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Health & Environment

Hundreds of residents in Tsuen Wan building sent to quarantine after mutant strain found

Residents of more than 220  households in Block R of Allway Gardens in Tsuen Wan were sent  to government quarantine for 21 days after a Filipino domestic helper tested positive for the mutant coronavirus strain.     “The whole arrangement was very confusing,” Tsuen Wan District Councilor Chiu Yan-loy said. “I have received messages from the elderly living alone saying that they were unable to sleep for the whole night and felt worried about the next step.   “Their worries are from the lack of support, no officials telling them what they need to do next and what they are going to encounter.”   Fully vaccinated residents are also required to quarantine for 21 days, Mr Chiu said.   The government will meet today to consider shortening quarantine time for the vaccinated.   University of Hong Kong microbiologist Ho Pak-leung said in a Commercial Radio interview that it is safe to shorten the quarantine.   “Vaccination is not only for protecting oneself. There is already strong data proving that it is effective to reduce the spreading,” Dr Ho said to Commercial Radio.   But chairman of the Medical Association's advisory committee on communicable diseases Leung Chi-chiu said in an RTHK interview that it is dangerous to shorten the quarantine period.   “None of the vaccines including the two that we are using cannot affect the spreading. There is a lack of information especially for variant viruses,” Dr Leung said to RTHK.

Hong Kong government mulls over mandatory vaccination policy for foreign domestic helpers

  • 2021-05-04

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Yuet-ngor said before the weekly Executive Council meeting this morning that the authority has yet to make any final decision on compulsory vaccination for foreign domestic workers when they renew their contracts. The announcement came after the Philippines Consul General in Hong Kong said any mandatory vaccination requirement should apply to all foreign workers, not just Filipinos. Mrs Lam said she has requested the Labour and Welfare Bureau to look into the details since it is the first mandatory vaccination policy in the city and some workers may have health concerns that might stop them from getting vaccinated. “I have asked the Labour and Welfare Bureau to review the reasons, feasibility, and to discuss with experts including consulates of countries where domestic helpers come from,” she said. “We will add new requirements when foreign helpers apply for visas including injection of approved Covid-19 vaccines,” the Secretary for Labour and Welfare Law Chi-kwong said on Sunday, “It is not a harsh requirement for granting them visas.” Secretary of foreign affairs for the Philippines, Teodoro Locsin Jr. said on Twitter after the Hong Kong announcement that the proposed mandatory vaccine policy “smacks of discrimination”. “If it is a special favor, it is unfair to other nationalities. Hong Kong can do better than that,” Mr Locsin added. Mrs Lam said disease prevention measures are based on public health, science and objectiveness and there is no discrimination against any race, language or social status. The measures, she added, depend on the nature and the risks of the industry. “Foreign domestic helpers have a habit of gathering during weekends and their work nature involves closed contact including taking care of the elderly and children,” she said. The compulsory testing policy which requires all helpers to be tested before next Sunday will …

Hong Kong Press Freedom Index Drops to Record Low after introduction of National Security Law

  • 2021-05-03

The Hong Kong Press Freedom Index has hit a new low for the second year in a row, according to the new annual survey published by Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) today . More than 96% of 367 journalists polled believed that press freedom in Hong Kong is worse than a year ago.They cited factors such as the enforcement of Hong Kong national security law, police search of the offices of  Next Media, police redefining “media representatives”and the prosecution of RTHK producer, Bao Choy.  The survey also included 1023 local residents. Of all the respondents, 85% said  that the Hong Kong government is suppressing press freedom.   The index for journalists plunged 4.1 to 32.1, compared with 36.2 in 2019, while the public one slightly increased from 41.9 to 42.6. Journalists aged between 30 and 49 years are especially pessimistic about press freedom, with the lowest index of 29.4.  Concern about criticising the Hong Kong government and the central government has risen, but the worry about physical threats has declined since the social unrest ceased in 2020.  Members of the public considered safety issues as a key factor when evaluating press freedom, while journalists took Hong Kong government, central government and self-censorship as the top three factors.  Chris Yeung, the chairperson of the HKJA said he is worried about the future of the Hong Kong press. “The worst is yet to come,” he said, “the power of the media as watchdogs is weakened.” “Something fundamental has changed…we are moving towards the system of the mainland where the media is part of the government structure.” Professor . Clement So from the Chinese University of Hong Kong suggested that journalists should hold their ethical value in facing difficulties.  “Upholding professional values is of utmost importance in times like this,” he said.


