Society

Society

The New Normal of Learning: Online Classes

COVID-19 has posed great challenges to the education system in Hong Kong. Schools have to adapt to online teaching to prevent the spread of the virus.  Under the incoming fourth wave of COVID-19, Mr Lobo Ho Lik-sang, the principal of the Maryknoll Fathers' School, said that there are many challenges to overcome, while teachers and students are improving in online teaching and learning under the new normal. Under the COVID-19 pandemic, teachers have to teach by using online conference software and assess students' performances online. Students are also facing uncertainties under the pandemic. Some have lost practical learning opportunities, some have lost the precious interacting moments with teachers and friends, some are having difficulties in online learning such as completing assignments and examinations. "Online teaching is a tough challenge for teachers," said Mr Ho."Zoom is a one-way method of teaching and it is hard to build an interactive environment," he added. Mr Ho also attributed to network infrastructure and the limitations of technology as the problems in the online teaching environment. While teachers find online teaching tough, college students feel helpless in completing assignments with insufficient assistance from teachers. "I have to do my assignments and exams without any help from teachers at home. I feel helpless,", said Jeremiah Choong Hon-lam, a student from the Heng Seng University of Hong Kong. Mr Choong also added that some practical training cannot be delivered online. "My assignments include practical training, and I can't do it at home," said Mr Choong. Mr Ho also echoed the concern raised by Mr Choong. "Not every concept and knowledge can be taught online. For example, experiments and physical techniques have to be learnt in a realistic situation." Mr Choong's situation is just a tip of the iceberg. According to a survey conducted by the Lingnan University …

Society

Quarantine Hotels Regain Public Trust

A deploy of AI vacuum cleaner to sanitize the carpet, a regular disinfection of each guest room, a frequent disinfection of fresh air filter, a use of independent pipe for air conduction to prevent cross-contamination, and 24 hours available of masks and hand sanitizer, this is the epidemic control measure at Dorsett Mongkok hotel.  All that COVID precaution has made Pang Yui-man feel safe. She is spending a night at Dorsett Mongkok to celebrate her birthday. Her room was spotless. There was a precaution guideline pamphlet on the table. There are also bottles of hand sanitizer, and a Covid-19 test kit. The results would be available within 24 to 48 hours at the reception. Dorsett Mongkok partnered with Ecolab, a global leader in infection prevention, to use Ecolab's Disinfectant Cleaner 2.0 to clean and disinfect high touch areas, guest rooms and air-conditioning systems. Before visiting Dorsett Mongkok Hotel, Ms Pang was sceptical about the hygiene because the hotel used to provide a quarantine package and there were confirmed cases. Ms Pang carried her own protective gear, including her own towel, pyjamas and hand sanitizer when she visited the hotel.  "I now feel that the hotel follows hospital hygiene standards to protect their customers and staff," said Ms Pang.  Hong Kong's hotel industry has been severely hit by the coronavirus pandemic. Government figures show an 88.2% drop in visitors in the first five months of 2020. Hotel room occupancy rate fell from 59% in January to 29% in February according to the Global Database website. Many hotels started to switch their focus to local customers.  During the third wave of the pandemic in Hong Kong, a total of 25 hotels offered quarantine packages. According to the list of hotels provided by the Secretary for Food and Health, most quarantine hotels are …

