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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 …

Politics

Election Committee poll sees ‘patriots’ fill hundreds of seats on body to appoint Hong Kong’s leader next year in first poll after system revamp; delay in results had candidates waiting overnight

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Nick Yang、Ziyu Bruce ZhaoEdited by: LAMA Sumnima Rani
  • 2021-09-20

The polls for Hong Kong’s Election Committee closed last night ending the city’s first election since Beijing revamped the electoral system in March. According to official statistics, 4,380 people cast their ballots, a turnout of about 90%, a record-high rate despite a drastic reduction in the number of eligible voters this year. All but one of the Election Committee seats went to the pro-establishment camp, with 412 candidates competing for 364 elected seats. The remaining seats on the 1,500-member committee were appointed, filled by ex-officio members or automatically elected. The committee will select Hong Kong’s next Chief Executive next year as well as appoint 40 members to the Legislative Council. “The turnout reflects the support of members of various sub sectors for the new electoral system,” Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said in a press release. Voting results were delayed until 7:30 am today at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, with Electoral Affairs Commission chairman Barnabas Fung Wah apologising for problems with the ballot verification papers, likely because officials filled in the wrong boxes, he said at a press conference. The central government reforms included reviewing candidate backgrounds, increasing the number of ex-officio members and raising the requirements for the qualifications of voters. The number of eligible voters dropped from 246,440 to about 4,900. "The automatic election of members from many sectors and the stop of non-patriots have led to a reduction in voters, which actually makes the election more fair," Legislative Council member Lau Kwok-fan said. Daniel Cai, a Hong Kong resident, said he did not pay attention to the election since Beijing changed the electoral system. “I belong to no valid sector, so I don’t have the right to vote for the representatives,” he said. “Before the reform of the election, I could vote for …

Politics

Pakistanis with Hong Kong Residency Rights Say Return to City Being Thwarted Due to Vaccination Rules

    Hundreds of Pakistani nationals, attempting to return to Hong Kong, claim they are being turned back even if they have been vaccinated against the coronavirus and have rights to live and work in the city.   According to Apna Hong Kong Network, a Facebook social group that provides information about Hong Kong in English and Urdu for South Asians living in the city, more than 2,000 Pakistani nationals with Hong Kong residency rights approached them for help because they are having difficulty returning to Hong Kong.   “Hundreds of Pakistanis booked flights on 9 and 10 of August, and were sent back from Dubai,” Sadaf A. Muhammadi, the founder of Apna Hong Kong Network, told The Young Reporter. “They were informed at Dubai airport that vaccinations from Pakistan are not accepted by the Hong Kong government.”   “Families have been separated for months... some people have lost jobs because they have been away for too long,” she added.   The Hong Kong government suspended flights from Pakistan, India and the Philippines - all considered high-risk countries due to high coronavirus infection rates - beginning April 20 in its effort to prevent the further spread in Hong Kong.    In recent changes to Hong Kong’s regulations allowing international flights, the Hong Kong government will allow overseas travelers to enter Hong Kong beginning Aug. 9, depending on which region they came from. Overseas regions have been re-categorised into Group A specified places (high-risk), Group B specified places (medium-risk) and Group C specified places (low-risk).   According to the latest regulations, Hong Kong residents from Pakistan can return to Hong Kong only if they are fully vaccinated, and able to present negative results for COVID-19 test conducted within 72 hours, and confirmation of room reservation in designated quarantine hotels.    “Only …

Society

Hong Kong Government Land Confiscation Scheme Forces Closure of Popular Farmers Market at Mapopo Community Farm

  After more than a decade in operation, Mapopo Community Farm held its last farmers market on Sunday before permanently closing due to the Hong Kong government’s Land Resumption Ordinance.    The farmers market sells locally produced vegetables, mainly from the northeastern part of Hong Kong’s New Territories, including Ping Che (Fanling), Tsiu King (Sheung Shui) and Kwu Tong (Sheung Shui).    At two in the afternoon, about 15 people lined up outside Mapopo Community Farm to snatch up locally grown fruit and vegetables, including winter melons, pumpkins, longan and dragon fruits. Most products were sold out within the first hour.    Chatting and laughing during their visit to the market, customers filled shopping bags with green vegetables and fruits. Some visitors brought their pets and kids to the market, to witness the decline of Hong Kong local agriculture. People expressed gratitude to the farmers by leaving messages and colorful drawings in the farmer markets’ autograph book.    “The villagers are exhausted fighting for their lands,” said 26-year-old Ms. Wong, who withheld her first name. She said she has heard of the land resumption scheme since she was a student.     The scheme, officially announced in 1998, allowed the government to claim the land for residential purposes, in order to handle the growing population in Hong Kong.    Farmlands in Kwu Tong North, Fanling North and Ping Che/Ta Ku Ling have been identified by the Hong Kong government to be new development areas.The rural areas in northeast New Territories will be used for commercial and residential land.    However, the development plan was rejected by the farmers. They worried that the residential and commercial land development would reduce the amount of farmland, thus deteriorating the farmer’s livelihood.    Following several legal challenges by residents of Ma Shi Po Village, …

