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Hong Kong shortens Covid-positive quarantine and inbound testing mandate to five days


By Web desk 9th Dec 2022


Hong Kong is set to shorten the quarantine order for confirmed Covid-19 patients and close contacts and the testing requirement for overseas arrivals to five days starting from Friday (Dec 9). In a Thursday press conference, Under Secretary for Health Libby Lee Ha-yun added the current social distancing measures will stay for another two weeks from next Thursday (Dec 15) to December 28. Although Lee agreed that Hong Kong can refer to the Covid rules in other regions, she denied that authorities introduce the changes to follow China's latest relaxations. Currently, it is not advisable to compare different areas on using what kind of anti-pandemic measures to control the Covid pandemic, simply because different places have their own conditions like the healthcare systems, the affordability in meeting or treating patients. And also the vaccination coverage rates are different, Lee told. The new five-day quarantine order will apply to confirmed patients and close contacts regardless of their vaccination status, Lee also said, as she noted that citizens need only two negative rapid antigen results on the fourth and fifth days to fulfill the order. Lee referred to latest figures and explained that five days would be sufficient for authorities to detect if any close contact turns into an infection and if any overseas arrivals are carrying the coronavirus. As for the decision of not further easing social distancing measures, Lee pointed to the rising Covid numbers, including confirmed cases, patients admitted to hospital and those in serious or critical condition, and deaths. The no.2 health chief then moved on to the bivalent vaccine and called on citizens, especially children and elderly, to get inoculated against Covid-19 as soon as possible, citing double threats from lingering pandemic and winter flu season. Hongkongers can make their reservations for the bivalent vaccine as the third jab starting from tomorrow (Fri). Those who have made reservations already can also change their original third jab option to the bivalent vaccine by then. For seniors aged 50 or above, they are advised to get the bivalent vaccine as their fourth jab three months after getting their third shot. Meanwhile, triple-jabbed adults aged 18 to 49 should wait for six months. Starting 9am December 16, citizens aged 18 or above can make reservations for the fifth jab. When asked about mainland easing the health code requirement from most venues, Lee also denied that Hong Kong's LeaveHomeSafe app and Vaccine Pass requirement are stricter.

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China's Xi to visit Saudi Arabia

By Web desk 7th Dec 2022

Chinese President Xi Jinping will arrive in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday for a three-day visit, his first to the world's biggest crude oil exporter since 2016, Saudi state media reported on Tuesday. The visit will include a bilateral summit chaired by Saudi King Salman and attended by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom's de facto ruler, the official Saudi Press Agency reported. Xi, head of the world's second biggest economy, will also attend a summit with rulers from the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council and talks convening leaders from elsewhere in the Middle East, the state news agency said. The Chinese leader's arrival coincides with heightened tensions between Saudi Arabia and the United States over issues ranging from energy policy to regional security and human rights. The latest blow to that decades-old partnership came in October when the OPEC+ oil bloc agreed to cut production by two million barrels a day, a move the White House said amounted to aligning with Russia on the war in Ukraine. On Sunday, OPEC+ opted to keep those cuts in place. China is Saudi Arabia's biggest customer for crude oil, purchasing roughly a quarter of Saudi oil exports. Beyond energy, analysts say leaders from the two countries are expected to discuss potential deals that could see Chinese firms become more deeply involved in mega-projects that are central to Prince Mohammed's vision of diversifying the Saudi economy away from oil. Those projects include a futuristic $500 billion megacity known as NEOM, a so-called cognitive city that will depend heavily on facial recognition and surveillance technology. Xi last visited Saudi Arabia in 2016, the year before Prince Mohammed became first in line to the throne, on a trip that also featured stops in Egypt and Saudi rival Iran. Prince Mohammed visited China and met with Xi on an Asia tour in 2019.

 China holds state funeral for late president Jiang Zemin

 By Web desk 6th Dec 2022

Event, biggest of its kind in more than 20 years. Xi Jinping addresses the memorial service for the man credited with spearheading the country’s integration into the world economy.

China pay tribute to former president Jiang Zemin today with a funeral at the Great Hall of the People. The service for Jiang, who died of multiple organ failure in Shanghai last week aged 96, will be the biggest event of its kind since the funeral for paramount leader Deng Xiaoping in 1997. As the first major state event since October’s Communist Party national congress, all eyes will be on how President Xi Jinping will honour Jiang. Observers will also be watching to see whether Hu Jintao, Xi’s predecessor, will appear in person. In October, Hu was escorted from the Great Hall on the final day of the congress, raising much discussion about his health and relations with Xi. Hu was at Xi’s side yesterday as top leaders bade farewell to Jiang before his cremation. Xi outlines his policy objectives and priorities in the second half of his memorial speech. He highlights how these objectives are in line with Jiang’s vision and a continuation of the socialist legacy of his predecessors. Comrade Jiang Zemin bade farewell to us. His reputation, achievement and charisma will always be part of history and engraved in people’s hearts, generation after generation, Xi says. calls on the party, military and the people to rally around the Central Committee under his leadership to achieve great rejuvenation of the Chinese people. Xi leads the assembly to bow three times in tribute to Jiang before the conclusion of the ceremony. Xi reiterates that focusing on the public interest should be a priority for party’s new chapter. He also highlights the importance of achieving common prosperitycatchphrase Xi has often used in recent years. Vice-Premier Hu Chunhua appears emotional at the service. Xi calls for the country and Communist Party to inherit the will of Jiang and to write a new chapter of socialism with Chinese characteristics. Xi then calls for party cadres to rally around his leadership and party leadership, saying the party’s leadership is the hope of the country. Former president Hu Jintao appears not to be at the service but he accompanied Xi to pay his last respects to Jiang before his cremation yesterday. Standing with Xi are serving and former Politburo Standing Committee members. To Xi’s left are Li Keqiang, Wang Yang, Zhao Leji, Han Zheng, Ding Xuexiang and Wang Qishan.To his right are Li Zhanshu, Li Qiang, Wang Huning, Cai Qi, Li Xi, Li Ruihuan, Wen Jiabao, Zhang Dejiang, Yu Zhengsheng, Li Lanqing, Zeng Qinghong, Wu Guanzheng, Li Changchun, He Guoqiang, Liu Yunshan and Zhang Gaoli. Wu Yi, a prominent former vice-premier who served as deputy minister of foreign economic relations and trade under Jiang, is present at the ceremony, too. Xi also praises Jiang for helping the country through the Asian financial crisis. He also says Jiang willingly stepped down as party secretary general in 2002, and as chairman of the Central Military Commission in 2004. Jiang actively supported the party’s Central Committee after his retirement, including its anti-graft campaign, Xi says. Xi also praises Jiang for developing party theories, especially the three represents, which creatively answers the question of how to build the Communist Party. One of the highlights of the three represents is that it allows private entrepreneurs to become party members. Xi praises Jiang for modernizing the army and his strategic decision to order the army and armed police to stop engaging in commercial activity. Xi praises Jiang for clarifying the relationship between socialism, maintaining stability and economic development during his tenure. He says Jiang had a vision to achieve a prosperous country and mentions that he led the country to join the World Trade Organization. Xi also praises Jiang for the smooth handover of Hong Kong and Macau and his efforts to resist attempts to separate Taiwan from the mainland. Xi mentions the political turmoil in the late 80s and early 90s, a euphemism for the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown. Xi praises Jiang for unswervingly upholding the rule of socialism while persisting in opening up and economic reform. Jiang tightened ideological control at the time to lead the country through rough waters, he says, and laid a solid foundation for the development of the country during his tenure. Two black banners hang in the Great Hall of the People. They read: Under the leadership of the Party Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at the core, we will inherit the will of Comrade Jiang Zemin and push forward the great cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era! Comrade Jiang Zemin, who is sincerely loved by the whole party, the army and the people of all nationalities, will live forever! Retired party leaders including Wen Jiabao and Zeng Qinghong are present. Zeng appears to be in tears. Jiang’s right hand man, former premier Zhu Rongji, however, is absent. Zhu has not appeared at several previous important occasions due to his poor health. Although foreign diplomats are not allowed to  join the memorial service, Xi specifically mentions foreign embassies.  He also says the Hong Kong and Macau governments and Chinese diaspora are mourning Jiang. It urges the party to rally around Xi to carry on the mission of national rejuvenation. It says Jiang led the country through unprecedented challenges and pressure in the late 1980s and early 90s an indirect reference to the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown. It also highlights Jiang’s support of party leadership after his retirement and his support for Xi’s anti-corruption crackdown. The commentary titled remember the achievements, continue with the mission, and unite and strive also calls for the country to rally around Xi’s leadership. Xi describes Jiang as a prestigious leader, a great Marxist, diplomat, and a Communist warrior. Xi says Jiang poured out his life for the country and the country made great achievements in the 13 years of his leadership, gaining the respect of his countrymen and the international community. Xi Jinping leads the Politburo members in bowing in tribute to Jiang. All members of the Communist Party’s top decision-making body are wearing masks. Sirens echo throughout the city. Visibly emotional, Jiang’s widow, Wang Yeping, sits on a wheelchair and is comforted by a carer. The presidium is decorated with a giant picture of Jiang and wreaths sent by family and party leaders. All securities trading on the mainland will be suspended for three minutes during the memorial service, as will trading in bonds, foreign exchange and gold, according to regulatory authorities. At Deng’s funeral in 1997, Jiang gave a 50-minute speech to a crowd of 10,000 people in the Great Hall of the People to remember his predecessor, who hand-picked him to lead China after the bloody Tiananmen crackdown in 1989. He read from a script and took off his glasses several times to wipe away tears. Beijing asked all district offices in the country’s cities and government departments to organize residents and staff to watch the proceedings. District officials were reminded to lower flags today. And sports facilities and gardens will be closed as all public entertainment activities are suspended for the day. Jiang’s funeral is being held at a sensitive time in China, coming in the wake of rare public protests across the country against Covid-19 restrictions. In signs of defiance not seen in decades, some protesters have also called for democracy, rule by law and freedom of speech. Observers are watching for any signs of public tributes to Jiang that might deviate from the official line. People have taken to the streets in the past to both pay tribute to late leaders and air their grievances against incumbent governments. There is a heavy security presence around the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, where Jiang’s funeral will be held. With an hour to go before the event, no crowds are on the street near the hall. However, authorities arranged for large groups of people to gather by the road on Monday to bid farewell to Jiang’s body in west Beijing in an area sealed off to general traffic.Jiang was the Communist Party’s general secretary from 1989 to 2002. During his tenure at the top, China entered the World Trade Organization, won the right to host the Summer Olympics, and regained sovereignty of Hong Kong and Macau. It was a time of meteoric economic growth and political elevation of entrepreneurs, as well as rampant corruption, heavy pollution and a crackdown on the Falun Gong spiritual sect.

Shenzhou-14 astronauts return to Earth after 6-month mission

By Web desk 5th Dec 2022

Three Chinese astronauts landed in a northern desert on Sunday after six months working to complete construction of the Tiangong station, a symbol of the country’s ambitious space program, state TV reported. A capsule carrying commander Chen Dong and astronauts Liu Yang and Cai Xuzhe touched down at a landing site in the Gobi Desert in northern China at approximately 8:10 p.m. (1210 GMT), China Central Television reported. Prior to departure, they overlapped for almost five days with three colleagues who arrived Wednesday on the Shenzhou-15 mission for their own six-month stay, marking the first time China had six astronauts in space at the same time. The station’s third and final module docked with the station this month. The astronauts were carried out of the capsule by medical workers about 40 minutes after touchdown. They were all smiles, and appeared to be in good condition, waving happily at workers at the landing site. I am very fortunate to have witnessed the completion of the basic structure of the Chinese space station after six busy and fulfilling months in space, said Chen, who was the first to exit the capsule. Like meteors, we returned to the embrace of the motherland. Liu, another of the astronauts, said that she was moved to see relatives and her fellow compatriots. The three astronauts were part of the Shenzhou-14 mission, which launched in June. After their arrival at Tiangong, Chen, Liu and Cai oversaw five rendezvous and dockings with various spacecraft including one carrying the third of the station’s three modules. They also performed three spacewalks, beamed down a live science lecture from the station, and conducted a range of experiments. The Tiangong is part of official Chinese plans for a permanent human presence in orbit. China built its own station after it was excluded from the International Space Station, largely due to U.S. objections over the Chinese space programs' close ties to the People’s Liberation Army, the military wing of the ruling Communist Party. With the arrival of the Shenzhou-15 mission, the station expanded to its maximum weight of 100 tons. Without attached spacecraft, the Chinese station weighs about 66 tons — a fraction of the International Space Station, which launched its first module in 1998 and weighs around 465 tons. With a lifespan of 10 to 15 years, Tiangong could one day be the only space station still up and running if the International Space Station retires by around the end of the decade as expected. China in 2003 became the third government to send an astronaut into orbit on its own after the former Soviet Union and the United States. China has also chalked up uncrewed mission successes: Its Yutu 2 rover was the first to explore the little-known far side of the moon. Its Chang’e 5 probe also returned lunar rocks to Earth in December 2020 for the first time since the 1970s, and another Chinese rover is searching for evidence of life on Mars. Officials are reported to be considering an eventual crewed mission to the moon, although no timeline has been offered.

Iran begins construction on nuclear power plant

 By Web desk 4th Dec 2022

The new 300-megawatt plant, known as Karoon, will take eight years to build and cost around US$2 billion, state media reported. The announcement comes amid tensions with the US over sanctions imposed after Washington pulled out of Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers

Iran on Saturday began construction on a new nuclear power plant in the country’s southwest, Iranian state television announced, amid tensions with the US over sweeping sanctions imposed after Washington pulled out of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear deal with world powers. The announcement comes as Iran has been rocked by nationwide protests challenging the theocratic government that began after the death of a young woman in police custody over an allegedly violation of the Islamic dress code. In a possibly related move, Iran’s semi-official IRNA news agency late on Saturday quoted a top prosecutor as saying officials had closed the morality police force responsible for enforcing the dress code. It gave no details. The new 300-megawatt plant, known as Karoon, will take eight years to build and cost around US$2 billion, the country’s state television and radio agency reported. The plant will be located in Iran’s oil-rich Khuzestan province, near its western border with Iraq, it said.

 

President Xi told EU less lethal Omicron opens way for fewer Covid restrictions 

 By Web desk 3rd Dec 2022

Chinese President Xi Jinping blamed mass protests in Chinese cities on youth frustrated by years of the Covid-19 pandemic but said the now dominant Omicron variant of the virus paved the way for fewer restrictions, European Union officials said. The senior EU officials, who asked not to be named, recounted the main points of a visit to Beijing by European Council President Charles Michel, who met Xi along with other senior EU officials on Thursday. The handling of the Covid pandemic and the protests against pandemic restrictions in recent days across more than 20 Chinese cities were among the topics raised by the EU. The response we got from the president was an explanation why there were protests, explaining that after three years of Covid he had an issue, because people were frustrated, it was mainly students or teenagers, one senior EU official said. I think that as a way out President Xi said that now Covid in China was mainly Omicron. The Delta variant before was much more lethal and Omicron was less lethal, which opened the way for more openness with the restrictions what we have already seen in some regions, the EU official said. EU officials said Michel told Xi that in Europe the focus of the first phase of the pandemic was very much on isolation, quarantine and testing, but it later shifted to vaccination. My sense was that this was something that was informative, and I had a feeling that China on its side would be increasingly looking to encourage its citizens to be vaccinated, to follow a tiny bit the European experience, a second EU official said. He added that Xi told the EU delegation that vaccination rates in China were high except for among the elderly, which was a challenge that caused the Covid restrictions. 

Hong Kong to say hello to 2023 without firework: sources


By Web desk 8th Dec 2022


Hong Kong is set to welcome new year without any firework for the fourth year in a row, according to sources. However, there will be a New Year countdown at the Victoria Harbor, coupled with performances featuring multi-media special effects.


It is understood that the Hong Kong Tourism Board will soon announce the upcoming celebration activities and the countdown event for 2023 will staged bythe Victoria Harbor.

Sources also said the special performances that night will infuse smoking effects into the multi-media performances at buildings by the two harbor sides in Tsim Sha Tsui and Wan Chai, allowing Hongkongers to welcome 2023 under bright night sky.


The celebration turned into an online countdown event in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Last year, the HKTB staged a physical countdown concert at the West Kowloon Cultural District, featuring guests including popular boy band Mirror, singers GinLee, "AGA" Agatha Kongand Alfred Hui.

Profile: General (r) Qamar Javed Bajwa

 By Web desk 02 Dec 2022

General Qamar Javed Bajwa, a retired four-star general of the Pakistan Army, served as the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) from November 29, 2016 to November 29, 2022. He was appointed to the highest military office by Nawaz Sharif, the then prime minister of Pakistan, on completion of three-year tenure of his predecessor, General Raheel Sharif. Gen Bajwa’s three-year tenure as army chief was slated to end on November 29, 2019, but the then Prime Minister Imran Khan granted him an extension in August 2019 and the National Assembly of Pakistan endorsed his extension till November 29, 2022 by passing a bill. Born in Gakhar Mandi, a small town in the Gujranwala District of Punjab, on November 11, 1960, Gen Bajwa is the youngest son of ex-army man Muhammad Iqbal Bajwa. He became an orphan at the age of seven when his father died in Balochistan, and he was brought up by his mother. Gen Bajwa got his early education at Sir Syed College and Gordon College in Rawalpindi. In 1978, he joined the Pakistan Military Academy in Kakul and graduated in 1980. He is also a graduate of the Canadian Army Command and Staff College (CACSC) and the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, United States. In October 1980, Gen Bajwa was commissioned as second lieutenant in the 16th Baloch Regiment at the Sialkot Cantonment. In later years, he served as a staff officer in the X Corps in Rawalpindi. He was promoted to the one-star rank and served as the Chief of Staff at the X Corps. Gen Bajwa served as a brigade commander under the then Major General Bikram Singh in the UN peacekeeping mission MONUSCO in Congo, commanding the Pakistan Armed Forces-Africa Command. In May 2009, Gen Bajwa was promoted to the two-star rank. He became a Major General and took over the command of the Force Command Northern Areas (FCNA) as its General Officer Commanding (GOC) in Gilgit-Baltistan. In 2011, Gen Bajwa was assigned as an instructor at the School of Infantry and Tactics in Quetta. Later, he taught a staff course at the Command and Staff College in Quetta and a course on national security at the National Defence University. On August 14, 2013, Gen Bajwa was promoted to the three-star rank and posted as field commander of the X Corps in Rawalpindi. He was appointed a Grade-I officer later. A year later, in his capacity as a Lieutenant General, Gen Bajwa was appointed Colonel Commandant of the Baloch Regiment. On September 22, 2015, Gen Bajwa was appointed the Inspector General of the Training and Evaluation (IGT&E) at the General Headquarters. He served as Principal Staff Officer to the then Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif. Gen Bajwa carried out counterterrorism operations nationwide in February 2017 and then Khyber-4 in July 2017. He was posted thrice at the X Corps, which happens to be the largest and one of the most important corps of the Pakistan Army. Gen Bajwa is a recipient of Nishan-e-Imtiaz and Hilal-e-Imtiaz. In 2017, he was awarded the Turkish Legion of Merit for promotion of defence ties between Pakistan and Turkey. In October 2018, he was given the Order of the Military Merit by Jordan's King Abdullah II. The Forbes magazine ranked him the 68th most influential person in the world and the fourth oldest Chief of Army Staff (COAS). He was succeeded by General Syed Asim Munir.