Society

Hong Kong ethnic minority face racial discrimination when seeking for housing

Malik Omar Zaman, a Pakistani who moved to Hong Kong 6 years ago, has been rejected more than 35 times when seeking a house in Hong Kong. He looked at about 50 apartments before he finally got to rent the current one.  "We found a nice apartment and the agent told us the landlord is not willing to give it to you," said Mr Zaman. Mr Zaman lives in a 350 square meter apartment in Yuen Long, one of the less expensive districts in Hong Kong, with his wife and two daughters.  Mr Zaman is among the 90% of ethnic minorities in Hong Kong who face racial discrimination when looking for a home, according to a survey  by two local NGOs, Hong Kong Unison and Hong Kong Ministry Refugee Group in late 2018. And though Hong Kong’s discrimination law makes this illegal, there is little recourse for rejected tenants who are often forced into illegal sub-divided flats and other substandard housing. There are a total of 583,383 ethnic minorities residing in Hong Kong, constituting 8% of the whole population. This includes Filipinos, Indonesia, Indians, Pakistanis, Nepalese, Bangladeshis, and Sri-Lankans, according to the 2016 population By-census Thematic Report. Many of the ethnic minorities live in Tsim Sha Tsui, Yuen Long, Sham Shui Po, Tin Shui Wai, and Tuen Mun - where living costs are relatively low and around 40% of them live in a subdivided flat, according to the survey.  According to local ethnic rights advocacy groups, preconception about ethnic minorities and no legal charge for a rejection of tenants based on nationality are reasons for landlords not to lease apartments to ethnic minorities. The race discrimination ordinance in Hong Kong states that in any circumstances if on the ground of the race of that other person, a person treats that …

Society

Policy Address 20/21: Carrie Lam introduces a scheme to fight youth unemployment but students are hesitant amidst Hong Kong-Mainland political unrest. 

In Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor's fourth policy address today, she addressed Hong Kong's growing unemployment rate and introduced a new scheme that will open up to 2,000 places, of which some are innovation and technology positions, in the Great Bay Area for postgraduate students.  The Greater Bay Area consists of 9 cities in China, as well as Hong Kong and Macau to create a megalopolis. With aims to increase cooperation between Guangdong, Hong Kong, and Macau and promote economic development.  The city's unemployment rate hit 6.4% this year, the highest it has been in 16 years according to government statistics. Especially among the youth, according to trending economics, as of September 2020, youth unemployment has skyrocketed to a staggering 12.10%.  In order to combat this worrying trend, the Hong Kong Government will introduce as part of the Greater Bay Area expansion process a new scheme officially called "The Greater Bay Area Youth Development Scheme". In hopes that Hong Kong graduates will apply and receive career opportunities in the Great Bay Area.  "Personally, I won’t work or get a job in the Mainland," said Tommy Mo, a student at Hong Kong Baptist University. He expresses his concerns about the National Security Law and the repercussions that he might face for being vocal with his political views on the CCP on social media platforms.  Mr Mo isn’t the only one to hold such opinions, 70% of Hong Kong’s youth said that they would prefer to keep their distance from mainland China and 60% were not a fan of the Greater Bay Area and that it would bring “more harm than good”, according to media reports on a survey conducted by Hong Kong Guangdong Youth Association in January.  Alice Lam Hoi-Yan, another student at HKBU expressed similar concerns but thought the …

Society

Policy Address 20/21: Professional Teachers' Union is skeptical of Carrie Lam's national security education plan

The government is working on plans to enhance national security education, Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng yuet-ngor said in the Policy Address 2020, given that students arrested under the social unrest lacked "law-abiding awareness" and failed to have "positive values " such as mutual respect and understanding.  However, the Hong Kong Professional Teachers' Union, the largest representative body for teachers in the city, disagreed with Mrs Lam's characterization of the arrested students and expressed doubt about the vague content of her plan. Around 2,000 of the 10,000 people arrested for protests last year were primary and secondary school students. "The social unrest in the past year involved people from different walk of life. There's no evidence that children are particularly being mobilised by someone,"  Fung Wai Wah, the president of HKPTU said. Instead of accusing students for a  lack of correct values, he said,  Lam should  "review" her governance and "rectify" the mistakes. As for the national security education plan, Mr.Fung said although this plan can help improve students' awareness of the rule of law, he was sceptical due to the vagueness of the statement. He added that the initiative depends on the content that is going to be taught.  In the policy address, Mrs Lam also reiterated that the Department of Justice will implement a ten-year-initiative called  "Vision 2030 for Rule of Law", which includes educating urban youth to understand the rule of law and promote "law-abiding awareness". The initiative comes after two teachers were disqualified after a primary school teacher from Alliance Primary School in Kowloon Tong. One was accused of teaching materials that were supporting independence, and another primary school teacher from Ho Lap Primary School in Tsz Wan Shan was deregistered due to teaching a distorted history of the Sino-British opium war.  This initiative …

