Society

Society

Hong Kong releases electric vehicle roadmap, to ban petrol cars from 2035

Hong Kong will ban fossil-fuel powered cars from 2035 with a target of zero carbon emissions by 2050, the government announced yesterday. Up to 5,000 public charging stations and 150,000 charging facilities in private buildings will be built by 2025, Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing said in a press conference. "There are many challenges, I have to admit. But the intention is clear, we want the city to become carbon neutral, to provide clean air and to make Hong Kong a smart city."Mr Wong said. Electric vehicles in Hong Kong have increased from 180 in 2010 to more than 18,500 at the end of 2020 with around 1,200 public charging stations, including 106 fast chargers, according to the Hong Kong Electric report on installation of electric chargers. Chan Kwok-chung, 45, who has been driving a petrol car for more than 20, said the government's plan to popularise electric vehicles won’t work. “We have insufficient parking spaces right now. Where can we still get room for additional charging parking spaces for electric vehicles?” Mr Chan said. “Especially when an electric vehicle takes a very long time to charge, it will worsen the insufficient parking situation.” Popularising electric vehicles depends on the Hong Kong economy, car dealerships and the number of chargers, Fung Ho-yin, Deputy Director of the Environmental Protection department, said in a RTHK interview. “Most public charging services are medium-speed, and the waiting time is at least four to eight hours, which is not the main charging spot that car owners can rely on,” Mr Fung said to RTHK. In October last year, the government launched a $2 billion subsidy scheme to upgrade electric charging stations in private residential buildings. “We received more than 200 application forms from housing estates, with more than 60,000 parking spaces,” he said. In …

Society

Surge in complaints on wedding services amid Covid

The number of complaints against wedding-related services has reached a three-year high, according to the Consumer Council. Of 233 complaints the Council received last year, more than half were about catering services, and 122 had to do with wedding banquets, the Council said in an online press conference today. In January, the consumer watchdog conducted a survey on cancellation and postponement policies for Chinese wedding banquets. All 10 catering providers said they allowed special arrangements because of the pandemic, customers were guaranteed the same services or menu prices despite the cancellation. Deadlines for cancellation also varied. The sum involved in the complaints to the Council ranged from HK$250,000 to HK$400,000, according to Gilly Wong, the council’s chief executive. In one case, a couple had paid a $72,000 deposit, but when they wanted to cancel the booking after several postponements, they were asked to pay the remaining sum as compensation for terminating the contract. “The couple ended up giving 30% of the deposit to the venue”, Ms Wong said. “Don’t trust verbal contracts, this is the most important advice that we would offer to consumers,” she added. “Think of all the ‘devil in the details’, and think through before you talk to the provider.” The Council has outlined a number of guidelines for consumers before signing up for a wedding banquet contract: Understand the service terms and conditions carefully and thoroughly before signing the contract. Retain all relevant records and important information such as promotional flyers, quotations, contracts or receipts, so it can be used as evidence and for follow-up in case of future disputes. Ask the provider to put all verbal promises in writing, and request confirmation of all phone and text communications in an official company email; Should both sides agree to postpone the wedding banquet, set up a …

Society

Japan commemorates 10th anniversary of earthquake Sendai

Japan commemorated the event by a minute of silence for those who lost their lives in the earthquake. The Sendai earthquake, also known as the Tohoku earthquake with a magnitude of 9.1, triggered a tsunami that swept across the prefecture, making it one of the worst earthquakes since modern records began.

Society

China Two Sessions: proposal to cancel English as a main high school subject

A member of the National People's Congress, Liu Weichao has proposed to drop English as a compulsory subject in primary and junior high schools in mainland China. In the annual meeting that is currently held in Beijing, Mr Liu said " foreign language education has a serious impact on mother tongue learning and imposes an undue pressure on students". Mr. Liu suggested that schools should only offer English subjects from high school and put more effort on training students' practical skills such as speaking and listening. The proposal has gone viral on the Chinese internet. Some netizens said it is more important to have English rather than mathematics. "As an international language, I think English is still very important now. I hope my children can learn English well and have the opportunity to explore the world in the future," Binting Cai, a mother of a four-year-old child, said on WeChat. English is currently a compulsory subject in primary and secondary schools across China. Students are required to attend at least one class everyday. "I think this is very unreasonable, because elementary and junior high schools are the golden age of learning English," said Edward Liao, an English tutor in New Oriental, one of China's biggest private tutorial centres. "If students start to learn letters and phonetic symbols from high school, this will increase the workload of high school teachers," Mr Liao added. This is not the first time deputies at the annual Two Sessions propose to cut back on English education. On March 4, Xu Jin, a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) said it is unnecessary for students to learn a language that he described as "useless" for most people. In an interview with Beijing News, Mr Xu said that less than …

