The Young Reporter

Business

Lunar New Year Fair stall auctions less bustle amid pandemic uncertainty

The two-day auction for Hong Kong's Victoria Park 2021 Lunar New Year Fair stalls that ended on Nov. 17 received a cold reception as pandemic's uncertainty looms over the city. Only 175 wet goods stalls selling flowers are available for auction this year, with six left unsold. Officials have banned dry goods stalls which sell handicrafts and toys, as well as snack stalls due to health concerns. Hong Kong's largest Lunar New Year market used to have around 300 dry goods stalls and three food stalls. "I'm confident about the market this year," said Lau Hoi-to, who has attended the fair for more than 40 years selling peach blossom, "It's culture. Chinese people always buy flowers on Lunar New Year." Mr Lau successfully bid for 22 stalls for the coming fair beginning on Feb.6 and lasting for six days. The single highest bid is HK$50,000, about nine times higher than the starting price HK$5,440. The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department halved the opening price for all bids from last year because of the city's economic downturn. The total revenue of the auction is about HK$2.5 million, increasing by 60% compared to the previous year.   Ha Fang-fang, an orchid vendor, successfully bid for one spot. She hoped the government could soon normalize cargo transportation procedures between Hong Kong's border with mainland China. Under the pandemic, cross-boundary goods vehicles can only enter the nine cities of the Greater Bay Area and need to return the same day.  "It'll be much more convenient then," Ms Ha said, "But I'm still confident about the fair. I expect local people will still come and buy our flower." Still, Ms Ha expressed her worries that there will be less people around in the fair due to the pandemic  The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department said all …

Privacy concerns raise over government covid-tracking app

  • 2020-11-26

Privacy concerns arose among Hong Kong citizens as the government recently launched the "Leave Home Safe" mobile app for coronavirus contact tracing. The app allows citizens to record their whereabouts and the duration of staying by scanning QR codes at places they visit. Although the government said that the data would not be saved in its system and all records would be automatically deleted after 31 days, some people are concerned about the security of their private data. "I think they would save a backup behind the doors no matter what, which makes me less willing to go out as they would know where I went and who I met," said Elyse Cheng Nga-si, a university student. Jason Chan Ka-yau, an Eastern District Council member, said that the public nowadays are aware of privacy issues when the government implements policies that would potentially collect individuals' personal information. "Take the multi-functional smart lampposts as an example. Although the government claimed that the lampposts are used for collecting data such as traffic flow and air quality, there were still people asking me if they are used as surveillance cameras instead," Mr Chan said. Ng Hing Yu, 43, a shop assistant at a boutique, agreed that using the app involves the data security risks, but he said it is inevitable. "When you gain some, you would eventually lose some.  If you want to protect your health, you need to sacrifice part of your privacy," said Mr Ng. Although Mr Ng has downloaded the "Leave Home Safe" mobile app, he criticised that it  could only control the pandemic temporarily, "I am not saying that the app is not good, but the most effective way to put the situation under control is to implement mandatory testing for all citizens." Instead of relying on the mobile …

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 …

Health & Environment

Policy Address 20/21: Lantau island reclamation: Hong Kong hiker fears "backyard garden" be gone forever

Johnny Wong remembers every detail of the day trip with his family 30 years ago to Tung Chung - the farmlands and ditches, the taste of the chips he got from the tuck shop and shared with his sisters and the Chinese restaurant where they ordered a corn and fish maw soup and steamed fish.  The 41-year old cultivated a passion for hiking when he was young and has been an eco guide since 2004 and a geopark guide since 2010. Four years ago, he published a book on mountains and trails. "Every time you hike, you feel like you're at home. You can unburden your emotions and feel relieved and absorb positivity," he said, adding that nature has comforted him when he was laid off or had troubles in his career.  But now Tung Chung is a sprawling complex of housing and airport infrastructure. A similar story might repeat for Mr Wong's 4-year old daughter, he said, who had a glance of the unbounded ocean and sky of Peng Chau when her parents took her on a trip there. But the view she will see in 15 years will be different if the government carries on with its ambitious development plan called Lantau Tomorrow Vision.  The plan will build housing on 1,000 hectares of reclaimed land, equivalent to one-third the size of Kowloon, around the tiny, undeveloped island of Peng Chau, just off the coast of Lantau Island. The proposal is estimated to cost HK$624 billion and will take at least 15 years. The first phrase can provide up to 260,000 flats in a bid to seek new land supply to combat long-lasting housing problems. The project also aims to build the "third Core Business District."   "There will be buildings," Mr Wong said, pointing at the water encircled by …

