The Young Reporter


Hong Kong hotels struggle to stay afloat despite staycation fad

Chui Yuk-hei, a 26-year-old event planner, checked into several luxury hotels in November. She enjoyed her stay at the Mandarin Oriental, the Peninsula Hong Kong and the Four Seasons. “I never tried them before because these top hotels were super expensive,” Ms Chui said, “but now they all offer affordable overnight staycation packages. It’s the best time to enjoy their services.” She spent about HK$9,000 on three hotels in total, less than half the original prices.  More Hong Kongers like Ms Chui are going on staycations, spending holidays in hotels this year. But amid the coronavirus gloom, staycations are not enough to boost revenues, and local hotels still face uncertainties. The fourth wave of Covid-19 infections started in the city in late November 2020. Before that, clusters of cases linked to staycations prompted the government to limit the number of guests in each hotel room to four people only. “Health concerns made many customers cancel their staycation, “ said Benson Soo Koon-chau, 46, manager of four-star One-Eight-One Hotel & Serviced Residences in Sai Wan.      “Staycation is a very up-and-down business,” Mr Soo said. “Many hotels’ staycation business has been largely affected. It’s unlike long-staying service, which people need to pre-pay, no matter whether they eventually check in or not.” One-Eight-One Hotel has increased the portion of long-term leases for customers staying longer than two weeks to earn more stable revenue, he said. “I won’t go on staycation any time soon. It’s not safe. Even before the fourth wave, I would check the health measures at each hotel first,” Ms Chui said.  The pandemic has hit hard on the city’s hospitality industry which already suffered from anti-government protests in 2019. The occupancy rate slumped to 39% in the first six months of 2020 from the previous year’s 90% for …


Invest for your Future: Retirement Savings should now be on Track

Retirement may seem a long way off for young people, but it is never too early to invest for better retirement life. Once entering the workforce in Hong Kong, fresh graduates will start to invest via the Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF) - an employment-based retirement protection system. Under the scheme, both employee and employer are required to make a monthly mandatory MPF contribution, which is equivalent to 5% of the employee's relevant income, with a cap of HKD$30,000 per month. Employees with monthly earnings less than HK$7,100 are exempt from contributing to their own MPF accounts, but their employers are still required to make a 5% contribution.  In that case, for someone who has worked for 43 years, he or she will have a minimum of $3 million of savings under the MPF Scheme.  However, MPF hasn’t made everyone feel secure enough. The Financial Literacy Monitor 2018 reveals only 34% of surveyed Hongkongersres aged 18 to 79 were confident that they were financially well-prepared for retirement. According to UN World Population Prospects 2019, the average life expectancy for Hong Kong people has reached 85 years, ranking the top in the world. As people in Hong Kong generally retire at 65, retirement can potentially last for more than 20 years. During retirement, your monthly living expenses, medical fees as well as the cost of inflation can come up to much more than you expect. According to the Census and Statistics Department, the average monthly expenditure of retired households is $22,634. However, the survey done by the University of Hong Kong shows that respondents expected an average monthly retirement living expenses of about $12,600, which is less than half the actual monthly expenditure from the census and statistics department survey. Nearly 80% of the respondents considered that the average monthly expenditure after …


A drive through the newly opened Wan Chai Bypass and Island Eastern Corridor

The Wan Chai Bypass and Island Eastern Corridor opens today, costing $36 billion dollars to build. The project began in December 2009 and aims to reduce traffic from the eastern corridor towards the city’s central area, which has previously been a problematic area for traffic during rush hour. This is caused by drivers and passengers going back to the Kowloon side via the Cross Harbour Tunnel and surge of traffic going towards the Sai Ying Pun area from Causeway Bay. Passengers that go by the route from the eastern corridor to the west side often have a 30 to 45 minute wait between 5:00PM to 7:30PM. Roads have now been changed in order to accommodate the brand new tunnel. One of our reporters drove through the tunnel this afternoon, taking about 5 minutes to drive through the entire 4.5km tunnel, with generally smooth traffic. However, the final "test" that should occur would be during the rush hours in the morning and evening. During the drive, there were no clear instructions indicated on switching lanes within the tunnel was not allowed, giving the Wan Chai North (going to the Wan Chai Convention Center) only one lane, but three lands while heading out to the western side of the island. Despite the three lanes leading up to the western side, there was also no clear route that connects the Western Crossing harbour Tunnel since the exit is currently closed. One of the main aims of the tunnel was to divert the traffic from the Cross Harbour Tunnel to the Western Crossing Tunnel and the Eastern Harbour Crossing. However, the unclear instructions and unopened roads made it very difficult to get to the Western Harbour Crossing. Overall, the experience of driving through the tunnel was smooth, despite some minor changes in the directions and some exits of the tunnel remaining closed.

