Health & Environment

Society & Politics

18/19 Policy Address: Policy Address rekindles hope for Chinese medicine industry

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: King Woo、Stephanie Ma、Hailey ManEdited by: Zoya Zhao、Yolanda Gao
  • 2018-10-11

The Chinese medicine sector stands to benefit from a slew of healthcare measures announced yesterday at Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s second policy address. The government unveiled a plan to subsidise certain Chinese medicine services, aiming to integrate traditional practice into the existing healthcare system in Hong Kong. Proposed measures include public funding for in-patient and out-patient services delivered in a future Chinese medicine hospital, as well as out-patient services offered by 18 Chinese medicine Centres for Training and Research at the district level. Subsidised in-patient integrative Chinese-Western medicine treatment will also be available in specified public hospitals, but the government said further details are still being discussed with the Hospital Authority. A Legco document shows that in recent years there is a growing trend that many people are opting for Chinese medicine. The number of visiting patients to Chinese medicine centres is up by 100,000 in 2017, from 1.1 million in 2015. Wu Wei, a senior Chinese medicine practitioner at the University of Hong Kong, said that he was delighted with the initiative, in light of the hardship the industry is currently facing. “I hope these measures can be implemented as soon as possible. It’ll be even better if the Hong Kong government can learn from both the triumphs and pitfalls of the Chinese medicine industry development in China. We have to make use of Hong Kong’s strong international reputation to head the industry in a good direction, ” he said. For many patients, government subsidies will help with the cost of medical treatment. “Chinese medicine and treatment are quite expensive. The consultant and medical fee are over $1,000,” said Ms. Yip, a patient receiving Chinese medicine treatment at the public clinic at Hong Kong Baptist University. “It’s definitely good to have subsidies for patients on Chinese medicine …

Society & Politics

18/19 Policy Address: Long-disputed MPF hedging abolished after $36.5B vanished

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Anna Kam、Brison Li、Nadia LamEdited by: Ezra Cheung、Yoyo Chow
  • 2018-10-10

This year's policy address may bring workers in Hong Kong a bit of good news. Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said in her second policy address she would abolish the controversial hedging mechanism of the Mandatory Provident Fund. The hedging mechanism enables employers to withdraw money from the pot to offset severance or long-service payments. She also increased government subsidy of employers from 12 years to 25 years. Mrs. Lam added she was to boost the subsidy for employers from $17.2 billion to $29.3 billion to see the business sector through the 25-year transition. Chung Kim-wah, director of the Centre for Social Policy Studies at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, welcomes the abolishment. But he added that the proposal was "unfair to low-income workers" because they are usually bound to a contract which has to renew every year. Not all contract workers receive the MPF benefit. "Some employers will oppose this," said Dr. Chung, who also teaches social welfare at PolyU. "But as the government will subsidise employers with nearly $30 billion, it is unpersuasive for them to reject the proposal. The impact on employers has reduced a lot." But lawmaker Felix Chung Kwok-pan of the pro-business Liberal Party said he felt "very disappointed" with the policy. "We cannot accept the government's policy," said Mr. Chung. "After the cancellation of the MPF offsetting, labour cost will increase by 5.6%." He also complained the business sector would "have to spend $840 billion over the 25 years" under the new policy. Meanwhile, Wong Kwok-kin of pro-labour Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions supports the abolishment and hopes the government will implement it as early as possible. "The government said the legislation would complete in 2024," said Mr. Wong. "The time frame suggested is unreasonably long." Statistics from the MPF Schemes Authority shows …

Society & Politics

18/19 Policy Address: Government takes lead to extend maternity leave to 14 weeks

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Vimvam Tong、Maisy Mok、Fifi TsuiEdited by: Dorothy Ma、Sammi Chan
  • 2018-10-10

Reported by Vimvam Tong, Maisy Mok, Fifi Tsui Edited by Dorothy Ma and Sammi Chan   Working mothers in Hong Kong will be able to enjoy 14 weeks of 80% paid maternity leave, that is an extra four weeks under existing labour laws. The first female chief executive of the city, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor announced today in her second policy address that the newly extended leave will take immediate effect for civil servants. The extension is rolled out in view of the “much lower labour participation of women compared to men” and “a lower ratio of managerial roles taken by women” in Hong Kong, said Mrs. Lam. Employers can get up to $36,822 reimbursement per employee from the government to pay the leave. For employees with a monthly income of $50,000 or below, the additional four weeks of maternity leave pay will be borne by the government in full. The proposed extended maternity leave brings Hong Kong on par with the International Labour Organisation’s suggestion after the related employment ordinance had remained unchanged for 48 years in Hong Kong. Compared with other locations in the region, the duration of maternity leave in Hong Kong is in line with Japan, but is still shorter than Singapore by two weeks. In mainland China, new mothers can enjoy 19 to 22 weeks off, depending on the province while fathers can get up to 30 days of paternity leave. Mothers in Hong Kong have mixed reaction to the 14-week leave. “ I believe 10 weeks are enough,” Katy Lam, an educator and a mother of two believes that the duration of leave should depend on the woman’s occupation. “14 weeks would be better than 10 for sure,” said Venda Lee, a 34-year-old expectant mother, who works as a movie trailer producer. She sees …

