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The Young Reporter

Health & Environment

Hydroponics: how an alternative farming method is paving the way for sustainable agriculture in Hong Kong

26-year-old Ivan Tam Hoi-fung, starts his day in his small farm in Tai Wo, practicing a unique kind of farming.  Tam practices a unique method of farming known as hydroponics - a method in which in the absence of soil, the roots of the plants are submerged in water to ensure essential nutrients reach the plants.  This method also allows plants to grow on the water without soil, saves water and does not include any pesticide.  Tam is the Project Officer of Hong Kong Hydroponics Company Limited and has been managing it since 2019.  "A colleague and I can take care of the entire farm, and we produce one ton of vegetables every month," said Alan Yip, the Business Development Manager of the company. "From seeding and detection to harvesting and packaging, I do them all by myself," said Tam, who works in a 4000 square feet farm. The main products of the hydroponic farm include hydroponic vegetables across different seasons. For instance, salad vegetables are available in autumn, winer and early spring while Chinese vegetables are grown during the spring and summer.  The farm was started by Jason Poon, the Chief Executive Officer of the farm. He has been in the field for eight years. He brought his experiences from the Netherlands to “establish a new Hong Kong hydroponic planting model”, according to the company’s website. He is currently the president of the Hong Kong Hydroponics Association promoting the idea of hydroponics in the city The development of hydroponics in Hong Kong  came after the Agricultural, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD)  set up a Controlled Environment Hydroponic Research and Development Centre (CEH R&D) to introduce and demonstrate hydroponic techniques and equipment to the local farmers.  The centre, known as iVeggie, was launched in 2013 at the Cheung Sha Wan …

Confusion and complaints as LeaveHomeSafe app becomes compulsory

  • 2021-12-09

From today, scanning the contact tracing app LeaveHomeSafe is mandatory for entry into all restaurants, gyms, pubs and some other public venues. Failure to comply will result in a $5000 fine. People over 65 years, under 15 years and those with disabilities are exempted under the government’s policy. That’s raising questions on why these groups don’t need to be traced.   At LokFu wet market and some restaurants in the district, the QR code for scanning LeaveHomeSafe was not displayed. Some restaurants continued to provide paper forms. “I think the exemption is a kind of discrimination, “ said Tsz-wai Kwok, 27, who works for an educational institution. He is worried that the government will use the LeaveHomeSafe app to collect personal data. The government had denied doing so earlier.   Wing-long Poon, 20, a student from the Hong Kong Baptist University said it is unreasonable that elderly people and children are exempted from using the app.   “It is still kind of weird, what if I lost my phone and I cannot scan the QR code? ” she said.   Poon has taught her grandmother to use the LeaveHomeSafe app but has found that to be challenging.   “Elderly people are not familiar with smart devices. If the app is compulsory for them, they may not be able to eat out,” she added.   Li Chung-wai, 42, who buys groceries in the wet market everyday, said the policy is meaningless.   “Elderly people are the most dangerous infection group. I want to know why they do not need to scan QR code before getting in the premises,” she pointed out.   Government figures show that vaccination rate in Hong Kong is lowest among people aged 80 years and above. “About 16% of confirmed COVID-19 cases are elderly people, and they …

Health & Environment

Waste-charging Scheme: Financial Burden Hits Underprivileged Elders

Liu Siu-lan, 73, lives alone in a public housing flat and makes a living by scavenging for cardboard after her retirement. Liu worked as a garment worker in a sewing factory after she fled to Hong Kong from the mainland in the 1960s. She lives alone after her husband died a few years ago. She has no children or other family. “I can still work and contribute to society by collecting cardboard from shops and sending it to the recycling stations,” said Liu. “It cannot make me a huge fortune, but can subsidise my living.” She said she can go to Yum Cha with her friends once a week with the income from recycling. “It is tiring but I think it is the right thing to do,” said Liu. “It is always good for the elders to have something to do,” said Liu. “It makes me feel like I am not a burden to society.” However, she may need to pay for domestic waste in 2023. The Legislative Council passed the waste-charging schemes, named The Waste Disposal (Charging for Municipal Solid Waste) (Amendment) Bill 2018, on 26 August. There will be a preparatory of 18 months before the implementation of charging, which means the scheme will start no sooner than early 2023, according to the Environmental Protection Department. Under the scheme, households will need to buy “designated garbage bags”, which have nine sizes for citizens to choose from. For oversized waste, such as furniture, citizens will need to buy a HK$11 “designated label” to affix with the waste. “It is not reasonable to charge us money for having rubbish,” said Liu. “Obviously not everything is recyclable.” Wu Kwok-sang, 72, lives on a government subsidy and alone in a public housing flat. “The waste charging scheme will definitely increase my financial …

