TOP STORIES

Challenges that local businesses are facing

  • 2020-02-26
  • The Young Reporter
  • By: SamuelMo、Carol Mang、Moon LamEdited by: SamuelMo、Carol Mang、Moon Lam
  • 2020-02-26

Government is pumping money for businesses amid the outbreak of the coronavirus. The Financial Secretary has released measures, including reducing profit tax, waiving the rates, and subsidizing the electricity bills, to offer relief to businesses amid the coronavirus outbreak

Budget relief measures to ease Hong Kong's financial woes

  • 2020-02-26
  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Cherry Lee、Cassie Zhang、Hong-shun WongEdited by: YanniChow
  • 2020-02-26

The aims of this year's budget are "supporting enterprises, safeguarding jobs, stimulating the economy and relieving people’s burden", Financial Secretary, Paul Chan Mo-po said in his fourth budget speech in the Legislative Council this morning.    Despite an expected decline in government revenue next year, a cash payout of $10,000 will be distributed to about seven million local permanent residents aged 18 and above. That will cost about $71 billion in taxpayers' money. "The government has to increase public expenditure amid an economic downturn to stimulate the economy and ride out the difficult times with members of the public." Financial Secretary, Paul Chan told legislators. The aim of the payout is to "encourage and boost local consumption and relieve people’s financial burden," he said. The $10,000 is expected to be distributed in the Summer, Mr Chan explained in the press conference after the budget speech.  Salary tax and profit tax will also be reduced by up to 100% with the ceiling of $20,000.This measure will cost the government $18.9 billion, benefiting about 2.05 million taxpayers. The government will also be waiving rates in respect of residential properties for four quarters of 2020-21, with a ceiling of $1,500 per quarter for each rateable property, remaining the same as last year. The proposed tax reduction is not applicable to property tax. However, individuals with rental income can enjoy tax reduction under personal assessment, Businesses can secure low-interest loans of up to $2 million under the SME Financing Guarantee Scheme to help them overcome the economic downturn. That will cost the Treasury up to $20 billion.  Enterprises will also benefit from waiving of rates for non-domestic properties, business registration fees and registration fees for all annual returns in the coming year.  The Financial Secretary also pointed out that even though the expected fiscal deficit …

Business

Coronavirus outbreak forced people to work from home

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Kylan Goh、Leone XueEdited by: Clara Ip、Mark Chen、Mereen Santirad
  • 2020-02-19

Zhang Yuxiang, a fresh graduate lawyer in Fuzhou, mainland China, has been working through online meetings since the coronavirus started. He hasn't come closer to what he dreams about - working in bed while snuggling with a cat. Mr Zhang enjoys working from home since it provides flexibility during office hours. "I have more free time and sometimes I can even loaf on the job since most of my cases are not in a hurry at this stage," he said. Employees in mainland China have started to work online at home to quarantine themselves from the rampant novel coronavirus. On February 13, the Hong Kong government also announced the "Work from Home" arrangement that will last until February 23.  Although it's convenient to work from home, Mr Zhang feels that people may use Internet delay to excuse their inefficiency, adding that communicating with colleagues is one of the major difficulties.  "I spent most of the time waiting for others to reply," said Mr Zhang, feeling annoyed while checking his WeChat to see if he gets any reply from his colleagues. "Even a simple conversation can take up a whole day," he added.  With the city shut down, on-site work could not proceed. "The procuratorate and the court are not open to the public during this period. Trials and many cases that need follow-up are postponed," said Mr Zhang. However, some employees found that working online has brought them closer to their family. "Home office lets my parents understand what I am doing," said Wang Yiqing, a Chinese teacher at a high school in mainland China. Ms Wang's mother is also a teacher, but she could never understand the notion of self-learning.  "She thought self-learning is just an excuse for being an irresponsible teacher," said Ms Wang. "I'm glad she finally …

