Society & Politics

Society & Politics

CE to rebuild housing ladder with "Starter Homes" scheme

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Erin Chan、Caroline Kwok、Michael Shum、Candice WongEdited by: Lam Ka Sing、Nicole Kwok
  • 2017-10-11

CE to rebuild housing ladder with "Starter Homes" scheme Reported by Caroline Kwok, Erin Chan, Candice Wong,  Michael Shum Edited by Alfred Lam, Nicole Kwok,  Sean Hsu, James Ho Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor revealed details of the "Starter Homes" scheme in her maiden policy address today. The scheme is to provide more affordable private housing for young, middle class first-time home buyers who are struggling with the city's endless price growth in private housing. The scheme's applicants must have an income level not exceeding $34,000 a month for singletons and $68,000 for households with two or more members, about 30 per cent higher than the income limits for Home Ownership Scheme applicants, she said. Land supply for the units will come from sites owned by private developers or bought by the Government. Lam said the government will dictate the scheme at the end and developers will only help building the homes. Poon Wing-cheung, senior lecturer of Building Science and Technology at City University of Hong Kong, agreed that the government should work with private developers to speed up the scheme. "Developers are well-equipped with land resources and are experienced in maximising land use," Poon said. Thomas Lam, senior director of property consultancy, Knight Frank, also thought that "Public-Private Partnership" can provide certain incentives for both parties. "For example, developers will supply farmland for "Starter Homes" in exchange for discounted land premium arrangements," Lam said. However, he also pointed out some limitations of the scheme. "The targeted income-group of the "Starter Homes" scheme  only makes up around  one-tenths of the labour force. Large number of "Starter Homes" units may also affect the private market of small-sized units," he said. Sammy Po, chief executive of Midland Realty's residential division, said the application requirements and resale restrictions of "Starter Homes" should be tight …

Society & Politics

Ethnic minority groups urge government to address unequal opportunities

About 50 individuals from various ethnic minority rights group gathered outside the Hong Kong Government headquarters in Admiralty to call for equal opportunities for ethnic minorities. Organizations and individuals include Hong Kong Unison, Diversity of Voices, ethnic minority parents, local university students and graduates and Chinese-home tutors. They ask Chief Executive Carrie Lam to implement policies related to ethnic minorities which she made in her election manifesto. Carrie stated in early 2017 that she would ensure the successful implementation of Chinese education among ethnic minority students if she was elected as the next chief executive. Jeffrey Andrews, the first ethnic minority registered social workers in Hong Kong of Indian descent and organizer of the march, sees Chinese education as the key to eliminate discrimination against ethnic minorities. "The lack of proper Chinese education [for ethnic minority students] is still not tackled. At schools, we did not get to learn Chinese properly. Therefore, for many generations, ethnic minority people cannot get into universities, cannot integrate into the society or cannot get a proper job," said Andrews. He also lamented the negative perception of ethnic minorities. "Various media sites are blaming us for making Hong Kong chaotic. There is this government slogan: Hong Kong is my home. But I don't think we [ethnic minority community] are included in this message," he added. He added that the unequal opportunities in education have existed since kindergarten. "There are even some kindergartens that deny [ethnic minorities'] entry. Those schools say, ‘Our place is not for your children since everything is taught in Cantonese.' This problem can persist from kindergarten until university. We never really seem to integrate into the society. It is ridiculous that we have to pay to learn Cantonese outside instead of at schools," said Andrews. Salma Deiya, a representative for ethnic minority university …

Society & Politics

Activists call for support of jailed mainland dissidents

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Raphael Blet、Tracy Zhang、Jade LiEdited by: Lam Ka Sing、Tracy Zhang
  • 2017-10-05