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 …

Business

Policy Address 20/21: Carrie Lam rolls out real estate measures, limited impact expected for most

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor announced a series of long term housing measures on relieving the financial burden of enterprises and boosting housing supply, as announced in her 4th policy address today. Mrs Lam said that the double stamp duty on non-residential property transactions would be revoked from tomorrow, 26 November to benefit the property owners immediately. The measure is expected to facilitate the sale of non-residential properties to meet financial problems arising from the economic downturn. Hong Kong real estate experiences a contraction in the rental market this year, with the rent index decreased by 9.4% in September compared with the same period last year.  Brilliant Properties Limited, a small-scale property company is one of the suffering businesses in the pandemic. "Tenants could not afford the rent while owners are not willing to lower the price," said Cheuk Shik-kong, 60, owner of Brilliant Properties Limited. "Therefore, contracts were terminated," he added. Mr Cheuk also said, the overall revenue of his company has dropped by 30 to 40% compared to the figures last year. Much as the government would like to invigorate the real estate market with the abolishment of double stamp duty tax, property agencies considered it as an ineffective approach. "The impact will not be significant," said Lam Wai-cheung, 43, she has been working at Cheong Shing Property for three years. "I believe the measure will have certain effects on the buying and selling of stores but it will not be obvious until the pandemic comes to an end," she added. "Many buyers have the financial ability and intention to purchase commercial properties. What halts them from making the trade happen is not the price, but the pandemic situation," Ms Lam said. However, Li Ching, 55, a real estate agent at Cheong Shing Property, has a more …

Health & Environment

COVID-19: China to reserve vaccines for Hongkongers, Carrie Lam says

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Simran Vaswani、Jasmine Tse、Janice LoEdited by: Cara Li
  • 2020-11-25

China will reserve a portion of its vaccines specifically for Hong Kongers, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said in the policy address on Wednesday. "We have enough money to procure vaccines to safeguard the health of Hong Kong people," said Mrs Lam. Benjamin Cowling, division head of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of Hong Kong, said he was pleased to hear about vaccinations coming in from the mainland and hoped the city would be vaccinated by the end of next year.  However, the government needs a more comprehensive vaccination plan soon. "It is not only about the vision but the details: how we will get millions of doses, who will get vaccinated first," said Prof. Cowling.  He said countries like the UK and US are expected to roll out vaccinations as soon as the next three to four weeks.  Hong Kong joined COVAX, a global vaccine initiative, along with 184 countries. The COVID-19 global vaccine alliance aims to work directly with vaccine manufacturers to provide low and middle-income countries with equitable global access to vaccines.  China is also part of the coalition and aims to provide the COVAX network with a domestically-made vaccine. With two pharmaceutical companies in the mainland undergoing clinical trials, China aims to procure a vaccine for the market by the end of this year. A one-off $5000 subsidy was announced on Monday to those who test positive for the virus. The fund is for patients that may face financial difficulties when hospitalised. The government also implemented Cap. 599J — The Prevention & Control of Disease Regulation on Nov. 14, allowing private doctors to do testing with patients with COVID-19 symptoms. Patients have to conduct the virus testing as advised by medical practitioners within 14 days. More facilities would be available for COVID-19 patients as …

Health & Environment

COVID-19: Hong Kong might see more mass testing

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Simran Vaswani、Jasmine Tse、Janice LoEdited by: Cara Li
  • 2020-11-25

