Politics

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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 …

29 years since Tiananmen massacre: dozens went for an "alternative" vigil while 115,000 gathered at Victoria Park

  • 2018-06-05
  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Katherine Li、Ezra CheungEdited by: Holly Chik、Angie Chan
  • 2018-06-05

While 115,000 people gathered at Victoria Park for the 29th time to memorialise the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown in Beijing, some 150 people participated in an "alternative" vigil outside the Cultural Centre in Tsim Sha Tsui yesterday. This June 4th Tiananmen Square candlelight vigil took place at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre in Tsim Sha Tsui in front of the Freedom Fighter statue on Monday evening. It aimed to serve English-language speakers in Hong Kong, said organisers Michael Mo Kwan-tai and Danny Chan Tsz-chun. It was the first June 4th vigil in Hong Kong that was conducted entirely in English. "We want to hold this event at an international standard, to show the people of Hong Kong that we have not forgotten," said Mr. Mo, who was also an Amnesty International Hong Kong campaigner previously. This alternative vigil focused on raising international awareness and supporting "the souls who fought for freedom beyond our borders". The organisers urged the international society to investigate into the June 4th Incident. Mr. Mo read aloud poems written by Liu Xia, widow of dissident Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo. He also paid tribute to Su Changlan, Chinese women's rights activist who supported the 2014 Umbrella Movement and "the hundreds of human rights lawyers and activists still facing jail terms, surveillance and harassment on a daily basis". Regarding the fact that many still question whether it is helpful or necessary for this alternative vigil to be held, Mr. Mo felt that the operational goals of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China increasingly dissuaded younger people from attending the candlelight vigil at Victoria Park, a conundrum which could be solved with an alternative vigil. "I can actually feel that there are more young faces here," Mr. Mo said. "The turnout number is also …

Will School Social Workers be a Panacea for Child Abuse Problem?

  • 2018-03-14
  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Amy Ho、Wallis WangEdited by: Erica Chin、Jade Li、Japson Melanie Jane、Wing Li
  • 2018-03-14

With scabs covered all over her limbs and face, bedsores on the soles of her feet and bruises all over her body, a 5-year-old girl died in January from being repeatedly abused by her father and stepmother. Lam Lam’s life was full of sorrow, pain, and tears. But she was just one of many child abuse cases that happened in Hong Kong. According to government statistics, there have been more than 800 cases of child abuse every year in Hong Kong since 2006. The data also shows that more than half of the victims were abused by their parents. According to Dr. Louis Kok, Child and Forensic Psychologist of Hong Kong Institute for Children’s Mental Health, children tend not to report abuses by their parents because they want to protect and stay with them. Since 2000, every secondary school has to have at least one social worker. Law Chi-kwong, Secretary for Labour and Welfare has suggested extending the policy to primary schools and kindergartens. Social workers who work for primary schools nowadays are not only in charge of students’ guidance services, but also their activities, according to Emy Law Yee-ming, member of the Reclaiming Social Work Movement and the social worker of a local primary school. She said that social workers have to spend time on other duties so they do not have enough time for counselling. “They have to deal with after-class care, arrange extra-curricular activities for students, prepare, contact and make other arrangements as well as to recruit students to join activities,” said the social worker Law. Ip Kin-yuen, a member of the Legislative Council and the vice-president of Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union, hoped that the new policy would help social workers in primary schools to be employed under a new long-term contract system. Mr. Ip said …

Legco By-election: democrats reclaim 2 of 4 places, still losing ground to secure veto power

  • 2018-03-12
  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Wallis WangEdited by: Ezra Cheung、Raphael Blet、Michelle Ng
  • 2018-03-12