An activist group organised a temporary exhibition in Hong Kong's Tsim Sha Tsui Wednesday evening, calling for support of jailed activists in mainland China.     The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China hopes the Democracy Lantern Action can make the public pay more attention to the "patriots" in custody and the human rights issue in the mainland, said Richard Tsoi Yiu-cheong, vice president of the organisation, referring to dissidents such as the 709 lawyers, a group of lawyers under government surveillance.   The number 709 refers to the fact that the lawyers were arrested on July 9 in 2015.   "The annual event we hold next to the Tsim Sha Tsui harbour every year at Mid-Autumn Festival is to advocate for those in custody who cannot get united with their family members," he said.   "We also hope to increase awareness on the suppression on the defendants of human rights in mainland on the night of a traditional Chinese festival when people unite with their family members," he added.   Chow Hang-tung, barrister and vice president of the Hong Kong Alliance, also regarded the Mid-Autumn Festival as a symbolic time to call for the activists' reunion with their families as it is when Chinese families traditionally gather to celebrate.   "The most vocal lawyers have been either placed in jail or put on probation since the 709 crackdown, severely reducing the number of human rights lawyers who can still work effectively" said Chow, who believes that the situation for mainland human rights lawyers has worsened since the jailings in 2015. The alliance has delivered moon cakes to the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government on Chinese National day on Monday, asking for the release of jailed mainland dissidents to reunite with their families. …

Society & Politics

Hong Kong bike-sharing initiatives' secretive rise

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Japson Melanie Jane、Angie Chan、Scout XuEdited by: Daniel Ma、Sean Hsu、Choy York Borg Paulus
  • 2017-10-04

The Lands Department confiscated around 30 bikes in Tin Shui Wai and Yuen Long, most of which are from GoBee, the first bike-sharing service in Hong Kong. Unlike existing bike-rentals, bike-sharing services allows users to rent green bikes by scanning QR codes with their mobile phones, posing no restrictions on where to pick-up or drop off the bicycles. Sha Tin District Councillor Sunny Chiu Chu-bong finds the bike-sharing service is a good concept and can be very convenient, though problems have arisen since before its implementation. However Chiu said there are no regulations towards these services, but taxpayers are paying for these bikes. "They are using government land to make profit, without approval from the public." The district councillors were not informed of the bike-sharing service until they started receiving complaints; Some complained of alarms going off and are unable to be turn them off; Bikes were inappropriately parked, blocking the road. These are only some of the common problems found since the launch of the service. "Hong Kong is not ready for bike-sharing services," he added. " The city lacks government regulation and infrastructure. More similar companies are going to surface and that will worsen illegal parking." Sha Tin resident Chan said this service is quite convenient, but it's not very well-known and the payment method is quite complicated. Though she is concerned of the parking problem, she would choose to pick up these green bikes for a free 30-minute session. Another resident Michelle Cheung feels uneasy about the registration and payment method of the services. She fears about privacy problems which could hinder with the usage of the service. "The government should make them register and plan out the areas for them to park the bikes." She answered when asked about possible government action, regarding the disruption caused …

Society & Politics

Lack of seat belts on minibus poses threats to passengers' safety

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Elly Wu、Michelle Ng、Sharon Pun、Candice WongEdited by: Fred LAI、Celia Lai
  • 2017-10-04

More than 40 per cent of light buses in the city do not  have seat belts, despite mandatory requirements to install them. A crash involving a minibus in Shek O three days ago again raised concern on the potential threat to safety. Twenty six passengers were injured. A new law enacted in 2004 states that all minibuses must be fitted with  seat belts. The Young Reporter talked to more than 60 minibus passengers and found that only 29% of them would wear seat belts when taking a ride. Tam Chun Tak, Secretary of HK, Kln & NT Public & Maxicab Light Bus Merchants' United Association, says the high cost of fitting seat belts is a problem. He believes that without government subsidy,  it will take at least 15 years for seat belts to be installed on all light buses, and they have no plans to install seat belts in existing minibuses. "The only way to ensure all minibuses have seat belts is to replace some of the existing vehicles, " Tam said. That's because the frame of some of the  current buses cannot be fitted with seat belts. But former Secretary for Transport and Housing, Cheng Yu-wah, now a legislator, says the government has provided help to the industry. She explained that there have been three incentive schemes since 2004 to encourage minibus owners to replace their own vehicles in order to comply with environmental and safety standards. Out of the 64 minibus passengers The Young Reporter reached, 87% pay attention to whether seat belts are installed on minibuses, but only 29% wears them sometimes. No one said they would refuse to take a minibus without seat belts. Wong Hei-man, 20, who was once fined for not wearing a seat belt on a minibus, says she is not concerned whether …

Society & Politics

Cultural tours fail to pull mainland tourists during Golden Week

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Holly Chik、Caroline Kwok、Ezra CheungEdited by: Angela Cheung、Emily Cheung
  • 2017-10-04

