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Society

Policy Address 2021: advocacy group surprised over lack of subdivided flats relief measures

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Karmen Li、Tracy LeungEdited by: Bowie Tse、WANG Yichun
  • 2021-10-06

Tenants living in the city’s cramped subdivided flats expected help from today’s policy address but were disappointed by a lack of concrete plans. Another 5,000 transitional housing units will be made available to people waiting for public housing, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said in her fifth policy address, after announcing earlier this week that the housing shortage would be the focus of her talk to the Legislative Council. The supply is expected to increase to 20,000 in the following years.  “The policy address failed to respond to the urgent housing needs of residents who are now living in subdivided flats and cage homes,” said Sze Lai-shan, a committee member of the local advocacy group Society for Community Organization. ”The number of transitional housing units should increase to 50,000 units in five years.”  In 2021, there were 226,000 people living in around 110,000 subdivided flats, according to the Hong Kong Legislative Council. Lam also said in the policy address that the previously-announced rent control measures for subdivided flats will go into effect in January to curb landlords from increasing rent for two years. Private housing between 70 to 99.9 square meters, colloquially referred to as subdivided flats, saw rent increase 42% between 2010 and 2019, according to SoCO. “Apart from the tenancy control, the regulations on the control of starting rents of subdivided flats are not proposed in the policy address after we have already expressed our demands to the government earlier,” Sze added.  “I am disappointed this time as I often hear that the government officials uphold the slogan ‘say goodbye to subdivided flats’ but it turned out that the government was only concerned about economic development,” said Li Miaorong, who has lived in a subdivided flat in Sham Shui Po for the last three years.  The family …

Society

Policy Address 2021: strengthen national education for students and teachers, Lam says

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Nola Yip、Tiffany MaEdited by: SHI Ruoshui、POON Hiu Lam、BellaHuang
  • 2021-10-06

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor highlighted national education in today’s policy address, saying that strengthening it is a way to cope with students who have been misled and participated in “extreme political activities”. This school year, liberal studies classes were replaced with the new subject “citizenship and social development” starting from form-4.  Lam said she would personally conduct classes for teachers of the new subject so that they may have a better grasp of the status and power of the constitution as well as the function of the chief executive under “One Country, Two Systems”. “It is hard to squeeze in time for national education elements on top of the current tightly-scheduled teaching curriculum. Giving classes for teachers would be unnecessary. Newly-joined teachers are required to take a three to six hour training course on national education,” said Ho Ho-ping, a secondary school teacher.  “Wide-ranging guidelines on national education would be confusing to teachers. There are doubts about the effectiveness of national security education,” Ho said. However, Ho said that highlighting civic education can emphasize the importance of being a law-abiding citizen for young people.  Lam said that a minority of students have been “deluded and radicalised to take part in illegal acts and even organise extreme political activities”, and called for cultivating the sense of “national identity, values and civic-mindedness.” Kevin Yeung Yun-hung, the Secretary for Education, has requested schools to formulate and implement formal plans on national security education as soon as possible. Universities are also advised to teach national education. Hong Kong Baptist University introduced a two-hour national security law education class as a graduation requirement this year.  Sami Luk, a third-year student from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said that she disagrees with Lam’s comments on the “deluded and radicalized” students.  “Some …

Society

Policy address 2021: No new measures announced to help Hong Kong's ethnic minorities access public education; experts say current system ineffective

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Kelly Pang、Malick GaiEdited by: Simran Vaswani、Jasmine Tse
  • 2021-10-06

Government subsidies to public schools to encourage the enrollment of non-Chinese speaking students over the last seven years will be assessed on their effectiveness, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said in her policy address today.  However, the Audit Commission already published a report in March, revealing that enrollment of non-Chinese speaking students increased by 12.6% from 2015 to 2019. Government spending to support non-Chinese speaking students also increased by 87% to HK$456.3 million in the same period. However, 17% of the schools which received subsidies over the five-year period were revealed to have “utilised less than 70% of the total amount of the grant provided,” according to the report. “Money is being put into NGOs and education for ethnic minorities, but it's at a very surface level,” said Jeffrey Andrews, manager at the Christian Action Centre for Refugees, who was the first ethnic minority to run for the Legislative Council.  Furthermore, the audit found the Education Bureau did not visit or monitor the use of the subsidies at 15% of primary, secondary and special schools. The Education Bureau has also “not set training requirements for primary, secondary and special schools on teaching non-Chinese speaking students Chinese as a second language,” the report revealed.  Lam said in the policy address that she hoped “language will no longer be a barrier for non‑Chinese speakers to integrate into the local community and enter the job market.” The government also introduced and implemented a non-Chinese Speaking Grant in 2020, providing over HK$450 million to cater educational needs of ethnic minorities. The funding allows non-Chinese speaking students to learn Chinese to ease the language barrier. However, other reports have made similar conclusions to the Audit Commission, highlighting the ineffectiveness of government funding for non-Chinese speaking students. “Support measures for primary and secondary schools should …

