector in the budget address on Wednesday morning. He said, HK$169 million of the allocated budget will be used for local cultural, heritage and creative tourism projects, such as the Yim Tin Tsai Arts Festival and the City in Time. More than HK$2 billion has already been injected into the tourism industry. An additional HK$765 million will be reserved for the Hong Kong Tourism Board.  He added that the relaxation of social distancing measures will allow local tour groups to resume as long as public health can be protected. “Sectors such as airlines, travel agents, tour operators and some retail, it [the pandemic] has been disastrous,” said Professor Brian King, Associate Dean at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University School of Hotel and Tourism Management. In Hong Kong, the tourism industry is one of the city's major economic sectors. According to HKTB, Hong Kong received over 59 million visitors in 2019 and only over 3 million in 2020.  Hong Kong’s airport has been closed, only allowing the city's residents from overseas to land following strict quarantine and immigration measures. The two other borders -- the Shenzhen Bay Port and the Hong Kong-Macau-Zhuhai Bridge -- have been shut.  Mass-layoffs have been made in airline industries such as Cathay Pacific, the city’s flagship airline. It’s sister company, Cathay Dragon, permanently shut down. The unemployment rate, which is at 7%, is the highest Hong Kong has seen in 17 years.  A low-interest loan scheme for unemployed Hong Kong residents was also announced in the budget address. The loan is capped at HK$80,000 per person targeting some 250,000 unemployed residents.  Prof King said that the loan scheme will aid tourism sector workers, who can now find other sources of income as the …

Health & Environment

Budget Address 2021: Initiative to achieve carbon neutrality and funding for recycling welcomed by NGO

The Hong Kong government will allocate additional funding for green projects in the new budget proposal announced this morning to help the city meet its carbon neutrality target by 2050.  A billion dollars has been injected into funding more than 80 projects that aim to install small-scale renewable energy systems, like solar panels and solar water heaters at government buildings.  The Recycling Fund will also receive $1 billion for individual local recycling enterprises aimed to enhance and expand their recycling operations in Hong Kong and non-profit-distributing organisations to undertake non-profit making projects.  The city has been widely criticized for its lack of effort in recycling and waste management.  “The fund is very important to help local traditional recycling companies to transform into a more workable and sustainable model,” said Lo Kiu-fung, the Project Manager of Designing Hong Kong, a local environmental NGO.  NGOs can also benefit from $150 million, a separate fund set aside so the government can help install energy-saving appliances and conduct energy audits for free.  The scheme is expected to benefit more than a thousand businesses, said Mr Chan. “The application period for recycling funds will be extended to 2027 so as to render continuous support to the trade, particularly the SMEs, in enhancing its operational capabilities and efficiency as well as coping with the latest needs of both the local and non-local markets,” said Financial Secretary, Paul Chan Mo-po. Mr. Lo describes the city's waste disposal situation as very urgent. “We are behind a lot of Asian cities, and people are producing more and more waste,” he said. Hong Kong's major environmental concern is air pollution and waste management, according to the Environmental Protection Department. The city is facing a landfill shortage.  The total amount of solid waste disposed of in Hong Kong's landfills in 2019 was …

LIVE: Hong Kong Budget Address 2021-22

  • 2021-02-24
  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Shameel Ibrahim、Jasmine TseEdited by: Simran Vaswani
  • 2021-02-24