Not a lot of mainland tourists come to Hong Kong for cultural exploration or eco-tours, spokesperson of Mainland Travellers Centre of China Travel Service said. The company offers different one-day tours including popular tourists spots such as Ocean Park and Hong Kong Disneyland, but they also offer cultural and eco-tours. For example, China Travel Service provides cultural tours to Kowloon Walled City Park and site visits to the Hong Kong UNESCO Global Geopark. Both types of packages targeted at mainland travellers but cultural and eco-tours are usually less popular amongst customers regardless in peak seasons or in regular days. Over these few days of the National Day Golden Week, over 150 individuals from the mainland came to Hong Kong daily for one-day tours of traditionally popular tourist attractions. Yet, only less than 60 joined either cultural or eco-tours every day. China Travel Service spokesperson said the company did not marketise any of their tours as flagships and customers could make their own choice. "Usually they are here (in Hong Kong) for shopping and popular tourists spots," spokesperson said. Ho Ho Go Experience is a tour agency which covers tradition and off-the-beaten-path attractions. The founder, Ling Ho, also said no mainland tourist has joined their cultural tours after they were launched in 2015. • 20 Most Popular Countries as Mainlanders' Tourist Destinations (Data from China Tourism Academy) Former Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying aimed to diversify the visitor source market and develop cultural and creative tourism, as he announced in the 2016 Policy Address. The government defined "creative tourism" as tourism and minglement of experimental activities with local characteristics, citing South Korea, Brazil and New Zealand as examples. Brazil offers tourists samba dance learning experiences instead of just watching a dancing show, whereas New Zealand organises indigenous related hands-on workshops operated by …

Society & Politics

Bus Drivers Forced To Work Overtime

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Wing Li、Alexandra Lin、Dorothy Ma、Kobie LiEdited by: Richelia Yeung、Tiffany Lui、Choco Tang
  • 2017-10-04

The Federation of Bus Industry Trade Union is calling for shorter working hours and higher salaries for Hong Kong bus drivers, after a fatal bus accident killed three people in Sham Shui Po last week. Lau Kai-him, officer of the Union, said that bus companies have an unhealthy pay structure that forces bus drivers to work overtime. Hong Kong has five franchised bus companies, including Citybus, which was involved in the recent accident, and numerous minibuses and other non-franchised buses. Chu, a Citybus driver who didn't want to reveal his full name, said he works 10 to 12 hours a day, depending on the route he is assigned. He calls this a disguised form of compulsory overtime. "You need to do it when the company assigned it to you," Chu said. Lau also said the drivers don't make enough money without working overtime, another reason for longer working hours. The basic salary for a bus driver starts from around $12,000 for new drivers up to around $15,000 for drivers with good records, including no customer complaints, Chu said. Nowadays more and more passengers like to complain, Chu said. But bus companies advertise a salary of $19,000 to attract new drivers; however, this includes overtime, Lau said. Bus companies need to hire more drivers to reduce the need for overtime, he added. Lau is saying bus companies are having a hard time attracting new blood. "If we only decrease the working hours without raising the salary, the problem cannot be solved," Lau said. "Our bus company has never forced the drivers to work overtime. If the drivers think their working hours are too long, they can ask for a switch," said Wong Ka-lok, Director of Citybus Branch.  

Society & Politics

Rally called for an end to 'authoritarian rule' on China's national day

  Organizers of ‘anti-authoritarian rally' said  40,000 people attended the march on China's 68th National Day. Raised by Demosisto, League of Social Democrats and other political parties, the demonstration kicked off at Victoria Park in Causeway Bay, marching to the Government Headquarters in Tamar. "Step down Yuen Kwok-keung!  Against authoritarian rule! " people called for Justice Secretary Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung to resign during the march. "We are here because we see that the situation is getting worse and worse especially since the new administration took over and began persecution and prosecution," said Griffith Jones, member of Socialist Action. In August,  the Department of Justice successfully appealed to the sentencing of student activists Joshua Wong Chi-fung, Alex Chow Wing-hong and Nathan Law Kwun-chung who were charged for storming the ‘Civic Square' beside the Legco back in 2014. The trio was sentenced between six to eight months behind bars- which pan-democrats regard as a politically motivated sentence. Occupy leaders Benny Tai Yiu-ting, Chan Kin-man and Reverend Chu Yiu-ming all showed up in the demonstration. The three face charges of public nuisance in relation to the Umbrella movement, which brought the city's busiest districts to a halt for almost three months. Several protesters were holding yellow umbrellas, a symbol of the 79-day occupied movement in 2014. "We are here because Hong Kong is in a bad shape, we will continue until we take back our city," said a female protester surnamed Ho. Part of the Pro-independence protesters were waving Catalan flags, in reference to the current referendum on the Spanish region's possible independence. "We do not have (hold) Catalan flags because (of) support(ing) Catalonia's independence. We just want to show the government that other countries discuss independence as well," said one of the demonstrators. Spokesperson for the government responded to the event later, saying …