Politics

Serving the Community is the Ultimate Mission For All District Councillors Stay or Leave

Opt to make a declaration, Ramon Yuen Hoi-man, a member of the Democratic Party, said he will stay to complete his 4-year tenure in the district council.   The 34-year-old councillor of Sham Shui Po district is one of the 174 district councillors who still uphold their identity.    According to the notice in the Gazette declared today, 214 out of 388 elected seats in the 18 District Councils are vacant.   The Civil Service Bureau has issued circulars to all government departments, requiring all existing civil servants and those who join the Government on or after 1 July 2020 to declare that they will uphold the Basic Law, bear allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), be dedicated to their duties and be responsible to the HKSAR Government.   After considering the risks of disqualification and the requirement of returning the one and a half years’ salary to the government, Mr. Yuen rather takes an oath that includes upholding the Basic Law and swearing allegiance to the HKSAR.    “I will stick to my principles, including voicing for the people and monitoring the government,” he said. “I had promised to serve the people in the district at the beginning of the election, so the decision to retain the seat was made at an early stage.”   “I will do the most I can, especially since my colleagues have left,” Mr Yuen said.   People around Mr Yuen had asked him to leave. However, Mr Yuen thinks that he should stay and persevere with Hong Kong people, when the risks are still tolerable.   “People have retreated, while Hong Kong is collapsing,” Mr Yuen said. “From press freedom, councils, to the education and social work industry. Shouldn’t we voice more actively?”   As the Chairman of the Working …

Politics

100th Anniversary of CCP: Government Closes Victoria Park from Public Gathering, Collectors Queue for Commemorative Stamps

Collectors  queued up at Hong Kong’s main post office to purchase special commemorative stamps issued for the 100th Anniversary of the Communist Party of China, while Hong Kong police closed Victoria Park to restrain protesters from gathering during the 24th observance of  the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Establishment Day.    More than 60 customers lined up at the General Post Office in Central to purchase the special edition stamps after the office had opened.    “The 100th Anniversary of the Founding of the Communist Party of China” Commemorative Stamp was first issued today.Individual stamps and a stamp sheetlet are included in the collector set.    “I feel happy for the 100-year establishment of the Communist Party of China,” said Tse, who only disclosed her first name, has been collecting stamps for years. She bought two stamp sheetlets for her grandchildren.    She said Hong Kong had restored peace and security compared to the same day last year.   In the same line, Tong, who did not provide his first name, said he was thankful for the 100th anniversary, “but it was nothing special, because the Communist Party of China will still thrive in the coming years.”   Mr Tong said he supported the cancellation of the July 1 march.    “Hong Kong used to be chaotic, but now I can travel around more conveniently,” he said. “ That’s why I can come and collect the stamps.”   Hong Kong police banned the July 1 march for the second consecutive year, citing coronavirus pandemic restrictions on public gatherings Despite the cancellation of the annual July 1 march, at noon police sealed off Victoria Park, where the march traditionally started, to prevent unauthorised assembly.    “Anyone who enters or stays at the prohibited area will be subjected to the maximum penalty …

Politics

Three pro-democracy groups apply for permission to hold annual July 1 march

League of Social Democrats, Tin Shui Wai Connection and Save Lantau Alliance applied on Friday to the police for its consent to arrange the annual July 1 protest on the handover anniversary.    Civil Human Right Front had been organising the march since 2003 but the group said on Sunday that it would not hold any activities after the police questioned its legitimacy.    “The July 1 protest has become a platform to express the needs of civilians and fight for democracy and universal suffrage,” Convenor of Save Lantau Alliance Eddie Tse Sai-kit said.   Deputy secretary general of the League of Social Democrats, Vanessa Chan Po-ying, said the proposed time, route and destination were the same as the previous demonstration.   She said they expected the police to cite the epidemic as a reason to oppose their application so they included many precautionary measures such as grouping in four, keeping a 1.5-metre distance and offering masks and cleansing products to keep the risk of spreading to the lowest.    Mr Tse said Hong Kong people need to cherish the value of protesting on the street on July 1.   “We would like to tell Hongkongers that there is a group of people who stay persistent every year to come out despite the suppression and political risk,” said Lam Chun, a member of Tin Shui Wai Connection. “I hope Hongkongers can come out to show the scene of more than a million participants.”   “We will keep on when people’s hearts are not dead,” Ms Chan said.   Mr Lam said they would have a meeting with the police on details within a couple of days and would appeal if permission was not given.   “Hongkongers from every walks of life have their demands on the government,” said a citizen …

