Business

Society & Politics

Border towns resume peace despite economic loss

Walking down the street of Sheung Shui, it used to be common to see a crowd of parallel traders, filling their luggage with baby formula, beauty and luxurious products in an ‘Asian squat’ outside pharmacies and shopping malls.  Located in the northern part of New Territories with direct rail access to Lo Wu border in China. Sheung Shui is an appealing place for mainland tourists and parallel traders to go on a shopping spree taking advantage of Hong Kong being a tax free haven for these items. Since the anti-extradition bill since June, the area has experienced a dramatic reduction in the number of mainland visitors. Rallies dubbed "Reclaim Sheung Shui" started to break out since 13th July, in the hope to belt out local residents' discontent over a variety of inconveniences brought by mainland visitors. Jack Lai Pak-hei, a freshman from Hong Kong Baptist University, has been living in Sheung Shui since he was a child. "The flow of people at the station is 10 to 20% less than that before the protests broke out," he estimated.   As Sheung Shui station becomes less crowded than before, he can now get on the East Rail Line without getting stuck. Mr. Lai used to be bothered when having his feet crushed because of the heavy suitcases that parallel traders carry across the border.  "Fewer mainlanders makes a better Sheung Shui." Mr. Lai said, "I think the peace of Sheung Shui is restored."  Apart from Sheung Shui, reclaiming activity also broke out in Yuen Long District, another town in the New Territories also close to the border. On the night of 21st July, a gang of white-clad mob attacked passers-by on the street and passengers in Yuen Long MTR station, leaving at least 45 injured. A week later, on 28th July, thousands …

Health & Environment

Weekend Review: Veganism struggles to grow in Hong Kong

People believe it costs more time and money to produce animal-free food and products in Hong Kong. Last weekend, PMQ Central held the first international trade fair and conference for vegan  living, VeggieWorld Hong Kong. And guests including nutritionists and company founders gave speeches inspire the Hong Kong community to live a vegan lifestyle. Vegan food has been the spotlight in the market. The first VeggieWorld Paris in 2016 attracted 6000 to 8000 visitors with the vegan products , such as superfoods, food supplements and meat and dairy alternatives. More than 50 vegan-friendly brands gathered in VeggieWorld Hong Kong to showcase visitors different types of vegan produce as alternatives for the regular ones like chips, chocolate, bread and cheese. Sarah, a foreigner who is living in Hong Kong, said she was glad to have discovered Mayse Artisan Bakery based in Tai Mei Tuk, a bread store which produces plant-based and gluten-free bread, because she has been suffering from gluten-intolerant.   She said despite the fact that the store is far for her, she is happy to start seeing vegan alternatives around because there had not been much choices in Hong Kong for her before.    Mikus, one of the owners of Mayse Artisan Baker, said although the ancient formula he uses to bake their gluten-free bread is successful, it takes them a maximum of  two days to produce a single loaf of bread. "Most of the bakeries nowadays use bleached flour and instant yeast to make bread faster for sales, but the outcome  is not good at all," said Mikus. Holding her new foldable recycle cup while strolling along stalls in the fair, visitor Jenn, who is not a vegetarian, dropped by briefly knowing there were recyclable cups, which she had "always wanted" on sale.   Though impressed by the creativity …