    Introduction This year's Budget Address comes after the city suffered an economic shrinkage of 6.1% in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po is expected to forecast an economic growth from 3.5% to 5.5%. Mr Chan will deliver the Budget Address today (Wednesday) at 11am. His speech will include supporting enterprises and employment, reviving the economy, focusing on land and housing among other things. 12:53pm This concludes the live coverage of Hong Kong Budget Address 2021. Stay tuned for more in-depth coverage on our website and social media platforms. 12:52pm The govt’s revised estimate on its revenue is $543.5 billion, lower than the estimates by 5.1% or $29 billion, mainly due to the lower land premium. #BudgetAddress2021 @hkbutyr — Shameel Ibrahim (@shameel_ibrahim) February 24, 2021 HK govt revenue for 2020-21 was lower than estimated (by $29 billion) while govt expenditure was higher than estimated (by $89.3 billion) @hkbutyr #budgetaddress2021 — Jasmine Tse (@jasmineytse) February 24, 2021 12:48pm The govt will not revise rates of profits tax and salaries tax, two of the major sources of revenue for the govt, due to financial woes by the public as well as businesses. #BudgetAddress2021@hkbutyr — Shameel Ibrahim (@shameel_ibrahim) February 24, 2021 12:46pm “This is not the time to introduce new taxes,” said Financial Secretary Chan @hkbutyr #budgetaddress2021 — Jasmine Tse (@jasmineytse) February 24, 2021 12:42pm Govt spending on livelihood, policy areas of education, social welfare and health care will not be reduced, said Paul Chan.#BudgetAddress2021 @hkbutyr — Shameel Ibrahim (@shameel_ibrahim) February 24, 2021 12:38pm He added that the city will record a deficit for a number of years after achieving a surplus for 15 years.  #BudgetAddress2021 @hkbutyr — Shameel Ibrahim (@shameel_ibrahim) February 24, 2021 “I expect that the fiscal deficit will be $101.6 billion, accounting for 3.6 per …

Society

Mosques in the city reopen following relaxation of Covid-19 social distancing measures

Hong Kong’s mosques opened on Feb 19 for prayers after being shut for almost three months.  Members of the Muslim community flocked to the mosque following the announcement from the Incorporated Trustees of the Islamic Community Fund of Hong Kong - the official body representing the city's Muslims. All five official mosques are open to conduct prayers with social distancing measures in place.  The city's mosques have been closed since December intermittently every two weeks which were put in place to combat the fourth coronavirus wave.  “It was a sense of relief, a sense of joy,” said Adeel Malik, chairman of the Muslim Council of Hong Kong.  He added that many Muslims were longing for the mosques to open, but also noted that the government implemented strict measures for the larger good of the community.  The opening of the mosques coincided with the weekly Friday prayers, which is an important day of the week for the Islamic faith.  Religious sermons are held during Fridays on issues in both the Muslim and wider communities in Hong Kong.  One of the weekly sermon topics were "Lessons from Lockdown", where Mufti Muhammad Arshad, the chief Imam of the Kowloon Mosque and Islamic Centre urged the community to unite against the pandemic regardless of race or religion.  Muslims came to the city as sailors in 1829, working for the British-owned Jardine Matheson, a shipping company.  By the 1850s, the growing Muslim community led to the formation of the Incorporated Trustees of the Islamic Community Fund, which became the official representative body for Muslims in Hong Kong.  

Society

Ma On Shan historical iron mine landmarks to disappear under rezoning plan

Wong Mei-fong, 55, still remembers her childhood summers in Pun Shan, a small village in the New Territories in Ma On Shan: catching shrimp in the rivers of the backyard garden, playing with mud with her neighbors who also helped them to renovate their house and playing hide-and-seek behind the old tree of the village temple.  These places will only be retained in memories if the amendment to the Ma On Shan Outline Zoning Plan passes. The Wong family represents three generations of villagers born and raised in this former iron ore mining village. Now, Pun Shan is marked for redevelopment in the amendment to Ma On Shan Outline Zoning Plan, originally approved in 2016 to develop 814 hectares of land. The new proposal will add  9.67 hectares from seven green belt lands, the size of approximately 27 football fields, and will cut around 3,560 trees, according to the villagers. The village land will be developed into a private estate and government, institution and community lands.  A group of villagers are actively protesting the amendment, working with district councillors and local green NGOs and setting up social media accounts to raise awareness. Villagers have held around 10 demonstrations to raise awareness of their plight. “My parents don’t have much energy to protest and some of the elderlies are not familiar with social media, so we as the younger generation, take up this job to reach out to the public and attract more people to take part in preserving Pun Shan Village,” said Wong Yuk-hong, 29, the son of Ms Wong and the organizer of the rezoning plan protest. As one of the oldest mining villages in Ma On Shan, Pun Shan village witnessed the mining industry from its beginnings in 1906 to prosperity and finally to its closure in 1976. …