Have yourself a Merry Lamma Christmas

  • 2016-12-13

Treasure hunt, hiking and biking on the island for local charities by Angela Cheung, Emily Cheung and Richelia Yeung This is the 18th year for the community of Lamma Island and Operation Santa Claus collaboration to raise money for the local charities in Hong Kong. On December 4th, a bike race, a 10km marathon, a family scavenger hunt and a treasure hunt were held on the island. Robert Lockyer, the organiser of the events, said they hope to bring the community together for a good cause. He said there are around 300 to 400 participants this year. Most of them are from the island. "We have to spread out the events on the island," he said. "People even suggest additional events, so next year instead of a one-day event we will do two-days as we are hoping to do ten to twelve events next year." Mr Lockyer said it has been really busy to organise all the events, but fortunately, the members from the Lamma community are so supportive. "It's been a tradition that OSC is something Island Bar supported, so we took over that job as well," said Brad Tarr, owner of the bar, who took over it about six months ago. He said they tried to make as much money as they could by putting on bigger events this year. Mr Tarr hoped he could continue to support the campaign next year even if he could not make any profit. He also thanked those who had come to participate in the OSC events in Lamma Island this year as the events would not be here without them. "We do the event for OSC, not for us," Mr Tarr said, "If we can help a little bit these charities we will do it." Family Fun Island Scavenger Hunt The …

Unconditional love from Furry Doctors

  • 2016-12-08

by Isabella Lo and Choco Tang On November 8, three animal therapy dogs - Donna, Oscar and Sunday - made a visit to the Hong Chi Winifred Mary Cheung Morninghope School again to meet with their long-awaited friends. Dr Dog, an animal-assisted therapy programme by Animals Asia, aims to provide a friend for those with special needs, such as the elderly, the sick and the children with emotional weakness or disability. Ben Tsui Hiu-fung, a primary six student from the special needs school, could not hide his excitement when he hugged Donna again after a week in the room filled with laughter. Another student from the same year, Sunny Lo Siu-sun, patted the head of another furry friend, Sunday, when he was reading his storybook to the other patient dogs. The school's registered social worker, Esther Chan Choi-wan, said the dogs will not judge children by their appearance or illness. "They spread an unconditional love for our children regardless of their personalities, their disabilities and their age," said Ms Chan. The therapy programme, which has started to offer companion animals across Asia 25 years ago, has cooperated with this school to serve children with mild and moderate intellectual disability since 2005. Before meeting their loyal friends, the children have to complete a few goals at school.  "They are encouraged to attain some achievements, such as attending school on time, and be obedient during lessons," said Esther. Spending 15 to 20 minutes weekly with registered therapy dogs, children are encouraged to take care and interact with their ‘friends', and to build an intimate relationship with them. Marnie Yau Ma-yue, the programme manager of Dr Dog, said particular children are sorted out to spend more time with doctor dogs.  "Like any other interests, if the children show substantial love and caring for …

Nature Works nurtures future

  • 2016-11-26

Teenage nature enthusiasts put their innovative proposals into practice by Celia Lai & Cecilia Wong Held by The Nature Conservancy, Nature Works Hong Kong has come to the third year providing platforms for secondary students to plan "eco-friendly". This year eight student teams participated the program and came up with ideas, from food waste to shark rescue, in an attempt to protect the environment. The 11-month program, from March to December, put students into exposure of different environmental topics. The five-day training camp equipped students with knowledge and new skills through speakers and hands-on experiences. For instance, "minimum viable product", a concept about the smallest valuable thing one can contribute, was introduced to students to get hold a small control of the environment. Packed with fundamental knowledge, participants had to come up with ideas regarding four conservation themes: freshwater conservation, food sustainability, waste reduction and biodiversity and wildlife conservation, and later on realised them. "We chose the topic of eating sustainably because we eat every single day. It has an impact on the environment," said Rachelle Lui Ka-ching (16), one of the team members of Eco-roots. Eco-roots aimed to encourage sustainable eating habits among Hong Kong students. The five teammates had three goals: to improve access, increase awareness and inspire action. Building container gardens was one of their proposals. Eco-roots wanted to make sustainable food accessible to pupils by growing herbs and different types of veggies in the gardens in schools. "I hope I can educate the peers around me. They may change the way they eat and start thinking about the impact (of their eating habits) to the environment," said Rachelle. Participants had over nine weeks to refine their proposals under the guidance from volunteer professionals. These advisors fine-tuned students' presentations and gave them feedback on their planning process …

Silent Talk: The Voice to be Heard

  • 2016-11-24

A deaf pupil speaks about his struggles and needs in life by Henry Wong & Winnie Ngai His hands move to make signs. He talks silently. This calm and ambitious man had lost his hearing after a serious illness in infancy. Martin Wan, a deaf student recalled his growth journey as an unsound person in the society. "I daydreamt in class," Wan said. Life did not go smoothly in the beginning since sign language is not common in Hong Kong. Martin felt embarrassed and uncomfortable when his classmates forced him to talk by lips in secondary school. "I feel like being discriminated," he said. Loneliness and sadness came together as no one was willing to talk to him in class.   There are more than 155 thousand of hearing impaired people in Hong Kong, according to the figure of the Census and Statistics Department in 2015. However, the public often misread the deaf minority. "People thought they need to shout when they communicate with us, "Wan shook his head. He explained that hearing impaired people can understand the meaning by using hand-signs and reading lips. "It is no need to shout," he said. Apart from this, labelling of deaf people in the society saddens Wan. "They think hearing impairment is infectious," he said. Wan mentioned a teen who used a tissue to clean a pen after he led it to him. Deaf people are sensitive and they often get hurt by this kind of act. Willy Kwong, the head of Silence said that hearing impairment is a kind of invisible disability that cannot be noticed by appearances. "If you speak behind a deaf people, they don't know what you are talking about." He mentioned the misunderstanding and workplace discrimination are often caused since the public is not aware of it. …