Business

Minimalism in Hong Kong's minuscule flats

Tax consultant, Erica Ip Ka-yee, struggles to find space to work at home. She lives with her parents. "They [her parents] cannot let go of things easily so they keep everything and I understand them," said Ms. Ip, "This situation is unavoidable when living spaces are generally compact within the city." But Ms. Ip is a minimalist. She said her friends often approached her, asking about how to achieve a visually aesthetically-coherent and clean style, similar to images they see on Instagram and Pinterest. She started blogging about the idea in 2017. "To master minimalism, you have to come to terms with your own life in order to see real virtual changes in your living environment," said Ms. Ip. She explained that reflection is important in order to live a minimal life. But she believed few in Hong Kong truly give up their material desires when even their basic needs, such as proper shelter, cannot be guaranteed. Minimalism first emerged in the 1960s as an artistic and abstract ideology in New York, in which artworks were mainly composed of simple shapes, such as triangles and squares, according to information from Tate Modern, an art gallery in London. Today, minimalism has become a social trend that is more than just an artistic concept. Polish designer and college lecturer, Szymon Hanczar has been making the headlines since July 2015 when his idea on a 140 square feet "micro-apartment" appeared in Dezeen, an online international design magazine. "Extremely small flats are great for people who are minimalists, who want to enjoy city life," Mr. Hanczar said. According to Dezeen, Mr. Hanczar's apartment focused mainly on "comfort and functionality" by including merely the "essentials". For example, he hooked his bike, which had been an "integral element of life" for him in Wroclaw, over the wall …

Business

Co-living: Deluxe, dorm-style housing thrives amidst skyrocketing rents

Right next to the entrance door at the flat, a pile of chaotic shoes scattered on the floor. Their millennial owners were winding through the 200 sq ft house on a party night. There is soothing melody swimming through the room as some are preparing dinner in the open kitchen. Finally, the tempting aroma of the cooked food hijacks everyone to the glossy dining table, regardless of whether they are indulging in booze, casual chats or watching movies in the living room. At the first sight, the size of the place doesn't look much different from any other cramped subdivided flats in the city. Yet, there are small details that stand out. Apart from spotless communal living room, bathroom and open-kitchen, the flat is embellished with a modern twist of high-spec, sophisticated décor and even a digital piano. The reason: it is a co-living house. The contemporary concept of co-living, a manifestation of the emerging trend of sharing economy, means  "any shared living space among total strangers". It involves living in close proximity and sharing of resources. The communal nature of such housing arrangement is way beyond just flat-sharing — it also stresses the need for social belonging, community and affiliation. The popularity of such housing arrangement has slowly swept across Asia in recent years. In Mainland China, the term co-living first emerged when a group of youngsters found the YOU+ International Youth Community in 2012 upon their return from the overseas. Soon by the end of 2016, nearly 90 operators boomed across the country, leading by the largest co-living operator Vanke Port Arrangement that has managed more than 60,000 units. Likewise, Singapore has had investment companies investing in co-living startups, such as Helmet. Despite co-living still being a novel idea in Hong Kong in general, some property owners have already seized …

Business

Investors unfazed over grey areas of Bitcoin regulation

Hong Kong has seen the rise of money laundering and illicit payments in this year. According to the Hong Kong Police Force (HKPF), there has been 3671 cases of deception-related crimes reported in the first half of 2018 -- including email scams and investment fraud. In addition, Hong Kong's anti-fraud squad has discovered that thousands of Hong Kong bank accounts have been used to launder about $4 million in the past year. Some of these fraudsters made use of Bitcoin -- a popular type of cryptocurrency -- to commit these crimes. First founded in 2009, Bitcoin does not need to rely on a central bank or single administrator to be sent from user to user.  To ensure its security, Bitcoin also uses cryptography to secure and verify transactions. As such, it is possible to conduct transactions anonymously, allowing these fraudsters to make use of its anonymous nature for ransom or blackmail. This also makes it difficult for police to identify fraudsters. Due to these crimes, local banks are increasingly wary about cryptocurrencies, which makes it more difficult for investors to obtain bank accounts to trade Bitcoin. For example, local cryptocurrency exchange Gatecoin received a notification from Han Seng Bank that their company bank account is suspended without further explanation last year. The exchange was forced to create a foreign bank account to continue with their operations. Banks are also charging high interest rates for many cryptocurrency exchanges in order to discourage investors to mine Bitcoin locally. according to the Bitcoin Association of Hong Kong. These concerns have prompted some nations to scrutinise their current cryptocurrency policies. For example, China is one of the most extreme regulators of cryptocurrency trading. The nation has started to ban Bitcoin miners, while also freezing bank accounts associated with cryptocurrency exchanges. They have even blocked …

