The Young Reporter

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 …


Lessons from SARS: what Hong Kong learned in fighting the coronavirus

Long queues at supermarkets and pharmacies are common in Hong Kong these days. Face masks, toilet paper and rice are sought after in the city's fight against the novel coronavirus. The panic in Hong Kong started on January 23 soon after the first case of novel coronavirus infection was confirmed in Hubei province in mainland China. As a city with close ties with mainland China, Hong Kong is not optimistic. By February 20, Hong Kong health authorities have confirmed 68 cases. So far,  two people have died. As the number of cases on the mainland continues to climb, there are protests at railway stations in Hong Kong by those who want the government to close the border with the mainland. Thousands of medical workers went on a one-week strike because they could not cope with the influx of new cases from the mainland. Doctors and nurses accused the authorities of failing to protect their safety. It's not the first time Hong Kong faces a city-wide health crisis. This new disease known as COVID-19, is caused by a new type of coronavirus that has certain similarities with the coronavirus that caused the SARS outbreak in 2003, and Hong Kong learned some important lessons 17 years ago that are relevant to the current epidemic. Back then, SARS killed 299 of the 1,755 people infected. A housing complex, Amoy Gardens in Kowloon Bay, was the hardest hit area. There were 321 cases.  "Amoy Gardens was like a dead city at the time. No one came here. All the shops were shut," a resident at Amoy Gardens who didn't want to disclose his name recalls. Investigators later found that the virus had spread through the sewage pipes. Instead of washing their floors and flushing water down the pipes, people simply mopped. U-traps in the pipes were …

Health & Environment

Quest for masks in Europe: not a common practice

Wearing masks is essential these days as Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) has been raging for months. While searching for masks is a common practice in Hong Kong, the same behavior may be considered bizarre in Europe.  According to the World Health Organization (WHO) as of 13 February, the number of confirmed cases of the disease outside of China is 447, with 46 recorded cases in the European Region.  As the price of masks in Hong Kong went up due to high demands and the supply is insufficient, some continued the quest for masks abroad. The Netherlands, which has not recorded any confirmed cases, has been a target for some.  Jason Yu, a Hong Kong man who is currently traveling in Europe, said he did not expect masks and disinfection supplies are that expensive and hard to find. "I found masks in Germany that cost 50 euros per box (50 pieces of masks). I have bought some alcohol hand sanitizers in Switzerland. But I am surprised that no masks are sold in the Netherlands," said the 24-year-old traveler.  Chu Ho-yan, a student who is currently on exchange at Tilburg, Netherlands, also failed to find masks in the city.  "My family in Hong Kong is running out of masks for daily use and the supply is scarce. They thought I could buy some here and have them delivered to Hong Kong," said the 20-year-old girl.  She finally found two boxes of masks in Brussels, Belgium, which is an hour's journey away from the Netherlands. Even though she found masks, she said she would not wear them on the streets, so to avoid misunderstandings.  "While it is common to wear masks to prevent getting infected in Hong Kong, I observed that Europeans do not do that. I understand that it is a cultural difference," she …


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

Closed-off management in Shenzhen communities during COVID-19 : People long for work resumption

Residential communities in Shenzhen are implementing closed-off management, some entrepreneurs at Peak Boulevard Estate long for work resumption due to concerns of financial losses of enterprises. "294 people's temperatures were tested, 0 shows abnormal..." After reading the daily community disease-prevention briefing, Tian Bao, the owner of a winery, as well as the resident of Peak Boulevard Estate, started his another closed-off day with the latest news of coronavirus pneumonia on social platforms. The COVID-19 coronavirus was found in Wuhan in December 2019. It first broke out as an "unknown pneumonia" at the Huanan seafood market and quickly spread throughout China during the next 2 months. Many countries in Southeast Asia, Europe, North America and even Africa were also affected. Up to now, according to the official daily announcement of the National Health Commission of China, there are around 57,900 existing cases, over 2000 deaths were reported. Shenzhen has cumulatively confirmed more than 400 cases, ranking at the top in Guangdong province. "Few people are going out now because everyone is afraid of the virus," said Zhang Li, a resident of Peak Boulevard Estate, "I only went out for some necessities which I couldn't buy from online stores. My family hasn't been out since the end of January."   Shenzhen Headquarters for Prevention and Control of Pneumonia Epidemic Caused by Novel Coronavirus officially announced the implementation of closed-off management in all the residential communities in Shenzhen on February 7. The property service department of Peak Boulevard Estate took actions on February 5th - unnecessary visitors are restricted from entering the community, residents have to declare their information through a Wechat program named "i Shenzhen" and use a specific system authentication code for entrance.  "We receive a daily report from the property services department, it concludes what the staff has done to prevent …

