Society & Politics

Society & Politics

Legco By-election: pro-democracy camp's second defeat in Kowloon West

Hong Kong's pro-democracy camp has failed to regain veto power in the Legislative Council as the pro-establishment camp gets the upper hand in yesterday's Kowloon West by-election. Rebecca Chan Hoi-yan, who ran as an independent backed by pro-establishment forces, emerged victorious with 106,457 votes, leading by 13,410 votes. This is the first time the pro-establishment camp wins democrats by such a large margin. "I'm very excited to see this result. I'm grateful to every volunteer in my team and people who support me," said Ms. Chan, former TVB and Cable News journalist and political assistant to Secretary for Food and Health. Ms. Chan said she would focus on current work about people's livelihoods and keep her promises to the voters, instead of thinking about the next election. "We are going to make real and practical contributions," Ms. Chan said. "People's livelihoods are the first priority, and we should solve the problems concerning people's lives first." Despite facing controversies over election campaign expenses and her comments on Victor Mallet's visa denial that it was irrelevant to press freedom, she has a relatively high support rate of 25% according to the University of Hong Kong Public Opinion Programme's pre-election polls. Lee Cheuk-yan, who announced his decision to join the election after previously ousted lawmaker Lau Siu-lai's nomination was invalidated, have not succeeded in gaining the Kowloon West seat. He is the "Plan B" of pro-democracy camp, meaning that he would only join the election upon Ms. Lau's invalidation as an "alternative choice." Mr. Lee said he had “learned a lot from this election," and appealed to care for the future. He pointed out that there were still plenty of "battles" to fight, such as the legislation of Article 23, implementation of Lantau Tomorrow Vision. "As a Hongkonger, we can be disappointed, but …

Society & Politics

FCC president claims foreign journalists fear visa rejection

Several foreign correspondents in Hong Kong have told TYR they feel a general sense of anxiety about their visa renewals after senior Financial Times editor Victor Mallet was denied permission to continue working in Hong Kong. The president of the Foreign Correspondents' Club, Florence de Changy, told TYR that she could sense the anxiety among younger reporters and those who want to be posted in Beijing in the future. "They will not show themselves too much on the stage and they will not host some speakers if the situation prevails," said Ms. de Changy, who works for Le Monde, a French newspaper, and Radio France International. The Immigration Department rejected Mr. Mallet's work visa renewal months after he moderated a forum by Andy Chan Ho-tin, convenor of the banned pro-independence Hong Kong National Party, in August at the FCC. Mr. Mallet was then offered a seven-day visitor permit to stay in Hong Kong when he arrived back from Bangkok on October 8. His attempted re-entry on November 8 was denied by the Immigration Department, with no reason given. Ms. de Changy said Mr. Mallet had never been warned his visa would be at risk if he hosted that forum. "Sometimes the [Hong Kong] government don't like what we do but they did not stop us from doing it," the FCC president added. The FCC currently has 500 members who are journalists or correspondents. Some 80 foreign media organisations have set up offices in the city, according to government statistics. Several foreign correspondents pointed out the grey area the government left behind following Mr. Mallet's incident when they spoke to TYR, including those who have interviewed Andy Chan or covered stories about Hong Kong independence. They declined to go into the specifics of their issues because their news organisations' codes of conduct prohibit them from …

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: "Lantau Tomorrow Vision” project fuels anxiety among residents

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Cara Li、Vanessa Yung、Yetta Lam、Katherine LiEdited by: Kenji Chan、Raphael Blet
  • 2018-10-10

Reported by Akane Nakasuji, Cara Li, Vanessa Yung and Yetta Lam Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor unveiled her 2018 policy address today, announcing the launch of a new development project named “Lantau Tomorrow Vision”. The project will create artificial islands to increase the number of residential units and improve people’s livelihoods, she said, in a city where the estimated average waiting time for public housing is five years and three months. The government study on phased reclamation near Kau Yi Chau and Hei Ling Chau, two islands west of Lantau, with a total area of about 1,700 hectares is to start soon. The reclamation could create 400,000 residential units accommodating a population of more than a million, putting Lantau’s population on par with that of Hong Kong Island, with 70% of the blocks planned to be public housing units.   With a land mass of 147 square kilometres, Lantau Island is almost twice the size of Hong Kong Island and four times the size of Macau. The policy address stated that the project would incorporate the government’s long-term vision of a carbon-neutral community making wider use of renewable energies and technologies. But these new plans aren’t all received with enthusiasm. “We need to prioritise fixing-up the New Territories before building up a new island,” said Southern District Councillor and Designing Hong Kong CEO Paul Zimmerman, referring to the unresolved land disputes in the New Territories. Green groups Greenpeace and WWF held a public speech outside the Legco,  requesting the government to prioritize the use of brownfield sites. Samantha Lee Mei-wah, Associate Director of WWF Marine protection Hong Kong Branch, said that the damage to oceans would be irreversible. “The environmental evaluations made by companies are no longer to be trusted. We need to invite independent institutions, such as universities, …

Society & Politics

18/19 Policy Address: Chief executive says zero tolerance on Hong Kong independence

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Amy Ho、Phoebe Lai、Wallis WangEdited by: Erin Chan、Windy LI
  • 2018-10-10