Society

Apple Daily newspaper folds after a 26-year run

Long lines snaked around newsstands in Hong Kong today as supporters snapped up the last edition of the Apple Daily newspaper. Top officials of the 26-year-old tabloid-style paper have been detained or jailed. The company’s assets were frozen by the government under the National Security Law, forcing it to shut down. Its website and mobile app also stopped being updated after midnight. About a million copies of the last edition circulated around the city, about ten times its normal print run. Splashed across the front page was a photo taken from the paper’s offices in Tseung Kwan O showing a crowd outside. The headline read “ Hong Kong people bid farewell in pain”. Apple Daily’s proprietor, Jimmy Lai, is serving a 20-month jail term for taking part in illegal protests in 2019. He also faces accusations of violating the National Security Law. The newspaper has long taken an anti-communist and pro-democracy stance. Gary Sing Kai-chung, a former senior photographer of Apple Daily, who has worked at the paper for 17 years, was angry and sad about the newspaper’s closure. “It is like watching a family member get killed,” Mr Sing told The Young Reporter. He described Apple Daily as a pioneer in the Hong Kong media industry.  “They sent motorbikers to the scenes to take photos when covering breaking news. More reporters would arrive later to cover the incidents and do follow up stories. This workflow was started by Apple Daily,” said Mr Sing. He said Apple Daily was also willing to invest in equipment. “The speed of changing from film cameras to DSLR cameras was so fast at the Apple Daily,” said Mr Sing. “While other media outlets were still hesitating on whether digital cameras were good, we had already swapped to the new cameras in all divisions.” “If …

Politics

District councillors’ “unprecedented actions” a severe challenge to government, says Carrie Lam

Some “unprecedented actions” by the current batch of district councillors have brought severe challenges to the government, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said this morning. While she was not specific about what those “actions” were, she said the Home Affairs Department would take appropriate “reactions”, including keeping an eye on funding to the councils, councillors’ remuneration and their offices, which were paid for by the government, she said.  Mrs Lam’s remarks came after the HAD issued warning letters on June 4 to some district councillors who had distributed candles and posted contents related to the anniversary of the suppression of the student-led democracy movement in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989. In the letter, HAD says it has received complaints alleging that some district council members have conducted activities which are unrelated to their duties, damaged community harmony and possibly breached the laws of Hong Kong. “These activities include, but are not limited to, distributing materials and conducting publicity to encourage and facilitate members of the public to participate in unauthorised public assemblies,” says the letter. But Ramon Yuen Hoi-man, a Sham Shui Po district council member and one of the recipients of the HAD letter, has described the chief executive’s characterisation of the councillors’ actions as “absurd”. A member of the Democratic Party, Yuen distributed candles to residents in Cheung Sha Wan on June 3 and 4.  He told The Young Reporter in a phone interview that the distributed candles did not involve public money, and he did not see how it would clash with his work as a district councillor. “Whether I am a councillor or not, I would still distribute the candles to the public,” he said. Yuen also posted the lyrics of the song “The Flower of Freedom” on his Facebook page.  The song …

Politics

Willing to “pay the price,” says Hong Kong’s Tiananmen vigil organizer just hours before arrest

Chow Hang-tung told The Young Reporter yesterday that she was willing to pay the price for lighting a candle to mark today’s anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown. She was arrested this morning before she got the chance. Police arrested Ms Chow, vice-chairwoman of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, on suspicion of advertising or publicising an unauthorized assembly. She made a Facebook post last Saturday saying she would continue to keep the promise she has been keeping for 32 years to light a candle in a place where everybody can see. Police said she used social media to advertise or publicise a public meeting that had been prohibited, after banning this year’s vigil on Covid-19 grounds. Police banned the vigil for the first time last year for the same reason, but many, including Ms Chow, entered the basketball court at Victoria Park to light a candle for the victims of the crackdown. Ms Chow was charged with illegal assembly and inciting others in 2020. She said she expected to go to jail and would get prepared. The Hong Kong Alliance has been holding a candlelight vigil in Victoria Park for decades to commemorate the People’s Liberation Army crackdown on a student-led movement in Tiananmen Square, Beijing on June 4, 1989. “This is originally done by hundreds of thousands in Hong Kong every year. I am just being who I have been,” she told The Young Reporter. “We cannot get used to or allow them to swipe away the truth of June 4.” Hong Kong Alliance closed its June 4th Museum on Wednesday after the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department made an inspection based on a complaint that it did not have a license. Chris Fu, who tried to visit the museum after its …