Candidates from the pro-democracy camp eventually managed to retain half of the four disqualified seats in the Legislative Council by-election yesterday, showed in the final voter turnout rate this morning. However, these equal shares do not enable the whole camp to reseize the power to block most bills as it still falls short of the influence significant enough to strike a balance in this semi-democratic legislature's split voting system. Au Nok-hin in Hong Kong Island and Gary Fan Kwok-wai in New Territories East were the two victorious democrats. But the pro-Beijing competitors, Vincent Cheng Wing-shun and Tony Tse Wai-chuen, outran the pro-democracy camp in Kowloon West and the Architectural, Surveying, Planning and Landscape functional constituency respectively. Au, a Southern District Council member who left the Democratic Party last year, obtained 137,181-strong support whilst his pro-Beijing arch-rival, Judy Chan Ka-pui of New People's Party, got 127,634 votes. Gary Fan, current convenor of Neo Democrats, won 183,762 votes to defeat Bill Tang Ka-piu, representing both Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong and the Federation of Trade Unions, who got 152,904 votes. This time, Fan acquired 7% more votes than his ally, Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu of Civic Party, in the 2016 by-election. Yeung received 160,880 votes back then. Yet, previously ousted Legislative Councillor, Edward Yiu Chung-yim, failed to recapture the seat in Kowloon West. He requested a re-count at about 5 am because he was just trailing Vincent Cheng by about 2,000 votes. But in the end, he did not manage to combat Cheng's 107,479 votes with his 105,060 votes. Winning the 2016 general election, Yiu was the representative of the Architectural, Surveying, Planning and Landscape functional constituency. But he was disqualified and expelled from the Legco by the High Court for his "improper" oath-taking following Beijing's interpretation of Article …

China aims to lift 10 million people out of poverty

  • 2018-03-07
  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Katherine Li、Wallis WangEdited by: Alexandra Lin、Zinnia Lee
  • 2018-03-07

Reported by Katherine Li and Wallis Wang Edited by Alexandra Lin and Zinnia Lee China will step up efforts to alleviate poverty using targeted measures and promote the development of local industries, education and healthcare, Premier Li Keqiang revealed in his government report speech. "This year, we will further reduce the poor rural population by over 10 million, including 2.8 million people who are to be relocated from inhospitable areas," Premier Li said. Cheung Siu-wai, a China analyst,  explained that there will be more cooperation between local and central government and a case-by-case focus on poverty alleviation. "The government will allocate resources in coordination with local authorities, which means they will find out specific issues and difficulties in different locations in order to find a solution," Mr. Cheung said. Zuo Hongding, deputy director of Jinsha County Agriculture and Animal Husbandry Bureau that works on poverty alleviation in Guizhou province, said different areas need different approaches to alleviate poverty. "For mountainous areas that cannot be easily reached, we have no choice but to relocate the people. A family of five who we helped in 2015 was relocated to a 100 square meter house and was provided with livestock and fertilisers. And now they are well above the poverty line," Mr. Zuo said.   The bureau where he works has helped more than 1,000 families in the town of Qinchi in Guizhou province. They plan to lift another 10,000 people out of poverty in the county over the next three years. Premier Li also announced that the government will "take targeted measures against corruption and misconduct in poverty alleviation and improve the methods used in evaluation and oversight" to manage the poverty alleviation funds more effectively. Mr. Cheung supported the new approaches on fund and resource allocation in targeted poverty relief. "In …

China strives to become a well-connected country

  • 2018-03-07
  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Anna Kam、Tomiris Urstembayeva、Nadia LamEdited by: Jade Li、Yoyo Chow
  • 2018-03-07