Society

Ethnic minority women: race and gender in "Asia's world city"

Unkind looks on the MTR, judged for not looking like or having the same skin colour as the majority and even getting turned away from jobs solely because of ethnicity. Ethnic minorities face discrimination on almost every corner of Hong Kong's streets. More than 80% of ethnic minorities said they face discrimination on a day to day basis, such as in shops, markets or restaurants in a study done by the City University of Hong Kong. It can be even tougher for ethnic minority women, who may face both racial and gender discrimination. On top of that, the city has seen a big change over the past year from its usual buzzing atmosphere amid an ongoing pandemic and over a year of social unrest that fills the air with unwavering tension. Ethnic minority women account for more than 100,000 of the 7.4 million population, with the majority being South Asian. This excludes foreign domestic helpers, who make up a large chunk of the female population according to the 2016 Population By-Census.  Marium Fatima Awan, 22, a Hong Konger by nationality says she's been turned away from jobs because of her Pakistani ethnicity.  Born and raised in Hong Kong, with the ability to read, write and speak Cantonese fluently, Ms Awan says that’s done anything but work to her advantage. In fact, it’s proven a double standard. Employers expect her to speak more than two languages because of her ethnic background.  But not all ethnic minorities can pick up the local language that easily. Ms Awan says more needs to be done to include and inform them about what goes on in the city.  The younger generations were reported to have a better understanding of Cantonese, according to data from The Census and Statistics Department. In 2016, almost 65% of ethnic …

Society

New covid rule requiring dedicated table cleaning staff leaves small restaurants short handed

All eateries have to assign dedicated staff members to clear and disinfect used tables and eating utensils starting from Thursday. Small restaurants say the new requirement makes them short-handed. The measure was introduced after a Covid-19 outbreak at a Chinese restaurant in K11 Musea shopping mall in Tsim Sha Tsui that involved a “superspreader,” infecting more than 50 people.  Eateries are also required to meet new ventilation regulations of at least six air changes per hour. Yeung Ho-yin, the owner of a cart noodle eatery, said he was short-handed after moving a staff member from helping with ordering to clearing tables. “We have a lot of take-away orders, so it was quite busy,” said Mr Yeung.  Staff members sometimes had to clear seats in front of customers who were eating to let other guests in, Mr Yeung said, which he found “less appropriate.” Wong Kit-lung, who runs 39 chain Chinese restaurants under the LH Group, was among the first restaurateurs to create the position “Table Clearing Commissioner” last July.  “Unless there is only one or two staff, it is actually achievable. We are just separating the work from staff members’ duties,” said Mr Wong. Eateries can provide safety vests for staff specialising in clearing tables to make them distinguishable, Mr Wong said, adding that employees should educate all staff about hygiene.   

Society

Australia passes media law forcing tech giants Facebook and Google to pay news publishers

Digital platforms including Facebook and Google will now have to pay Australian news publishers, under a new law, the world’s first, passed by Australia on Feb. 25.   Under the News Media Bargaining Code, tech firms are obligated to pay news companies if they have an annual income exceeding AU$150,000 (HK$905,585), a move seen to mostly benefit Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, which owns most of Australia’s major newspapers.   If tech companies do not pay, then they will be fined  AU$10 million (HK$60.1 million) or 10% of the annual turnover of the digital platform.  The code also allows news companies to negotiate payments with tech firms over the next three months. If they do not reach an agreement by that time, arbitrators from the Australian Communications and Media Authority, a government statutory body, would make the final decision on the payment. "For every $100 of online advertising spend, $53 goes to Google, $28 goes to Facebook, and $19 goes to other participants," said Josh Frydenberg, the Treasurer of the Australian government at a press conference.  Facebook suspended hundreds of pages from Australian news outlets, personal blogs and government departments on Feb. 18 following the amendment proposal.  The social media giant said in a statement in August last year that it will stop people from sharing local and international news if the law is passed.  “Assuming this draft code becomes law, we will reluctantly stop allowing publishers and people in Australia from sharing local and international news on Facebook and Instagram,” the statement said.  The platform also said in a statement that the code “fundamentally misunderstands the relationship” between its platform and publishers who use it to share news.   Facebook accepted the code after last-minute changes to the bill, which included a three-month negotiation period with an additional two months for mediation between …

Society

Hong Kong district councillors required to pledge allegiance to government or face a 5-year election ban

Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Erick Tsang announced that District Councillors may be required to pledge allegiance to the government, under a proposed amendment to the Public Offices (Candidacy and Taking Up Offices) (Miscellaneous) Ordinance.  Violators will be barred from running for office for five years.  Mr Tsang introduced a list of rules that disallow district councillors from running for office. The behaviours that are not allowed include committing acts which endanger national security such as refusing to recognise China’s sovereignty over Hong Kong, involving foreign government interference in the city and advocating for “Hong Kong independence” among others.  “I believe that, if according to the list, the individuals are sincere in upholding the Basic Law and swearing allegiance to the SAR government, they won’t have to be worried,” Mr Tsang said. Under Article 6 of the national security law, residents “who stand for election or assume public office shall confirm in writing or take an oath to uphold the Basic Law.” The ordinance also contains a clause that will remove any councillor who is “declared or decided” to have failed to fulfill the requirements of bearing allegiance to the city.  The first reading of the bill will commence on March 17. The second and third reading will be decided in the second quarter of 2021, according to the  LegCo document.  “If they disqualify a councillor, who came from the election, actually they are not only disqualifying us, but also disqualifying the citizens,” said Wong Tin-yan, a district councillor for the Lai King constituency.  The district councillors are also required to sing the national anthem of China as part of the proposed oath-taking requirement. Mr. Tsang said that four incumbent pro-democracy district council members --  Lester Shum, Tiffany Yuen, Tat Cheng and Fergus Leung --  would be expelled from …

Society

HKBU cancels World Press Photo exhibition prematurely

The World Press Photo exhibition, scheduled to open on Mar. 1, was cancelled prematurely by its host Hong Kong Baptist University. On Thursday, four days before the opening, HKBU released a statement saying that now was “not an appropriate time” to hold the exhibition due to “consideration to campus safety and security” and “the need to maintain pandemic control.” Senior Lecturer and Director of International Journalism concentration at HKBU, Robin Ewing, said, “The university management made the decision not to hold the exhibition for safety reasons. We are disappointed that our students and the people of Hong Kong will not be able to see the exhibition in person. It’s a real shame that the current political climate doesn’t allow for such a compelling global work of visual journalism to be shown. ” Ms Ewing is a faculty advisor to The Young Reporter. Organizers of the exhibition had planned to implement pandemic-control measures, including the mandation of mask-wearing, completion of a health declaration, temperature screening and limited entrants for social distancing. The Netherlands Consulate General in Hong Kong that funded the exhibition was “disappointed” about its cancellation.  “The exhibition bears testament to the important work photojournalists do all over the world in bringing us the stories that matter,” the Consulate General said on Facebook. “In these uncertain times, it reminds us that a free and independent press is vital for maintaining stable and resilient societies.” Users on Twitter speculated the cancellation was due to exhibition photos of the Hong Kong pro-democracy protests in 2019. Dot Dot News, a pro-Beijing online propaganda site based in Hong Kong, published an article on Feb. 22, saying that the exhibition would “display photos taken during the period of ‘black violence’ a year ago that aimed to beautify rioters and provoke anti-police sentiment.”  The article specifically …

Society

Budget Address 2021: Hong Kong government rolls out plans to rescue the tourism industry

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Shameel Ibrahim、AMALVY Esten Carr Claude Ole EriksenEdited by: Simran Vaswani
  • 2021-02-24

  Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po announced HK$934 million for the pandemic-stricken tourism sector in the budget address on Wednesday morning. He said, HK$169 million of the allocated budget will be used for local cultural, heritage and creative tourism projects, such as the Yim Tin Tsai Arts Festival and the City in Time. More than HK$2 billion has already been injected into the tourism industry. An additional HK$765 million will be reserved for the Hong Kong Tourism Board.  He added that the relaxation of social distancing measures will allow local tour groups to resume as long as public health can be protected. “Sectors such as airlines, travel agents, tour operators and some retail, it [the pandemic] has been disastrous,” said Professor Brian King, Associate Dean at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University School of Hotel and Tourism Management. In Hong Kong, the tourism industry is one of the city's major economic sectors. According to HKTB, Hong Kong received over 59 million visitors in 2019 and only over 3 million in 2020.  Hong Kong’s airport has been closed, only allowing the city's residents from overseas to land following strict quarantine and immigration measures. The two other borders -- the Shenzhen Bay Port and the Hong Kong-Macau-Zhuhai Bridge -- have been shut.  Mass-layoffs have been made in airline industries such as Cathay Pacific, the city’s flagship airline. It’s sister company, Cathay Dragon, permanently shut down. The unemployment rate, which is at 7%, is the highest Hong Kong has seen in 17 years.  A low-interest loan scheme for unemployed Hong Kong residents was also announced in the budget address. The loan is capped at HK$80,000 per person targeting some 250,000 unemployed residents.  Prof King said that the loan scheme will aid tourism sector workers, who can now find other sources of income as the …