The Young Reporter

Society

The New Norm: An Online World

Since COVID-19, the pandemic has altered the way that we leave the comfort of our homes and socialise with one another. Seeing different faces on what were once the crowded streets of Hong Kong are a thing of the past. Instead, we see masked faces at half-empty restaurants and meet people through our computer screens. With the implementation of social distancing measures, schools, businesses and even fitness industries have interacted digitally instead, adapting to this new norm of an online world. More and more businesses are adjusting to a permanent work-from-home state. Tech giant Microsoft initially announced that it would not open its offices till at least January 2021, but later stated that it will allow its employees to permanently work remotely, even post-pandemic.  A booming app during the pandemic, Zoom, has been crucial in allowing such arrangements to thrive. Founded in 2011, the software company has specifically gained fame this year for its accessibility in areas such as school classes or business events. In the first quarter of 2020, Zoom's revenue skyrocketed to HK$2.96 billion (US$382.2 million) and its customer growth has risen by 378% from a year earlier.  But, people are adapting differently to this new virtual phenomenon.  Schools and classrooms, once filled with the sound of students chit-chatting while teachers tried to pass their knowledge onto them, are now empty. Instead, students wake up, grab their laptops, punch in a meeting number and passcode, and take their classes for the rest of the day in the confinement of their own homes. "I need to stay up really late for my classes till three or four in the morning, it's overwhelming," says Michelle Kwong, a student enrolled at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. She chose to stay back in Hong Kong and take all her classes online because …

Society

The New Normal of Learning: Online Classes

COVID-19 has posed great challenges to the education system in Hong Kong. Schools have to adapt to online teaching to prevent the spread of the virus.  Under the incoming fourth wave of COVID-19, Mr Lobo Ho Lik-sang, the principal of the Maryknoll Fathers' School, said that there are many challenges to overcome, while teachers and students are improving in online teaching and learning under the new normal. Under the COVID-19 pandemic, teachers have to teach by using online conference software and assess students' performances online. Students are also facing uncertainties under the pandemic. Some have lost practical learning opportunities, some have lost the precious interacting moments with teachers and friends, some are having difficulties in online learning such as completing assignments and examinations. "Online teaching is a tough challenge for teachers," said Mr Ho."Zoom is a one-way method of teaching and it is hard to build an interactive environment," he added. Mr Ho also attributed to network infrastructure and the limitations of technology as the problems in the online teaching environment. While teachers find online teaching tough, college students feel helpless in completing assignments with insufficient assistance from teachers. "I have to do my assignments and exams without any help from teachers at home. I feel helpless,", said Jeremiah Choong Hon-lam, a student from the Heng Seng University of Hong Kong. Mr Choong also added that some practical training cannot be delivered online. "My assignments include practical training, and I can't do it at home," said Mr Choong. Mr Ho also echoed the concern raised by Mr Choong. "Not every concept and knowledge can be taught online. For example, experiments and physical techniques have to be learnt in a realistic situation." Mr Choong's situation is just a tip of the iceberg. According to a survey conducted by the Lingnan University …

Business

Live streaming commerce triggers another wave of consumption

"Don't go to sleep! Stay awake! Or you will lose hundreds of yuan!" A male live anchor yelled on the mobile phone screen, banging a gong. It was already 12 o'clock in midnight. Li Yuqing, a 20-year-old student from The Open University of Hong Kong, couldn't take her eyes off this live stream conducted by Austin Li, one of the hottest live streamers in mainland China. Meanwhile, another 100 million viewers tuned in, just like Ms Li.  Ms Li spent one thousand yuan on skin care products, pet supplies, and some luxuries from this live streamed show. It lasted seven hours and closed 8.809 million orders worth 690 million yuan. "Live streamers can provide more detailed explanations of the goods during live streaming, as well a lower price and more freebies," Ms Li said. This year's Double Eleven sales promotion activities have kicked off from Oct.21, with series of live broadcasts on the mainstream social media platform. According to the E-commerce live broadcast daily rank, the total revenue created by top 20 sales anchors from Taobao, Kuaishou, Tik Tok, reached 7.26 billion yuan on one day. This sales model releases huge consumption potential, drives the resumption of production and work, and becomes an important engine of traditional consumption and economic transformation. In February, over 30,000 sales anchors accessed to Taobao per day. The number of new anchors can see 100%. New live broadcasts as well as a 110% year-over-year growth in Gross Merchandise Volume. According to Sohu, Guangzhou Live E-commerce Research Institute and data provider Datastory jointly issued a live e-commerce trend report. The report reveals that the average of live views peaked in July at 2.4 million, but the average of each live streaming sales was at the lowest point during the same period, and turned to rise in …

Business

China's push on "street vendor economy" faces urban challenges

It is 4pm, Wang Jiayu brings a large parcel of toys to Archaize Street, in order to occupy a good position for the coming night before other vendors trickle in. The Street is the paradise for the night market in Datong, a city in Shanxi Province in mainland China. Every night, there are a host of vendors selling various goods. Wang Jiayu is one of the "familiar faces" of the street stall here as she has been setting up her stall since early June this year.  But they sold almost nothing, as if no one is visiting. She was so idle that she played with her pet dog, Lala. "Since school started, fewer people would like to hang out and we lost lots of customers," said Mrs.Wang.  She said her sales were 50% less than the summer vacation as the amounts of tourists and students significantly decreased. The goods she provides, such as toy cars and cartoon character models, are mostly targeted to children aged 5-12 who need to go to school on weekdays and busy with homework or tutorial classes at the weekend.  Apart from the instability caused by the fluctuation of the holidays, the street vendor economy also brings pressure to the city's sanitation, even affecting the physical stores.  Gao Yizhen, this 67-year-old man, is the cleaner of Archaize Street. He always works up late to make sure the streets are clean the next day since they night markets are not closing until midnight, "it is too exhausted to clean up until three in the morning." During summer vacation, when the night market with a large people flow is over, garbage such as plastic bags and bamboo sticks could be seen everywhere in this street. In addition to sweep the trash, the most difficult part for him was …