Health & Environment

Smart Barcelona

Stroll down La Rambler in the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona any day and see tourists and vendors fighting for space on the walkway alongside stalls offering souvenirs. Nearly 30 million visitors each year pack down the narrow streets of the Gothic Quarter in the old part of the city, according to Euromonitor. A tour guide, Aranxia Gonzales explained that the demand for accommodation is pushing locals out of the property market. " When you buy a property in Spain, you own it for life," she said, " and that means older folks who have lived here for a long time now have to put up with tourists as neighbours." By 2017, there were 16,000 holiday rentals, as reported by Barcelona City Council. According to a 2018 study by University of Paris Sud, when Airbnb started in Barcelona, rent rocketed by 28% between 2013 and 2016. In addition, there were more than 7000 illegal hostels. The number of private flats rented out to tourists reportedly went up nine times in a year. The city government has since hired a team of inspectors to look for illegal hostels. Owners may be fined up to €60,000. Paola Santoro, an Italian expat who has been living in Barcelona for eight years, explained that the influx of tourists has bumped up the rent in even further. "The demand for accommodation by tourists meant many apartments are being converted into apartments for tourists only," Paola said. "The average salary of a person in Barcelona is approximately € 1000-1500. The average monthly rent for a flat in Barcelona is also € 1000. A person with an average salary cannot afford to rent a flat, so many people are forced to share a flat with other people to reduce expenses." Barcelona, Paola thought, has become a city for …

Health & Environment

Virtual Healing

Researchers at the University of Barcelona have found virtual reality to be a useful tool in psychology   Virtual reality may be the buzzword in journalism and entertainment. But for a team of psychologists and computer scientists at the University of Barcelona, these are just new applications for tools that they have been researching on for some time. The Experimental Virtual Environments Lab (EVENT Lab) at the Department of Psychobiology of the University of Barcelona focuses on immersive and embodiment experiences. Researchers from the University of Barcelona, the University College London and the University of Derby help participants learn through compassion. They use avatars and computer science gaming technology to teach empathy. For example, a user can be embodied in a black avatar to experience racial discrimination, or an adult in the body of a child to empathise how it feels when parents are harsh. "We found that adults who experience the kind mother gain trust," Mel Slater, the director of EVENTS Lab explained, "but when they meet the harsh mother first followed by the kind one a week later, they tend not to trust her." To experience embodiment, the participant has to put on a black bodysuit. Sensor pompoms on the garment allow the computer to track the person's movement so that the programme can react accordingly. The signals are picked up by sensors mounted on the walls of the pitch black lab. A virtual reality headset then allows the user to immerse in the altered world. "Parents who go through the experience tend to become more empathetic toward their children afterwards," said Domna Banakou, a researcher at the lab. "Racial discrimination also tends to decrease after white people experience what it is like to be black," added Banakou. These virtual reality experiments have taken Mel Slater and his …

Health & Environment

Hong Kong's zero waste community leaders addressed the importance of switching to waste-free events

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Tomiris UrstembayevaEdited by: Yolanda Gao、Sammi Chan
  • 2018-05-07

Dozens of events as talks, concerts, games are held every day in Hong Kong and most of them result in tonnes of waste including plastic cups, plates, and cutleries because event organisers provide their attendees with everything from tissues to single-use pens and notebooks. Although "green events" are recently becoming popular, event hosts usually sort the waste and provide recycling bins only. It is not effective because most of the event participants don’t rinse or empty plastic containers before throwing them to waste-separation bins. Aigul Safiullina, a co-founder of Zero Waste Life, a non-governmental organisation aimed to promote and educate sustainable lifestyle by coaching and providing public with useful sources, thinks that the general public, especially event hosts should embrace a more responsible lifestyle by not only sorting the waste from events and providing recycling bins, but also taking a step further to plan the event ahead and reduce the source of waste. "There are only three types of recyclable plastics, by offering recycling bins is not enough and unreasonable," she said during the talk, "Taking small steps to achieve a zero-waste life in Hong Kong" conducted by the panel of Hong Kong’s zero-waste community leaders, last Wednesday. Paola Cortese, a certified Climate Reality Leader suggested the ways to organise a sustainable event. She said that waste reduction can be achieved through smart planning at the start which would promote a waste-free lifestyle and raise the awareness of Hong Kong’s waste problem. "Small steps could start from reusing banners and decorations. Instead of buying, it would be more environmentally friendly to borrow or to loan them," said Ms. Cortese. She also suggested using e-invitations instead of printed cards. Even though the e-invitation cards or tickets are used by the majority of event organisers, attendees are usually asked to print them …

Health & Environment

Beware of sugar-coated Lunar New Year food health snare

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Rachel YeoEdited by: Alexandra Lin、Sammi Chan、Maggie Liu
  • 2018-03-19