Society & Politics

After Three Years, Sea of Yellow Umbrellas re-appeared in Admiralty

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Erin Chan、Michael Shum、Daisy LeeEdited by: Isabella Lo
  • 2017-09-28

Convener of Citizen Charter 617 James Hon Lin-shan, also an organiser of the event, said more than a thousand people attended the commemorative rally of Umbrella Movement on Thursday - a double of what he expected. At 5.58pm, participants stood for three minutes of silence with their yellow umbrellas raised.  Steam and sound were used to re-enact the scene at the exact time three years ago, when police started intimidating tear gases to force out the protesters. Around 40 parties and civil groups set up booths in the anniversary event. The three Occupy Central founders -  Benny Tai Yiu-ting, Chan Kin-man and Reverend Chu Yiu-ming were among the speakers on stage. Tai said that people in Hong Kong should keep the faith in fighting for democracy. "No matter how the situation becomes, we should believe that Hong Kong can enjoy true democracy one day, " he said. The associate professor of law at the University of Hong Kong also criticized the government's suppression on discussions over Hong Kong independence. "Tell me why speaking about Hong Kong independence has violated the law? Which law I have actually violated?" Tai added. He also pointed out that the trio are all mentally prepared for the possible imprisonment. 'I believed once we have started the road of civil disobedience, we have to pluck up our courage to walk till the end, including being imprisoned,'' Reverend Chu said. The pro-democracy Umbrella Movement took place in 2014 was aimed to fight for universal suffrage to elect the city's leader and to resist the 831 framework proposed by Beijing. The 831 framework, laid down by the National People's Congress Standing Committee, set limits for 2017 Chief Executive Elections and 2016 Legislative Council in HKSAR, which involves screening of candidates and emphasizes the importance of a patriotic leader. …

Society & Politics

Former student leaders exempt from imprisonment over University council siege

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Erin Chan、Michael ShumEdited by: Tracy Zhang、Daisy Lee
  • 2017-09-22

Former student leader Billy Fung Jing-en was sentenced to 240 hours of community service on Thursday over the siege of the University of Hong Kong governing council meeting last year. Fung, then president of the University of Hong Kong Student Union, was convicted of acting in a disorderly conduct by forcing his way into the meeting venue and damaging the front door. His then vice-president, Colman Li Fung-kei, 22, was sentenced to 200 hours of community service for obstruction of blocking paramedics from sending council member Leonie Ki Man-fung to hospital, who was injured during the protests. Both men were convicted in July, but only Fung pleaded guilty to the charges of criminal damage and attempted forcible entry. Magistrate Ko Wai-hung stated that even though both were meant to uphold the belief of social justice, using violence to achieve so is unacceptable. "Your identity as university student is not a halo but a spell. People would follow your every move. Your actions may receive mixed reactions. But if you are opinionated, you will wander from righteousness," said Ko. Ko added that he hoped Fung and Li can use legal, non-violence means to give back to the society upon community sentence. Over hundred mitigation letters were presented to court in support of Fung and Li before the court hearing yesterday. Among the letter writers, there are HKU's president Peter Matheison and HKU council member Leonie Ki Man-fung. Ki was blocked by Li on her way to hospital after being shoved and kicked during the tense protests by students demanding a conversation with chairman Arthur Li Kwok-cheung. Ki stated in the letter that she had forgiven Li after meeting him, who had made a sincere apology. Fung reflected on his jail exemption through facebook. "We may be upset or helpless over our …