Social Enterprise: to the Community

The government's plan to help social enterprises is not effective enough by Richelia Yeung & Cecilia Wong The problem of an ageing population is nothing new in Hong Kong. In his 2016 Policy Address, the Chief Executive predicted that the proportion of people aged 65 or above is estimated to increase from 15 percent in 2014, to 36 percent in 2064, that is, by over 1.5 million. "Hong Kongers have some of the highest life expectancies in the world. Many people have a long time to live after retirement," said Mr Derek Pang, one of the founders of Senior CID. "People need to be concerned about what they have to do to make a living for the rest of their lives. That inspired us to start our company," said Pang. Senior CID was established in early 2016 after Pang and two other partners participated in the Hong Kong Social Enterprise Challenge 2015 (HKSEC). It is a social enterprise that provides training in pet care for the elderly. Once trained, participants can then offer their services to pet owners. Pang said the difference between a social enterprise and a business company is that they have visions to do something for the society instead of just making money. "We want to give values to those in need." Pang added. "Providing a pet sitting service is a much better way for the elderly to make a living compared with collecting papers on the street," said Mr Keith Leung, one of the pet sitters in Senior CID, which he became after his retirement from a teacher's position at a secondary school. However, pet sitting services are not well known in Hong Kong. As a pet owner himself, Leung pointed out that the popularity of a pet sitting service in Hong Kong is much lesser than that of …

Culture & Leisure

Modern paper offerings are breaking traditional stereotypes

Breaking the Traditions: Paper Offerings as Art? by Emily Cheung In every traditional Chinese festival, paper offerings for celebration or the worship of spirits can be seen everywhere. "Paper offerings are not only about funeral affairs. We do paper offerings for the Mid-Autumn Festival, the Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance, and even for Chinese New Year," said Mr Ha Chung-kin, the traditional paper craftsman. He said there were two factions in the paper offering industry in the past - paper offerings for celebrations and those for funeral purpose. "We cannot make paper offerings for both occasions [at the same time] as people think it is ominous," he said. "But now, we do everything together, people don't mind." The culture of paper offerings is believed to have started with a concept brought along by Confucianism, introduced in the Spring and Autumn period, according to Dr Tam yik-fai, from the Department of Religion and Philosophy at Hong Kong Baptist University. "In the ‘Book of Rites' by Confucius, the master once said that we should respect spiritual beings with containers," said Tam. "As Confucius starts to distinguish human beings and the spirits as two different existences. The containers for spirits must be different from those we used," Before that, most Chinese tended to use the same offerings, for example, meat, fruit, or even humans - which they were presenting to a higher hierarchy - the spirits. Although Confucius did not state specifically that we should use paper to make offerings, the plant and common reed that he mentioned is believed to be an early sample of paper offerings. Until modern age, paper offerings have experienced a striking development in different parts of China, with great diversity since their introduction in the Spring and Autumn period. For example, people in Tianjin use joss paper …


A rise of local prosthetic makeup

Special effect makeup artist Gary Chan seeks ways to support artists in Hong Kong by Connie Fong and Susan Gao A sweaty-stocky meat deliveryman dismembers the corpse of a 16-year-old female prostitute, tearing the skin from her face. The signature bloody scene appeared in the award-winning local crime movie "Port of Call". 26-year-old Gary Chan Ka-wai was in charge of special makeup effects. Dubbed "the little king" in the field, Mr Chan says he wants to be more than just a makeup artist. He hopes to improve the art industry and society through his work. "I was lucky that I got lots of opportunities," said Mr Chan. He wants to create more opportunities for others. As Mr Chan participated in many local art competitions, he found out that many of the rules and judges in those competitions were not professional or qualified. So, he decided to organise one himself. At the moment, Mr Chan is organising a face-painting competition for local artists. Mr Chan said its aim is to support local artists, since filmmakers nowadays usually prefer hiring foreigners. "The moon seems fuller in foreign lands," he said. Many production companies either simply edit the script and stories to eliminate the need for special makeup or find foreign makeup artists if they have enough budgets. Mr Chan implores production companies to hire locally - and to respect local artists by giving them a budget to work with. "Don't think that we're beggars," he told The Young Reporter. Although many skilled artists have emerged in Hong Kong, the major problem in the prosthetic makeup industry is still a shortage of talent, he added. It takes at least a year to train a qualified special makeup artist, but many people do not have that patience, he said. After a couple of weeks …