Profile: General Syed Asim Munir

General Asim Munir charge as 17th Chief of Army Staff (COAS) of the Pakistan Army on November 29, 2022. He was promoted to the rank of a four-star general and notified as Pakistan's next army chief on November 24, 2022 for being the senior-most officer in the Pakistan Army. Gen Munir, who was serving as Quartermaster General in the Pakistan Army at the time of his promotion, entered the service via the Officers Training School (OTS) programme in Mangla and was commissioned into the 23rd Battalion of the Frontier Force Regiment. Gen Munir commanded troops in the Force Command Northern Areas as a brigadier under Gen Bajwa, who was then Commander X Corps. He was appointed DG of the Military Intelligence in early 2017 and then ISI Director General in October 2018. Eight months later, Gen Munir was posted Gujranwala Corps Commander. He was moved to the GHQ as Quartermaster General two years later. Gen Munir is the recipient of the Sword of Honour from the 17th course of the Officers Training School in Mangla. Also, he is the recipient of Hilal-i-Imtiaz award. Despite his retirement due on November 27, Gen Munir was one of the top contenders for the coveted post of Pakistan's next chief of army staff (COAS) that would fall vacant on Gen Bajwa's retirement on November 29, 2022. On November 24, 2022, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif picked him as the next army chief and President Arif Alvi approved the summary for his appointment the same day. His retirement was frozen until his appointment as the new army chief of the country. Gen Munir is the first army chief in the history of Pakistan who is a 'Hafiz-e-Quran'. He belongs to a well-known religious family of Rawalpindi. He memorised the Holy Quran at a seminary, Darul Tajweedul Quran, located near DAV College Road in the garrison city. He's a student of the late Islamic preacher Hafiz Khalil Ahmed. Gen Munir's father served as a principal of a Tariqabad school in Rawalpindi Cantonment and he too was a 'Hafiz-e-Quran'.

Profile: Lieutenant General Sahir Shamshad Mirza

Lieutenant General Sahir Shamshad Mirza has been shortlisted as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC). The former commander of Rawalpindi Corps is the recipient of Hilal-e-Imtiaz (Military) has served at senior leadership positions in his career, including director-general military operations (DGMO), Chief of General Staff, and Adjutant General at the General Headquarters. During his assignment at Military Operations, he also commanded 40th Infantry Division in Okara. As DGMO, he was part of former COAS General Raheel Sharif's core team at the GHQ, which supervised the military operation against the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and other militants in North Waziristan. He has also served in United Nations-led operations in foreign countries and was conferred with UN Medal for Service in Sierra Leone (UNOMSIL Medal). Mirza was commissioned in the 8th Battalion of the Sind Regiment as second lieutenant in 1985. In 1988, he was promoted as lieutenant and became Captain in 1991. He was promoted to the rank of lieutenant general in 2019.  

 Profile: Lieutenant General Faiz Hameed

Lieutenant General Faiz Hameed is a three-star general of Pakistan Army's Baloch Regiment. He is currently serving as Bahawalpur Corps Commander. Previously, he served as commander of the Peshawar Corps for less than a year. The three-star ranking general has served as the 24th Director General of Pakistan's premier spy agency Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) and as GOC 16th Infantry Division Pano Akil. Hameed had served in the spy agency for two-and-a-half years before being promoted to the rank of Lt Gen. He was appointed as ISI head at a crucial time due to several external and internal security challenges. From April to June 2019, he was Adjutant General at the General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi. Hameed has received various medals, including Hilal-e-Imtiaz (Military) and Tamgha-e-Diffa for his gallantry services for the country. Faiz Hameed's family is from Latifal, Chakwal.

Profile: Lieutenant General Azhar Abbas

Lt Gen Azhar Abbas is a three-star ranking general in the Pakistan Army and currently serving as the Chief of General Staff (CGS). He replaced Lt Gen Sahir Shmashad Mirza as CGS on September 8 2021. As Chief of General Staff, Lt Gen Abbas is responsible for operational and intelligence matters at the GHQ in Rawalpindi. Abbas was commissioned in the 41st Battalion of Baloch Regiment. Previously, he served as Commandant School of Infantry and Tactics in Quetta, headed a division in Murree, worked as a Brigadier in the Operations Directorate, and was also a Private Secretary to the former COAS General Raheel Sharif. Abbas, who joined Pakistan Army as second lieutenant in 1987, has received various medals, including Hilal-e-Imtiaz (Military) and Tamgha-e-Diffa for his gallantry services for the country. He was also conferred with the MINURSO Medal for his services during foreign deployment under the UN peacekeeping mission.

Exchange Fund’s 9-month loss balloons to a record US$34 billion from ‘triple whammy’ effects of plunging stocks, bonds and currency

 By Web desk 30th Nov 2022

The Exchange Fund posts its second-biggest three-month loss in the 19 years it has been reporting quarterly performance. The fund’s cumulative losses totalled HK$265.5 billion over nine months, the worst nine-month loss on record

The Exchange Fund, the war chest used to defend the Hong Kong dollar from attacks by short-sellers, lost a record HK$265.5 billion (US$34 billion) from investments in the first nine months as it fell victim to a triple whammy combination of falling valuations for equities, bonds and currency holdings. This year has been a challenging time as stocks, bonds and currencies are all having substantial loss, said Eddie Yue Wai-man, the CEO of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA), during a presentation of the fund’s results at the city’s Legislative Council. The global markets are likely to continue to be volatile and full of uncertainties. Global markets have been falling in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has caused global supply chain disruption for many industries. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine also set off an inflationary spiral for many countries, with the prices of food and energy spiking higher, leading to higher interest rates. Meanwhile, China’s economy has slowed amid macroeconomic headwinds and a slumping property market.

 

Hong Kong’s top scientific breakthroughs to go on display at expo, including locally designed gear from nation’s 2020 Mars mission

 By Web desk 29th Nov 2022

Event wants to ‘inspire youngsters to develop an interest in science and innovation’, says advisory group convenor Tsui Lap-chee. Replicas of first-of-its-kind underwater craft and Mars rover are just some of the highlights of the 10-day InnoTech Expo

The latest scientific breakthroughs from Hong Kong and mainland China will be showcased in the city next month, including 25 top local developments and 50 national exhibits covering aerospace, land and ocean exploration, some of which will be on display to residents for the first time. Among the exhibits at the coming InnoTech Expo 2022 are replicas of China’s first Mars rover and a launch pad from the country’s inaugural mission to the red planet. Researchers from Polytechnic University assisted the 2020 mission, known as Tianwen-1, through the design of a Mars camera for the rover and the development of a topographical survey technique to identify possible landing spots. The aim of organizing large scale events like this is to bring the country’s latest scientific achievements to Hong Kong, in order to let Hongkongers understand national scientific development and inspire youngsters to develop an interest in science and innovation, as well as encourage more young blood to participate in this important pillar of national development, said Tsui Lap-chee, advisory group convenor of the expo.

 

Over 11,000 in HK booked their Omicron boosters, says civil service chief

By Web desk 28th Nov 2022

Hong Kong’s civil service chief said over 11,000 people have booked their booster shots that protect against both the highly-infectious Omicron variant and the original Covid strain, with the jabs available in the city starting Thursday. Around 770,000 doses of the so-called bivalent shots arrived in the territory on Friday. The BioNTech bivalent jabs would only be available as a fourth dose alternative. Speaking on a radio program Monday morning, Secretary for the Civil Service Ingrid Yeung Ho Poi-yan, said the rule of having the vaccine only available as a fourth dose alternative is recommended by the government’s expert panel. The decision may be temporary and the government will review it to see if the vaccine could also be available as a third dose alternative, said Yeung. She added that the 1.9 million doses of the vaccine procured by the government should be enough to handle the demand. Meanwhile, Society of Hospital Pharmacists president William Chui Chun-ming said a number of people in Hong Kong were already eligible for taking a fourth booster dose. He worried the vaccine authorities procured would not be enough for everyone, with people willing to take up the jabs for overseas travel. Chui also called on authorities to make the Omicron boosters available as a third dose option.

 

Hong Kong may adjust review period for minimum wage, improve efficiency of process, labour chief reveals

By Web desk 27th Nov 2022

Secretary for Labour and Welfare Chris Sun says he will ask Minimum Wage Commission to look at how existing mechanism can be made more efficient. That may include a shorter time frame between evaluations, he says

Hong Kong authorities are considering shortening the period between minimum wage reviews and making the process more efficient, the city’s labour minister has revealed, with the pay level set to rise in 2023 after a four-year freeze. Secretary for Labour and Welfare Chris Sun Yuk-han said he would task the Minimum Wage Commission, the statutory body responsible for setting the hourly pay level, with looking into how the existing mechanism could be made more efficient with a possibly shorter time frame between evaluations. Right now we’re doing it every two years. Do we have to shorten it? Sun said on Saturday. If you’re going to shorten it, what kind of a new method are we going to adopt in order to achieve a shorter frequency? And also, how can we increase the efficiency?

Chinese leadership mourns ‘insurmountable loss’ of Jiang Zemin as former president dies aged 96

 By Web desk 1st Dec 2022

Jiang, who led China into the WTO and presided over Hong Kong’s return to Beijing’s rule, died on Wednesday from leukaemia and multiple organ failure Xi Jinping expresses his grief at loss of ‘great Marxist’, while official obituary praises his ‘outstanding’ leadership and peaceful handing over of power

Former president Jiang Zemin, one of China’s most influential leaders who spearheaded the country’s accelerated opening up and growth into a global powerhouse, died on Wednesday in Shanghai. He was 96. Jiang, who oversaw China’s accession to the World Trade Organization in 2001 and cultivated warm ties with the United States, died of leukaemia and multiple organ failure at 12.13pm, according to state news agency Xinhua. An official obituary published by the news agency hailed him as a “highly prestigious and outstanding leader”.

Wagner founder says ex-US Marine general working for Russian mercenary group

 By Web desk 26th Nov 2022

Yevgeny Prigozhin revealed the American is commanding a British battalion on the battlefield. Founded in 2014, Wagner group has been active in Ukraine, Africa and the Middle East in recent years

The head of the Russian mercenary outfit Wagner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, said on Friday that a former US Marine general was working for the group. In response to a request for comment from Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat, Prigozhin said: There are not very many Finnish citizens in the Wagner PMC, about 20 people. But for obvious reasons, I cannot give exact information about them. I have a very good opinion about the Finns on the battlefield. They are fighting in a British battalion (as part of Wagner PMC), which is commanded by a US citizen, a former general of the Marine Corps, Prigozhin said as quoted by the press service of his company Concord.

 

Pakistan PM Shehbaz Sharif’s fate lies with his new appointed army chief General Asim Munir

 By Web desk 25th Nov 2022

Appointment of new chief of staff has been focus of months of politicking between military’s high command – PM’s coalition government – and opposition leader Imran Khan. Analysts have pointed out that no elected PM has completed a full five-year term due to the political machinations of army chiefs they appointed

Pakistan’s government has appointed a new army chief, with the knowledge that the nation’s political fate will be determined by General Asim Munir who gets the job rather than the prime minister who appoints him. While typically a landmark event because of the military’s traditionally dominant role in Pakistani politics, the appointment of a new chief of staff later on Thursday has been the focus of months of Machiavellian politicking between the military’s high command, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s coalition government, and opposition leader Imran Khan. “The army chief is widely perceived to be the de facto ruler of Pakistan, and this perception only deepened” under the outgoing army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, said Asfandyar Mir, a senior South Asia expert at the US Institute of Peace.

 

Ukrainians suffer in cold, darkness as Zelensky implores UN to punish Russia

 By Web desk 24th Nov 2022

Moscow’s latest missile barrage forced Kyiv to shut several of the country’s nuclear plants. A defiant Zelensky says Ukrainians are an ‘unbreakable people’, as the US warns Putin is trying to ‘freeze the country into submission’

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged the United Nations Security Council to act against Russia over air strikes on civilian infrastructure that have again plunged Ukrainian cities into darkness and cold as winter sets in. Russia unleashed a missile barrage across Ukraine on Wednesday, killing 10 people, forcing shutdowns of nuclear power plants and cutting water and electricity supply in many places. Today is just one day, but we have received 70 missiles. That’s the Russian formula of terror. This is all against our energy infrastructure Hospitals, schools, transport, residential districts all suffered, Zelensky said via video link to the council chamber.

Hong Kong no longer homes worlds priciest shopping district 

 By Web desk 23rd Nov 2022

Hong Kong no longer has the world’s most-expensive retail district after rents plummeted due to Covid curbs and restrictions on visitors. 

Manhattan’s Upper Fifth Avenue is now the priciest street globally for shopping, according to a survey by commercial property firm Cushman & Wakefield Plc. Hong Kong’s Tsim Sha Tsui district comes second, followed by Italy’s Via Montenapoleone in Milan. The previously annual survey is the first since 2019. Annual rents for Upper Fifth Avenue shops averaged US$2,000 per square foot, up 14 percent from pre-pandemic levels, according to the report. Rents in Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon fell 41 percent to US$1,436 per square foot in the period, while those in Via Montenapoleone rose 9 percent to US$1,380. Hong Kong is struggling with a downturn after some of the world’s strictest Covid measures and the closed border with mainland China slashed the number of visitors. The city received just 250,000 arrivals in the first nine months of this year, compared with almost 56 million for the whole of 2019.  London’s New Bond Street slid one place to fourth, with average rents down 11 percent, while the Avenue des Champs Elysees in Paris came in fifth after they fell an average 18 percent, according to Cushman & Wakefield. The Americas were the most resilient region, largely due to the US, with average rents now 15 percent above pre-pandemic levels, the report said. In Asia, they dropped by an average 17 percent because of border closures, it said. Tsim Sha Tsui overtook Hong Kong’s Causeway Bay district as the city’s most- expensive retail district, according to the survey, which tracks the top retail districts across 92 cities and ranks the priciest by prime rental value. While Hong Kong has removed its most onerous pandemic curbs, including hotel quarantine and flight bans, visitors are still subject to a series of restrictions and tests. 

Hong Kong’s dollar rises towards the strong half of the band as short sellers bail 

 By Web desk 22th Nov 2022

The resurgent Hong Kong dollar has pushed closer to the strong half of its trading band, amid a spike in local funding costs that has upended crowded bets on shorting the currency. The Hong Kong dollar saw its biggest intraday rise in three years on Monday to as high as 7.8004 per dollar, bringing its gain for November to 0.6 percent. That puts it on track for the best month in two decades and is the closest the currency has been to the mid-point of its 7.75 to 7.85 trading band since February.The rally came as the Hong Kong Monetary Authority’s intervention in the foreign-exchange market, which effectively lifted interbank funding costs, rendered a popular strategy of shorting the local dollar unprofitable. The city’s three-month funding costs rose to levels higher than the US equivalent for the first time since February last month. I expect the Hong Kong dollar to be settling at around a 7.80 handle before the next Federal Reserve meeting in December, said Ken Cheung, chief Asian FX strategist at Mizuho Bank Ltd. in Hong Kong. Meanwhile, the Hong Kong dollar liquidity withdrawal due to FX intervention will pause for a while. The Hong Kong dollar had been trading near the weak end of its band for almost half of this year, as investors borrowed the currency cheaply and sold it against the higher-yielding greenback. Now, the tables have turned, with local authorities’ intervention shrinking the interbank liquidity pool by about 70 percent in the past six months.  Shorter-end Hong Kong dollar rates started to pick up more rapidly against US counterparts, said Stephen Chiu, chief Asia FX & rates strategist at Bloomberg Intelligence. The move favors Hong Kong dollar over the US dollar now from a carry perspective, Inflows into Hong Kong stocks have also been supporting the local currency. Mainland Chinese traders have piled into Hong Kong stocks recently via the stock connect schemes, with southbound trading poised for a third month of net buying, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. 

World Cup gets underway with stakes high for host Qatar

By Web desk 21st Nov 2022

The World Cup kicked off in Qatar on Sunday with the Muslim nation, which faced a barrage of criticism over its treatment of foreign workers, LGBT rights and social restrictions, staking its reputation on delivering a smooth tournament. Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani arrived at the stadium flanked by FIFA president Gianni Infantino, to a roaring crowd, and took their seats alongside other Arab leaders. A show then unfolded on the pitch, featuring three camels, American actor Morgan Freeman and a performance of a new tournament song called Dreamers featuring singer Jungkook of K-pop boy band BTS, alongside Qatari singer Fahad Al-Kubaisi. Saudi Arabia's crown prince and the presidents of Egypt, Turkey and Algeria, as well as the United Nations Secretary-General, are among leaders at the in a tent-shaped stadium ahead of the first match between the hosts and Ecuador. Qatar, which has denied accusations of abuse of workers and discrimination, and FIFA hope the spotlight will now turn to action on the pitch. Organizers have also denied allegations of bribery for hosting rights. Inside Al Bayt Stadium many seats were still vacant with gridlock on the expressway leading to the arena, where cheers went up as Qatar's team appeared for their opening match. The soccer tournament, the first held in the Middle East and the most expensive in its history, is a culmination of Qatar's soft power push, after a 3-1/2 year boycott by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain which ended in 2021. The UAE, whose rapprochement with Doha has been slower than that of Riyadh and Cairo, sent its vice president who is also ruler of Dubai, where many World Cup fans have opted to stay. For the first time, a direct commercial flight from Tel Aviv to Doha landed in Qatar on Sunday despite the absence of formal bilateral ties, in a deal brokered by FIFA to carry both Palestinians and Israelis to the tournament. The Gulf state's Deputy Prime Minister Khalid Al-Attiyah, in remarks on state media, said Qatar was reaping benefits of years of hard work and sound planning. On Saturday, FIFA's Infantino rounded on European critics of Qatar, saying engagement was the only way to improve rights, while Doha has also pointed to labour reforms. Denmark's and Germany's team captains will wear One Love armbands as they prepare to compete in a conservative Muslim state where same-sex relations are illegal. Organizers say all are welcome while warning against public affection. Throngs of fans were already arriving in Qatar, but the main rush will be later this week. Daniel Oordt from Holland, clad in orange, told Reuters there was a feeling of constant pressure around you not to say the wrong thing or make the wrong move. It's not a fun atmosphere to have at a World Cup. Argentina fan Julio Cesar though said he expected a great atmosphere. We'll drink before the match, he added, after alcohol sales at stadiums were banned. Visitors sipped beer at the FIFA Fan Festival in central Doha. Outside the city's edges, hundreds of workers gathered in a sports arena in an industrial zone, without alcohol. They can watch matches there, priced out of the stadiums many toiled to build along with other infrastructure for the event. Of course I didn't buy a ticket. They're expensive and I should use that money for other things - like sending it back home to my family, Ghanaian national Kasim, a security guard who has worked in Qatar for four years, told Reuters. Gas exporter Qatar is the smallest nation to host soccer's biggest global event. Crowd control will be key with some 1.2 million visitors expected - more than a third of its population. Workers were putting final touches to Doha's landscape, including draping a purple tarpaulin over an unfinished building near the stadium where the final will be held. At Lagoona Mall, residents were going about their business. I came now because I don't know how bad the traffic will be later this week, said Egyptian woman Esraa while shopping for groceries.

 Ukraine war

first passenger train rolls into newly freed Kherson

 By Web desk 20th Nov 2022

Ukrainian forces liberated Kherson from Russian occupation on November 11 in what amounted to another major battlefield setback for Moscow. Hundreds of residents of the city, which is currently without electricity, running water or central heating, cheered as they welcomed the train

Jubilant Ukrainians rolled into Kherson by train on Saturday for the first time in more than eight months as residents of the newly liberated southern city greeted them on the platform with flowers and national flags. I can’t even put my feelings into words, said Hryhorii Vyrtosa, a 67-year-old construction worker, soon after stepping off the overnight route from the capital, Kyiv. Ukrainian forces liberated Kherson from Russian occupation on November 11 in what amounted to another major battlefield setback for Moscow. It had been the only regional capital captured by Russian forces since the February 24 invasion.

Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes sentenced to more than 11 years in prison for Theranos fraud

By Web desk 19th Nov 2022

Elizabeth Holmes was sentenced on three counts of investor fraud and one count of conspiracy. She was convicted in January following a 3-month trial. At trial, prosecutors said Holmes engaged in fraud by lying to investors about Theranos’ technology and finances rather than allowing the company to fail

A California judge sentenced Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes to 135 months in prison for defrauding investors in her now-defunct blood testing start-up that was once valued at US$9 billion. US District Judge Edward Davila in San Jose, California, sentenced Holmes on three counts of investor fraud and one count of conspiracy. A jury convicted Holmes, 38, in January following a trial that spanned three months. Assistant US Attorney Jeff Schenk told the judge before he handed down the sentence that a 15-year sentence would be making a statement that the ends don’t justify the means.

 

Coronavirus

Hong Kong cuts PCR screening requirement for incoming travellers to 2 tests

By Web desk 18th Nov 2022

Starting next Monday (Nov 21), inbound travelers from overseas and Taiwan will only need to take a PCR test upon arrival at the airport and on the second day. Yet, the daily rapid antigen test requirement until the seventh day will remain. In a press conference Thursday, Undersecretary for Health Libby Lee Ha-yun announced authorities' move to scrap the PCR tests on the fourth and sixth days. Still, travelers already in the city must take the PCR on their fourth and sixth days. Only those arriving today (Thu) can be exempted from the two PCR tests, with the arrival day counted as Day Zero, Lee added. Lee continued that authorities would introduce a new transitional vaccine pass to benefit those starting the vaccination now and cannot fulfill the three-dose requirement by November 30. The move applies to two types of citizens: those with a vaccination exemption certificate and those who received their first or second jabs but later obtained an exemption certificate. The transitional vaccine pass will remain valid until the recommended date for the next vaccination date, Lee also said. The no.2 health chief went on to say that the BioNTech bivalent vaccine targeting the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants will arrive in Hong Kong by the end of November at the earliest. Lee noted that the government bought the bivalent vaccine in order to provide another choice for those hoping to receive their fourth vaccine jab, and now preparations are ongoing. The bivalent vaccine is expected to be available as soon as December, and more details will be announced. As of Wednesday, Hong Kong's Covid-19 has exceeded two million since the pandemic emerged three years ago. 

Republicans seize control of US House with narrow margin

By Web desk 17th Nov 2012

Mitch McConnell was re-elected as Republican leader, fending off a challenge from Senator Rick Scott. Biden congratulated his Republican opponents and said he was willing to work with them and serve the American people

Top US Senate Republican Mitch McConnell held off a challenge to his leadership on Wednesday as some of Donald Trump’s closest allies in Congress lashed out at senior Republicans and their party squeaked out a narrower-than-expected House majority in the midterm election. McConnell fended off the first challenge in his nearly 16-year reign as party chief, after Senator Rick Scott tried to unseat him as minority leader, contending that the DC swamp was to blame for the party’s inability to win a Senate majority. That bid failed, even after Trump had repeatedly called for McConnell’s ouster and promoted Scott as a replacement. McConnell drew Trump’s ire by recognising Democrat Joe Biden as the winner of the 2020 presidential election. Trump, who launched his own 2024 White House candidacy on Tuesday, falsely claims he lost because of fraud.

 

Amber Code holders allowed to enter racecourses from Nov 20

 By Web desk 16th Nov 2022

The Hong Kong Jockey Club announced Tuesday to grant audiences holding Amber Health Code to enter racecourses and dine in the outdoor areas from next Sunday. Entrants of racecourses will no longer be required to present their Vaccine Pass QR Code upon entry but still need to scan the LeaveHomeSafe Code and comply with the vaccination requirements. Eating and drinking will be allowed in the outdoor areas of racecourses. Outdoor food outlets will also be reopened to provide the sale of food and beverages. Under the updated arrangements, walk-in admission will be resumed for both public and members enclosures. A certain portion of the outdoor areas of racecourses will be set aside for walk-in admission. All persons in a single booking for or attending a catering venue in a group of more than 12 persons, or entering a bar/pub or the bar/pub zone within catering premises, are still required to present proof of a negative Rapid Antigen Test result conducted within 24 hours of entry. An SMS notification containing a negative PCR test result issued within 48 hours prior to entry will also be accepted.

 

Forget about the ‘0+0’ scheme, says John Lee

By Web desk 15th Nov 2022

People should forget about the “0+0” quarantine-free scheme from now on, whereas authorities would focus on optimizing the current “0+3” scheme to offer the utmost convenience in Hong Kong, says chief executive John Lee Ka-chiu. Speaking ahead of his weekly Executive Council meeting on Tuesday, Lee said Hong Kong must make sure of having an adequate factor of safety each time the city optimizes its anti-epidemic measures. He noted that since announcing the “0+3” scheme, there were specific plans and exemptions for the organization of special events such as the global financial summit and the Hong Kong Sevens. The government aims to offer the utmost convenience for people in Hong Kong with the least restrictions possible, he added. Lee said the city’s daily Covid tally now stands at some 5,000 cases, and the city is still considered safe should the figure climbs to over 6,000. However, he conceded that the government would assess the safety factors again amid more uncertainties. Meanwhile, he told reporters that there was no new progress regarding a plan to allow travelers to quarantine in Hong Kong before crossing the border into the mainland. He added that Hong Kong would first demonstrate a “closed-loop” system before getting mainland authorities to agree on the plan.

Who wants to visit Hong Kong under ‘0+3’? Not many people, travel agencies say as tour groups adopt wait-and-see approach

 By Web Desk 14th Nov 2022

City’s ‘0+3’ health measure remains off-putting to travellers, agents say. Tour groups can visit attractions during first three days of health surveillance, with specific measures this month.

Hong Kong is relaxing its Covid-19 rules for visitors in tour groups, but some major foreign travel agencies say the city’s ongoing restrictions remain off-putting. A Post check with travel agencies that used to bring in Korean, Filipino, Thai and Singaporean visitors found none rushing to organize group tours, with most preferring to take a wait-and-see approach. Under Hong Kong’s current “0+3” regime, all arrivals must monitor their health for three days, during which they are barred from entering restaurants, pubs, theme parks and museums. They must also be tested regularly for Covid-19.

Biden’s Democrats clinch control of US Senate with win in Nevada

By Web desk 13th Nov 2022

With Catherine Cortez Masto’s win, Democrats will control at least 50 seats, with Vice-President Kamala Harris able to break ties in the 100-member chamber. Still, Republicans remained close to winning control of the House of Representatives as officials continued counting ballots cast in Tuesday’s US midterms.

Democrats will stay in control of the US Senate next year after Democratic US Senator Catherine Cortez Masto won re-election in Nevada, Edison Research projected on Saturday, handing a major victory to President Joe Biden. Still, Republicans remained close to winning control of the US House of Representatives as officials continued counting ballots cast in Tuesday’s US midterm elections. Cortez Masto narrowly defeated Republican challenger Adam Laxalt, a former state attorney general who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump.

 

China confirms Xi to attend G20 summit, meet Biden 

 By Web desk 12th Nov 2022

Xi Jinping will attend the G20 summit in Indonesia next week and meet his US counterpart Joe Biden, Beijing's foreign ministry confirmed on Friday, in their first in-person talks since the Chinese president sealed a historic third term as leader last month. The two met prior to Biden taking office in January 2021 and have spoken by phone a number of times since then, but the Covid-19 pandemic and Xi's subsequent aversion to foreign travel have prevented them from meeting in person. Foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told a regular press briefing Xi will meet Biden and French counterpart Emmanuel Macron next week in Bali, between November 14 and 17, as well as Senegal's Macky Sall and Argentina's Alberto Fernandez. He will then travel to Thailand from November 17 to 19 to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, Zhao confirmed. The White House has already said Biden will meet Xi on Monday, when the leaders will discuss efforts to maintain and deepen lines of communication, as well as how to responsibly manage competition and work together where our interests align. The US and China have a massive investment and trade relationship but are also challenging each other's military and diplomatic influence, especially in the Asia-Pacific region. They also face a potential flashpoint over the self-ruled island of Taiwan, a close ally of the US that Xi has made clear he believes should be under Beijing's control. On Wednesday, Biden said he has already made clear to Xi that he is looking for competition, not conflict, adding they will discuss Taiwan, but that the US stance on the island "has not changed at all. After almost three years of self-imposed pandemic isolation where international diplomacy was largely conducted via video link, China now aims to shore up its global alliances especially with developing countries -- in the face of increased competition with the US and a world destabilized by the Ukraine war. A flurry of state visits to China this month has highlighted the importance of maintaining trade and other diplomatic ties even as China acts more assertively to defend its interests. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz defied fierce domestic criticism to visit Beijing last Friday with a business delegation in tow, vowing to deepen trade cooperation with China alongside raising contentious issues such as the Ukraine war. His visit capped off a string of trips by the leaders of Pakistan, Tanzania and the Vietnamese Communist Party -- the most numerous face-to-face meetings Xi has conducted since hosting more than a dozen world leaders at February's Beijing Olympics. France's foreign minister last week said Macron is likely to visit China in the coming months.

Biden and Xi will meet next week in Indonesia, US confirms

 By Web desk 11th Nov 2022

Session, to be held just ahead of G20 summit in Bali, would be the first in-person meeting between the two since Joe Biden became US president in January 2021. No breakthroughs are expected, a US official says, but the main objective will be to open, lines of communication

A long-anticipated meeting between US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, set for Monday in Indonesia, is expected to include discussions on Taiwan, human rights, Ukraine and harmful economic practices with a goal of building a floor under the strained relationship between the world’s two largest economies, a senior US official said Thursday. No joint statement or major outcomes are expected out of the first face-to-face sit-down since Biden took office in January 2021 and the main purpose will be to open  and keep open communication, the official added.

Biden says Xi meeting at G20 summit would discuss US-China red lines

By Web desk 10th Nov 2022

On Taiwan, American leader declines to comment on whether he would confirm to his counterpart defending self-ruled island if Beijing attacked. Biden suggests he could also discuss China’s growing nuclear arsenal as well as ‘fair trade’ issues

US President Joe Biden said on Wednesday he would discuss American red lines over Taiwan among other issues during an expected meeting next week with Chinese leader Xi Jinping. Look, I’m not willing to make any fundamental concessions, Biden said during a post-election press conference at the White House, when asked if he would tell Xi whether the US would defend the self-ruled island from a Chinese attack. What I want to do with him when we talk is lay out what each of our red lines are, understand what he believes to be in the critical national interests of China, what I know to be in the critical interests in the United States, and to determine whether or not they conflict with one another, he said. And if they do, how to resolve and how to work it out.

38,600 Hongkongers under 18 have applied for Britain’s special BN(O) visa scheme, but most requests come from residents in prime working years

By Web desk 9th Nov 2022

Nearly third of 142,000 Hongkongers who have applied to scheme that leads to UK citizenship are under 18, while those aged 25 to 54 make up majority. Experts say age profile of applicants suggests city’s government needs to do more to retain local talent

Nearly a third of 142,000 Hongkongers who have applied for a special visa that leads to British citizenship are under 18, while those aged 25 to 54 make up the majority. Experts said the age profile suggested the government needed to do more to retain home-grown talent, not just attract non-local professionals, referring to a raft of measures announced last month to make the city more enticing to mainland Chinese and expatriates. Between January 31, 2021, when the pathway opened and June 30 this year, 38,600 applications for the British National (Overseas) visa were from Hongkongers under 18, of which just 16 per cent were filed from Britain, according to figures from the UK Home Office.

Donald Trump says he’ll make ‘very big announcement’ on November 15

By Web desk 8th Nov 2022

Donald Trump has as hinted for months he will jump into the race for the White House in 2024. The former US president has never accepted the truth of his lost re-election bid in 2020

Former US president Donald Trump said on Monday he will be making a big announcement next week in Florida as he teased a third presidential run while campaigning in Ohio ahead of the final day of voting in this year’s midterm elections. I’m going to be making a very big announcement on Tuesday, November 15 at Mar-a-Lago, Trump said before a cheering crowd in Vandalia, Ohio Monday night, where he was holding his final rally of the midterm season to bolster Senate candidate JD Vance. We want nothing to detract from the importance of tomorrow. Trump has been increasingly explicit about his plans to launch a third presidential campaign, saying in recent days that he would very, very, very probably run again and would be formalising his intentions very, very soon.

 

 

Hong Kong Sevens 2022

Getting back in business was matter of survival, union CEO says.

 By Web desk 7th Nov 2022

You can’t run on fumes forever If we couldn’t get this back up and running, we were going to run out of cash,’ Hong Kong Rugby Union’s Robbie McRobbie says. Sevens vital for events sector and could help city’s journey to normality, he says

There was vindication and relief for rugby officials on Sunday evening after the staging of the first Hong Kong Sevens since 2019. It was not only that the event had put itself back on the rugby map. Getting back in business was a matter of survival for the tournament and the Hong Kong Rugby Union. We’re relieved, for sure,.  There were some pretty dark days. We were very, very fortunate in coming into the pandemic with significant reserves in the bank. I’m sure people are fed up of me saying the Sevens was 95 per cent of our revenue, but that’s the reality. You can’t run on fumes forever. We were approaching a situation where, if we couldn’t get this back up and running, we were going to run out of cash. The success of the Sevens has implications for a wider community. For him, a whole industry is at stake. It’s not just us – the guy doing the fireworks, the people who built the stage in the stadium, the people who run the buses, their businesses in the last three years have suffered, he said. They relied on what they had in the bank to buy groceries and so on. To me it’s more than the HKRU, it’s a sports event industry getting going again. There are people whose livelihoods have been devastated. If we don’t resurrect the sector now, these people will be gone. A lot have already left the sector. We need to get things going now or there’ll be more of a drain of talent. We need to retain that in the events sector or it will be more difficult to bring it back in future. McRobbie said the sight of 20,000-plus attendances at Hong Kong Stadium, allowing that revival to begin, had been an emotional one.

Hongkongers in Britain welcome Rishi Sunak as prime minister, but express worry as economic woes bite.

 By Web desk 6th Nov 2022

Immigrants stunned by UK’s political chaos, but some find it inspiring to see ‘democracy in action’. Rising cost of food and heating leaves some from Hong Kong concerned their savings will dry up.

Hongkongers who immigrated to Britain have welcomed the country’s first Asian Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, although some admitted being taken aback by the political turmoil there. Sunak, 42, a multimillionaire married to an Indian tech billionaire’s daughter, became Britain’s third prime minister in just a matter of months when he took office in October. He faces a huge challenge in uniting his divided Conservative Party, fending off opposition calls for a general election, and dealing with rising inflation and a massive economic crisis.

Hong Kong developers may apply to build estates mixing private and public housing after three applications were approved

 By Web desk 5th Nov 2022

Authorities have given the greenlight to three housing projects under a pilot scheme launched by former chief executive Carrie Lam in 2019. The government is still considering two other applications under the Land Sharing Pilot Scheme.

More Hong Kong developers may apply to participate in a government pilot scheme aimed at using private land for public housing after authorities endorsed three applications, which aim to build a total of 21,600 flats, with 15,100 for public housing. The three applications made under the Land Sharing Pilot Scheme involved sites in Yuen Long and Tai Po districts, and were endorsed by the Executive Council, a key decision-making body. A panel of advisers established by the government under the pilot scheme earlier backed the proposals. One of the applications, jointly made by Topwood, Success King and Richduty Development, which are all under Sun Hung Kai Properties, seeks to build about 1,870 public housing or starter flats and 1,260 private homes on a site on Ho Chau Road in Yuen Long, covering a total gross floor area of about 133,400 square metres (1.4 million square feet). The panel said the proposal struck a balance between housing demand and conservation.

Russian official signals Kherson retreat, but Ukraine fears a trap

By Web desk 4th Nov 2022

A pull-out from the west bank of the Dnipro River would mean Moscow abandoning the only major city its forces have captured intact. Kyiv, however, remains cautious of Russian disinformation, warning that its forces could be lured into ‘safe’ areas only to be engaged in street battles

A Russian-installed occupation official in southern Ukraine said on Thursday that Moscow was likely to pull its troops from the west bank of the Dnipro River, signalling a huge retreat that, if confirmed, would be a major turning point in the war. Still, Ukrainian officials and Western analysts remained cautious about signs that Russia was abandoning the area, and there was silence from higher-ups in Moscow over what would amount to one of Russia’s most humiliating retreats so far. Kyiv said it was still fighting in the area and was wary that Moscow could be setting a trap by feigning a pull-out. Most likely our units, our soldiers, will leave for the left (eastern) bank, Kirill Stremousov, the Russian-installed deputy civilian administrator of the Kherson region, said in an interview with Solovyov Live, a pro-Kremlin online media outlet. The area includes Kherson city, capital of the region of the same name, and the only major city Russia has captured intact since its invasion in February. It also includes one side of a huge dam across the Dnipro which controls the water supply to irrigate Crimea, the peninsula Russia has occupied since 2014. Previously, Russia had vehemently denied its forces were planning to withdraw from the area, one of the most important new conquests which President Vladimir Putin claimed to have annexed to Russia at the end of September. Speculation swirled on Thursday over whether Russia was indeed pulling out, after photos circulated on the internet showing the main administrative building in Kherson city with Russia’s flag no longer flying atop it. Ukraine said those images could be Russian disinformation. Natalia Humeniuk, spokeswoman for Ukraine’s southern military command, said it could be a Russian trap. This could be a manifestation of a particular provocation, in order to create the impression that the settlements are abandoned, that it is safe to enter them, while they are preparing for street battles, she said in televised comments.

 

Hong Kong raises base rate for the 6th time in 8 months in lockstep with Federal Reserve’s policy tightening

 By Web desk 3rd Nov 2022

Hong Kong’s base rate would rise to a fresh 14-year high of 4.25 per cent with immediate effect, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) said. The US stock market fell after the Fed chairman’s two-toned message about keeping rates high even if the battle against inflation was approaching an inflection point

Hong Kong’s de facto central bank raised its base rate by a widely expected 75 basis points, increasing the city’s cost of money for the sixth time in eight months in lockstep with the Federal Reserve’s tight monetary policy to tamp down inflation. The base rate would rise to a fresh 14-year high of 4.25 per cent with immediate effect, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) said in a statement before financial markets opened on Thursday. Hours earlier, the Fed raised its target rate by the same quantum to between 3.75 and 4 per cent. Hong Kong’s cost of funds has surpassed the record 3.75 per cent last seen during the 2008 Global Financial Crisis. The HKMA has been conducting its monetary policy in lockstep with the Fed since 1983 to maintain the currency peg to the US dollar under the city’s linked exchange rate system. The world’s most powerful monetary authority has now increased its key rate by 75 basis points four times in the past six months from near zero in March to tame runaway inflation. US consumer prices surged at an annual rate of 8.2 per cent in September, slower than the preceding two months but still hovering near a four-decade high. Market expectations for future interest rates have edged marginally higher, with most 2023 rates moving to new cycle highs, said Paul O’Connor, head of multi-asset at Janus Henderson Investors. Futures prices indicate that the Fed will raise rates by about 50 basis points in December and by a similar amount in the first quarter, to a peak of around 5 per cent. The HKMA’s chief executive Eddie Yue Wai-man, who is hosting the final day of the Global Financial Leaders’ Investment Summit, will issue a statement about the rate rise this morning. The monetary authority is trying to convince global financiers that Hong Kong is back to normality after three gruelling years of restrictions and quarantines to contain the Covid-19 pandemic. The Hang Seng Index halted a two-day rebound, falling 1.6 per cent to 15,571.55 in Thursday morning trading. The benchmark of Asia’s third-largest stock market has slumped 34 per cent this year, the worst performer among the major global equity gauges tracked by Bloomberg. Stock indexes also dropped across the Asia-Pacific region. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 slumped almost 2 per cent for the biggest decline in the region. South Korea’s Kospi and Taiwan’s Taiex slid at least 0.4 per cent, while Japan’s market is closed. The Fed’s November move was in line with market expectations. Expectations of a 75-basis point hike rose to 82.8 per cent last week, while the odds of a smaller 50-basis point increase was at 17.2 per cent, according to odds calculated from futures by CME Group. Still, US markets were spooked by the Fed chairman Jay Powell’s two-toned message, where he said the battle against inflation will require borrowing costs to rise further, yet signalled the central bank may be approaching an inflection point. That left open the possibility for the Fed to raise rates in smaller increments in the future, ending its sequence of 75-basis point hikes by December in favour of smaller increases of perhaps half a percentage point each. It also leaves policymakers the wriggle room to push rates higher if prices do not start to taper, as October inflation is projected to have picked up pace again at 10.4 per cent. The Fed’s mixed message erased earlier gains in the S&P index, causing it to fall 2.5 per cent while the Nasdaq Composite slid by more than 3 per cent at the end of Wednesday. We won’t see the Fed change course until we start to see jobs and inflation falling, said Peter Esho, an economist and the co-founder of Wealthi. That probably won’t happen until early next year, even though there are early signs and plenty of anecdotes suggesting the economy is already turning. The Fed will keep those anecdotes in the back burner and instead focus on the data, which often carries with it a lag. The higher base rate is likely to be followed by Hong Kong’s commercial banks. They may increase their prime lending rate by another 12.5 basis points to between 5.25 per cent and 5.375 per cent, analysts said. That would push the city’s prime lending rate to a 14-year high. The outflow from the banks’ current and savings accounts to other banks and to US dollar deposits may start to exert pressure on Hong Kong’s banks, said Tommy Ong, managing director of T.O. & Associates Consultancy. An increase of 0.125 per cent on both the prime rate and savings rate seems the most palatable option to them. Hong Kong’s one-month interbank offered rate (Hibor) rose to 3.2 per cent on Wednesday, while the three month rate jumped to a 14-year high of 4.68 per cent and the 12-month rate surged to 5.3 per cent.