Society

Policy Address 2021: Quarantine-free travel government's top priority

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Kate Zhang、Kiki LoEdited by: Janice Lo、LAMA Sumnima Rani
  • 2021-10-06

Quarantine-free travel between the mainland and Hong Kong is the city’s top priority, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said in the policy address today, without announcing any new Covid-19 subsidies for businesses or individuals.  “Our top priority right now remains clear. We have to do our best to control the epidemic for the community so that normal cross-boundary flow of people can be resumed as early as possible,” Lam said.  Lam did not set a reopening date in the policy address today. But David Hui Shu-cheong, the Hong Kong government’s pandemic advisor, said on a TV programme on Sunday that the city could reopen in the next four to five months if the government adheres to the mainland’s anti-epidemic measures.  A lawmaker from the Liberal Party, Chung Kwok-pan said it was understandable that Lam did not have a timetable yet on the resumption of quarantine-free travel because it is 100% decided by the mainland.  “We don’t know the goal or requirement to resume cross-border travel, such as the vaccination rate Hong Kong has to reach,” Chung said.  However, an infectious disease expert said it is time for Hong Kong to resume normal border interactions now. “Right now, Hong Kong has gone 50 days without a local case and I think we should be ready to resume quarantine-free travel with the mainland any time,” said Benjamin John Cowling, professor and head of Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of Hong Kong. Chung also called for resumption of international travel, saying that Hong Kong is an international city.  “I think Carrie Lam beat around the bush today. She doesn’t have a plan for how to connect with foreign countries,” Chung added.  Hong Kong borders have been closed to non-residents outside the mainland since March last year. The city launched …

Society

Policy Address 2021: No cork to medical brain drain; Carrie Lam's last policy address doesn't meet hopes of healthcare personnel

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Clarice Wu、Jayde Cheung、Hamish CHANEdited by: Sara Cheng、TUNG Yi Wun
  • 2021-10-06

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor 's latest policy address barely covered medical brain drain, as more doctors and nurses leave public hospitals because of poor workplace conditions and low salaries or emigrate. “I don’t have much expectation on the policy address,” said Chung Pak-chi, 20, a third-year medical student from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, adding most of her peers did not want to practice locally due to intense workload and low salary. Since July 2020, the turnover rate for full-time doctors in public hospitals has reached 4.9%, said Hospital Authority Chairman Henry Fan Hung-ling in August, and 6.7% for nurses, a 0.9% increase from 2019. Emigration contributed to staff loss, Fan said, and the situation is “concerning.” Private hospitals also poach talents from the public sector, worsening the situation there, he added. Gloria Law, 25, a nurse with three-years experience in a public hospital, said the workload she endured was “intense and heavy,” adding that each nurse had to take care of 12 patients at one time. A pay freeze announced by the Civil Service Bureau in June further widened the salary gap between nurses in the private and public sectors, Law said. Her salary after three years in a public hospital is less than what a nurse in the private sector makes in the first year. “The salary is not appealing enough as well,” she said. Despite these challenges, Lam highlighted government healthcare policies in her address, describing them as “multi‑pronged,” but stopped short of laying out new concrete measures. In September, the Hospital Authority extended retirement from 60 to 65 and created promotions for nurses to pursue specialisation. In August, the government proposed amendments to the Medical Registration Bill to allow non-locally trained doctors - regardless of their Hong Kong permanent residence status …