Hong Kong might see wide-spread COVID-19 community testing again, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said in the policy address on Wednesday, as the city sees the highest number of infections since this summer, sparking a fourth wave.  Testing would be voluntary, she said, and targeting high-risk groups and asymptotic carriers. "It is essential for us to take all necessary measures to strengthen epidemic control by guarding against the importation of cases and the resurgence of domestic infections," said Mrs. Lam.  The first large-scale universal community testing was conducted in September with 1.78 million people tested, around 20% of the city's total population. The mass testing found 42 COVID-19 infections. Vinci Chan Hei-man, a registered nurse, agreed with the government's decision. "If implemented, such a step needs to properly target high-risk groups," said Ms. Chan.  "[Testing] has to be accompanied by stringent contact tracing and a population that understands the importance of strict adherence to social distancing rules," she added. A cluster was linked to elderly care homes in July, which caused a surge in the coronavirus death toll in the city, which is now 108. Hon Pierre Chan, legislative council member from the medical sector, said in a press conference that testing for high-risk groups is a "pragmatic and ideal" measure. "Even for the seasonal influenza, not all citizens are willing to get vaccinated. It is important not to force citizens to do testing," said Dr. Chan. Dr. Chan said Hong Kongers are hoping for stricter border control. He urged the government to block loopholes in border control policies.  Travellers from high-risk places such as the US, UK and India, need to provide proof of a negative virus test before boarding planes and a hotel confirmation for their 14-day quarantine.  A quarantine-free travel bubble between Hong Kong and Singapore …

Politics

Policy Address 20/21: The government is drawing up plans to strengthen national security education in the city

Young people will be educated in the rule of law, the Chief Executive said in her fourth policy address on Wednesday, as part of a 10-year initiative called "Vision 2030 for Rule of Law." "Targeted public education activities will be carried out to promote law-abiding awareness, while research and related data compilation will be conducted through collaboration with various stakeholders," she said. It is important to "enhance moral, civic and national education," including the constitution, the basic law and national security, she said, adding that citizens need a "sense of social responsibility and national identity, as well as an affection for Hong Kong and international perspective."  Part of the plan includes reforming the controversial Liberal Studies in public secondary schools, though no details on the reform were given, and having stricter regulation on teachers. A task force of locally and internationally renowned "experts" has been set up to advise the government on the plan, which was announced last year. The Financial Secretary earmarked about HK$450 million in the budget plan last year for the Department of Justice to implement the project. The Democratic Party responded in the afternoon criticising Mrs Lam for overthrowing the liberal studies system, which has been implemented for ten years in Hong Kong, saying that the government will promote "brainwashing national education" in the future. "The Democratic Party calls on all of our teachers and Hong Kongers to stick with our positions, letting our students be able to access comprehensive knowledge from different aspects, building up their ability of thinking critically and independently," Wong Pik-wan, spokesperson of the Democratic Party said at a press conference. "Anti brainwashing is becoming an important point for us in the coming future." In the past few months, the government has jumped into education to assess the professionalism of teachers, the …

Policy Address 20/21: New policy to help Hong Kong aviation industry set to crash, insiders say

  • 2020-11-25

Hong Kong will invest in the Zhuhai airport to increase cooperation, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said in the policy address on Wednesday, though more details on how it will happen have yet to be disclosed. Airline industry employees say this will not help to alleviate the financial problems in the industry.  The investment by the Airport Authority, which has been managing the Zhuhai airport since 2006, is part of President Xi Jinping's "dual circulation" scheme to boost the Greater Bay Area competitiveness and economy.  "By integrating the mainland aviation network of the Zhuhai Airport with the international network of the Hong Kong International Airport, it would strengthen the competitive edge of the entire GBA in aviation," Mrs. Lam said.  Persuasive as it might sound, professionals in the aviation industry said otherwise.  "This is putting the cart in front of the horse to ameliorate the pressure on the aviation industry. It may add competitiveness to the Greater Bay Area aviation industry but it certainly doesn't help struggling workers in the aviation sector," said  Queenie Tse, the former Hong Kong Airlines Human Resources manager.  She added that the collaboration seemed to be a marketing tactic for Zhuhai International Airport instead of helping airline workers who are struggling to make ends meet in Hong Kong.   The Hong Kong Airport handled around 72 million passengers in 2019 while Zhuhai Airport had only around 10 million passengers in 2018. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions, the number of passengers travelling by air to and from Hong Kong has plunged dramatically.  According to the Hong Kong International Airport statistics, the number of passengers arriving in the city dropped from more than 70 million in 2019 to around 8 million in 2020. Mrs. Lam said she discussed the move with the central government on her …