 

John Lee says ‘the worst is behind us,’ urges banks to ‘get in front’ of the queue for business as Hong Kong kicks off financial summit

By Web desk 2nd Nov 2022

The conference at the Four Seasons Hotel will include a full day packed with panels and fireside chats with global bankers and fund managers. Three of China’s financial regulators will hold a pre-recorded panel discussion moderated by HKMA’s chief executive Eddie Yue Wai-man.

The Global Financial Leaders’ Investment Summit kicks off publicly today in Hong Kong, as the de facto central bank hosts the largest gathering of financial heavyweights the city has seen in almost three years. The much-awaited conference is pressing ahead even as the Severe Tropical Storm Nalgae approaches Hong Kong, forcing schools to suspend classes. The city’s Observatory is poised to upgrade its typhoon warning signal to 8, from 3, in the afternoon, after the summit’s morning proceedings are over. More than 200 international and regional leaders from around 120 global financial institutions including banks, securities firms, asset managers, private equity and venture capital firms, hedge funds, and insurers are attending the three-day summit, according to the HKMA. Hong Kong remains the only place in the world (where) global advantages and the China advantage come together in a single city, said Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu, in a speech live-streamed from the summit’s venue at the Four Seasons Hotel in Central. Opportunity and timing, right here, right now in Hong Kong. This is the moment you have been waiting for, go for it. Get in front, not behind. Lee mentioned three government policies to enhance the city’s competitiveness: Hong Kong Investment Corporation’s plan to optimize the use of fiscal reserves in steering economic development, the HK$30 billion (US$3.8 billion) scheme to help businesses set up in Hong Kong, and an array of new initiatives including the top talent scheme to help enterprises build a base in Hong Kong. Hong Kong’s unique location – the heart of Asia, an air cargo hub, five universities among the world’s top 100, proximity to China’s market, the Greater Bay Area (GBA), as well as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – make it the best city for business, said Lee. Hong Kong is, and will continue to be important as a financial centre, connecting the mainland to the international market, said the Chinese central bank’s governor Yi Gang during a pre-recorded dialogue with the Hong Kong Monetary Authority’s chief executive Eddie Yue Wai-man. Hong Kong’s economy and finance system have shown remarkable resilience despite disruptions. China’s stock market regulator reminded the audience to keep their eyes on the big picture and disregard temporary distractions and disruptions. International investors should find out what is going on in China by themselves, and don’t bet against China and Hong Kong, said Fang Xinghai, vice-chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC), in a second pre-recorded conversation with Yue. As President Xi Jinping underscored during the 20th party congress, China’s doors can only open bigger, and Hong Kong will play a very important role in the overall opening of China’s economy and Chinese financial sector. The first day of the summit features three panel discussions. The first panel about navigating through uncertainty” was moderated by the HKMA’s Yue. The panellists were Blackstone’s chief financial officer Michael Chae, Morgan Stanley’s chairman James Gorman, UBS Group’s chairman Colm Kelleher, Bank of China (Hong Kong)’s President Liu Jin and Goldman Sach’s chairman David Solomon.

 

Ukraine war

Power out in Kyiv after Russian missile strikes, grain ships move again

 By Web desk 1st Nov 2022

Ukraine said Russia launched a massive wave of missile attacks across the country early Monday. Moscow accused Kyiv of strikes against its Black Sea fleet and pulled out of a grain-export deal

Ukrainian officials on Monday morning reported a massive barrage of Russian strikes on critical infrastructure in Kyiv, Kharkiv and other cities. The missile strikes came days after Russia blamed Ukraine for drone attacks on its Crimea fleet in the Black Sea. At least five explosions were heard in the Ukrainian capital between 8am and 8.20am. Explosions were also reported in Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia, Kremenchuk and Vinnytsia regions among others. Kyiv had already been hit on October 10 and 17 by drones. After Monday’s blasts, mayor Vitali Klitschko said in a Telegram message: “An area of Kyiv is without electricity and certain areas without water following Russian strikes”. Monday’s attack on the Ukrainian capital comes after Russia pulled out of a landmark agreement that allowed vital grain shipments via a maritime safety corridor. Cargo ships loaded with grain and other agricultural products left Ukrainian ports on Monday despite Russia’s decision to pull out from the agreement designed to ease a global food crisis. As one of the brokers of the grain deal, Türkiye has stepped up diplomacy with the two warring countries in a bid to save it as Russia warned that continuing to enforce the agreement without its participation would be “dangerous”.

Cathay Pacific to restore some flights using Russian airspace

 By Web desk 31st Oct 2022

Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. will restart using Russian airspace several months after Moscow’s war in Ukraine upended the aviation industry and global flight paths, becoming among the earliest of major airlines to do so. Hong Kong’s main airline will fly from New York to the Asian financial hub using the so-called Polar Route from Nov. 1, the company said in an emailed response to a query by Bloomberg News. It cited strong headwinds and payload issues affecting its flights from the east coast of North America, and said its aircraft will overfly the far eastern part of Russia. Cathay said in March that it rerouted flights away from Russian airspace. Resuming its use will slash some flight times and save money on fuel costs, but the airline has to pay an over flight fee per trip to Russian authorities for the right to fly over Siberia. There are other major airlines overflying Russian airspace and there are no sanctions which prevent Cathay Pacific overflying Russia, Cathay said in the statement to Bloomberg. The Polar Route provides a safe, direct and the fastest flight experience to our customers traveling from the East Coast of North America to Hong Kong. After flight bans were imposed on Russia in response to its war on Ukraine, Moscow retaliated by closing its airspace to countries and airlines it considered enemies. While the rule affects western carriers across Europe and North America, subsequently, most Asian airlines including Korean Air and All Nippon Airways stopped using Russian airspace, citing safety concerns. Russian airspace spans 5,600 miles (9,012 kilometers) adjacent from the eastern fringes Asia and the US state of Alaska to the tip of northern Europe in Finland. Its airspace is a critical link and provides a short-cut on flight times via polar routes. The US has led western allies to apply economic pressure on Russia as punishment for waging war on Ukraine, from oil to luxury goods, and the financial sector. Airlines from India, Turkey, the Middle East and Chinese are currently the ones predominantly using Russian airspace unimpeded while western rivals navigate extended flight times on the same routes. In an operational note to pilots dated Oct. 28, Cathay outlined the policy change for flights from North America to facilitate a safe and more efficient operation for its crew and customers, according to people familiar with the notice. On Oct. 12, Cathay’s Flight 841 flew 10,365 miles from New York to Hong Kong, the longest passenger flight by distance in the company’s history. It flew to the Asian financial hub over the Atlantic Ocean and Europe in 17 hours and 8 minutes. A FlightRadar24 search of the same flight before the Ukraine war, which used a polar route, took around 15 hours. The Polar Route allows the airline to maximize the number of passengers and checked baggage carried onboard, Cathay said. It also eliminates the need for a technical stop in another city for a change of aircrew as necessitated by mandated flight time limitations. The Hong Kong carrier’s advisory notice to pilots also said flights will be planned with no dependencies on any airports within Russia and none should be considered or allowed. Few airlines have provided public updates if they too plan to reuse Russian airspace. Korean Air said it was not currently using the Polar Route. Singapore Airlines, Japan Airlines, ANA, China Airlines and EVA Air did not respond to requests for comment.

Seoul Halloween horror, at least 149 people ‘crushed to death’ in crowd surge during festivities

By Web desk 30th Oct 2022

At least 149 people were crushed to death and 65 were injured after a crowd began pushing forward in a narrow alley in the city on Saturday, officials said. Authorities also said dozens suffered heart attacks during the crush, reportedly spurred by the sighting of a celebrity in a nearby bar.

At least 149 people, mostly teenagers and young adults in their 20s, were killed in a crush when a huge crowd celebrating Halloween surged into an alley in a nightlife area of the South Korean capital Seoul on Saturday night, emergency officials said. A further 65 people were injured in the melee in Seoul’s Itaewon district, Choi Sung-beom, head of the Yongsan Fire Station, said in a briefing at the scene. Nineteen of the injured were in serious condition and receiving emergency treatment, the officials said, adding the death toll could rise.

German authorities looking into reports of illegal Chinese police in Frankfurt 

 By Web desk 29th Oct 2022

Authorities in Germany are investigating whether China maintains an illegal extraterritorial police station in Frankfurt, a spokesperson said, a week before Chancellor Olaf Scholz heads on an already contested visit to the economic giant. The Chinese embassy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.  A spokesperson for the interior ministry in the German state of Hesse said police and internal security services were checking a report by Spanish activist group Safeguard Defenders, who said China had set up undeclared police offices in 30 countries, including Germany. Confirming an earlier report in the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper, the spokesperson said they so far had no indications such facilities existed in Frankfurt. Germany prospered for two decades from China's insatiable demand for German machine tools, but Russia's invasion of Ukraine has prompted soul-searching over the longer-term costs of economic ties with authoritarian countries. Scholz has faced criticism from foreign allies and from within his own government over his decision to allow the sale of a minority stake in a terminal at Hamburg, Germany's largest port, to a Chinese state company. Next Friday's trip to China, where Scholz will be accompanied by a delegation of bosses from Germany's biggest companies, has also been criticized by political opponents who say Berlin must learn lessons from the failure of a past policy of engagement with Russia to deter President Vladimir Putin. Dutch authorities on Wednesday said they were investigating Chinese offices that were operating illegally in the Netherlands, carrying out tasks like renewing driving licenses. That followed allegations, denied by the Chinese embassy in The Hague, that the office had also harassed a Chinese dissident living in the Netherlands. 

 

 

Justice Secretary Brushes off international body’s lowered rule of law ranking for Hong Kong.

 By Web desk 28th Oct 2022

Hong Kong slips three places to 22nd out of 140 in international ranking for rule of law, but justice secretary blames bias. City’s strong showing in ‘absence of corruption’ and ‘order and security’ highlighted by government.

Hong Kong’s justice minister has maintained that the city is still in a good place in terms of law and order and its ability to stamp out corruption despite sliding three spots in the latest global ranking for rule of law. Secretary for Justice Paul Lam Ting-kwok also brushed aside concerns over the city’s human rights situation on Thursday, a day after the non-governmental World Justice Project ranked Hong Kong at 22nd, down from 19th last year. The independent body, with offices in America, Singapore and Mexico and with a mission to promote the rule of law, examined 140 jurisdictions for the report.

Mainland spokesperson warns against attempts to pursue Taiwan independence 

 By Web desk 27th Oct 2022

A Chinese mainland spokesperson on Wednesday called on Taiwan compatriots to guard against moves by Taiwan's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) authorities to prepare ground for seeking Taiwan independence Against people's strong wish for peaceful and stable lives, the DPP authorities have been enthusiastically cooking up and lobbying for a so-called referendum on amending the constitution, said State Council Taiwan Affairs Office spokesperson Ma Xiaoguang, commenting on relevant remarks from high-profile DPP officials. Their ultimate goal is to pave the way for further manipulation of constitution amendment to seek Taiwan independence, Ma noted. All sectors of the Taiwan society ought to clearly understand the DPP authorities' nefarious intentions, be on high alert about the grave consequences such attempts could bring about, and safeguard peace and stability across the Taiwan Straits as well as their own interests and benefits with concrete actions, said Ma. 

 

 

Hong Kong stocks halt five-day slump as Meituan and Tencent rally, authorities’ calm markets and foreign funds return

 By Web desk 26th Oct 2022

Local stocks regain footing in early trading as authorities attempt to calm markets after post-Congress rout. Foreign funds were net buyers of Chinese onshore shares on Tuesday, after dumping a record US$2.5 billion worth of them on Monday.

Hong Kong stocks halted a five-day slump to climb from a 13-year low as valuations cheapened and authorities in the city and mainland China took steps to reassure investors about financial market stability. Global funds bought onshore stocks. The Hang Seng Index rose 2.4 per cent to 15,533.45 as of 11.23am local time, arresting a 10 per cent slide in the preceding five trading sessions. The Tech Index surged 4.3 per cent, while the Shanghai Composite Index added 1.4 per cent. Fifty-seven of the 73 benchmark index members rose. WuXi Biologics jumped 6.9 per cent to HK$41.35 and Meituan rallied 7.3 per cent to HK$132.30. Tencent Holdings added 4.7 per cent to HK$216.20, while bourse operator Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing added 6.1 per cent to HK$237.80.

 

 

Megayacht sparks warnings Hong Kong could become Russia haven 

 By Web desk 25th Oct 2022

The recent visit of a Russian megayacht to Hong Kong has sparked warnings from corruption investigators that the city could become a haven for oligarchs and officials hiding from Western sanctions. The Nord a US$500 million vessel linked to Russian billionaire Alexei Mordashov spent a little over three weeks in the Chinese territory before leaving last Thursday. Mordashov is among tycoons close to Russian President Vladimir Putin who have been sanctioned by the United States, the European Union and Britain following Moscow's invasion of Ukraine. Multiple jurisdictions have seized Russian oligarchs' yachts and other assets this year. But Hong Kong made clear it would not do the same, saying it only implements United Nations sanctions, not unilateral ones. That prompted a rebuke from Washington that Hong Kong's reputation as an international business hub could be damaged. But, a corrupt money flows expert at Transparency International, said the city has long been a useful jurisdiction for those wanting to hide assets and launder dirty money. She cited Hong Kong's easy incorporation of shell companies that can be used to layer funds and obscure the real owners. The government's recent declaration that it has no interest in implementing sanctions makes Hong Kong an even more enticing option for Russian elites. Hong Kong is increasingly taking its cue from Beijing, a key ally of Moscow, said, an expert on nonproliferation at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. I think at this moment and level, we have to treat Hong Kong really as China when it comes to their willingness to cooperate on proliferation, or in this case, the willingness to cooperate on pressuring Russia. City leader John Lee and other senior officials are themselves blacklisted by Washington for their role in a crackdown on political freedoms. A major part of Hong Kong's appeal is how easy it is to set up companies about 1.4 million businesses are domiciled in the city. Directors do not need to live there, and companies can register addresses via secretarial businesses making it easier to mask true ownership. The Panama Papers in 2016 exposed how crucial front companies in Hong Kong were for those wanting to hide wealth and avoid tax. Businesses registered in Hong Kong have also repeatedly appeared on US and other sanctions lists. Companies helping North Korea evade sanctions were cited by the Treasury and United Nations experts in 2017 and 2018. More recently the focus has shifted to Iran. Last month the Treasury named 10 companies allegedly involved in helping Iran sell petroleum products, mostly to China. Three were based in Hong Kong. When AFP checked their filings with the city's Companies Registry, all were registered to secretarial company addresses. Two had directors who were Indian nationals, the other was owned by a Dominican Republic national living in China's Zhejiang province. Very little other public data was available. A former US national security advisor, said he expects Moscow to unleash a network of front companies around the world as Western sanctions gather pace. The Russians have expertise in doing this," he said. They're probably going to be better at it than North Korea and Iran and North Korea and Iran are pretty good at it. David Webb, a Hong Kong activist investor, said the city will have plenty of competition for being a safe haven, including Dubai and Singapore. Nonetheless banks, law firms and other businesses that rely on access to international markets will still be wary of Russian clients lest they face scrutiny. Financial institutions that have a United States or European nexus will need to assess their compliance in view of any relevant domestic sanctions, Syren Johnstone, from the University of Hong Kong's law school, told. Igor Sagitov, Moscow's consul general in Hong Kong, said Russians were already facing difficulties. Some foreign financial institutions, insurance and transport companies based here discriminate Russian companies or nationals, even if they are not on the sanctions lists. But Sagitov was optimistic that the city remained a good place for business. When the trade volume between Russia and China is growing rapidly, Hong Kong can for sure benefit, he said. Asked about Mordashov's megayacht, he said Moscow appreciates the approach the Hong Kong government has taken. This approach is based on the rule of law, and not on the law of some imaginary rules. 

China's Communist Party Politburo Standing Committee unveiled

By Web desk 24th Oct 2022

China's Xi Jinping was elected on Sunday as general secretary of the ruling Communist Party for the third term at the first plenary session of the party's new Central Committee. The party also named a seven-member Standing Committee, its inner circle of power, dominated by Xi allies after Premier Li Keqiang, the No. 2 leader and an advocate of market-style reform and private enterprise, was dropped from the leadership on Saturday. The party's newly elected Politburo Standing Committee includes Li Qiang, Zhao Leji, Wang Huning, Cai Qi, Ding Xuexiang, and Li Xi. Li Qiang, a former Shanghai party secretary who is no relation to Li Keqiang, was the No. 2 member and Zhao Leji, a member of the previous committee, was promoted to No. 3. Xi and the other Standing Committee members appeared for the first time as a group before reporters Sunday in the Great Hall of the People, the seat of China's ceremonial legislature in central Beijing. Li Qiang, the former Shanghai party chief and Xi confidant, was promoted to number two in the party hierarchy, making him likely to be named premier at next March's legislative sessions. It would be an unusual appointment since Li, unlike most past premiers, does not have experience as a vice premier managing central government portfolios. The 63-year-old rising star's prospects were seemingly in doubt after he bungled a harsh two-month lockdown of Shanghai earlier this year that saw residents left with a lack of access to food and medical care. This showcases to everyone that loyalty rather than popularity is the key for your promotion, tweeted Yang Zhang, an assistant professor at American University in Washington."The disaster of Shanghai Lockdown did not stop Li's elevation precisely because he followed Xi's order despite all criticism. Li is viewed as one of Xi's favourites, having served as the leader's chief of staff while he was party boss of the affluent Zhejiang province between 2004 and 2007. Zhao Leji, the 65-year-old former head of the party's top anti-corruption watchdog, has remained on the Standing Committee, being promoted to number three in the party hierarchy. The experienced administrator has been party secretary of two provinces and a Politburo member since 2012. Leadership changes were announced as the party wrapped up a twice-a-decade congress that was closely watched for signs of initiatives to reverse an economic slump or changes in a severe “zero-COVID” strategy that has shut down cities and disrupted business. Officials disappointed investors and the Chinese public by announcing no changes.