Ghost nets haunt Hong Kong waters, killing marine life and endangering divers

  • 2021-12-09

It took Harry Chan Tin-ming and a group of ten divers two hours under the sea in Tai Po to find and haul out 800 kilograms of abandoned fishing nets.  “90% of the time I go diving, I see ghost nets and it’s a big problem for marine life including fish, crabs, sea turtles and other marine life,” said Chan.  The large number of abandoned fishing nets, also known as “ghost nets”, is alarming and has become a major issue for marine life, its habitat and even commercial fishermen.  Chan, 68, known in Hong Kong as the “ghost net hunter”, has been diving for over 30 years and started regularly hunting for these nets more than eight years ago. “The ocean is a mystery,” he said.  Ghost nets are dangerous because marine life becomes entangled, affecting the health of the ocean and even divers who try removing them. They haunt the oceans and are a major contributor to the wider ocean plastic crisis. Made from a range of synthetic fibers, including nylon, polystyrene and other plastic compounds, ghost nets can travel vast distances.  "From the biggest fishing nets to the tiniest pellets, plastic pollution is impacting the ocean," said Dana Winograd, Director of Operations for Plastic Free Seas, a charity focused on solution-oriented awareness about plastic pollution in the ocean. It is also involved in regular beach cleanups around Hong Kong. In October, Winograd and a group of volunteers found ghost nets washed up on beaches in two of their last three beach cleanups at Butterfly Beach in Tuen Mun and Cheung Sha Lan on Lantau Island.  "It's not easy to recycle the nets if they have been in the ocean for a long time. Most companies claiming to use recycled fishing nets in their products are only using a …

Business

Greater transparency needed as Hong Kong aims to transform into a green finance hub

    “Greenwashing” is a new buzzword featured at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow. It’s part of the slogan of teeanger climate activist, Greta Thunberg. Greenwashing refers to a false impression or providing misleading information about how environmentally friendly a business of a product might be. Hong Kong has been trying to reposition itself as an international green financial hub since 2018. But the process finally stepped out this year as the government and industries seek to address disclosure issues in the green and sustainable investment market as a way to stamp out “greenwashing”. Stephen Phillips, director-general of investment promotion in InvestHK, a department of the government responsible for foreign investment in Hong Kong, told The Young Reporter that  the city “has an important role to play as a green finance centre”. “A number of listed companies also, very strongly committed to both raising green capital, but also being compliant around bringing standards,” he said, “ and Hong Kong obviously serves not only Hong Kong and the rest of China, but also a place in which companies raise money from across the whole of Asia.” A report conducted by Standard Chartered Bank in 2020 found that among 1085 respondents from Hong Kong, Singapore, the United Arab Emirate and the United Kingdom, 59% of them who put money in sustainable investment said they would consider investing 5% to 10% in sustainable investing, and 75% said they would consider increasing their investment to 25% or more due to the pandemic. However, Alvin Li, Group Financial Consultant of TAL Group, said many investors may take a wait-and-see attitude towards green investment mainly because it is still under development. “The green bond market is still relatively new, still in the embryonic stage, and the secondary market is not fully developed. Investors have doubts …

Culture & Leisure

“Cinema for the Climate”: Environmental Crisis through Camera Lens

The Hong Kong French Film Festival collaborated with Greenpeace East Asia to hold a special movie screening of Animal and a roundtable discussion today.  Dr. Benoit Guenard and Dr. Janet Chan from the University of Hong Kong were invited to the roundtable discussion with the students. Students raised questions on multiple environmental issues and discussed solutions to alleviate the problems. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the HKFFF, the movie screening was held in Hong Kong City Hall. The HKFFF aims at promoting public engagement in creating positive impacts on the community and raising the public’s awareness of the environmental crisis. To achieve this, the HKFFF has curated a new series of movie screenings from today to 14 December, named “Cinema for the Climate”, taking the opportunity to connect with youngsters through this outreach programme. Tom Ng, Campaigner of Greenpeace, said this cooperation is a valuable opportunity to raise awareness among youngsters.  “Through this cooperation with the HKFFF, we would like more people, especially the younger generation, to be aware of environmental issues such as climate change and water resources,” he said.  There are a total of 170 students from more than 10 faculties from different educational institutions, including the University of Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Baptist University,  the Education University of Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts and the French International School. University students mainly come from the “French language", "Film and TV Directing" discipline who are interested in French culture and cinema. Directed by Cyril Dion, “Animal” is part of the “Cinema for the Climate” selection in this year’s edition of the Cannes film festival.  The film is about young campaigners and their stories of travelling around the world to search for another way of living alongside other species, as co-habitants rather than predators. …

Business

Shares in Hong Kong Technology Venture hit new low despite launch of online shopping site