Reported by Anna Kam, Tomiris Urstembayeva, and Nadia Lam Edited by Jade Li China wants both rural and urban areas to have high-speed internet access to boost economic development, said Premier Li Keqiang in the National People's Congress. Rural Areas in China have a low percentage of internet connectivity compared with urban areas. Only 40% people in Yunnan Province are internet users while Beijing has 77.8%. China has poured a lot of money in improving the internet infrastructure, cloud computing and broadband, according to Decoding the Chinese Internet, a report published by a Boston Consultant Group in 2016. The internet users in China spiked up to 772 million by the end of 2017. Despite the largest number of internet users in the world, the percentage of the population that is connected is less than that of any Asian country, according to statista.com. Mr. Cheung Siu-wai, a China analyst, said the initiative will increase the agriculture development because farmers are able to reach more people and develop their markets simultaneously. The internet connectivity will not purely boost agriculture, but also overall economic development, said Mr. Cheung. "I've seen a big impact on smartphone companies. The connectivity will boost the sales of smartphones particularly in rural areas," Mr. Cheung explained. The policy also addressed that there will be no roaming fee in China, thus decreasing the cost of the internet "by at least 30%". However, if the government only develops the internet, but does not improve the roads and infrastructure, there is no way that the farmers are able to transport their crops to the metropolis, said Mr. Cheung.  

China's constitutional change may extend tenure of presidency

  • 2018-03-07
  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Vanessa Yung、Oasis Li、Yetta LamEdited by: Scout Xu、Yolanda Gao
  • 2018-03-07

Reported by Vanessa Yung, Oasis Li and Yetta Lam Edited by Scout Xu and Yolanda Gao China proposed to abolish the current term limits for presidency in the 13th National People's Congress. Removing the requirement that a president "shall serve no more than two consecutive terms" from the constitution could mean Chinese president Xi Jinping remains in his position for years to come. The revision is supported by the public and committees, said Wang Chen, the Secretary-General and Vice Chairperson of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress. He added that the revision would help centralise and unify the leadership of the Communist Party. Fu King-wa, Associate Professor of Journalism and Media Studies Centre of the University of Hong Kong, said this means future presidents could serve for life. Zhang Baohui, political science professor at Lingnan University, said this proposal violates Deng Xiaoping's reforms to stop another dictator like Mao Zedong. "And it means that China is possibly back to strongman politics," Mr. Zhang said. The committee also proposed adding "Xi Jinping Thought" to the constitution, making Xi the third leader to have his name added behind Mao and Deng. Mr. Zhang said this promotes the cult of personality. "I think the whole package is to create the atmosphere that Xi is the most powerful person in China," Mr. Fu said, "and also to change the legal framework to support him." Chinese social media platform Sina Weibo reached a peak in the number of censored posts last Sunday, Mr. Fu said. He helps run Weiboscope, a project making censored Weibo posts publicly accessible. Sensitive keywords like "proclaim oneself emperor", "long live" and "Xi Zedong," a combination of the names Xi Jinping and Mao Zedong, flooded the platform and were quickly deleted. said Fu. "A lot of people don't want …

China eager to reduce energy consumption and pollution further, still faces lack of support

  • 2018-03-07
  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Rachel Yeo、Amy Ho、Phoebe LaiEdited by: Erin Chan、Maggie Liu、Windy LI
  • 2018-03-07

Reported by Rachel Yeo, Amy Ho and Phoebe Lai Edited by Erin Chan, Maggie Liu and Windy Li China has set a target to reduce energy consumption per unit of GDP by at least 3% over the coming year. Carbon emission will also be cut by 3.9% as part of China's goal to reduce pollution, Premier Li Keqiang said in his speech at the opening of the National People's Congress. It is part of the country's effort to improve the quality and effectiveness of development. The premier called for "greater emphasis on economic indicators that concern structure, quality, and efficiency that reflect the requirement to promote high-quality development". Premier Li laid out plans to control chemical pollution along the Yangtze River where authorities closed down 959 illegal ports along the river and the subsequent ecological restoration is almost finished. He also hopes to promote integrated development in the Yangtze River Delta. Coal and steel production will also be reduced by 30 million metric tons and 150 million metric tons respectively this year. Both of these industries are major causes of air pollution, yet China is still one of the world's top producers and consumers for coal and steel.  "We will use a combination of market and law-based methods to strictly enforce standards on energy conservation, environmental protection, quality, and safety to continue cutting overcapacity in the steel, coal, and coal-fired power industries," said Li. He added that China has already upgraded coal-fired power plants to achieve ultra-low emissions and steel products that did not meet environmental standards were also immediately banned. But China analyst Cheung Siu-wai points out that the country faces many obstacles in improving the environment. China's carbon emission levels is still one of the highest compared to of the United States, India, Russia and Japan. He mentioned …