Health & Environment

WeChat "group buying" helps mainland community survive COVID-19 quarantine

Stores are closed along the street with packages piled in front of the doors. Residents wait in line to fetch their deliveries at the entrance of Fenglin Oasis Compound in the south-west of Xi'an, Shaanxi province, mainland China.  Fenglin residents normally shop at a supermarket a block away from their homes. But since the coronavirus outbreak, they cannot leave the compound without a gate pass. The government requires residential communities to limit citizens' daily movements to control the spread of the disease. So WeChat groups have become the go-to grocery store. "I buy things from the WeChat groups every day," said Wang Hui, 49, a resident from the community. She didn't use the service very often before the outbreak because the choices are limited. However, food prices in the grocery stores inside the community have gone up since the epidemic.  "A bunch of dry noodles used to be 10 yuan, but it cost 16 yuan on New Year's Eve", she said. According to one organizer of a WeChat group that sells fruit, suppliers deliver fresh produce from wholesale markets or farms to the compound every day. Customers pay by scanning the QR codes on the packages with their order numbers when the goods are delivered. Some people transfer their payments to the retailers using "WeChat red pockets" ahead of the delivery.  Zhang Wenai, 21, is a volunteer at the Fenglin Oasis Community. She helps to record personnel information at the entry. "There is an open package collecting point at the entrance of the compound," she said. "Every day retailers send the goods according to the time agreed with the consumers. They drop the goods and leave." The person-to-person contact is restrained in this way.  One shopping group generates more than one hundred messages one day. However, not all are about …

Health & Environment

Rumours on social media sparked Hong Kong's toilet paper run

For more than two weeks, toilet paper has been hard to come by at supermarkets around Hong Kong. At ParknShop in City One Shatin housing estate, shelves which normally used to be loaded with toilet rolls are now left empty. The store had to put up a sign on the empty shelves saying that as soon as toilet paper is restocked, each customer will be allowed to buy only two packets. Panic buying started after the rumours spread on WhatsApp stating that the factories in mainland China will stop working, meaning there will be a shortage of toilet paper in Hong Kong.  The posts which started to spread on February 5, were credited to an anonymous inner source from Wellcome, one of the biggest supermarkets in Hong Kong. Wellcome dispelled the rumours the same day, saying that no such worries were needed since the factories in the mainland are still supplying toilet paper regularly.  On the same night, the Hong Kong government has confirmed that there will be no shortage of major supplies such as food products. They also said that there was no need for the public to panic and called the rumour mongers were with "evil intentions." Olivia Cruz is a domestic helper who has worked in City One Shatin for seven years. Carrying two packs (16 rolls) of toilet paper outside Parknshop, she said that her employer told her to buy as much as possible. "My employer is always browsing in social media, that is where he got the news," Ms. Cruz said. The supermarket came up with a policy that each customer can only purchase up to two units of specific supplies. Not only toilet paper, rice, ethyl alcohol, and hand wash are also in the restriction lists.  According to Winnie Ip, a shop assistant in …

Health & Environment

No-contact deliveries in Beijing: local residents want to minimise contact when picking up online purchases

Boxes, handbags and takeaways stapled with order forms are placed messily in the depository at the entrance of Haojing Jiayuan, a Beijing residential community, after the novel coronavirus caused the management property to restrict access. On February 10, the Information Office of Beijing Municipality held a news conference to encourage people not to come into contact with those who deliver their online orders.  "We advise couriers to deliver packages to a designated area where few people normally pass. We may set different schedules and sections of depositories so that people don't meet each other too often," said Wang Ge, a spokesperson of the Office at a press conference on Feb 10, according to a video from the Beijing News. Some residential communities in Beijing have since set up delivery depositories in order to get their daily supplies and other purchases during the coronavirus epidemic.   The property management of Haojing Jiayuan, for example, has been restricting access to the complex since January 31, and body temperature of every person who enters the community has to be taken. "They (security staff) looked at me as if I'm highly contagious," Song Jiazhu, a ZTO Express courier, said after he was denied access. He added that due to his responsibility, he couldn't "simply put the package here and leave." Eventually, Mr. Song left the community with the package after his client agreed to arrange another time for delivery. However, not all communities strictly follow the no-contact delivery rule. Xu Xiangnan, who lives in Jinyu Huafu, a community in Changping District at the outskirts of Beijing, said there are no such depositories near his home. "Our community has been closed, but the courier called me from outside the gate and I took the package from him," he said. He added that "although it's rather convenient to …