Imran meets religious scholars ahead of much-hyped long march

More than 30 Ulema from Punjab also pay tribute to former prime minister for his ‘services to Islam.

  By Web desk 24th Oct 2022

More than 30 religious scholars from Punjab called on former prime minister and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan in which various issues were discussed.

The delegation, under the leadership of Chairman of Sunni Ittehad Council Pakistan Sahibzada Hamid Raza, met the ex-premier at his residence in Islamabad's Bani Gala. Former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Senator Shibli Faraz and others were also present at the meeting The ulema paid tribute to Imran for his services to Islam. Hamid Raza also had a one-on-one meeting with Imran in which the strategy regarding the long march to Islamabad and the current political situation was discussed. Imran appreciated Hamid Raza's efforts regarding inter-faith harmony. On Saturday, the former prime minister announced that he would reveal the date for the party’s much-anticipated long march on coming Friday, saying that he was not expecting any “meaningful result from backchannel talks”. The former prime minister, who has constantly been building momentum for the long march but has kept people guessing about its contours, heightened the suspense when he revealed that the final date for the long march would be announced on October 28, warning that the ‘organized protest’ could result into chaos if the government attempted to stop it. “Political parties always hold backdoor talks but I do not think the ongoing talks will have any meaningful outcome,” the PTI chief said while addressing a news conference, flanked by party leader Azam Swati in Islamabad. He said that the importance of the negotiations was only to the extent of early elections but, it seemed, the incumbent rulers were not going to call snap polls. The PTI founder said that the “imposed rulers” suffered a humiliating defeat in the recently-held by-polls and realized that they could not compete with PTI in the election. “Therefore,” he said, “they will not call early elections,” adding through an official statement that holding talks with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif is fruitless.

Shake-up at the top of China’s Communist Party as Xi Jinping starts new term.

By Web desk 23 Oct 2022

Veterans Li Keqiang and Wang Yang are not among the names of the Central Committee announced at the close of the party congress. But General Zhang Youxia and Wang Yi will stay on past the customary retirement age.

Chinese paramount leader Xi Jinping began his unprecedented third term with a major shake-up at the top, retiring veteran Communist Party heavyweights including Li Keqiang and Wang Yang. Immediately after the close of the party’s 20th national congress on Saturday, state news agency Xinhua announced the members of the new Central Committee, which oversees the party’s 97 million members. Four members of the Politburo Standing Committee the highest decision making body in China  are missing from the list. Ranked in order of their party hierarchy, they are Premier Li Keqiang, 67; National People’s Congress chairman Li Zhanshu, 72; Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference chairman Wang Yang, 67; and Vice-Premier Han Zheng, 68. This means they will go into full retirement. The Central Committee, with around 200 full members, reports to the 25-member Politburo, which is headed by the Politburo Standing Committee. Making the list is essential for any important state or government position. The reshuffle is bigger than expected. Both Li Keqiang and Wang Yang are one year short of the customary retirement age of 68 and would have stayed, according to tradition. But as Xi, firmly established as the most powerful political leader since Deng Xiaoping, begins his convention-breaking third term, he understandably wants to build a young team that could support him for the next five years and beyond.

 Coronavirus

Hong Kong in renewed push to vaccinate elderly and other high-risk groups

By Web desk 22nd Oct 2022

 Health chief says measures are meant to highlight importance of vaccination against respiratory diseases, especially Covid-19 and flu. Officials also confirm overseas attendees of coming Global Financial Leaders’ Summit will be allowed to join certain activities in ‘designated venues’.

Civil servants and volunteers will go from door to door to sign up Hong Kong’s elderly in public housing estates in three districts for Covid-19 jabs from Saturday as part of a renewed push to vaccinate high-risk groups which include a free flu shot outreach programme for secondary school students. Secretary for Health Lo Chung-mau revealed the measures on Friday in a follow-up press briefing on the policy address, as officials confirmed overseas attendees of the coming Global Financial Leaders’ Summit would be allowed to join certain activities in “designated venues” and leave via private jet if they tested positive for Covid-19 according to established practice. All these measures are meant to highlight the importance of vaccination against respiratory diseases, especially Covid and flu, Lo said, when asked about the inoculation drives. Elderly and child vaccinations have not reached ideal levels yet. There are still 28 per cent of those aged 80 and above who have not received a single (Covid-19) jab, with the vaccination rate at 18 per cent only for those under three years. Lo noted that influenza had led to the death of two or three children annually between 2015 and 2019, while in comparison so far this year nine fatalities involving youngsters aged 11 or below were from complications resulting from Covid-19. Starting on Saturday, a joint operation involving the health and civil service bureaus as well as a number of local NGOs will knock on doors in Wong Tai Sin, Kwun Tong and Kwai Tsing districts, targeting those aged 70 or above who have yet to receive a Covid-19 shot. Lo has also written to the elderly in these areas in a bid to persuade them to get shots. With an eye on the coming winter influenza season, Lo also said the government had included secondary school pupils as a priority group for flu inoculation and its outreach programme, which would also allow them to get jabs in private clinics. On Friday, the city confirmed 5,393 new coronavirus infections, including 370 imported ones, as well as nine more related deaths. The overall tally now stands at 1,863,723 cases, with 10,315 fatalities. The foreign bankers and finance executives attending the summit from November 1 to 3 would not be subject to certain pandemic restrictions for regular arrivals and would be free to eat and mingle in private settings in restaurants, according to two sources. That means they can meet clients and colleagues at private rooms in high-end restaurants not limited to the Four Seasons Hotel, where some of the conferences will be held, and take a private jet out of the city if they test positive.

Covid-hit summiteers could leave on jets

By Web desk 21st Oct 2022

Regardless of what is decided in the near future on Covid restrictions for inbound travelers before a banking summit early next month, authorities could allow attendees at the event to leave the SAR on private jets should they test positive for the virus. Department of Health and Monetary Authority officials are said to be in discussions to finalize details for the two-day summit set for early next month, including what to do if a participant is infected. One option is to allow Covid-positive attendees to leave on a private jet if arrangements can be made to keep them isolated while they travel from their hotel to the airport. But if someone without access to a plane tests positive they will be allowed to isolate in their hotel room, in line with existing rules, and would not be able to leave on a commercial flight. Most attendees will stay at the Four Seasons hotel, where the summit will be held, allowing authorities to manage them in a centralized way. The authority has said the administration has approved a set of infection control arrangements for the summit, but details have yet to be made known. But all attendees must take part in the PCR testing regimen, though how many tests they will need to take remains to be seen. About 200 participants from over 100 major global firms - including banks, securities companies, asset managers, private equity and venture capital firms, hedge funds and insurers - are expected to attend. Top executives attending include Goldman Sachs chairman David Solomon, Blackstone president Jonathan Gray and Morgan Stanley chief executive James Gorman. Hong Kong has eased some of its strictest Covid curbs, including scrapping mandatory hotel quarantine entirely, in the lead-up to a series of events aimed at reviving the SAR's global reputation. The changes fueled speculation that it could go one step further and remove the three days of restrictions for new arrivals that prevents them from going to bars or eating at restaurants while permitting them to take public transport and go to work. That optimism has been tempered by a more cautious note struck by officials as the daily case tally edges higher. Chief Executive John Lee on Wednesday reaffirmed his plan to ease virus measures in an orderly manner to avoid backtracking, while stressing the SAR's reopening efforts cannot pose a risk to the mainland.

 

Extra caring for elderly

 By Web desk 20th Oct 2022

Elderly couples will be able to share health vouchers, which are to be increased to HK$2,500 a year from HK$2,000 and cover four more types of primary medical services. Currently, 1.45 million seniors aged 65 and above are eligible for the voucher scheme and the changes - likely to take effect next year - will cost HK$600 million annually. Authorities are set to also introduce a pilot scheme to add a HK$500 voucher for seniors who have spent at least HK$1,000 on specific primary health-care services for disease prevention and health management. In doing so, authorities hope to provide incentives for seniors to utilize primary medical services. The additional HK$500 voucher will be credited automatically to accounts once people fulfill the requirement, and couples will be able to combine vouchers. John Lee said vouchers can also be used when seeing audiologists, dietitians, clinical psychologists and speech therapists under the Accredited Registers Scheme for Healthcare Professions and on medical equipment such as hearing aids. In 2019, 1.3 million people aged 65 and above, or 18 percent of the population, went to public hospitals with a chronic disease, and with younger people using public hospitals for chronic illnesses the number will hit three million by 2039. To ease the overstretched public medical system the health system will also be revamped. Our aim is to shift the emphasis of the health-care system from its current treatment-oriented, hospital-based structure to a prevention-focused, community-based system, Lee said. He said too that a primary health-care blueprint will be published this year. And a chronic disease co-care pilot scheme will be launched next year to refer people with high risks of hypertension or diabetes to the private sector for further examination, with the government subsidizing half of the fees for checks and treatment. People will also be allowed to consult physiotherapists and occupational therapists without a doctor's referral. Additionally, a Primary Healthcare Authority will be established to coordinate services and alleviate workloads in public hospitals and clinics. On tackling the brain drain, Lee said officials will look into importing trained dentists and nurses after opening the gates to doctors who graduated overseas. The Health Bureau will also promote Chinese medicine and mental health awareness. Legislator Tommy Cheung Yu-yan of the Liberal Party welcomed the encouragement of using primary health-care services and a public-private partnership for people with chronic illnesses, but he urged private doctors not to raise charges as more people consult them.

Hong Kong eases gathering ban from Thursday

 By Web desk 19th Oct 2022

The SAR government announced late on Wednesday that it will ease the ban on public gatherings from groups of four to groups of 12 starting October 19, citing the stable figures for people in intensive care with Covid, and the death rate. The government statement noted that the epidemic situation in Hong Kong has been stable so far since it subsided from the peak in early September. Although the number of new cases did not decline further but hovers around some 5,000 per day with a slight increase recently due to the emergence of new mutant strains of potentially higher transmissibility, the overall figures of hospitalized patients, severe cases and deaths remain at a stable level, it wrote. The statement added that the public healthcare system can maintain the majority of its normal services while handling Covid-19 in-patient cases. Also starting from Thursday, live performances will be allowed at bars and nightclubs. Performers will have to do PCR tests twice a week, and test negative on a RAT test before entering the premises. Other social distancing measures will remain unchanged, including the use of the LeaveHomeSafe app, and for people going to banquets bars and clubs to take RAT tests.

Bigger-than-expected changes loom as Xi Jinping shapes China’s top leadership at 20th Communist Party congress

 By Web desk 18th Oct 2022

As many as four top positions on the Politburo Standing Committee could change hands and nearly half the Central Committee is expected to be replaced. In Chinese politics, important decisions are often made behind closed doors before being communicated and endorsed at the formal meeting. President Xi Jinping is firmly in control of China’s twice-a-decade leadership reshuffle, which could see bigger-than-expected changes as he builds a new supporting team for his unprecedented third term. As many as four top positions on the Politburo Standing Committee could change hands and nearly half the Central Committee will be replaced.

The results will be made public this coming weekend at the end of the week-long 20th Communist Party congress. On October 22, the party will form a new Central Committee to head 97 million party members. The next day, the Central Committee will hold its first full session to endorse the line-up of the 25-member Politburo and the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee – the highest decision-making body. In Chinese politics, important decisions are often made behind closed doors before the formal meeting, which serves as an occasion for communication and formal endorsement. As expected, Xi is set to confirm an unprecedented third term as the party chief. He will take the opportunity to bring fresh blood to the top, with four of the seven members of the Politburo Standing Committee, which Xi heads, likely to retire. National People’s Congress chairman Li Zhanshu, 72, and Vice-Premier Han Zheng, 68, are widely tipped to leave, having reached the unofficial retirement age of 68. Premier Li Keqiang, at 67, is still one year short of the customary retirement age but must step down as the premier, which is constitutionally limited to two terms. Theoretically, Li, who is ranked second in the party hierarchy, could still stay on the Politburo Standing Committee and take up another position, such as NPC chairman. But sources now say the premier will most likely opt for full retirement. It is not immediately clear who the fourth person to retire will be. Wang Yang, now the chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, and Wang Huning, the ideology tsar, are the same age as Li Keqiang.

Intense fighting flares in Ukraine's Donetsk region

 By Web desk 17th Oct 2022

Intense fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces was taking place around two towns in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, Bakhmut and Soledar, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Sunday. Fighting has been particularly intense this weekend in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, which make up the larger industrial Donbas, and the strategically important Kherson province in the south. They constitute three of the four provinces Putin proclaimed as part of Russia last month, moves dismissed by Ukraine and its Western allies as illegitimate. Bakhmut has been a target of Russia's armed forces in their slow move through the region since taking the key industrial towns of Lysychansk and Sievierodonetsk in June and July. Soledar is located just north of Bakhmut. The key hot spots in Donbas are Soledar and Bakhmut, Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address. Very heavy fighting is going on there. Russian forces shelled Ukrainian positions on several fronts on Sunday, the General Staff of Ukraine's Armed Forces said, with the targets including towns in Kharkiv, Donetsk and Kherson regions. Ukrainian military analyst Oleh Zhdanov suggested the heaviest fighting was occuring north of Bakhmut, asserting that Ukrainian forces had repelled Russian advances on the towns of Torske and Sprine in the past 24 hours. (The Russians) have decided to move through Torske and Sprine. Positions in those places are changing hands regularly. Our command is diverting reinforcements there, men and artillery to counter the Russian superiority in those areas. Russia's defence ministry said on Sunday its forces had repelled efforts by Ukrainian troops to advance in the Donetsk, Kherson and Mykolaiv regions, inflicting what it described as significant losses. Russia also said it was continuing air strikes on military and energy targets in Ukraine, using long-range precision-guided weapons. Rybar, a pro-Russian military channel on Telegram, said Ukrainian armed forces again shelled Belgorod, a town in southern Russia that serves as a staging ground for Russian forces. Anti-aircraft units intercepted most of the attacks, but there were two explosions near the airport. Three people were injured, it said. Shelling by Ukrainian forces damaged the administration building in the city Donetsk, capital of the Donetsk region, the head of its Russian-backed administration said on Sunday. It was a direct hit, the building is seriously damaged. It is a miracle nobody was killed, said Alexei Kulemzin, surveying the wreckage, adding that all city services were still working. There was no immediate reaction from Ukraine to the attack on Donetsk city, which was annexed by Russian-backed separatists in 2014 along with swathes of the Donbas. Russia has opened a criminal investigation after gunmen shot dead 11 people and injured 15 at a military training ground near the Ukrainian border, authorities said on Sunday. Russia's RIA news agency, citing the defence ministry, said two gunmen opened fire with small arms during a firearms training exercise on Saturday, targeting personnel who had volunteered to fight in Ukraine. RIA said the gunmen, who it referred to as terrorists, were shot dead. The incident in the southwestern Belgorod region was the latest blow to Russian President Vladimir Putin's special military operation in Ukraine. It came a week after a blast damaged a bridge linking mainland Russia to Crimea, the peninsula it annexed from Ukraine in 2014. Russia's defence ministry said the attackers were from a former Soviet republic, without elaborating. A senior Ukrainian official, Oleksiy Arestovych, said the two men were from the mainly Muslim Central Asian republic of Tajikistan and had opened fire on the others after an argument over religion. Russian air defence systems repelling air strikes in Belgorod. A spokeswoman for Ukraine's Southern Military Command said Russian forces were suffering severe shortages of equipment including ammunition as a result of the damage inflicted last weekend on the Crimea Bridge. Almost 75 percent (of Russian military supplies in southern Ukraine) came across that bridge, Natalia Humeniuk told Ukrainian television, adding that strong winds had also now stopped ferries in the area. Now even the sea is on our side, Humeniuk said. Putin blamed Ukrainian security services for the bridge blast and last Monday, in retaliation, ordered the biggest aerial offensive against Ukrainian cities, including the capital Kyiv, since the start of Russia's invasion on Feb. 24.

Pakistan seeks rescheduling of US$27b bilateral debt-finance minister 

By Web desk 16th Oct 2022

Pakistan's new finance minister, Ishaq Dar, said on Friday that he will seek rescheduling of some US$27 billion worth of non-Paris Club debt largely owed to China, but will not pursue haircuts as part of any restructuring. Dar ruled out the possibility of a default on Pakistan's debt, an extension of the maturity date on bonds due in December or a renegotiation of Pakistan's current International Monetary Fund program. The veteran finance minister said multilateral development banks and international donors have been quite flexible with ways to meet Pakistan's external financing needs estimated at about US$32 billion after devastating floods. Some of this may come from reallocating funds from previously approved, slower-disbursing development loans, he added. Dar, who is participating in the IMF and World Bank annual meetings just over two weeks after taking office, said that Pakistan will seek restructuring on equal terms for all bilateral creditors. But asked whether Pakistan would seek to reduce debt principal, he said rescheduling is fine, but we are not seeking a haircut. That's not fair. Dar, who served as Pakistan's finance minister three previous times -- most recently from 2013 to 2017 is known as a staunch defender of the rupee. He said Pakistan has not engaged in physical intervention in the currency, which has been battered this year by a strong U.S. dollar, but which has rallied some 10 percent since his appointment. Dar said that he views the true value of the rupee at a level under 200 to the dollar. It last traded at 219. I am for a stable currency; I am for a realistic rate. I am for market-based, but not subject to a currency being taken hostage nd making speculators billions of dollars. Asked whether he discussed with IMF officials the possibility of borrowing from the Fund's new Resilience and Sustainability Trust for middle-income countries, Dar said. We have discussed all options. The Pakistan finance minister added that the IMF's new emergency food shock borrowing window may also be a good fit for the country, which has lost crops due to devastating floods and may need to import up to half a million tons of wheat in the next year. In this scenario, we have the possibility to approaching and accessing this facility, he said. 