Budget 18/19: Hong Kong financial chief attempts to smarten up tourism

  • 2018-02-28
  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Amy Ho、Phoebe Lai、Rachel YeoEdited by: Ezra Cheung、James Edward Allen、Kobie Li
  • 2018-02-28

In the hope of developing smart tourism in Hong Kong, Financial Secretary, Paul Chan Mo-po, unveils today an additional provision of $396 million for the industry from last fiscal year's recording-breaking surplus of about $138 billion. This yearly budget proposes allocating $226 million to Hong Kong Tourism Board to implement four strategies to boost tourism. One of them is to refine smart tourism measures in a bid to attract more visitors to the city. The move comes in response to the latest 4.5% decrease, reported by the Tourism Commission in 2016, in visitors from around the world altogether. Smart tourism refers to a series of technologically innovative initiatives implemented to enhance sightseers' at-destination experiences. According to a paper from the International Journal on Networked Business in 2015, big data is employed for analysing current tourism trends. The findings then are used to improve current tourist attractions and to bring better accessibility for travellers. Tourism sector lawmaker, Wayne Yiu Si-wing, hopes Hong Kong could make use of such technology to collect data, such as putting sensors on streetlights to track traffic and pedestrian flows. "We hope that the data collected will allow tourists to make better choices when they visit (Hong Kong)," he said. Hong Kong is currently utilising QR codes and Wi-Fi hotspots for some of the smart tourism measures. However, Mr Yiu highlighted that the government could do more to develop Hong Kong into a smarter tourism destination. "For example, Wi-Fi hotspots in the city are still not fast enough because people may gather to use Wi-Fi in the same spot," he explained. Ling Ho, director of cultural tour agency Ho Ho Go Experience, mentioned past measures implemented by the government to improve IT security for tour agencies. "The government has given several hundred thousand dollars for people to set up …

Budget 18/19: Increased housing supply aims at lessening low-income families' burden

  • 2018-02-28
  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Anna Kam、Nadia Lam、Tomiris UrstembayevaEdited by: Raphael Blet、Michelle Ng
  • 2018-02-28

Reported by Anna Kam, Nadia Lam and Tomiris Urstembayeva Edited by Raphael Blet Infographics edited by Michelle Ng Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po announced today that the government worked on increasing living space for local citizens. This includes expanding housing space for 210 sites which will supply 310,000 flats, 70% of which will be used for public housing. The government said that it would continue to support the demand and supply of housing in Hong Kong. The International Housing Affordability survey conducted in 2017 ranks Hong Kong as the most unaffordable housing market with a median multiple of over 19. According to a research conducted by Mercer assessing 101 cities, Hong Kong ranked 70th in the world in terms of living standards. Alister Musgrave, the Founder of MoneyHero.com.hk, believes that the overall budget failed to address the public concerns on housing. He cites a research conducted by Demographia and found that Hong Kong has the worst housing affordability in the world for 8 years, which is one of the major problems. Despite the government's initiatives to increase the stamp duty taxation in 2017-2018, the housing property continued to rise and did not falter. Shih Wing-ching, the founder of Centaline Property Agency Limited, said that the market-cooling measures initiated by the government in recent years are not effective in the long run. “Take the Stamp Duty as (an) example, although it discourages the investors to purchase properties, it fails to help the real users to buy flats,” said Mr. Shih. Many of these flat owners are investors, with the government taking the initiative to increase both public and private flats at 100,000 and 280,000 respectively. Still, the financial secretary did not roll out any policies to aid first-time home buyers. Mr. Shih suggests that the government should provide more housing supply …