Can government do more to ease unhealthy consumption of Chinese New Year food? Eat one Lunar New Year rice cake and you’ve almost hit your daily sugar limit. With 21 grams of sugar, a rice cake comes close to the World Health Organisation’s recommended 25 grams a day. "Sugar is just as addictive as cocaine with similar effects on our brain, making it extremely irresistible," Denise Tam, a Holistic Nutritionist at the brand Food for Life, said. "That is why once we start, it's hard to stop." According to SingHealth, a healthcare institution based in Singapore, Chinese New Year delicacies contain excessive carbohydrates and sugar, which can cause weight gain in the short-term and much more serious long-term problems. Sugar plays a major role in the development of diabetes and heart disease, the institution warns. Both diseases are among Hong Kong’s top causes of mortality. Diabetes even enters the top ten and heart-related diseases account for 13.2% of all deaths in the city, according to government statistics. Eurasian CrossFit coach Anthony Haynes, 29, said he never eats traditional New Year’s treats, even during obligatory visits to his Chinese relatives’ homes. Instead, he consumes lean meats, steering clear of anything with excess MSG, salt or sugar. "I try to avoid them like a plague as much as I can, even for (the) festive season," he said. "It’s a bit sad, but I’m quite extreme." With a plethora of annual treats - such as deep-fried niangao (rice cake), peanut snacks and candied fruit - it is not easy to abstain while socialising.   Holly Liu Hoi-ning, 19, said she knows they are unhealthy but eats them anyway. "We only eat (Chinese New Year) food once a year, why not be carefree and eat all we want? If people calculate how much calories …

Health & Environment

Getting rid of insomnia with an app?

Jola Mok tosses and turns in her bed for hours every night. The death of a close relative when Ms. Mok was 19 has taken its toll on her mental health. "I am afraid of going to bed," Ms. Mok said. Every evening, she feels anxious to face another long night. Some 40% of people in Hong Kong suffer from insomnia , according to a survey conducted by the Surveillance and Epidemiology Branch of the Centre for Health Protection in 2015. Nearly half of the respondents said they had sleep disturbances, including difficulty in falling asleep, intermittent awakenings or difficulty in maintaining sleep during the night" and waking up early and unable to sleep again. "Stress is usually the main cause of insomnia. If people cannot handle stress well, insomnia may be one of the consequences," said Dr. Dennis Cheung Ching-ping, a specialist in psychiatry. Ms. Mok is among them. She was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, and that led to insomnia. People who suffer from sleeping problems sometimes seek help from doctors or psychologists. Recently, patients with insomnia look for alternatives, for example, applications on their phones that might relieve  insomnia. Might these apps be a handy way to alleviate sleep disturbances? "Sleep Better with Runtastic", "Void" and "SleepTown" are some mobile apps that help people arrange a well-organised sleep schedule. Some track users’ sleep cycle, help them relax and provide motivation to eliminate the habit of using mobile phones before sleep. "Sleep Better with Runtastic"  was by Runtastic, an Austrian mobile fitness company. The app focuses on tracking users’ diet and exercise habits and links them with sleep quality. After users enter their stress level, caffeine consumption and dreams in the app, it then analyses the data. Users can then understand the fundamental causes of their sleep disorders …

Health & Environment

Flexitarian: an easy way to go green

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Sharon Pun、Candice WongEdited by: Richelia Yeung、Ellen He
  • 2017-11-21

To become a flexible vegetarian in Hong Kong "I'd like to have the Pesto Chicken Salad, but please take away the chicken," said Ms. Chan at a bakery cafe. Her friend surprisingly asked her, "What? You're taking away the best part of the dish!" This is a situation often encountered by Chan Wun, but her diet habit is different from that of traditional "vegetarians". She is a member of a rising group, "flexitarians", a combination of "flexible" and "vegetarians". The number of flexitarians rose from 5% in 2008 to 22% in 2016, while vegetarians only account for 3% of Hong Kong's population. Up till 2017, over 1,000 restaurants in Hong Kong have joined an initiative programme to offer vegetarian-friendly menus, according to a social startup, Green Monday. "In order to lose weight, I had become a vegetarian for around two months during high school," said Ms. Chan, an 18-year-old university student. She had no choice but to constantly ordered Indian curry since it was the only vegetarian choice at school. Things become more difficult during family gatherings. When Ms. Chan's mother cooks vegetarian meals for her non-vegetarian father and brother often complain that the meals lacked protein. "It is difficult to avoid eating meat especially when we are living in Chinese culture where specific cuisines and dishes will be offered during celebratory events and festivals," said Ms. Chan. "Then I decided to quit because of inconvenience, time cost and expense." Instead of being a strict vegetarian, she opted for a flexitarian-style diet. In fact, the problem was not faced just by Ms. Chan when she was a vegetarian. To Hiu-yan, 20, a university student who has been a vegetarian for two years, said that the once-athlete started this eating habit to keep fit.   Ms. To said she faced limited …

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).