  The Hong Kong government will not tolerate any act that advocates Hong Kong independence and threatens the country’s sovereignty, security and development interests, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said in her annual policy address today. “We will fearlessly take actions against such acts according to the law in order to safeguard the interests of the country and Hong Kong,” Mrs. Lam said. This came a week after Financial Times journalist Victor Mallet’s visa renewal was rejected. Mrs Lam declined to explain the reason, but Mr. Mallet’s visa was turned down after he chaired a talk at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club given by the convenor of the Hong Kong National Party Andy Chan Ho-tin. His party advocates Hong Kong Independence. Mrs. Lam stressed that the chief executive of Hong Kong should be the defender of “one country, two systems”  and promote the relationship between the Chinese government and the HKSAR. “Hong Kong should enhance cooperation with the mainland, including active participation in the development of the Greater Bay Area,” said Mrs. Lam. One example of this cooperation is the new residence permit launched in September, Mrs Lam said, adding that it shows the central government’s support for the HKSAR. The permit allows residents from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan living on the mainland to access public services in employment, education, medical care, travelling and financial services. But the State Council in Beijing has stated that permits can be revoked if a person incites subversion of national sovereignty, security, honour and interest. Terence Lin Chiu-fai, director and researcher at the Beijing Institute of Hong Kong and Macau Scholars, said the residence permit does not play a major part in facilitating cooperation across the border. “The biggest advantage of the new residence permit is to ensure the convenience of the lives …

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: Youth to get more say in public policies and leadership development

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Rachel Yeo、Katherine Li、Oasis LiEdited by: Japson Melanie Jane、Elisa Luk
  • 2018-10-10

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor pledged today to work closely with the Youth Development Commission to encourage more young people to participate in policy discussions and to join outreach programmes. In her second policy address, Mrs. Lam said the Financial Secretary had reserved $1 billion in the Budget this year to support the Youth Development Commission’s work, and of this, $500 million will be allocated to implement a series of programmes. With these funds, Mrs. Lam hopes to increase the proportion of youth members in the advisory committees from 7.8% to 15% in the Pilot Member Self-recommendation Scheme for Youth. Initiated last year, the scheme has attracted over 1500 young people to share their views in different policy areas, including land development, education and social welfares, Mrs. Lam added. Also, the Commission has established a Youth Ambassadors Scheme, which aims to recruit 100 youth people every year who are passionate about serving the community. The ambassadors would be sent to local or international activities to hone their leadership skills. “We feel glad when noticing that Mrs. Lam took our advice to improve the percentage of young people in the government to listen to their suggestions,” said Chiu Man-leong, the vice-chairman of the pro-establishment Young Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong. “Different from previous administrations, this one attaches importance to young people’s voices, which is the right direction.” However, Isaac Cheng Ka-long, a member of the pro-democratic political party Demosistō and also its youngest member, expressed disappointment with Carrie Lam’s address. Mr. Cheng said the Chief Executive has reserved a billion dollars for youth development, but half of it will go toward supporting young people to work in the Greater Bay Area as a venture fund. He believes it is obvious that the government is serving the …

Society & Politics

18/19 Policy Address: Career prospects of contract teachers remain uncertain despite additional $4.7 billion in education

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Jo Ng、Karen Kwok、William TsuiEdited by: Erica Chin、Caroline Kwok
  • 2018-10-10

The government will spend an additional $4.7 billion every year on education, including a new Life-wide Learning Grant, more administrative support for schools and more funding for students with special educational needs, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor announced in the annual policy address today. Of this, $1.5 billion a year will go to equalizing permanent teacher salaries in public primary and secondary schools in the new all-graduate teaching force policy. This policy eliminates the older, and lower-paid, certificated master/mistress teaching positions. “The Government’s expenditure on education is the most meaningful investment in our future and we should treat our teachers nicely,” the chief executive said in her policy address. Around 2,200 more permanent teaching posts were created last year, slightly increasing the teacher-to-class ratio in public schools. However, contract teachers say they are being treated unequally. A report by the Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union in 2018 shows that teachers hired on contract are paid 30% less than those in permanent teaching positions. “The all-graduate teaching force policy still fails to ensure that contract teachers can get equal pay because schools can bargain with their salary based on that of permanent teachers’, ”said C.K. Cheng, a contract teacher from a local secondary school. Contract teachers also have poor career prospects. Although more than a third of them have seven years experience and 10% have been teaching for ten years, according to the report, few are offered permanent teaching positions. They also face the pressure of having to renew their contracts every year. “The turnover of teachers on the contract term is high. They don’t know when they will be fired,” said Mr. Cheng. Ip Kin-yuen, Legislative Council member and vice president of Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union, said increasing the teacher-to-class ratio is one of the solutions to address …

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 …

Society & Politics

Children of asylum seekers deprived of education rights in Hong Kong

Education expert and legislator call for conditional working rights of asylum seekers in supporting their own education expenses and daily expenses Isabella Ng Fung-sheung, assistant professor at The Education University of Hong Kong, volunteers at the Hong Kong Society for Asylum Seekers and Refugees. She said only one out of 170 asylum seekers can successfully make a non-refoulement claim so that they are not forced to leave the city. This process might take years, and their children may be deprived of their rights to education during the wait. Asylum seekers are not allowed to work in Hong Kong. Each person receives $1200 a month in food stamps from the government, which is enough for staple food but not much else, according to Dr. Ng. And while their children can go to school for free, Dr. Ng said asylum seekers often find it difficult to pay for school uniforms and books. Although most schools reimburse the parents for their expenses, they do have to pay upfront and then claim the money back with receipts. "Some families are not able to reach here for weekly gathering as they can't afford the transportation expenses," said Dr. Ng. Language barrier is also a major obstacle for young asylum seekers who desire education in Hong Kong, Dr. Ng stated. " The teacher kept telling me that this child cannot speak Chinese, can she understand at least one word of Chinese, if not, this child is so difficult to manage," said Dr. Ng when she recalled her experience in helping child asylum seekers searching for schools. " Local schools accept few non-Chinese speaking children," Dr. Ng says. " I tried to look for a kindergarten for a daughter of an asylum seeker once. She had a Hong Kong identity card, but eight out of ten schools …