US-listed Chinese firms rush to HK despite lukewarm welcome

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Zhu Zijin Cora 朱子槿、Zhou Yichen Gloria 周奕辰Edited by: Zhu Zijin Cora 朱子槿
  • 2021-04-30

Erica Lam, a 30-year-old broker eager to buy new shares of technology companies for profit, saw the Hong Kong secondary listing of online entertainment company Bilibili Inc. (9626) a great opportunity and bought 3,000 of its new shares.  However, the stock price of Bilibili fell as much as 6.8% on the first day of trading, translating into a loss of HK$165,000 for Ms Lam. Before Bilibili, search giant Baidu also briefly fell 0.2% below its Hong Kong IPO price and ended the first day of trading unchanged. "The listings of Baidu and Bilibili came amid a cooling market when Asian investors showed less enthusiasm for IPOs and worried about the increasingly high valuation of technology stocks in recent years," said Wang Hui, a portfolio manager at Haitong Securities. "On top of that, the rise in U.S. bond yields has also caused many investors to sell tech stocks." Higher interest rates are particularly damaging to high-growth tech companies as investors value them based on expected earnings over the next few years, she said. The Hang Seng Tech Index of top technology companies has dropped 22.3% from its Feb.17 high to 8500.13.  Also, China set its 2021 GDP growth target at above 6%, lower than the market’s expectation of  8% growth, which made investors worry about a tightening in monetary and fiscal policies. "Such a conservative GDP forecast would undermine investor confidence," said Ms Wang.   Booming home-coming trend under increasing Sino-US tensions Bilibili, like many Nasdaq-traded Chinese companies, jumped on the homecoming bandwagon by listing their stocks in Hong Kong with tech heavyweight Alibaba taking the lead in late 2019 due to growing Sino-US tensions. The two countries have played tit-for-tat with increased tariffs, imposed sanctions and targeted regulations. To hedge against rising risks, more mainland tech companies chose to seek secondary …


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, …


“ Blue Fridge” project helps a community in times of need

Hong Kong’s unemployment rate in December 2020 stood at 7%, according to government figures. It was the highest in 17 years. The Hong Kong Council of Social Service, a group co-ordinating NGOs in the city, estimated that more than 359,900 families, or 17.1% of economically active households, were affected by unemployment or underemployment in the last quarter of 2020. More than 1.1 million people had at least an unemployed or underemployed member in the family, HKCSS added. As a result, 24,200 children in 92,500 unemployed poor families were living below the poverty line, HKCSS estimated. Mr. Khan watched “I’m Livin It,” a Hong Kong movie which featured the struggles of the city’s homeless people and “McRefugees” that is homeless people who spend the night at 24-hour McDonald’s restaurants. “I was thinking everybody put their grocery [in] the fridge. When you go home, [if you] want something to eat, you would open the fridge. People just want to open the fridge and take whatever they want,” Mr. Khan said. Mr Khan said he painted the fridge blue because “everyone wants to see a blue sky.” When he started the project, Mr Khan said, he had to shop at the supermarket to fill the fridge. But after his daughter posted about the project on Facebook and made it go viral, local media rushed to his place to find out more. “Between 9 am and 6 pm, within half an hour, all the food was gone,” said Mr. Khan. “There [were] actually incidents [where], a homeless guy [was] standing in front of the fridge and he looked at it for another ten seconds and suddenly, he said, ‘I haven’t opened any fridge for years’,” Mr. Khan added. Aziz Khan (not related to Ahmed Khan), 30, knew Ahmed Khan as a family friend and …

Copyright infringement prevalent in Chinese social media

  • 2021-04-26

Melody Yin is typing the title of her work in the search box, but the first post that popped up was not hers. “I’m actually not upset at all,” said Ms Yin in one of the videos she posted talking about copyright. “Copying is so prevalent in we-media. I’ve found my post being copied twice.” “In fact, that’s much less than  other bloggers who have more followers,” she said. The 27-year-old part-time blogger has been publishing articles online since 2020, mainly focusing on self-development and daily life sharing. She has 14,000 followers on RED, or Xiaohongshu, meaning “Little Red Book”. She filed a complaint to the platform and the copycat post was removed. “That’s it. The platform did nothing else to protect the content makers’ copyright,” she said. Founded in 2013, Xiaohongshu has since gained popularity in the mainland and Hong Kong. The platform mainly features beauty and lifestyle content, as well as e-commerce. Today there are more than 12 million monthly active users, according to data platform iiMedia. It is not uncommon to see content makers like Ms Yin facing copyright infringement issues in China. But many are unhappy with the limited measures to punish and prevent future copyright tort. With COVID-19 lingering and people spending more time online, the competition among text or short video content makers to stand out is intensifying and copyright infringement. “When I’m watching Douyin, I often feel like I might have watched that piece before, or at least watched a similar one,” said university student,  Henry Wang Yun. Douyin is a popular short video platform, the Chinese version of TikTok. “There are so many posts with similar content. You can find copied versions even across different social media platforms,” Mr Wang said. Copyright refers to the owner’s “exclusive right to use the work”, …