Society

Policy Address 20/21: HK government to introduce cash allowance for low-income families

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor highlighted new public housing schemes for residents with plans to provide low-income families currently waiting in line for public rental housing with cash allowance over a prolonged period. In the live broadcast, Mrs Lam hopes that the new schemes will "get Hong Kong out of the impasse and restore people's confidence as soon as possible."  To meet the demand of about 301,000 public housing units, the government plans to use 330 identified hectares of land required based on the Long Term Housing Strategy Annual Progress Report 2020 to implement 316,000 flats within the next 10 years.  Locations involved the Tung Chung reclamation side, the agricultural and brownfields sides in new development areas such as Kwu Tong North, Fanling North. Other suggested areas include nine sites at Kai Tak and Anderson Road Quarry, and parts of Fanling Golf Course will also be used for public housing development.  "It is the prime time to create more land for housing," she said. Ms Leung, who has been in line for public rental housing for four years, rated the policy address one out of 10. "She [Carrie Lam] did introduce new public housing, but it seems that the majority would be sold in the market rather than being rented, which would have zero impact on shortening the waiting time for public rental housing," Leung said. Currently, the waiting time for public rental housing averages at 5.6 years, which has increased by 0.1 years compared to June this year. As of September, there are about 156,400 general applications for public rental housing and about 103,600 non-elderly one-person applications.  A new cash subsidy will roll out for people waiting for public rental housing. In the trial scheme, applicants with two or more persons, and elderly one-person applicants not living in …

Society

Policy Address 20/21: Property agents welcome but remain skeptical towards commercial property tax abolition

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Cora Zhu、Vikki Cai、Yuri KwokEdited by: KawaiWong、Olivia Tam
  • 2020-11-25

The city's leader announced today to abolish tax for commercial properties, real estate agents express positive attitudes towards the policy but some of them cast doubt on its effectiveness due to the uncertain investment environment under COVID-19. In her fourth annual policy address, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said the government will abolish the Double Stamp Duty (DSD) on commercial property to facilitate businesses to cash out by selling non-residential real estate so to stay afloat during the economic downturn. The policy will take effect tomorrow. "As a result of the economic downturn and uncertainities surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, prices and demand for non-residential properties have been dropping over a period of time," said Ms Lam. "The government considers now the right time to abolish the DSD imposed on non-residential properties." Hong Kong saw its Q3 GDP decrease by 3.5% in real term on a year-on-year basis. For the net output in the real estate, professional, and business services sector, it decreased by 5.9% in real terms in 2020 Q2 from a year earlier, following a decline of 4.6% in Q1, according to the Census and Statistics Department. The DSD, formally known as the Doubled Ad Valorem Stamp Duty, was first introduced in February 2013 to deal with the surging prices of commercial properties. The rates range from 4.25% to 8.5% depending on different asset prices.  Lau Kin-ling, 59, a real estate agent said the abolishment of commercial property tax is helpful for the market but it is hard to predict the effectiveness.  "The policy may not attract a considerable amount of mainland investors since the borders remain closed," said Ms Lau. "The major factor for buyers to purchase a commercial property is field visit so that they can access the actual environment, simply presenting an advertising video would …

Society

Policy Address 20/21: A report not for our citizens": Hong Kong Pro-democrats criticise latest policy address