Putin says Ukraine mobilization should be finished in two weeks 

 By Web desk 15th Oct 2022

Russia should be finished calling up reservists in two weeks, President Vladimir Putin said on Friday, promising an end to a divisive mobilization that has seen hundreds of thousands of men summoned to fight in Ukraine and huge numbers flee the country. Putin also said Russia had no plans for now for more massive air strikes like those it carried out this week, in which it fired more than 100 long range missiles at targets across Ukraine. Putin ordered the mobilization three weeks ago, part of a response to Russian battlefield defeats. He has also proclaimed the annexation of four partially occupied Ukrainian provinces and threatened to use nuclear weapons. Russia has since seen the first signs of public criticism of the authorities since the war began and officials have acknowledged some mistakes. embers of ethnic minorities and rural residents have complained of being drafted at higher rates than ethnic Russians and city dwellers. Defending the order, Putin said the front line was too long to defend solely with contract soldiers. He said 222,000 out of an expected 300,000 reservists had already been mobilized. This work is coming to an end, he told a news conference at the end of a summit in Kazakhstan. I think that in about two weeks all the mobilization activities will be finished. Since the mobilization order was given, Russian forces have continued to lose ground in eastern Ukraine and the south. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in his nightly video address, once again said Ukraine's forces would retake all of its territory. Yes, they still have people to throw on the battlefield, they have weapons, missiles, they have (Iranian-made) Shaheds which they use against Ukraine, he said. They still have the possibility to terrorize our cities and all Europeans, blackmailing the world. But they have no chance of succeeding and will have none because Ukraine is moving forward. Zelenskiy also said he had spoken to Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. We discussed possibilities for acting together in the interests of our countries and our peoples. I believe that the results we need are possible, he said, giving no details. The U.S. government accused the Saudis of kowtowing to Russia - as it wages the war in Ukraine - when the OPEC+ oil producer group it leads announced this month it would cut its oil production target. A Western official said some of the newly mobilized Russian troops were already on the battlefield taking casualties, and that their presence was unlikely to turn the tide. It is clear that they have been fielded with very, very limited training and very, very poor equipment, the official said. The official also suggested Russia had too few missiles to sustain attacks like those this week. Russia is rapidly exhausting its supply of long-range precision munitions, in particular its air-launched cruise missiles. Ukraine's top general, Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, struck an upbeat tone after his country's rapid advances in the northeast and south. The strategic initiative is in our hands, so the main thing is not to stop, Zaluzhnyi said after speaking by phone with the commander in chief of Europe's combined NATO forces, U.S. General Christopher Cavoli. Ukraine's General Staff said on Facebook late on Friday that Ukraine's forces had destroyed large amounts of Russian arms and equipment in Antratsyt south of Luhansk, where Ukraine hopes to recapture major towns after its successes in Kharkiv region. It said Russian forces had launched more artillery and air strikes on towns including Konstantynivka southwest of Bakhmut, their main target in Donetsk region, and Zaporizhzhia city. Separately, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko put his country on what he called a heightened state of terrorism alert on Friday, the latest gesture hinting at growing pressure to join the war. Lukashenko, Putin's closest international ally, has allowed Russian forces to use Belarus as a staging ground but so far kept his own troops out. This week he announced Russian troops would be joining Belarusian forces near the Ukrainian border. 

New stamp duty, visa rules teased in talent chase

By Web desk 14th Oct 2022

Hong Kong could be set to relax the 15 percent stamp duty for nonresident property buyers and introduce a new form of visa for nonlocals to work. In an effort to halt the pandemic-driven brain drain, Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu could include such measures in his first policy address on Wednesday. One move under consideration, sources said, is making it easier for Hong Kong-based companies to hire nonlocals in 13 priority professions, including asset management, fintech, and ESG financial services. Companies would no longer need to go through a lengthy process of showing they made an effort to recruit locals first before looking abroad. On relaxing the stamp duty for nonresident property buyers, the idea will likely see refunds after they have been in the city for a certain number of years. But it is uncertain if this would apply to all workers from outside. Other measures being discussed include cash subsidies for some highly skilled professionals and setting up a specific government branch to attract and manage mainland and overseas workers and investments. Along with the broad range of measures could be a new type of visa to make it easier for outsiders to take up employment in the city. But Watson Consultancy director Suen Lap-man told the relaxation of the stamp duty on property purchases is not the most effective solution to counter the brain drain. High rents and housing prices are concerns of those who are hesitating about moving to Hong Kong, he said. But it's not the most important factor they would consider when making a decision. The decisive factor are development prospects for the industry in which they are working as well as their acceptance of culture and values in Hong Kong. Talented mainlanders will think twice about coming to Hong Kong because the border has yet to reopen, Suen said. As for talent from Western countries they may have concerns about Hong Kong's political environment. Some big companies overseas that emphasize values, such as Google and Facebook, may not choose to develop in Hong Kong due to political concerns, he said. Suen suggested that the administration try inviting high-profile people at the top of their fields to work in Hong Kong so that others may follow - a type of celebrity effect. Andy Luk Kwok-kwan, vice president of the Hong Kong Institute of Human Resource Management, said the city is suffering a serious brain drain as more than 110,000 people have moved out over the past year. According to an institute survey from August to last month, 37 percent of management-level employees and 24 percent of grassroots workers resigned due to emigration plans. Lee is also expected to announce in his address ways to look for land to build transitional housing units in urban areas.

 Coronavirus

Hong Kong won’t axe frequent Covid-19 tests for arrivals even if border rules are further eased, insiders reveal

 By Web desk 13th Oct 2022

Sources say Chief Executive John Lee recently asked all bureaus to promote current ‘0+3’ arrangement, implying government is unlikely to further lift restrictions. Authorities concerned about rise in imported cases after mandatory hotel quarantine for arrivals was dropped in late September, another insider says.

Hong Kong will not give up on frequent Covid-19 tests for arrivals even if the city’s border restrictions are further relaxed, a move insiders do not expect to happen soon, Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu had asked all bureaus during a recent internal meeting to promote the current “0+3” arrangement, under which inbound travellers must undergo a three-day medical surveillance period. The insiders said that implied the government was unlikely to further lift restrictions. While some in the pro-establishment camp said they expected local authorities to approach the situation cautiously ahead of a twice-a-decade congress of China’s Communist Party on Sunday, several health experts suggested the city could lift all entry restrictions and minimize testing requirements for travellers as most imported cases were detected on arrival. Several government sources said Lee was seeking to manage expectations that a further easing of curbs would not come soon, despite business leaders and political pundits expecting “groundbreaking” measures to be announced in his maiden policy address next Wednesday. It is quite unlikely that there will be further relaxation on the three days of home medical surveillance next week, as the government needs to gather more scientific data, said an insider familiar with the discussions. Even if there is further relaxation, say before November, arrivals will still have to undergo polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, especially in view of the emergence of new variants. Another source said that while the situation remains fluid, the government was concerned about the increase in imported cases after mandatory hotel quarantine for arrivals was axed in late September. Under the current rules, inbound travellers must undergo a PCR test upon arrival and another three on their second, fourth and sixth days in the city. Anyone who receives a positive result is required to quarantine at home, or in a hotel or government facility. During the surveillance period, arrivals may stay at home or in a hotel but are barred from entering venues covered by the city’s vaccine pass scheme, such as bars and restaurants, for the three days.

Biden says he 'can beat' former US president Donald Trump again 

 By Web desk 12th Oct 2022

US President Joe Biden on Tuesday voiced confidence that he could beat his predecessor Donald Trump in a 2024 rematch -- even as he acknowledged the country could sink back into recession under his leadership. The 79-year-old Democrat was asked if he'd be announcing a run for a second term after November's midterm elections -- and if Trump would be a factor in his decision. I believe I can beat Donald Trump again, Biden responded, although he stopped short of confirming another tilt at the Oval Office in 2024. Biden defeated Trump in both the state-by-state Electoral College and the popular vote in 2020 -- leading to relentless false claims of widespread voter fraud from the defeated president. Biden indicated to reporters at a NATO summit in March that he would be happy for Trump to be his opponent again. Biden's popularity has taken a hit in the last year amid soaring inflation, rising violent crime in cities and a seemingly intractable migrant crisis at the southern border. But his approval ratings still outrank the numbers seen in polling for Trump, who regularly mocks Biden -- three years his senior -- for his age. CNN asked Biden what he would tell voters who consider him too old for reelection. Name me a president in recent history that's gotten as much done as I have in the first two years. Not a joke. You may not like what I got done, but the vast majority of the American people do like what I got done, Biden replied. And so... it's a matter of, can you do the job? And I believe I can do the job. In a wide-ranging interview that took in the war in Ukraine and Saudi-led oil production cuts that are expected to send gas prices soaring again, Biden was asked about fears for the economy amid gloomy growth projections. Biden downplayed the likelihood of a recession but conceded a slight downturn is possible. I don't think there will be a recession. If it is, it'll be a very slight recession. That is, we'll move down slightly, he said. Trump 76, came to power during the longest economic expansion in US history, although the economy tumbled into recession in 2020 as the world was gripped by the Covid-19 outbreak. Biden frequently takes questions from the media, but he has held few press conferences or one-to-one televised interviews. He has been more visible recently as he takes to the road to talk up Democratic legislative achievements and slam "MAGA Republicans" -- followers of former President Donald Trump's Make America Great Again agenda -- in the final weeks of the midterm election campaign. He also sat down with CBS in September, making headlines for declaring the pandemic over and confirming US commitment to defending Taiwan from a Chinese assault. 

 

 

Hong Kong’s own national security legislation put on hold for further research, government says

 By Web desk 11th Oct 2022

Bill to complement Beijing-imposed national security law removed from schedule for remaining Legislative Council meetings before Christmas. Chief Executive John Lee says move made to allow time for more comprehensive legislation to be drawn up

A plan to enact Hong Kong’s own national security law this year has been put on the back burner by the government in a move supported by pro-establishment politicians who say more urgent issues need to be tackled. The legislation, required by Article 23 of the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution, would complement the national security law imposed on the city by Beijing in 2020. But according to the updated Legislative Council programme seen by lawmakers last week, the government plans to introduce 16 pieces of legislation by December but the national security law was among 15 others removed from the schedule.

 

As Hong Kong eases Covid-19 rules, airlines race to find pilots and cabin crew, get parked aircraft flying again

By Web desk 10th Oct 2022

Cathay Pacific, major airlines start adding flights, but are held back by shortage of pilots, crew. But when will mainland China reopen borders? That’s when Hong Kong will bounce back, experts say

Hong Kong aviation must get back quickly to at least half its pre-pandemic number of passenger flights to cope with an anticipated surge in demand, industry experts and observers said. But the city’s status as a global aviation hub hinged on when it would remove all remaining pandemic travel restrictions and reopen borders fully with mainland China, they added. Airlines have been eager to increase flights to Hong Kong since the city stopped requiring arriving travellers to undergo compulsory quarantine last month, but many operations cannot be rushed.

John Lee marks 100th day in office, hints at policies on snatching talent for Hong Kong

 By Web desk 9th Oct 2022

Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu on Saturday marked the 100th day since he assumed office on July 1 with a Facebook post saying he will roll out more policies on snatching enterprises and talents and public housing developments.

I will announce policies on snatching enterprises and talents, and pushing forward landing seeking and public housing developments with increased speed, efficiency, quantity and enhanced quality for the happiness of citizens and for the development of Hong Kong. Lee will release his first policy address on October 19. In his detailed conclusion on the work done in the past 100 days, Lee recalled how the quarantine measures gradually relaxed from seven-day quarantine to “3+4” and finally the existing “0+3”. Yet, he stressed that each of the measures must be executed orderly and steadily without bringing chaos, adding that he understands the public shares different views on the matter. Lee said two task forces on land and housing supplies and public housing led by Financial Secretary and deputy secretary, respectively, submitted a 100-day report to him yesterday, offering ideas on land-seeking and building public homes. In terms of social issues, Lee spoke of the swift moves by his cabinet following severe incidents. I asked my teams to quickly respond to issues that the public cares about very much like the concert incident where dancers were seriously injured, the fatal industrial incident that involved a fallen crane tower, and collapsed trees on the roads, hoping to answer citizens' expectations with actions. The relationship between legislation and administration was also brought to a whole new level under the administration-led and  patriots ruling Hong Kong principles, with three antechamber exchange sessions successfully staged already, Lee noted. 

Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific beats the drum for 4,000 new recruits as airline begins long haul back to normal service

 By Web desk 8th Oct 2022

Cathay Pacific looks to recruit 4,000 frontline staff as it prepares for increased passenger numbers. Airline says it wants to hire between now and 2024 as it predicts it will fly at a third of pre-Covid passenger capacity by year-end.

Cathay Pacific has launched its first large-scale recruitment exercise in Hong Kong nearly three years after the Covid-19 epidemic hit, looking for 2,000 flight attendants to help achieve its target of running at a third of its pre-coronavirus passenger capacity by the end of the year. The city’s flag carrier also revealed on Friday that “hundreds” of cabin crew and pilots, who departed amid tough Covid-19 travel curbs, had recently returned to their jobs, but that it was a race against time to hire more to cope with the expected increase of flights when restrictions are further eased. Our focus right now is to add as many as we can this year and in the year 2023 and 2024, Cathay general manager of corporate affairs Andy Wong said at the recruitment event. By the end of this year we will be flying at around a third of our passenger capacity and two-thirds of cargo capacity from pre-pandemic days.

 

Prince Harry, Elton John and others sue UK paper group over privacy breaches 

 By Web desk 7th Oct 2022

Britain's Prince Harry, singer Elton John and other individuals have launched legal action against the publisher of the Daily Mail newspaper, alleging phone-tapping and other breaches of privacy, a law firm for some of the group said on Thursday. Associated Newspapers, publisher of the Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday and the Mail Online, one of the most widely read news websites in the world, said it "utterly and unambiguously" denied the allegations. The others involved in the litigation are the actresses Elizabeth Hurley and Sadie Frost, Elton John's husband and filmmaker David Furnish, and Doreen Lawrence, the mother of Black teenager Stephen Lawrence who was murdered in a racist attack in 1993. The individuals had become aware of "highly distressing" evidence revealing they had been victims of breaches of privacy by Associated Newspapers, law firm Hamlins said in a statement. It said the breaches included placing listening devices inside people's cars and homes, commissioning the bugging of live, private telephone calls, payment of police officials for sensitive information, and impersonating individuals to obtain medical records. "They have now therefore banded together to uncover the truth, and to hold the journalists responsible fully accountable, many of whom still hold senior positions of authority and power today," Hamlins said in its statement. Hamlins said it was representing Harry, younger son of King Charles, and Frost, while Lawrence, Hurley, John and Furnish are being represented by the law firm gunnercooke. "We utterly and unambiguously refute these preposterous smears which appear to be nothing more than a pre-planned and orchestrated attempt to drag the Mail titles into the phone hacking scandal concerning articles up to 30 years old," a spokesperson for the publisher said. "These unsubstantiated and highly defamatory claims - based on no credible evidence - appear to be simply a fishing expedition by claimants and their lawyers, some of whom have already pursued cases elsewhere." Harry, the Duke of Sussex, has already brought a number of lawsuits against Associated Newspapers' publications. He is currently suing the Mail on Sunday for libel over an article which stated he had tried to keep secret details of his legal fight to reinstate his police protection, and last year won damages from the same paper over claims he had turned his back on the Royal Marines. His wife Meghan also won a privacy case against the publisher last December for printing a letter she had written to her estranged father. The couple's relations with Britain's tabloid press collapsed following their marriage in 2018, and they have previously said they would have "zero engagement" with four major British papers, including the Daily Mail, accusing them of false and invasive coverage. Media intrusion was a major factor they cited in their decision to step down from royal duties and move to the United States two years ago. Elton John also defended the couple himself after newspapers accused them of hypocrisy for using his private jet for a flight to stay at his home in the south of France while calling for action to tackle climate change. A spokesperson for the couple said they had no comment beyond the Hamlins' statement. Others involved in the action have also previously brought legal action against major media organizations. Frost was awarded 260,250 pounds (US$290,595.15) compensation in 2015 after she and seven other celebrity figures sued Mirror Group Newspapers for hacking messages on their phones. Hurley, John and Furnish also settled phone-hacking claims against News Group Newspapers – publisher of the now-defunct News of the World – shortly before trial in 2019. An eight-month criminal trial into hacking at the News of the World in 2014 resulted in the conviction of former editor Andy Coulson, who later went to work for then-Prime Minister David Cameron as his communications chief.

 

Import expo gains speed as China furthers opening-up 

 By Web desk 6th Oct 2022

The fifth China International Import Expo (CIIE), set to be held a month from now, is in the final preparation stage with foreign companies expecting it to provide market opportunities. The expo to be held in China's economic hub Shanghai is on schedule despite the impact of the Covid-19 epidemic and showcases the country's commitment to further opening up its massive market for shared growth. As the fifth CIIE approaches, exhibits are arriving in Shanghai via various means. On Sept. 20 the first batch of inbound exhibits, with a declared value of 560 million yuan (about 78.7 million U.S. dollars), cleared customs at the Shanghai Pudong International Airport. The China-Europe freight train has also become a popular choice of transportation among companies attending the CIIE, said Wang Jinqiu, chairman of Shanghai Oriental Silk Road Multimodal Transport Co., Ltd., adding that this is the second year that the service has delivered products to the CIIE in Shanghai. According to Shanghai Customs the peak of exhibit arrivals is expected to occur in October. Shanghai Customs said it will continue to optimize the clearance process of exhibits and provide safe, convenient, and efficient customs clearance services. Sun Chenghai, deputy director of the CIIE Bureau said the work of inviting enterprises to participate in the fifth CIIE had been completed and positive progress is being made in terms of setting up exhibitions. Thousands of miles away, Roy van den Hurk, general manager of Theland Global R&D at Milk New Zealand Dairy, is busy applying for his visa to attend the coming 2022 expo. "China's huge consumer market helps foreign trade enterprises like us to find opportunities in the green food industry and promote global economic recovery," said van den Hurk, who has participated in the event three times. The expo has helped the New Zealand Company to embark on the "fast track" of development in China, van den Hurk noted as Theland is now even available in supermarkets in small counties in central and western China. Data shows that more than 280 of the world's top 500 enterprises and industry giants will participate in this year's CIIE, with nearly 90 percent of the participants from last year also joining this year. Will Song global senior vice president and China chairman of Johnson & Johnson, said that over the last four years the company had brought dozens of debuts to the CIIE each year, and this year at the fifth expo, it will unveil about 40 debuts. China's Vice Minister of Commerce Sheng Qiuping said the CIIE has given full play to its role as a window for building a cooperation platform for those engaged both at home and abroad and has become a place for exhibitors to debut their new global products cutting-edge technologies and innovative services. According to statistics from the Ministry of Commerce, from 2018 to 2021, exhibitors at the four previous editions of the CIIE launched more than 1,500 new products, technologies and services, with an accumulated intended turnover exceeding 270 billion U.S. dollars. "We felt that the CIIE is a very good opportunity to showcase what we can bring to China and to contribute our share to the further improvement of the healthcare system," said Felix Gutsche, President  & CEO of Boehringer Ingelheim China. Gutsche said that the CIIE provides a very good platform to meet, not only with other companies, but particularly with a lot of relevant authorities and stakeholders. "The expo also demonstrates China's sincere desire to share market opportunities with the world and reflects China's efforts to promote the recovery of the world economy," he said. He noted that the company has benefitted from China's improving business environment especially the registration process of new medicine, which allows it to launch new products much sooner in China than before, and the protection of intellectual property. The CIIE shows China's firm commitment to opening up, which has boosted the confidence of many foreign enterprises. "Despite the uncertainty of the external environment the CIIE will be held offline as planned. It is this kind of certainty that gives the world even more confidence in China's sure-footedness and determination to grow with its global partners," said Pietro Brambilla, Chief Financial Officer of L'Oreal North Asia Zone & China. The preference of foreign capital demonstrates the market attractiveness of China. Statistics from the Ministry of Commerce show that foreign direct investment in the Chinese mainland, in actual use, expanded 16.4 percent year on year to 892.74 billion yuan in the first eight months of this year. China, which has signed 19 free trade agreements with 26 countries and regions, will also ink more free trade agreements with willing partners, and work to enhance the effectiveness of these agreements to benefit businesses and people better and faster, said Shu Jueting, spokesperson for the Ministry of Commerce, at a recent regular media conference. The CIIE has spawned huge benefits far beyond China's borders, allowing companies to experience solid gains and enjoy tremendous progress Brambilla noted. "I believe this is why so many companies, like L'Oreal, are back at the CIIE once again and why more and more new partners have joined us as we begin this exciting countdown to the fifth CIIE," he said.

 

Iran students continue protest over crackdown since Mahsa Amini death, global demonstrations held in solidarity

By Web desk 5th Oct 2022

Protests have been held nightly for more than two weeks, despite a bloody crackdown that a rights group says has claimed more than 80 lives. It is the bloodiest unrest in Iran since a crackdown on demonstrations in November 2019 over a sudden hike in fuel prices killed at least 304 people

Students demonstrated in Tehran and other Iranian cities on against an ongoing crackdown on dissent over the death last month of Mahsa Amini in the custody of the Islamic republic’s notorious morality police. Iranians based abroad and their supporters gathered in cities around the world in solidarity. A wave of street violence has rocked Iran since Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurd, died after her arrest by the morality police for allegedly failing to observe the Islamic republic’s strict dress code for women.