Society

Quarantine rooms for domestic helpers snapped up in minutes

The booking system for foreign domestic helpers at Penny’s Bay Quarantine Centre on Lantau Island reopens today, following a halt since Sept. 19. The 1,000 rooms on offer were fully booked up in minutes.  Reservations for Oct. 22 to 28 provide 350 quotas for foreign domestic helpers to undergo quarantine. Phailin Leesirichaikul, a Thai missionary living in Hong Kong said that by the time she had gone through a series of steps to get to the booking page, all the quotas had already been taken. “Within three to five minutes after the system opened up, all of the rooms were fully booked, which made me anxious because the visa of my Indonesian helper is about to expire, but I cannot book a quarantine room for her,” she said. In order to arrange foreign domestic helpers to come to Hong Kong in a gradual and orderly manner and to guard against imported Covid-19 cases, Penny’s Bay Quarantine Centre will continue to receive at most 50 helpers each day, according to a government press release.  The centre will provide an additional 200 units from Oct. 22, that’s a total of 1,000 units for inbound foreign domestic workers. Employers and employment agencies can make bookings from 9 a.m every Monday for the following week. According to government figures, as of Oct. 1, among the 6,060 Filipino foreign domestic helpers who arrived in Hong Kong between Aug. 30 and Sept. 24, there were 26 confirmed Covid cases. That’s a rate of 4.3%.  Law Chi-kwong, Secretary for Labour and Welfare, said in his blog post yesterday that such a rate should be taken seriously.  “On a daily basis, we will check the epidemic situation of foreign domestic helpers in their countries of origin, the diagnosis of workers upon arrival, and the operation and booking of …

Society

Second batch of consumption vouchers spurs shopping spree

More than 5.5 million eligible Hong Kong residents could get a second batch of consumption vouchers today. It is part of a government incentive to kick start the economy amid the Covid pandemic. A total of $5000 will be given to those who qualify. Hongkongers who registered for the vouchers using their Octopus cards could get their second batch of HK$2,000 today. A third batch of HK$1,000 will be handed out from December 16. Those who registered using AlipayHK, Tap & Go, or WeChat Pay HK could get all of the remaining HK$3,000 of the handout. Jessie Wong Hok-ling, head of the Budget and Tax Policy Unit of the Financial Secretary's Office, said on a radio program on RTHK today that the distribution has gone very smoothly, and all of the vouchers were issued before 1 am. Shoppers lined up at convenience stores this morning to collect their consumption vouchers through Octopus. They could also get the vouchers through the Octopus app, octopus service points and subsidies collection points in designated MTR stations. "I think it's very convenient to receive and use consumption vouchers," said Law Gaa-lok, who got the HK$2,000 voucher at a convenience store in Mong Kok. "I mainly spent the vouchers on buying daily necessities," he added. Many shopping malls tried to attract customers by holding consumption voucher events. By noon, a long line of customers at APM mall in Kwun Tong were queuing up for bargains.  Among them Kelly Chan, who went there with her daughter l to buy clothes.“We happened to encounter the mall event,” she said. “The event is so favourable.” Linda Lam, who worked at Hey Candy in APM, said the voucher scheme has helped to boost business. “People's mood is better after getting the subsidies, so consumption will increase naturally," she said. …

Society

Scripts For Hong Kong

Calligraphy signboards, hand-painted minibus signs and ‘Prison Gothic’ on traffic signs are important elements of Hong Kong street scenes. Nicole Ko talked to those who created and are preserving these fonts of Hong Kong.

Society

China's online fitness boom amid the pandemic

As the coronavirus lingers across the world, people are finding ways to keep fit despite being stuck at home. All over China, downloading fitness apps and videos has become a trend. Here’s Kate Zhang to tell us more.

Society

Hong Kong-Singapore travel bubble cancelled after nine months, leaving some disappointed

The Hong Kong-Singapore travel bubble was terminated based on differing anti-pandemic strategies, the Hong Kong government announced Thursday.   As Singapore moves to a "COVID-resilient" strategy, the Hong Kong government said it is still aiming for zero local cases.   The much anticipated travel bubble was delayed three times since it was announced in November last year as Hong Kong and Singapore both dealt with waves of increased COVID-19 cases.   The bubble would have removed quarantine restrictions for fully vaccinated travellers landing in Hong Kong.   “From Hong Kong’s point of view, the air travel bubble should not worsen the epidemic,” said Hong Kong Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau Tang-wah at a press conference this morning. “We hope normal activities can continue under the premise of epidemic prevention, so we will continue examining the situation.”     Yan Lau and Feliz Lee, Hongkongers who live in Singapore and manage the YouTube channel “Kong Wife”, said they have been longing for an opportunity to visit their relatives in Hong Kong after moving to Singapore more than a year ago.    “We expected the air travel bubble could help us return to Hong Kong more easily, ” said Ms Lee. “We are so disappointed.”   Current arrivals from Singapore are required to quarantine in a hotel for 14 days, with costs running from HK$7,000 to more than HK$20,000.    “Time is what matters the most,” said Ms Lau. “It is not fair when we are not allowed to come to Hong Kong directly, even though we are already vaccinated.”   Singapore will allow arrivals from Hong Kong to enter Singapore without quarantine from Aug. 21.      Singapore tour plans by Hong Kong travel agencies, including EGL Tours and Miramar Travel, were dashed. However, the travel agencies said …