Business

Tournament needed for future development of Hong Kong's esports industry

Hong Kong esports athlete, Lo Tsz-kin won a gold medal at the Asian Games 2018. However, since esports is not recognised as an official sport in Hong Kong, he is not eligible to receive the $400,000 cash award as other gold medalists under the Athlete Incentive Award Scheme. Hong Kong's esports industry has been developing slowly compared to other countries, experts say hosting mature tournaments is the key to the industry's future development. The city has a large amount of highly skilled players, yet the industry had started late and the development of the local esports industry is slow when compared to other regional countries which started around the same time as us like Japan and Vietnam, said Marbles So, manager of Kowloon Estadium, a company which provides practice venue and management for professional esports players. According to a report by Cyberport published in 2017, Hong Kong has more than 300,000 esports players. Professional esports teams have been set up by esports management companies such as Kowloon Estadium and Hong Kong Esports Limited. Many professional esports players, however, opted for developing their career outside of Hong Kong, mainly in mainland China and Taiwan. In 2012, Hong Kong League of Legends player Lau Wai-kin, who goes by Toyz, had won the Season 2 World Championship with his Taiwan-based team, Taipei Assassins. The Hong Kong government has been supportive of esports in recent years. In 2017, the government funded $35 million in the Hong Kong Esports Festival, the first esports and music festival organised by the Tourism Board. Acknowledging "tremendous potential" in the industry, Financial Secretary Paul Chan announced in the 2018 budget that the Hong Kong government will allocate $100 million to Cyberport for its development of an arcade for esports competitions and digital entertainment. Still, compared to the global esports …

Business

Catalonia's brewing independence

Spain has a new prime minister this week. Pedro Sanchez defeated his predecessor, Mariano Rajoy in a vote of no confidence. Rajoy is embroiled in a corruption scandal. Although Basque and Catalan nationalist parties voted in favour of Sanchez, it is unclear whether they will support his government. Sanchez, like Rajoy, will likely have to contend with Catalonia’s continuing fight to split from Spain. Walk past any major street in Barcelona and you will notice row upon row of flags fluttering from balconies. In Catalonia, the Senyera estelada, is a symbol of independence. Some of these yellow and red striped ensigns with a lone white star have been there for so long that the stripes have been bleached almost pink and white by the sun. But the newer polemic symbol of Catalonia’s quest to split from Spain are the yellow ribbons. These too are all over Barcelona: spray painted on pavements, tied to railings and lampposts, some of them, giant displays outside residential building stretching several storeys high. Yellow ribbons have become more common since last October when pro-independence parties claimed that most people in Catalonia chose independence from Spain in a referendum. Liz Castro is an American writer and publisher living in Barcelona. In May 2015, she was elected national secretary of the Catalan National Assembly, a grassroot movement for Catalan independence and Ms. Castro is currently chairwoman of the Assembly’s international committee. She has been writing about Catalonia’s fight for independence for years and is also an activist in the Catalan independence movement. Following last year’s referendum, Ms. Castro wrote The Street Will Always Be Ours. Ms. Castro said that Spain is actively suppressing the Catalan economy by not funding the infrastructure that the region needs. "Catalonia represents 16% of the population but Spain only allocates ten or …

Business

Government launches project in Sham Shui Po in support of new fashion design businesses

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Katherine LiEdited by: Erin Chan、Rob McGain、Kobie Li
  • 2018-03-14

