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Panic-buying Emerges Before Typhoon Kompasu Hits the City

Hong Kong people scrambled for food after the Strong Wind Signal No.3 was in force, in order to have enough food before No.8 Gale or Storm Signal was issued today.  Fresh meat and seafood in the Wellcome Superstore in Sha Kok Shopping Centre were sold out at noon, as Hong Kong people were panic-buying to get prepared for the approaching typhoon Kompasu. Chan Fung, a customer at Sha Kok Market, said she returned home empty-handed yesterday because of the stockout. She visited the wet market again this afternoon and bought more than usual, including two bags of vegetables, five oranges and a fish, which cost around HK$200. Prices were up for approximately 10%, Chan added. Still, she was not able to purchase any meat, as they were all sold out earlier. “I didn’t buy much, the food is just enough for tomorrow, because I guess the typhoon will only stay for one day,” Chan said.  The second typhoon in the city this month is approaching after Lionrock’s visit on Saturday. Typhoon Kompasu will be nearest to Hong Kong in Wednesday's early morning, so the No.8 Gale or Storm Signal issued at 5:20pm will be in force at least before sunrise on Wednesday, according to the central briefing by the Hong Kong Observatory. “Strong to gale force north to north easterly winds, occasionally storm force offshore and on high ground,” said Yeung Kwok Chung, Acting Senior Scientific Officer of Hong Kong Observatory, in the central briefing at 9 pm. "Winds will moderate gradually tomorrow night, it will also be cloudy with heavy squally showers and thunderstorms." Queues in the Wellcome Superstore in Sha Kok Shopping Centre were extended to the back of the store.  Tang Man-wai, a customer at the Wellcome Superstore, had only a box of sushi and four cup noodles …

Business

Guangdong businesses can apply for quarantine-free permits to enter Hong Kong

Employees of Guangdong companies can apply for quarantine-free business permits to visit Hong Kong starting today.  The online booking system has a daily quota of 1,000 for entry via the Shenzhen Bay Port or the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge Hong Kong Port.  This is on top of the existing scheme that allows non-Hong Kong residents from Guangdong province to enter the city without quarantine, which has been in effect since Sept. 15.  Macau was removed from exemption on Sept. 25 because of its latest Covid-19 outbreak. Business owners welcome the new travel scheme. “Because of Covid and the quarantine policies, we were unable to meet friends and families, and I could not meet my business partners in Hong Kong,” said Feng Minliang, who owns a fashion exhibition-organising company in Zhongshan in Guangdong. “I think the new policy is very useful,” said Feng. “Although it is only a temporary solution, it is definitely a good start to help the economy recover from Covid.” Meanwhile, foreign businesses have expressed frustration with the city’s “zero-Covid” strategy. The American Chamber of Commerce said their efforts in lobbying the Hong Kong government to reopen its borders with the rest of the world has been fruitless, as reported by Bloomberg. “We’re at the point where it just feels like we’re talking to a wall,” Tara Joseph, president of AmCham in Hong Kong, told Bloomberg. “The longer the closing of borders goes on, the more vulnerable many businesses are,” said Brian King, the Associate Dean and Professor of the School of Hotel and Tourism Management at Hong Kong Polytechnic University. “There will be job losses.” The number of headquarters and offices of mainland Chinese companies in Hong Kong increased by 22% to 1986 between 2019 and 2020, according to latest statistics from the Census and Statistics Department. Meanwhile, …

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: Carrie Lam acknowledges integration problem for ethnic minorities; expert says nothing has changed

The Hong Kong government will assess the effectiveness of its four-year-old scheme to enrol more non-Chinese speaking students in local kindergartens, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said in this morning’s policy address.  But local experts and ethnic minorities have little hope anything will change. “It is encouraging that the minorities are part of the policy address, but for me, the challenging aspect is, where is the political will to truly enact all of this?” said Jeffrey Andrews, the first ethnic minority in Hong Kong to have run for the Legislative Council. “There’s so much money already given, but for me, I haven't really felt or seen any impact at all.” In the 2017-2018 school year, the government implemented the Kindergarten Education Scheme, through which eligible children are able to attend local non-profit kindergartens with a three-year subsidy, according to the Education Bureau.  As part of the government’s effort to integrate ethnic minorities into the community, kindergartens that admit more than eight non-Chinese speaking students are provided with additional funding. “Hong Kong actually does a good job in accepting non-Chinese, but one of the major things is the language barrier… I learned Chinese at a very young age. I found that very, very, very useful,” said Rubin Robert Fernie, a Scottish Filipino born and raised here. While the majority of the city’s population speak and write Chinese, less than one in five ethnic minorities are able to read Chinese, according to the Census and Statistics Department. In the 2016 Population By-census, 8% of the city’s population are non-Chinese ethnicities, an increase from 6.4% in 2011. “The policy is for sure important. But how do you implement them? In kindergarten education, how do you make sure ethnic minorities can learn Chinese in an equal environment?” said Leung Yuk-ming, associate director of …

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 …

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 …

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

Policy Address 2021: No cork to medical brain drain; Carrie Lam's last policy address doesn't meet hopes of healthcare personnel

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Clarice Wu、Jayde Cheung、Hamish CHANEdited by: Sara Cheng、TUNG Yi Wun
  • 2021-10-06

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor 's latest policy address barely covered medical brain drain, as more doctors and nurses leave public hospitals because of poor workplace conditions and low salaries or emigrate. “I don’t have much expectation on the policy address,” said Chung Pak-chi, 20, a third-year medical student from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, adding most of her peers did not want to practice locally due to intense workload and low salary. Since July 2020, the turnover rate for full-time doctors in public hospitals has reached 4.9%, said Hospital Authority Chairman Henry Fan Hung-ling in August, and 6.7% for nurses, a 0.9% increase from 2019. Emigration contributed to staff loss, Fan said, and the situation is “concerning.” Private hospitals also poach talents from the public sector, worsening the situation there, he added. Gloria Law, 25, a nurse with three-years experience in a public hospital, said the workload she endured was “intense and heavy,” adding that each nurse had to take care of 12 patients at one time. A pay freeze announced by the Civil Service Bureau in June further widened the salary gap between nurses in the private and public sectors, Law said. Her salary after three years in a public hospital is less than what a nurse in the private sector makes in the first year. “The salary is not appealing enough as well,” she said. Despite these challenges, Lam highlighted government healthcare policies in her address, describing them as “multi‑pronged,” but stopped short of laying out new concrete measures. In September, the Hospital Authority extended retirement from 60 to 65 and created promotions for nurses to pursue specialisation. In August, the government proposed amendments to the Medical Registration Bill to allow non-locally trained doctors - regardless of their Hong Kong permanent residence status …