James To was in his office putting things away in boxes for removal while watching the live broadcast of policy address on television. On the screen is Carrie Lam, wearing the lapel pin of the Chinese and Hong Kong flag, standing in the chambers of the Legislative Council, giving her speech. The former lawmaker used to be sitting in the chambers, listening to the Chief Executive's annual address alongside many other colleagues from the opposition camp. Now, there are none of them left in the chambers. This is the first policy address ever given in the city's history without any pro-democratic lawmakers. "We used to protest in the chambers when there's [a] policy address, but right now, all the people left in the chambers are the puppets of the [the] Communist party," said Mr To, referring to the pro-Beijing lawmakers, who remained in the chambers. On November 12, the Democratic lawmakers resigned in solidarity with those who are disqualified by the government, with powers from the Beijing authorities, citing a threat to national security. That leaves the highest legislative body in the city with no dissenting voice for the first time. Claudia Mo, another lawmaker who resigned, criticised this year's address to be a report to integrate Hong Kong into the mainland, instead of having the city's best interest at heart. "The goal is to 'disappear' Hong Kong as we know it. I lost count of how many times she said Hong Kong enjoys  Beijing's 'central support', like without which we just couldn't survive on," she said as she watched the address online, with no appetite for lunch.  Wu Chi-wai, the chairman of the Democracy Party, said that the annual policy blueprint is more like a report from governors of provinces to the Beijing government. "You cannot find a word …

Society

Hong Kong's frustrated medics still on shift despite fight over COVID, social unrest with government

For Dr. Arisina Ma, alarm bells rang in late August when Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet Ngor called critics of the mass screening "the so-called doctors and experts who had political calculations and intended to smear the Central Government and damage its relationship with Hong Kong."  "I think this is the first time our officials used such strong comments about our usual, independent advice towards our healthcare policy," said Dr. Ma, the president of the Hong Kong Public Doctor's Association, the largest medical union in Hong Kong representing over 6,800 doctors and dentists. The turmoil last year -- from police brutality during pro-democracy protests to COVID-19 policies -- has amplified the frustration of public healthcare workers with the Hospital Authority and the government. Although the private sector might have greater autonomy and a lighter workload, medics are choosing to stay in the city's public hospitals.  Dr. Ma often shared professional opinions that did not align with official COVID measures. In late August, she said in an RTHK interview that she did not see the necessity of the mass screening when COVID-19 cases were slowing down and raised concerns over the test's accuracy. She published an article on Stand News in September, saying that relying on the health code, which is a proposed government policy, could put the city at risk because of "false-negatives." Non-participants might be restricted from entering public spaces and thus have their rights harmed, she also wrote.  Despite piled-up dissatisfaction, Dr. Ma continued working in United Christian Hospital, a public hospital operated by the Hospital Authority and the second public hospital she worked at after returning from the private sector in 2011.  "I stay for my patients. I don't stay for my boss or employer. I don't have any passion for my employer," Dr. Ma said.  …

Society

Mixed-mode art exhibition lights up Hong Kong cultural service in post-pandemic age

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Kitty Wang、Summer LiEdited by: Han Xu、Cassie Zhang
  • 2020-11-21

In face of the declining visits due to the public gathering restrictions amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Hong Kong cultural sectors seek innovative solutions by delivering online/offline art programmes to the audience.  The Fest Box program, launched for free by the Leisure and Cultural Service Department on Nov. 1, enables the public to enjoy and immerse in various cultural programmes by simply clicking on the programme's website at home. "The online world allows us to explore more possibilities," said Addy Wong Ngan-ping, Senior Media Coordinator of Muse Fest HK in a promotion video of the Fest Box. Facilitated with advanced online technologies, the team was able to create a chance for global audiences to appreciate artworks at any time. The Fest Box is not the pioneer of the virtual exhibition in the arts industry. Statistics from HK01 show that since the implementation of the restrictive policies amid COVID-19, 94.9% of art performances, festivals, and venues have been cancelled or postponed during the first quarter of 2020. As a result, many local art exhibitions, art festivals, and venues have switched to online mode. From March 18 to 25, Art Basel Hong Kong, one of the local signature activities that were originally cancelled due to the epidemic, set up the "Online Viewing Rooms." The initial form was so welcomed by the public that online visitors increased by three times to 250,000 compared with the previous offline ones, according to the statistics of HK01. As the LCSD announced on October 28, the limit on the number of visitors in each facility of LCSD museums, performance venues, and parks was relaxed from 50% to 75% starting from Oct. 30. In response, some art service providers started to organise both online and offline cultural activities. The Hong Kong Space Museum presented the "Univers/e" virtual reality exhibition …