Hong Kong universities attract record number of mainland Chinese students amid rising geopolitical tensions and Covid-19

 By Web desk 4th Oct 2022

Mainland students worried by tension between Beijing and US, UK choose to avoid Western universities. City’s eight publicly-funded universities drew record 8,622 students from mainland China last year.

The number of undergraduate students from mainland China studying in Hong Kong universities rose to a record high in the last academic year, after growing at the fastest pace in nearly a decade. Intensified geopolitical tensions between China and the US and United Kingdom were among the reasons mainland students decided against pursuing their studies in Western countries, some university representatives said. According to the University Grants Committee, 8,622 mainland students were enrolled in undergraduate programmes at Hong Kong’s eight government-funded universities in the last academic year.

Non-elderly singles should get subsidies too because they have longest wait for Hong Kong public housing, SoCO says.

 By Web desk 3rd Oct 2022

Society for Community Organization urges government to abolish an age-based points system for single non-elderly public housing applicants. About 92 per cent of non-elderly singles say they do not receive money from their families

A Hong Kong advocacy group has called for non-elderly singletons living in inadequate housing to be eligible for financial subsidies, as they face the longest wait for public flats and most do not receive support from their families. Members of the Society for Community Organisation (SoCO) on Sunday urged the government to abolish an age-based points system for non-elderly public housing applicants and prioritise how long they have been living alone. Sze Lai-shan, the group’s deputy director, noted on Sunday that non-elderly singles faced at least a decade-long wait for a flat.

No more quarantine Hong Kong visitors happy to find coronavirus travel rules eased.

By Web desk 2nd Oct 2022

First arrivals after pandemic rules changed on Monday make the most of ‘extra days’ to explore city. No indication from first few days that more travellers are coming because restrictions have eased.

Russian student Sophia Edifanova arrived in Hong Kong on Sunday, expecting to spend three days in quarantine in a hotel. But the next day, she was free to explore the city, as Hong Kong eased its coronavirus rules for travellers, doing away with compulsory quarantine in a hotel. I went to Victoria Peak and the park near my hotel it was really beautiful, said the 19-year-old from Moscow who is headed to Guangdong University of Technology in Guangzhou.

National Day

Hong Kong leader John Lee vows to maintain competitiveness, boost economic vibrancy as he hails Beijing’s support.

 By Web desk 1st Oct 2022

Chief executive addresses guests at Saturday reception as part of celebrations for the 73rd anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. He cites mainland help in battling fifth Covid wave earlier this year, while pledging to manage pandemic risks without ‘lying flat’

Hong Kong’s leader has pledged to maintain competitiveness and boost economic vibrancy after nearly three years of battling the coronavirus pandemic, as he hailed the city’s “irreplaceably distinct advantages” under Beijing’s support on National Day. Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu addressed some 1,400 guests, including mainland Chinese officials and diplomats at a reception on Saturday, as part of celebrations for the 73rd anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, held amid heavy police presence and for the first time, without any protests. A day after the government announced the easing next week of social-distancing measures, with daily Covid-19 caseloads hovering at about 4,000, Lee vowed to keep Hong Kong competitive while managing pandemic risks without “lying flat”.

Is the pandemic over? Experts say no, but China still needs zero-Covid exit plan

 By Web desk 30th Sep 2022

 No official response from Beijing after US President Joe Biden declares Covid-19 ‘over’ and WHO chief says end is in sight. Observers say it’s too soon to stop fighting the virus but China should prepare to ease restrictions as public pressure and economic costs grow.

US President Joe Biden’s declaration last week that the Covid-19 pandemic is over in the United States lit a firestorm domestically and globally. Days before the bold declaration, World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters that the end of the pandemic was “in sight”, though he stressed it had not arrived yet. WHO later clarified that vaccination, testing and treatment efforts should be stepped up to make the end of the pandemic possible.

Hong Kong confirms November banking summit after ending quarantine. 

 Web desk 29th Sep 2022

Hong Kong confirmed Thursday it will host an international banking summit in early November, days after it lifted mandatory quarantine rules for arrivals that have battered the city's reputation as a business hub. The city has had a difficult three years, with a sweeping crackdown on political freedoms and the imposition of some of the world's strictest coronavirus pandemic controls, which have kept the city isolated even as competitors reopen. The banking summit on November 2 is expected to draw 200 participants, including the group chairpersons or Chief Executive Officers of 30 major financial institutions, according to the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA). HKMA Chief Executive Eddie Yue wrote in a blog post that the event would allow guests to meet their staff and clients in person, and establish new relationships now that travel to Hong Kong has become easier. For most of them this will only be a short visit and we need to make sure they can meet people, do business and build relationships in the kind of business-as-usual way they expect from a vibrant international city, Yue added. The gathering will include panel talks featuring Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon, Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman, Citigroup CEO Jane Fraser, as well as top executives from JPMorgan Chase, BlackRock, UBS and KKR, according to the HKMA. Hong Kong last week scrapped mandatory hotel quarantine for travelers after two-and-a-half years, amid concerns of brain drain and losing business to rivals like Singapore and London, which reopened to the world once their populations were adequately vaccinated. But the city still adheres to a version of China's zero-Covid strategy and has kept some pandemic restrictions in place, including social distancing, business hours limitations and compulsory masking. Arrivals in the city no longer have to quarantine in hotels, but they cannot enter restaurants or bars for three days after landing and must undergo regular testing. Those who test positive face being isolated in hotel rooms at their own expense. It is unclear if summit participants will be exempt from the pandemic restrictions, and the HKMA said Thursday that it was working to finalize an appropriate set of arrangements. 

Covid-19: Hong Kong lifting hotel quarantine won’t make much difference for international travel, IATA chief warns.

 By Web desk 28th Sep 2022

IATA director general Willie Walsh says policy change is a step in the right direction but will make little difference to international travellers and the aviation industry. Walsh says recovery will be difficult when restrictions are still in place

Hong Kong’s latest relaxation of Covid-19 regulations for arrivals is insufficient to restore air travel to the city, an aviation industry leader has warned, saying the lifting of hotel quarantine will not make a big difference for international visitors. Willie Walsh, director general of the International Air Travel Association (IATA), weighed in on the city’s new measures on Tuesday, a day after inbound travel restrictions were finally eased following two years of stringent rules that left the aviation sector reeling. As of early September, 48 carriers had suspended flights to Hong Kong, including British Airways, Air France and Etihad. Around 85 airlines had operated routes to the city before the pandemic.

 

 Coronavirus

Rule breaches, infection rebound could derail Hong Kong’s plan to further ease travel curbs, city leader warns.

By Web desk 27th Sep 2022

John Lee reveals more than 40 people breached health code since August, while 8 to 9 percent of residents subject to compulsory testing did not comply in past two months. He urges business sectors to be patient in reaping economic benefits of eased curbs, with city on second day of ‘0+3’ scheme.

Hong Kong’s plans to further ease coronavirus travel curbs could be derailed if there is widespread breaching of regulations and a resurgence in infections, the city’s leader has warned. Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu struck a cautionary tone on Tuesday with the city on its second day under a new arrangement that no longer requires overseas arrivals to serve hotel quarantine, a major step towards fully reopening to the world. “If everyone complies with our rules, our path (to resume normalcy) will be smoother. But if many keep breaching the rules, it may not be easy for us to have new considerations on (the relaxation) of measures,” he told the press before his weekly Executive Council meeting.

 

 Coronavirus

Scenes of joy at airport as Hong Kong welcomes first arrivals under "0+3" no-quarantine scheme.

By Web desk 26th Sep 2022

Hong Kong Airlines delays predawn flight just to allow passengers to land past 6am when eased measures take effect. Travellers say arrival process smooth, but they hope to see "0+0"  plan soon.

Hong Kong on Monday morning welcomed its first batch of arrivals from overseas who no longer have to undergo hotel quarantine, with the city lifting its tough Covid-19 pandemic regime after more than two years of efforts to keep out the coronavirus. There were scenes of joy at the airport before 7am as a passenger was seen hugging a loved one in a touching reunion. About nine travellers streamed into the arrival hall, fresh off their flight from Taipei and among the first to be able to get tested for Covid-19 and head straight to their hotels or homes without waiting for results. Most inbound travellers were residents or expatriates returning for work, or people visiting family in the city. There were 46 flights set to land in Hong Kong on Monday, with one airline delaying its scheduled arrival time so passengers could qualify for the non-quarantine measures, which took effect from 6am.

Exhibition industry insists on “0+0” quarantine measure citing fierce rivalry with Singapore.

 By Web desk 25th Sep 2022

Hong Kong must establish the “0+0” quarantine measure, a veteran from the exhibition industry said, adding that most exhibitions in the city mainly see local exhibitors, and the majority of audiences are Hongkongers. Speaking in a TV interview, Wendy Lai, the executive vice chairperson of the Hong Kong Exhibition & Convention Industry Association, referred to the situation of the city’s rival Singapore, now thriving with both local and international events. In 2022, Singapore has staged a few hundred events, and some data showed the number could rise to 600 to 700, Lai said. Now, looking back at Hong Kong, the number of large-scale international events or exhibitions this year still stands at zero. There was a seafood and fisheries expo originally scheduled in Hong Kong this year. However, the organizer has moved the expo to Singapore already. They also announced that they would be staging the expo there the next year, as Hong Kong failed to give them faith and a sense of certainty, Lai added. Apart from exhibitions, sports events go the same way in this rivalry. The organizer of the Hong Kong Marathon canceled the race last week, saying they had yet to receive government approval two months before the race. A few days later, the organizer made a U-turn and rescheduled the race for February, saying they had obtained “full support from the government.” Meanwhile, the 50,000-strong Standard Chartered Marathon in Singapore will go ahead as usual. Singapore will also be staging the Singapore Grand Prix from late September to early October. The Singapore International Film Festival is set to open from November 24 to December 4, with the cocktail festival scheduled for late this year. 

HK introduces '0+3' quarantine measure, grants entry to unvaccinated residents

By Web desk 24th Sep 2022

Shortening the quarantine measure to 0+3 for inbound travelers and granting entry to unvaccinated Hong Kong residents are two of the four latest Covid relaxations announced by Hong Kong on Friday. The other two are replacing the PCR test with a negative RAT result valid 24 hours before boarding a plane to Hong Kong and scrapping the quota cap on the Come to Hong Kong and Return to Hong Kong schemes. The latest relaxations apply to all overseas travelers and those from Taiwan and will take effect from next Monday (Sep 26), Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu announced in a press conference. Inbound travelers still have to take a PCR test after arriving at the airport, but they can go straight to home and hotels of their choice with the latest Test and Go arrangement in place. They can also leave the airport via their own choice of transportation. As for the 0+3 measure, it means that inbound travelers only need to spend three days for medical observation after all quarantine hotels are canceled. During these three days, they will be given an Amber Health Code and can go outside. Yet, they will still be barred from certain premises restricted by health regulations, including restaurants and bars. On Day 3, with the arrival day counted as Day 0, travelers will be issued a Blue Health Code after seeing the PCR test conducted a day before returned negative. They can then enter restaurants and bars. All inbound travelers are required to take a PCR test the day they arrive at the airport, and on the second, fourth and sixth days following. As for unvaccinated residents returning to Hong Kong, they have to follow the relaxed quarantine measures but will not be granted the provisional vaccine pass. 

 

 Coronavirus

Hong Kong set to announce on Friday end to mandatory hotel quarantine for overseas arrivals.

 By Web Desk 23rd Sep 2022

 Long-awaited move signals lifting of one of the world’s toughest anti-pandemic regimes, in force for more than two years. Authorities had in August eased the week-long hotel quarantine requirement to a ‘3+4’ arrangement.

 Hong Kong is set to announce an end to mandatory hotel quarantine for arrivals, requiring people flying in to only monitor themselves for potential Covid-19 infections. Details of the new arrangement are expected to be revealed on Friday afternoon. The long-awaited lifting of quarantine signals an end to one of the world’s toughest anti-pandemic regimes, which has been in force for more than two years to shut out the coronavirus.

Zero-Covid has cost HK aviation hub status

 By Web desk 22nd Sep 2022

 Hong Kong has lost its position as a global aviation hub due to China's zero-Covid policy, the head of the airlines group says, warning the industry's recovery will be slowed if Beijing continues its restrictions next year. Attending an International Air Transport Association conference in the Qatari capital Doha, director general Willie Walsh said China's zero-Covid policy has devastated Hong Kong and hit airline Cathay Pacific hard. Cathay Pacific is a shadow of its former self as a result. Hong Kong has lost its position as a global hub and will struggle to regain it because other hubs have taken advantage of it, he said, blaming policies, not the virus. Hong Kong is traditionally a major hub where passengers transit between international flights and on journeys to China, and is the base of Cathay. The pace of the recovery in global passenger demand has picked up over the northern hemisphere summer, with airline executives attributing higher than expected demand to a surge of people keen to travel after two years of restrictions. But the recovery has been uneven with China continuing to enforce tight border and social curbs. Walsh said IATA is closely watching for any indications that China would ease its restrictions and said there had previously been expectations there would be changes this year. If the restrictions continue next year, the industry will suffer. It clearly will have an impact on the overall strength of the recovery, Walsh said.

 

Tourists could need fewer Covid tests and have easier access to museums and theme parks in Hong Kong, but restaurants may still be off the menu.

By Web desk 21st Sep 2022

Government source says list of no-go places for visitors could be modified to allow trips to museums and amusement parks. Hotel quarantine in Hong Kong may be replaced with seven days of home surveillance as city looks to reopen to tourists

Tourists in Hong Kong may have to take fewer Covid-19 tests and be allowed to visit attractions such as museums and amusement parks when the city returns to quarantine-free travel under options being considered. Government insiders also suggested on Tuesday that finance and tourism officials hoped to be able to further relax the rules to allow visitors to go to restaurants during the proposed seven days of home medical surveillance, in line with appeals from the hospitality sector. But it is understood that mask-off activities are still a serious concern for health authorities.

Coronavirus

Hong Kong leader vows to create maximum room to reconnect with world sources say hotel quarantine to end but preparation pending.

 By Web desk 20th Sep 2022

Chief Executive John Lee stresses need for ‘orderly’ approach to easing rules to avoid rollback. At media meeting before Tuesday Exco session, Lee stops short of giving a timetable and further details of new measures.

Hong Kong’s leader has pledged to create maximum room for the city to reconnect with the world, while sources have revealed top officials earlier reached a consensus to lift all quarantine measures and make an announcement only after proper preparation. The city came a step closer to the long-awaited reopening of its borders as top microbiologist and government advisor Professor Yuen Kwok-yung on Tuesday suggested Covid-19 had transformed from a highly destructive infectious disease to a milder endemic one. In a press briefing before his Executive Council meeting, Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu stressed the importance of an orderly approach to easing travel rules to avoid rolling back on Covid-19 policies.

 

Coronavirus

Hong Kong may announce this month end to dreaded hotel quarantine.

By Web desk 19th Sep 2022

Source says government may soon reveal its ending the ‘3+4’ arrangement provided talks among bureaus go smoothly. Government pandemic adviser David Hui also suggests scrapping pre-boarding PCR test requirement for inbound travellers.

Hong Kong may announce this month at the earliest that it will scrap hotel quarantine for overseas arrivals, a step long sought by the business community and backed by a number of health experts. A source said authorities could reveal the relaxation soon provided talks among different government bureaus went smoothly, while another insider said an announcement that arrivals might simply be required to monitor their own health for a possible Covid-19 infection at home for seven days could be made this month. As part of the city’s efforts to control infections, inbound travellers are also required to obtain a negative result on a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test 48 hours before boarding, but even this rule should be reviewed as they are screened upon arrival anyway, according to Professor David Hui Shu-cheong, who advises the government on its pandemic response.

Coronavirus

Hong Kong ‘actively considering’ scrapping hotel quarantine, health chief says, but calls for cautious attitude towards case numbers.

By Web desk 18th Sep 2022

 Secretary for Health Lo Chung-mau says opening up is ‘right direction’ for city, but warns recent festive holiday could mean fewer people got tested. Civil service chief Ingrid Yeung and home affairs minister Alice Mak join outreach programme to promote vaccine uptake among elderly.

Hong Kong’s health chief has said the government is “actively considering” scrapping hotel quarantine for overseas arrivals, sounding a cautiously optimistic note on stabilising daily Covid-19 caseloads. Secretary for Health Lo Chung-mau told a radio programme on Saturday that recent infection figures and sewage samples showed encouraging signs, but also warned that a previous long weekend might mean fewer people got tested, while there was a higher risk of transmission from family gatherings. “The figures for the past week seem to have reached a trend indicating a plateau, but there was also the Mid-Autumn Festival holiday,” Lo said, adding that combined factors might still lead to fluctuations, and more scrutiny of the figures was needed.

Cathay Pacific Airways raises passenger capacity forecast.

 By Web desk 17th Sep 2022

Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific Airways expects to reach a third of pre-pandemic passenger capacity by the end of the year, increasing a previous estimate of one quarter, after crew quarantine rules were lifted, it said on Friday. Hong Kong last week announced it would end onerous rules that required crew members on passenger flights to quarantine in a hotel for three days on return to the city. In August the airline's passenger capacity was only 16 percent of the same month in 2019 before the pandemic, meaning it expects that to double by the end of the year. While we will continue to add back more flights as quickly as is feasible to strengthen the network connectivity of the Hong Kong aviation hub, this will still take time as we build operational readiness and undertake a substantial amount of training and aircraft reactivation, Chief Customer and Commercial Officer Ronald Lam said in a statement. He added that cargo, which has contributed the bulk of the airline's revenue during the pandemic, had experienced flat demand in the summer months ahead of the peak year-end season. Cathay operated 59 percent of its pre-pandemic cargo capacity in August and forecast it would reach around two-thirds of 2019 levels by the end of the year. Earlier this month, the airline warned this year's peak cargo season may be weaker than last year's due to inflation and China's zero-Covid policies.

 

 Veg oil margarine fuels cancer fears

 By Web desk 16th Sep 2022

A consumer watchdog's test has found that over 90 percent of margarine samples contain genotoxic carcinogen glycidol - a substance that could increase the risk of having cancer. The 28 spreads tested by the Consumer Council included 12 samples of butter and 16 samples of margarine and spreads. The watchdog said of the 16 samples of margarine and spreads containing vegetable oils sold in Hong Kong, 15, or 94 percent, were all detected with glycidol at significantly disparate levels. The detected amounts of glycidol per kilogram of the sample varied by 24 times between the samples with the lowest and highest levels. A fat spread product - Earth Balance's Original Buttery Spread - was found to have the highest amount of glycidol, even exceeding the maximum European Union limit. Another genetic carcinogen, benzo (a) pyrene, is more commonly found in foods cooked at high temperatures with fat. Snow Brand's Neo Soft Spread was found to contain benzo(a)pyrene at 0.8 micrograms per kilogram, but it didn't exceed the EU limit. In addition, tests showed that 3-MCPD was detected in 13 out of 16 margarines and spreads, making more than 80 percent, but none of them exceeded the upper limit of the EU standard. According to foreign reports, long-term excessive daily intake of 3-MCPD can damage kidney functions, the central nervous system, and even affect the male reproductive system,said Kyrus Siu King-wai, head of publicity and community relations. The council said that among the 13 samples in which 3-MCPD was detected, the highest level per kilogram was found in Earth Balance's Original Buttery Spread at 1,200 micrograms, followed by Constantia's Garlic Margarine at 720 micrograms, and OraSi's Vegetable fat for spread 70 percent Margarine at 520 micrograms. Although the harmful elements were not detected in these butter samples, the council warned that its saturated fatty acid is generally higher, between 43.1 and 49.9 grams per 100 grams. In addition, the trans fat acid content of the butter tested was generally higher than that of other margarine and spread products, causing the council to caution against excessive intake of butter. As many Hongkongers use ham, fried egg and butter toast for breakfast, the findings showed the intake of saturated fatty acids and trans fat acid in one serving accounts for 45 percent and 20 percent of daily intake limits recommended by the Chinese Nutrition Society for adults. "Since about half of butter is saturated fatty acids, although saturated fatty acids are more resistant to high temperatures and less likely to deteriorate after prolonged heating, excessive intake will increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, and the amount of intake should be appropriate when eating to avoid increasing health risks, Siu said.