Health & Environment

Fo Tan: Residents refuse to leave homes following first coronavirus case

On February 6, Fo Tan saw its confirmed first coronavirus case after a middle-aged man had returned from Guangzhou.  The man, who remains unnamed, 42, lives at the Palazzo's Tower 10 and had travelled to mainland China and Macau over the Chinese New Year holidays to spend time with friends and family.  But on February 3, after returning to Hong Kong, he began to develop a fever and cough before being brought to the Prince of Wales Hospital, where he tested positive for the virus and has since remained in stable condition.  Rita Babani, who lives in tower two at the Palazzo, says she's worried that the virus could spread to other towers during the estimated 2-14 day-long incubation period.  "I'm just hoping for the best after the case in tower 10 and will probably stay indoors until all of this is over," says Ms Babani.  The Palazzo's management, however, has begun to take steps to ensure the well-being of its residents, including having hand sanitizers on each floor and cleaning its facilities twice a day.    Ms Lee, who did not want to reveal her first name in fear of losing her job at the Palazzo, believes that residents should avoid going out until the epidemic subsides.  "We are obviously doing our best in terms of ensuring the health and safety of our residents. I think it is also the responsibility of our residents to take precautions and only go out when required during a difficult time like this," Ms Lee argues. Local businesses have also taken a hit, as a result of the coronavirus case at the Palazzo.  Steven Chan, 26, who works at a local barbershop in Fo Tan, says that business has been adversely affected since the case. "I think it's no surprise that business has been …

Health & Environment

What happens if a COVID-19 case is found in your building?

XI'AN---- A plastic rope hung from a window on the third floor of a residential building. In the garden downstairs, a man tied a courier box to the rope and the box was then pulled up. This is a way for residents living in Unit One of Building One of Zhongjian Kaiyuan City to obtain items while the unit is blocked. Zhongjian Kaiyuan City is a residential community located in the west of Xi'an, Shanxi province. On February 14, a resident of Unit One of Building One was found to be a suspected case of the novel coronavirus. There was a confirmed case found in the same community on February 4.  According to the work plan of the local government on epidemic prevention and control, as long as there is one suspected case in one unit, the entire unit will be blocked for 14 days, no one can enter or leave.  The security personnel set up a simple movable boardroom out of the unit on February 15, on duty 24 hours to prevent anyone from entering and leaving at will. If residents need daily necessities, such as vegetables and fruits, they need to ask friends or call delivery service to send the items to the property office. Staff will disinfect the items and then send them to the household door to door. "It is really inconvenient to follow this way. We think that we can also avoid infection with our method," said Tian Mimeng, 46, who lives on the third floor of the blocked unit. She and her family camp up with a new method - using a plastic rope to 'fish' items from downstairs.  Ms. Tian said the property office called her to collect the information and health status of her family members. Before the unit was blocked, although …

Health & Environment

The inconvenience of online classes

Universities in Hong Kong are conducting classes online. However, not everyone finds the arrangement convenient. Zoom is widely used for online lectures in universities such as Hong Kong Baptist University, The Chinese University of Hong Kong and City University of Hong Kong. This software supports video conferences with up to 1,000 people, participants can share their screen, lecturers teach in this way via sharing powerpoints with students. People are having privacy concerns towards the "zoom (the online learning platform that people can participate with videos and audios)" lectures since they are afraid that turning on the camera will leak out their messy room and surroundings. Some students have complained about regulations set by their lecturers for online classes.  "I hope lecturers can respect students if they are unwilling to switch on their cameras during class," said a post on CUHK secrets, a Facebook page that allows students to express their thoughts anonymously. This post has gained 347 likes. "A classroom is a public area but your home is not. Not everyone wants others to see what his or her home looks like," Alvin Leung, a netizen who commented on the post. Others though think that the camera can be used to maintain order during class. "How can lecturers know whether you are concentrating on the class if you don't show your face? It's weird that a lecturer only talks to himself or herself. We need communication," Cheung Mok-yan, another netizen who commented under the post and got 68 likes. Online classes also disrupt family life. Emily Fong, a 20-year-old university student who is off school because of the coronavirus outbreak thinks online classes are not efficient. She complains that she seems to be having lectures with her father.  "His voice is just too loud and I can hear every word that …