Hong Kong Technology Venture (1137), also known as HKTV, rumbled to a one-year low on Wednesday.  It hit HK$8.680 per share, followed by a slight rebound to close at HK$8.780, down 2.02%. That’s despite the launch of the company’s new online shopping platform EESE the same day. “Regardless of whether the platform is good or not, it will not be so easy to have an impact on the stock,” said stock commentator Ivan Li. “Unless its business achieves explosive success.” The drop followed a warning by HKTV on Monday that its unaudited profit for the first three quarters in 2021 slumped by about 78.5% compared to last years’ HK$186.3 million.   Its adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization dropped by 57% from HK$281.1 million. The company said the fall was due to a lack of government subsidies this year.  The company also gave away approximately HK$84.4 million in coupons to customers in its “$350 for $500 eGift Voucher Program” to sustain the shopping momentum.  HKTV’S e-commerce website EESE is developed by Shoalter Technology Limited, a subsidiary of HKTV, in cooperation with fashion giant I.T.  It offers a wide range of products including clothing and furniture from over 300 stores, such as I.T-owned brands AAPE, double-park and IZZUE, as well as brand partners SKECHERS, PUMA and Logitech.  “We are a dynamic platform that values synergies between brands,” the company said on its website.  Hidee Chow, a YouTuber who posts videos of her unboxing purchases from local and overseas online shopping sites, said she would wait for reviews first before buying on EESE.  Shadow Hui, a communication manager in her forties, buys groceries, clothes and electrical appliances online at least twice a week.   “The layout of its website is simple and clear,” she said. “I will consider buying on the platform …

Health & Environment

Hong Kong Park blooms with over 600 plants from the rose family

More than 600 flowering plants and 50 species from the Rosaceae, or rose, family are in bloom at the Forsgate Conservatory in Hong Kong Park, including the rugosa rose, China rose, loquat, peach and Hong Kong hawthorn.  The exhibition hosted 600 visitors on its first day yesterday, a spokesman for the Leisure and Development Department told The Young Reporter in an email reply. It will be open to the public for free until Jan.9, 2022.    

Society

Hong Kong Health Code for travel to mainland launches next week along with update for LeaveHomeSafe; city still waiting for quarantine-free travel

The government said the new health code app compatible with Guangdong and Macau to facilitate travel to the mainland will be available at 9am on Dec 10, though it has not yet announced when quarantine-free travel will begin. “The government is still negotiating with the mainland authorities but said it had come to the final stage after the visit of mainland experts to Hong Kong,” Alfred Sit Wing-hang, the Secretary for Innovation and Technology, said in a press conference today. The government said it will also provide an update for the LeaveHomeSafe app, which allows users to transfer visiting records to the mainland-compatible Hong Kong Health Code app. The app will be launched as a “pilot run” before quarantine-free travel starts with no need to rush, said Sit. Users will need to provide personal information, such as their address and HKID card number, and upload the visiting record from LeaveHomeSafe. The authorities said 31 days of record will be uploaded, but only the past 21 days of record will be used to generate the code required for border crossings. Users whose records do not show visits to high-risk places and are not close contacts or household contacts of close contacts of confirmed cases in the past 21 days will get a green code. For those who have no plan to travel to the mainland, Sit said they do not need to update their LeaveHomeSafe app. “The government has no plan, and did not see the need for real-name registration for the LeaveHomeSafe App,” Sit added. Li Yan-yi, 27, said she will not use the Hong Kong Health Code app. “I have no plan to go to the mainland, and have tons of privacy concerns for the app,” said Li. “When the government launched the app, they said it is all …

Society

Sinovac jabs for 12-17 year olds start today

From 9 am this morning, people aged between 12 and 17 years old can book for a Sinovac Covid vaccine through the Centre for Health Protection website. They need to bring along their identity documents, consent form signed by their parents or guardians and present the SMS message or the photocopy of booking confirmation at government vaccination centres. They can also get the vaccination through schools,, from private doctors or clinics, Community Vaccination Centres and the Student Health Services Centres of the Department of Health.   Secondary student, Clayton Chan who was vaccinated today said he was only doing so because of a swimming competition. “I will not receive the Sinovac vaccination unless there is a strong reason such as participating in an overseas competition as I am afraid of the side effects of the vaccination such as fever and the swelling of the injection site,” Clayton said. His mother, Carrie Chan, was willing to let her son get Sinovac because she too has had the jab.  “I only had mild side effects such as being tired and having a headache after receiving the Sinovac vaccination”, said Ms. Chan. She  believed Sinovac will be safe for those aged 3-17 years because many teenagers  were among more than 100 million people who got vaccinated in mainland China and there is no major safety concern. “It shows that there has been sufficient scientific research to prove its safety and protection,” Ms. Chan said. “It is expected that after the launch of the Sinovac vaccination, the vaccination rate among secondary school students will be increased to over 80%, which will help the secondary schools to resume full time face-to-face lessons,” said Professor Lau Yu-lung, chairman of the Scientific Committee on Vaccine Preventable Diseases in an RTHK programme on Nov. 20.  Schools can resume full-day …