Society

Quarantine Hotels Regain Public Trust

A deploy of AI vacuum cleaner to sanitize the carpet, a regular disinfection of each guest room, a frequent disinfection of fresh air filter, a use of independent pipe for air conduction to prevent cross-contamination, and 24 hours available of masks and hand sanitizer, this is the epidemic control measure at Dorsett Mongkok hotel.  All that COVID precaution has made Pang Yui-man feel safe. She is spending a night at Dorsett Mongkok to celebrate her birthday. Her room was spotless. There was a precaution guideline pamphlet on the table. There are also bottles of hand sanitizer, and a Covid-19 test kit. The results would be available within 24 to 48 hours at the reception. Dorsett Mongkok partnered with Ecolab, a global leader in infection prevention, to use Ecolab's Disinfectant Cleaner 2.0 to clean and disinfect high touch areas, guest rooms and air-conditioning systems. Before visiting Dorsett Mongkok Hotel, Ms Pang was sceptical about the hygiene because the hotel used to provide a quarantine package and there were confirmed cases. Ms Pang carried her own protective gear, including her own towel, pyjamas and hand sanitizer when she visited the hotel.  "I now feel that the hotel follows hospital hygiene standards to protect their customers and staff," said Ms Pang.  Hong Kong's hotel industry has been severely hit by the coronavirus pandemic. Government figures show an 88.2% drop in visitors in the first five months of 2020. Hotel room occupancy rate fell from 59% in January to 29% in February according to the Global Database website. Many hotels started to switch their focus to local customers.  During the third wave of the pandemic in Hong Kong, a total of 25 hotels offered quarantine packages. According to the list of hotels provided by the Secretary for Food and Health, most quarantine hotels are …

Society

Hong Kong ethnic minority face racial discrimination when seeking for housing

Malik Omar Zaman, a Pakistani who moved to Hong Kong 6 years ago, has been rejected more than 35 times when seeking a house in Hong Kong. He looked at about 50 apartments before he finally got to rent the current one.  "We found a nice apartment and the agent told us the landlord is not willing to give it to you," said Mr Zaman. Mr Zaman lives in a 350 square meter apartment in Yuen Long, one of the less expensive districts in Hong Kong, with his wife and two daughters.  Mr Zaman is among the 90% of ethnic minorities in Hong Kong who face racial discrimination when looking for a home, according to a survey  by two local NGOs, Hong Kong Unison and Hong Kong Ministry Refugee Group in late 2018. And though Hong Kong’s discrimination law makes this illegal, there is little recourse for rejected tenants who are often forced into illegal sub-divided flats and other substandard housing. There are a total of 583,383 ethnic minorities residing in Hong Kong, constituting 8% of the whole population. This includes Filipinos, Indonesia, Indians, Pakistanis, Nepalese, Bangladeshis, and Sri-Lankans, according to the 2016 population By-census Thematic Report. Many of the ethnic minorities live in Tsim Sha Tsui, Yuen Long, Sham Shui Po, Tin Shui Wai, and Tuen Mun - where living costs are relatively low and around 40% of them live in a subdivided flat, according to the survey.  According to local ethnic rights advocacy groups, preconception about ethnic minorities and no legal charge for a rejection of tenants based on nationality are reasons for landlords not to lease apartments to ethnic minorities. The race discrimination ordinance in Hong Kong states that in any circumstances if on the ground of the race of that other person, a person treats that …

Politics

Masses gather at Prince Edward despite police banning placing flowers

Hongkongers mourned with flowers outside Prince Edward MTR station Monday evening - the 15-month anniversary of the 831 incident - despite police warning that those laid flowers might face prosecution.   Three people were fined for littering after presenting flowers near the exit around 4 pm, said Mong Kok East constituency District Councillor Ben Lam Siu-pan. "We just peacefully give flowers at the Prince Edward station. The police still crack down on us. It is ridiculous," Mr Lam said.  Mr Lam and other pan-democracy district councillors used to collect flowers left by protesters on the last day of every month outside the station. This year, they moved the paper boxes to Mr Lam's nearby office so that the ceremony could continue.  "The spirit still lives. We do not forget the 831 incident," he added.  Police have been accused of indiscriminately beating up passengers with batons and using pepper spray inside train compartments amid arrests of anti-extradition protesters in the railway station in August last year.  Rumours claimed someone died in the raid while officials declined. At least seven people were injured in the incident.  The city's protester Alexandra Wong Fung-yiu, nicknamed "Grandma Wong," appeared on the scene with white flowers and a yellow umbrella that had logos of the Union Flag on it. In October, she alleged that the Chinese authorities had detained her for 14 months in the mainland after she joined nearly every anti-extradition protest.  Mrs Lam, 58, only wants her surname to be shown for fear of being targeted by authorities, held a white flower in hands while facing the Prince Edward station across the street. She said she had stood there for one and a half hour to commemorate the "deaths" Mrs Lam said she joined the memorial at least five times. The recent surge of COVID-19 …

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 …