Tap & Go unveils usage details of $5000 government consumption vouchers

  • 2021-04-23

Tap & Go, an e-payment service provider, became the first operator to announce details on the usage of the government’s HK$5000 consumption voucher set to launch this summer to boost the city’s economic activities which have been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The government announced earlier this month that it has picked four stored Value Facility (SVF) operators to assist the implementation of its consumption voucher scheme. The selected SVFs are AlipayHK, Octopus, Tap & Go and WeChat Pay HK. Tap & Go, presented by Hong Kong Telecom (HKT) Payment Limited, is the only SVFs providing a physical debit card and it said eligible users could use it to receive the government’s consumption vouchers. “I usually shop at supermarkets, I could pay by using Tap & Go because it supports Visa and UnionPay, which is quite convenient,” said Ms Fung Ka-wai, 22, a current Tap & Go user. “There’s less options (SVFs), I have to follow the government’s regulations if I want to get these consumption vouchers,” she added. In Tap & Go mobile app, there is a separate interface for users to pay by using vouchers. Tap & Go would be provided with different payment methods through the app, for example Mastercard, UnionPay or Fast Payment System (FPS). New merchants who subscribe to HKT’s smart point of sales (POS) service could enjoy free terminal rental and no transaction fee will be charged for Tap & Go QR code and FPS QR code during consumption vouchers scheme period, HKT also said in its website.     Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po said in his 2021-22 Budget speech that electronic consumption vouchers will be disbursed by instalments to each eligible Hong Kong permanent resident and new arrival aged 18 or above, so as to encourage and boost local consumption.


RTHK producer conviction a ‘dark day for the Hong Kong press’, Hong Kong Journalists Association says

RTHK producer Bao Choy was found guilty of making a false statement and sentenced to a fine of HK$6,000 today at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Court.  Ms Choy obtained car license information from a publicly accessible database while producing an RTHK documentary on the Yuen Long mob attack in July 2019.  She was charged with making a false statement for saying the purpose was traffic-related. “I firmly believe registry search is not a crime, journalism is not a crime, uncovering the truth is not a crime,” said Ms Choy on Twitter, who emphasized that this will not stop her journalism career. Representatives of the RTHK Programme Staff Union showed their support for Ms Choy with more than 30 people hugging her before the trial.  Chris Yeung, the Chairperson of Hong Kong Journalists Association, described today as “a dark day for Hong Kong press and a day of shame in Hong Kong”.  “The trial is giving a fine of HK$6,000; it's a fine for all journalists.  Journalists are here to share the responsibility,” said Mr Yeung, emphasising that journalists must dig up truth for the public interest. He also criticized the judge for ignoring the role of journalists to monitor power.   Phoebe Kong, a journalist from Deutsche Welle, said the verdict will set limitations on investigative reporting.  “As a common method for journalists to investigate the truth, the criminalization of obtaining license information may result in the disappearance of previous stories and journalists may be afraid of being prosecuted,” said Ms Kong.   

Carrie Lam: HK youth should move to Hainan for jobs and the chicken

  • 2021-04-21

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said she hoped more Hong Kong youth would embark on careers in Hainan on Tuesday. In a social media post, the city’s leader said Hainan officials will be thrilled to provide employment and entrepreneurship opportunities for Hongkongers. “I hope to see young people from Hong Kong go to Hainan for internship, employment and entrepreneurship and enjoy the shadow of the coconut trees and the Hainanese chicken rice that Hong Kong people love,” she said after attending the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2021. Mrs Lam’s mention of Hainanese chicken rice went viral on the internet. “Hainanese chicken rice is a Singaporean and Malaysian cuisine. You should apologize to the people of Singapore and Malaysia,” a netizen commented on her post. “Go for it, Mrs Lam! As a special economic zone, Hainan Island is full of opportunities,” another netizen commented. In April 2018, President Xi Jinping announced the entire Hainan Island will be turned into an international free trade port. The massive project is expected to be completed by 2035, with many Chinese netizens saying it is a move believed to replace Hong Kong. “I think Hainan will not replace Hong Kong, because Hong Kong has its uniqueness such as the judicial system. Although this has been continuously weakened in recent years, it is still better than Hainan,” said Jolyn Choi, a student at the University of Hong Kong. “I would not go to Hainan for Hainanese chicken rice as well. Why not go to Singapore?” Ms Choi added. Mrs Lam left Hainan for Guangzhou, where she will attend the meeting of the Leading Group for the Development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area tomorrow.