The textile market in the district of Sham Shui Po has a long history of being a garment and clothing outlet. It used to house many factories and now has a full spectrum of products ranging from fabric, clothing, semi-precious stones, to accessories. While the market is idiosyncratic to local fashion, the government has announced its plans for a new fashion design project to be launched in Sham Shui Po, next to the fabric and textile market. The Commerce and Development Bureau said the project will help nurture a younger generation of local designers, as well as enrich the traditional fabric and retail business with new elements. Based on a report by the Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department, the latest figures show that Cultural and Creative Industries have shown at an average of 7.6% a year, faster than the average annual growth rate of the nominal GDP of Hong Kong. The report also shows that in between 2005 to 2018, the growth seen in local design industries has more than quadrupled, from $1 billion to 4,15 billion. "The uniqueness of having this project in Sham Shui Po carries two meanings," said Edward Yau Tang-wah, the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development. "First of all, we want to support young fashion designers. On the other hand, finding a home in Sham Shui Po is a recognition of the synergy and the very special ecology that Sham Shui Po has, (it) is itself a big icon." Mr. Yau believed that this project is giving the new creators in the fashion industry an old home. Mr. Yau emphasised that the goal can be summed up in three words: synergy, space, and support. "Synergy is between new designers and the local ecology," he said. "Space does not only refer to space for incubation, …

Health & Environment

Hong Kong's first solar-powered food truck wins catering award

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Holly Chik、Michelle NgEdited by: Choy York Borg Paulus
  • 2017-11-07

Hong Kong's first green food truck won the Gold Prize of Catering in Traditional Cuisine of CLP's Greenplus Award Programme. The solar-power panels, which cost over $20,000, are installed on the vehicle's roof to supply electricity for fans and for customers to charge their electronic devices. "The eye-catching panels also demonstrates the eco-friendliness of the vehicle whereas other energy-saving measures are usually not obvious," said Trevor Ng, Managing Director of Pat Chun, who has been operating the $800,000 truck since March this year. The company also adopts an energy management system which can be operated with a smartphone to improve energy efficiency. "With the system, we can collect real-time energy consumption data and adjust the use of electricity," said Ng. For example, they can use the remaining heat generated by the automatic rice-fryer to cook their stewed beef brisket. To reduce interior temperature, they opted for a heat-resistant automatic rice-fryer. The solar panels on the roof also serve as a heat barrier during hotter days. A centrifugal range hood and a grease trap are also installed to collect used cooking oil that will be converted to biodiesel for the car. Ng said they save about 25% on their electricity bill after implementing these measures. Such environmental protection measures "mitigate climate change, lower business cost and create new business opportunities," said Philip Yung Wai-hung, Permanent Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development (Commerce, Industry and Tourism).  

Society & Politics

Hong Kong bike-sharing initiatives' secretive rise

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Japson Melanie Jane、Angie Chan、Scout XuEdited by: Daniel Ma、Sean Hsu、Choy York Borg Paulus
  • 2017-10-04

The Lands Department confiscated around 30 bikes in Tin Shui Wai and Yuen Long, most of which are from GoBee, the first bike-sharing service in Hong Kong. Unlike existing bike-rentals, bike-sharing services allows users to rent green bikes by scanning QR codes with their mobile phones, posing no restrictions on where to pick-up or drop off the bicycles. Sha Tin District Councillor Sunny Chiu Chu-bong finds the bike-sharing service is a good concept and can be very convenient, though problems have arisen since before its implementation. However Chiu said there are no regulations towards these services, but taxpayers are paying for these bikes. "They are using government land to make profit, without approval from the public." The district councillors were not informed of the bike-sharing service until they started receiving complaints; Some complained of alarms going off and are unable to be turn them off; Bikes were inappropriately parked, blocking the road. These are only some of the common problems found since the launch of the service. "Hong Kong is not ready for bike-sharing services," he added. " The city lacks government regulation and infrastructure. More similar companies are going to surface and that will worsen illegal parking." Sha Tin resident Chan said this service is quite convenient, but it's not very well-known and the payment method is quite complicated. Though she is concerned of the parking problem, she would choose to pick up these green bikes for a free 30-minute session. Another resident Michelle Cheung feels uneasy about the registration and payment method of the services. She fears about privacy problems which could hinder with the usage of the service. "The government should make them register and plan out the areas for them to park the bikes." She answered when asked about possible government action, regarding the disruption caused …