Health & Environment

How district councillor is helping the community

Amid the shortage of sanitary equipment, the newly elected district councillor Jimmy Sham in Lek Yuen area has been distributing masks to the residents in his district.  With most of its residents being elderly, Jimmy Sham is worried that such an old area would have a higher chance of coronavirus outbreak. “As the elderly are having poorer immunity than normal people, they are more likely to catch diseases. So if the coronavirus is spread here, that would be a big issue.” However, elderly in the estate usually have less social resources to catch up information for buying masks. Ms. Chan is among them. The 64-year-old woman has reused her surgical mask for a week, and she was going to use it again tomorrow. "We really don’t have many left at home. And we need to spare some for my son because he needs to go out to work everyday." "Some people have donated a few boxes of masks to us. We are figuring out how to distribute them in a relatively fair way, as we can't help them all," said the councillor. In order to benefit more people, they unboxed all the masks and repacked them for every 10 masks. Instead of distributing the masks to all the residents, they registered for around 600 residents who have asked for help, and spare enough masks for them.  Ms. Chan has got two packs, in a total of 20 masks, for her 3-people family. She was happy about the service of the new district councillor. "He is helpful as he knows we do not have enough masks." However, the method of distribution has aroused dissatisfaction among the community. A 78 years old man complained that he did not know they were distributing masks, therefore he didn’t register beforehand. "We have already tried …

Health & Environment

Stress grocery shopping in Tai Po Market

The wide-spreading coronavirus has shattered the city. In fear of getting infected, people have been avoiding leaving their homes, even many companies have started the "work from home" arrangement. Unlike other districts in Hong Kong, the streets in Tai Po are filled with people, rushing from place to place to buy as many necessities as they could. With rumors of the coronavirus that would last for months spreading around the city, people are hoarding necessities in preparation for sudden self-quantization.  

Health & Environment

Small community stores in Tai Wai are helping people in needs by giving out medical and cleaning supplies

Due to the outbreak of the coronavirus, people are anxious about it. To prevent themselves from getting the virus, they started to panically purchase medical and cleaning supplies. Some other daily necessities such as toilet paper have all been snatched as well. People now have high demands for medical products. However, their demands can’t be met due to the supply shortage. To soothe the problem, some stores have decided to sell the goods at a low price or even give it out for free to people who are in need.  

Health & Environment

"We are doctors and we are mothers.": The first medical team from Yunnan in support of Wuhan departed on January 27

Accompanied by her husband, Wang Qiuwen arrived at the Third People's Hospital of Yunnan Province. She joked around her husband and friends as usual, took a photo with 24 other allies, then left by taking the bus heading towards the airport.  To fight the expanding coronavirus outbreak, the Chinese authorities have sent medical teams from less-infected parts of the country to support hospitals in Hubei Province. Yunnan sent its first medical team with 25 health workers from the Third People's Hospital of Yunnan Province to Hubei on Jan 27. Wang Qiuwen is one of the nurses of the Yunnan medical team. "Once we decided to be here, we have prepared ourselves for the potential infection. The only thing I can do for my family is taking good care of myself.", said Ms Wang. She signed up for the team voluntarily, leaving her 6-year-old son, who is with mental retardation and asthma, to her husband. "My son's life was changed by the persistent bronchial infection after having pneumonia when he was small." said Ms Wang, "It (signing up to Hubei) feels more like my mission as a nurse." Ms Wang said interprovincial support minimizes cross-infection between health workers and the public. "We don't get in touch with anyone outside of the hospital so that we won't have such worries of cross-infection like local doctors, who would contact their family members." Bearing the burden of taking care of their child, her husband Wan Hong, a doctor, still strains to handle the enormous workload of coronavirus control in Yunnan.  "I supported her because I understand how hard the choice is for a health worker while facing such an epidemic." said Mr. Wan, "I have to stay optimistic being the one stayed at home. The family is on me now."  Doctors, defined as "Non-emergency …