Government facility or hotel room? For arrivals who test positive in Hong Kong, choice is easy.

By Web desk 15th Sep 2022

Many travellers say they worry about the quality of government facilities like Penny’s Bay. New government measure will allow guests identified as confirmed cases to stay in their original hotel.

Travellers heading to Hong Kong have welcomed a government offer to spend their quarantine in a hotel if they test positive for Covid-19 soon after arrival, with some saying the other option of going to a government facility will be worse. Authorities late on Tuesday night said they would add new clauses to their contracts with designated hotels for the next quarantine scheme to allow confirmed cases to stay in their original hotel, with the current cycle coming to an end on October 31. The move coincides with a series of key events set to take place in the city, including the Global Financial Leaders’ Investment Summit from November 1 to 2. Many travellers said they worried about the quality of government facilities such as Penny’s Bay. While free, the reputation of Penny’s Bay when it comes to food quality, comfort, and internet access is worrying. A hotel of my choice will give me better food and better comfort. I only live once, said a 62-year-old investor who wishes to remain anonymous, and will return to Hong Kong in December. Justin Lim, 41, a wedding photographer said. Neither situation is ideal, but I’d rather be in a situation where there is at least some support from the hotel, unlike Penny’s Bay, which comes across as cold and poorly administered. Lim is currently in Thailand and will return to the city in late November. But a 36-year-old teacher, who gave his name as Peter, said he would likely choose a government quarantine facility to save money, adding that he planned to visit the United States in December and return within the same month. I would prefer the hotel and Penny’s Bay isn’t great, but it doesn’t make financial sense to me. It would be better if they simply let us quarantine at home, he said.

 

Coronavirus

Hong Kong ‘to tighten rules’ for issuing provisional vaccine passes to travellers.

 By Web desk 14th Sep 2022

Government source says authorities are now considering raising threshold for getting a temporary vaccine pass given change of circumstances. Overseas travellers currently require two jabs to qualify for pass, while those from mainland China, Macau and Taiwan can get one without being vaccinated.

Health authorities will tighten rules on issuing travellers provisional vaccine passes to enter most premises in a bid to plug any loopholes in Hong Kong’s policies to combat the coronavirus, the Post has learned. “The authorities are now considering raising the threshold for getting a temporary vaccine pass given the change of circumstances,” a government source on Tuesday said. Authorities were urged to update their policy after a woman from mainland China recently caused a stir on social media when she posted she could “travel everywhere” in Hong Kong, despite being unvaccinated against Covid-19. Overseas arrivals, who are permitted to enter the city provided they have received two shots, must apply for a temporary vaccine pass to access all venues covered under the government scheme.“Given three-dose vaccination is now widely available in many places, and most travellers are also fully vaccinated, should the government increase the number of doses required and shorten the six-month grace period? These are the areas being reviewed,” the insider said. Under Hong Kong’s vaccine pass, all eligible residents must be inoculated with three coronavirus jabs to enter various premises such as restaurants, swimming pools, sports grounds, and places of entertainment. Despite requiring eligible residents aged 12 and above to receive three shots to qualify for the vaccine pass from May, the government knew such practices were not standard across the rest of the world, the source said. As a result, local authorities opted for a two-jab requirement for inbound travellers, including returning residents, to qualify for a provisional vaccine pass, the insider said. To qualify for the temporary pass, arrivals were required to declare their non-local vaccination or recovery records at either the city’s post offices or the border.

 

 

Covid fatigue reaches tipping point

 By Web desk 13th Sep 2022

Clearly, the government is kicking the Covid can down the road despite mounting calls for an end to the quarantine policy that is increasingly isolating Hong Kong from the rest of the world. This is extremely worrying. The administration seems to be waiting for something - but what, exactly, is it waiting for? Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po wrote on his Sunday blog that boosting the vaccination rate is the key to reopening the borders. If the vaccination rate were really the key, it would have been easy to answer the question as John Lee Ka-chiu's administration would have been able to readily set a figure above which the international borders would be reopened to normal travel. Then, everyone - including tycoon Peter Woo Kwong-ching, China's CPPCC standing committee member Henry Tang Ying-yen, former commerce minister Frederick Ma Si-hang and their peers in the business sector - could have drawn up a business plan, knowing what to expect once the threshold was met. Although this would still be not as desirable as ending the policy immediately, as urged by some experts including University of Hong Kong expert Ho Pak-leung, setting a numerical target would be preferable to asking society to wait and wait without letting the people know what they have been waiting for. It's so true that, as Tang noted, the city will suffer from internal bleeding if it relies only on internal circulation. Chan could have easily filled the missing link by inserting a number in his blog. If he had done so, people - including Woo, Tang and Ma - would have felt better. But he chose not to state a target and, regrettably, neither chief executive nor Health Secretary Lo Chung-mau provided a target. That said, it may be recalled that experts had on several occasions also tried to assure that people could expect life to return to normal once a certain number of people were vaccinated. Different rates were mentioned, but people were disappointed each time those rates were achieved. Calls are mounting. Even political heavyweights and prominent businessmen who seldom commented on the Covid policy publicly have had enough with what is increasingly looking to be an endless wait for the international borders to reopen to smooth and convenient travel. Instead of a magical vaccination figure, government officials may be waiting for the outcome of the Communist Party congress in October. As the government waits for the event, it plays defensively in opposition to rising calls for an end to the current quarantine policy. If this were truly the situation, it would be most unfortunate. For one, the widely publicized financial summit organized by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority is due to be held in November. Guests invited to attend the event normally have to confirm their business schedule well in advance. Would it be too late to have the schedules confirmed if the government has to wait until after October for a clearer picture? Time is running out and the government is still kicking the can down a road that leads to nowhere.

Hong Kong can only fully reopen borders if Covid-19 vaccination rate improves, finance chief says.

 By Web desk 12th Sep 2022

 It has been extremely challenging to strike a balance between curbing the pandemic and facilitating travel, while preserving the economy’, Paul Chan says. Pandemic adviser to government predicts infections spread by more transmissible variants will peak in coming week.

Hong Kong can fully reopen to the world only if its Covid-19 vaccination rate improves further, the city’s finance chief has said, crediting effective pandemic control as the fundamental stabilising force of the local economy. Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po struck a cautious note on Sunday even as health officials reported the possible start of a downward trend in daily cases, and a pandemic adviser to the government predicted infections spread by more transmissible variants would peak in the coming week. It has been extremely challenging to strike a balance between curbing the pandemic and facilitating travel, while preserving the economy, Chan wrote on his official blog. Only with concerted efforts to further expand the vaccination scheme will we have more leeway to resume international travel, stabilising the economy and restarting the impetus for growth to the greatest extent possible. According to the government, 93 per cent of residents have taken a first vaccine shot, and 91 per cent have received a second, while 74 per cent have completed all three. But the rate for residents aged 80 or above remains just 67 per cent for two shots and a mere 51 per cent for three.Authorities have struggled to get those numbers up as infections have rebounded in recent weeks. Health officials on Sunday confirmed 9,033 new cases, of which 129 were imported, and 11 more deaths related to the virus. The city’s Covid-19 tally stood at 1,651,974, with 9,799 fatalities. This weekend’s Mid-Autumn Festival is one of the biggest occasions of the year for families to gather for celebratory meals, and authorities have urged residents to avoid large reunions. Professor Lau Yu-lung, chair professor of paediatrics at the University of Hong Kong and who advises the government on the pandemic, forecast new infections would crest in the next three to seven days after plateauing at about 10,000 in the past week. The viral load in sewage had also shown signs of flattening, while the number of infected patients being treated in hospital between Thursday and Saturday had declined, he noted. There might be a small rebound after the three-day holiday, Lau said, adding that as long as residents adhered to social-distancing measures, the public had no cause for concern. If the vaccination rate among the elderly and those under five years of age both reached at least 80 per cent, the government might consider laying out a timeline for easing pandemic curbs, he suggested, predicting that could happen in November. The government last week announced the vaccine pass scheme restricting access to most public places would be expanded to require children as young as five be inoculated with at least one jab by September 30 and two shots by the end of November. As of Sunday, 2,711 Covid-19 patients were in hospital, including 54 in critical condition and 57 in a serious one. Hospital Authority Chief Manager Dr Larry Lee Lap-yip described the patient numbers as having stabilised. But the number of elderly sent to the makeshift treatment facility at AsiaWorld-Expo continued to rise, Lee noted, adding a plan to increase bed capacity from 240 to 280 after the holiday remained. We dare not to let our guard down because based on our experience, changes, growth or declines in the pandemic can happen rapidly, he said. Reacting to Chan’s blog entry, Travel Industry Council chairwoman Gianna Hsu Wong Mei-lun expressed hope that the government would provide a road map to further relax the 3+4 policy that requires arrivals to spend three days in hotel quarantine and four more monitoring their health at home. Any quarantine measure is an obstacle to revitalize local tourism, Hsu said, adding the current administration had always maintained that any easing of the rule would be based on scientific data on infection numbers but stopped short of stating what numbers would be acceptable or how a lower figure could be achieved. When people travel, they need to tour around and enjoy the food. That’s how travelling should be. But if they have an amber code, even if the quarantine is cut to 0+7 or even 0+3, there is no way you could attract inbound travellers with such restrictions, she said, referring to the vaccine pass QR code given to travellers upon arrival. Ray Chui Man-wai, chairman of the food and beverage industry group Institute of Dining Art, said the strategies the government had adopted to tackle the pandemic were problematic, noting the government had failed to set a target vaccination rate. We saw serious cases and deaths decreased compared with the fifth wave of infections. However, if the government continues to pose restrictions on restaurants and residents, it will bring a huge blow to the industry, he said. Chui added many restaurants had suffered a drop of 30 to 40 per cent in business during the Mid-Autumn Festival compared with last year. He urged the government to immediately relax measures by raising the maximum number of people allowed per table from eight to 12 and banquet attendees from 120 to 240. Separately, authorities also made a change to the English-language version of information for people who tested positive posted on the website of the Centre for Health Protection. It now stated that anyone who tested positive using a rapid antigen test (RAT) have to report the results instead of only can report them. But Chuang clarified that reporting positive RAT cases was not yet compulsory by law at the moment. But, we would like the people to report so we don’t want them to feel like it’s optional, she said.

King Charles proclaimed Britain's monarch at historic ceremony. 

 By Web desk 11th Sep 2022

King Charles was officially proclaimed as Britain's new monarch on Saturday at a ceremony in St James's Palace where former prime ministers, bishops and a host of politicians shouted, God Save The King. The death of 96-year-old Queen Elizabeth on Thursday after 70 years on the throne set in train long-established and highly choreographed plans for days of national mourning and a state funeral that will be held in just over a week. Charles, 73, succeeded his mother immediately on Thursday but an Accession Council met on Saturday to proclaim his succession, with his son and heir William, wife Camilla and Britain's new prime minister, Liz Truss, among those to sign the proclamation. Making his personal declaration, Charles said: "In carrying out the heavy task that has been laid upon me, and to which I now dedicate what remains to me of my life, I pray for the guidance and help of Almighty God." The proclamation was also set to be read publicly in the other capital cities of the United Kingdom - Edinburgh in Scotland, Belfast in Northern Ireland, and Cardiff in Wales - and at other locations, too. The death of Elizabeth, Britain's longest-reigning monarch, has drawn an outpouring of tributes from at home and around the globe. Landmarks have been used to celebrate her life, with buildings in Europe, America and Africa lit up in the red, white and blue of the United Kingdom. In Britain, people started gathering outside royal palaces in the early hours of Saturday morning, with thousands flocking to Buckingham Palace to pay respects to the queen and Charles - who was proclaimed king at the nearby St James's Palace. It's a poignant time in our country's history, design manager Ian Bilboe, 54, said. (We're) here to be part of that and show respect to the late queen and also to the new king. Charles is king and head of state of the United Kingdom and 14 other realms including Australia, Canada, Jamaica, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. Britain has declared a period of mourning until the state funeral for Elizabeth, once described by her grandson Harry as the nation's grandmother. The date for that has not been announced but it is expected in a little over a week's time. Leaders from around the world are expected in London for the funeral, including U.S. President Joe Biden, who said on Friday he would attend. Charles' coronation as king will take place at a later date - and the timing for that is not yet clear. There was a 16-month gap between Elizabeth becoming queen in 1952 and her coronation in 1953.The new king vowed on Friday to serve the nation with loyalty, respect and love in his first address to the nation as king. Earlier on Friday, returning to London from Scotland where his mother died, he was greeted with cheers, applause and a crowd singing "God Save The King" as he made his first public appearance outside Buckingham Palace. Charles also said in his address that he had made his eldest son William, 40, the new Prince of Wales, the title that had been his for more than 50 years and is traditionally held by the heir to the throne. William's wife Kate becomes Princess of Wales, a role last held by the late Princess Diana. Thousands have gathered since Thursday at royal palaces to pay their respects to the late queen, with some shedding tears as they laid flowers and others wanting to celebrate the life of a monarch who for most Britons was the only they have ever known. Elizabeth, who was the world's oldest and longest-serving head of state, came to the throne following the death of her father King George VI on Feb. 6, 1952, when she was just 25. Over the decades she witnessed a seismic change in the social, political and economic structure of her nation. She won praise for guiding the monarchy into the 21st Century and modernizing it in the process, despite intense media scrutiny and the often highly public travails of her family. Charles, who opinion polls indicate is less popular than his mother, now has the task of securing the institution's future. 

Hong Kong government scraps quarantine rules for air crew.

 By Web desk 10th Sep 2022

Hong Kong will scrap its quarantine rules for locally based airline crew from Saturday, the government said on Friday, a key step in unwinding draconian Covid-19 rules which have isolated the Asian financial hub. Under the new arrangements, locally based air crew can return home after obtaining a negative result of the nucleic acid test conducted at the airport, it said in a statement. Travelers leaving Hong Kong will no longer be required to go through temperature screening, the government said in a separate statement on Friday. Previously air crew had to quarantine at a hotel for three nights before returning home. The measure had resulted in many airlines including Virgin and British Airways to suspend operations in the Chinese special administrative region due to the strict rules. Other airlines have severely curtailed operations making it very difficult for people to travel to or from the city. The adjustments were made after the U.S. put Hong Kong in the Reconsider Travel advisory level late last month, warning Americans of arbitrary enforcement of local laws and Covid-19-related restrictions. Exercise increased caution in China due to wrongful detentions, the U.S. Bureau of Consular Affairs wrote on its website. Hong Kong has tightly controlled its border with the mainland and the rest of the world for more than two-and-a-half-years, in line with China's zero-Covid policy of stamping out outbreaks as they arise with tough restrictions. The city of 7.3 million people relies heavily on international business and travel, and the restrictions have damaged its economy and led to the exodus of tens of thousands of residents. The new rule will effectively facilitate airlines to enhance flight services between Hong Kong and other parts of the world, and enable Hong Kong to play its role as an international aviation hub, the government said. Business groups, diplomats and many residents have slammed the city's Covid-19 rules, saying they threaten Hong Kong's competitiveness and standing as a global financial centre. Masks are mandated in most places in Hong Kong and gatherings of more than four people are prohibited. Hong Kong has reported more than 1.5 million Covid infections and over 9,000 deaths since the pandemic began.

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth dead at 96 after 70 years on throne.

 By Web desk 9th Sep 2022

Queen Elizabeth took the throne at the age of 25 following her father’s death in 1952. The monarch had suffered ‘episodic mobility issues’ in recent months and reduced her royal duties.

Queen Elizabeth II, whose reign took Britain from the age of steam to the era of the smartphone, and who oversaw the largely peaceful breakup of an empire that once spanned the globe, has died. She was 96. "The Queen died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon," Buckingham Palace said in a statement on Thursday. "The King and The Queen Consort will remain at Balmoral this evening and will return to London tomorrow." Her eldest son Charles, 73, automatically becomes king of the United Kingdom and the head of state of 14 other realms including Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

In a statement, Charles called the death of his mother “a moment of the greatest sadness for me and all members of my family,” adding: “I know her loss will be deeply felt throughout the country, the Realms and the Commonwealth, and by countless people around the world.”

British Prime Minister Liz Truss, appointed by the queen just 48 hours earlier, pronounced the country “devastated” and called Elizabeth “the rock on which modern Britain was built.”

The BBC played the national anthem, “God Save the Queen,” over a portrait of her in full regalia as her death was announced, and the flag over Buckingham Palace was lowered to half-staff as the second Elizabethan age came to a close. The Queen's family had rushed to be by her side at her Scottish home, Balmoral Castle, after doctors expressed concern about her health. She had been suffering from what Buckingham Palace has called "episodic mobility problems" since the end of last year, forcing her to withdraw from nearly all her public engagements. Ascending the throne in 1952, Elizabeth led the UK through a time of political upheaval. She began her reign as head of an empire, albeit one in decline. By the time of her death, the future of the UK itself was in doubt, with recurrent calls for independence in Scotland and Britain’s exit from the European Union leading to renewed tension in Northern Ireland. Elizabeth became the UK’s longest-serving monarch in 2015, when she surpassed the record of Queen Victoria, who had ruled from 1837 to 1901. The partner whom Elizabeth described as her “strength and stay,” Prince Philip, her husband of 73 years, died in April 2021, at 99. Her eldest son, Charles, succeeds her on the throne. Elizabeth reached the end of her reign with her popularity thoroughly rehabilitated after a period of criticism in the 1990s, which culminated in media-fueled outrage at the family’s muted response to Princess Diana’s death in 1997. When she celebrated 60 years on the throne in 2012, the same year London hosted the Olympic Games, hundreds of thousands of people thronged the streets of London for four days of Diamond Jubilee events. Her Platinum Jubilee, marking 70 years on the throne, took place in 2022. The celebration of her reign was marked with an appearance on the balcony of Buckingham Palace by a slimmed-down group comprising direct heirs to the throne and their immediate family. In another symbolic moment of the continuity of monarchy, her heir, Prince Charles, and his first son, Prince William, both paid public tributes to the queen in front of a crowd of tens of thousands who flooded the area around the palace for a live concert. One of the biggest challenges during her reign came from the media’s unrelenting focus on the private lives of her children and grandchildren. Prince Charles’ wedding to Lady Diana Spencer in 1981 was seen on television by an estimated 750 million people. Archbishop Robert Runcie, who celebrated the marriage, called it the “stuff of which fairy tales are made” and the couple quickly had two children, Princes William and Harry. But within a few years the marriage was showing signs of strain as Charles and Diana openly snubbed each other on public outings and soon the tabloids were reporting their respective infidelities in minute detail. 

 Queen’s Counsel

The queen reportedly attempted to rescue her son’s marriage and, with it, the prestige of the crown, urging the couple to stay together and put on a brave face. She had little sympathy for their emotional upheavals, according to biographers. Nor did the queen have much obvious fondness for the attention-seeking and photogenic Diana, who resisted the conventions of the court and upstaged Elizabeth. “She simply did not want anything to do with that impossible girl,” Martin Charteris, the queen’s former private secretary, told Carolly Erickson for her 2004 biography, “Lilibet: An Intimate Portrait of Queen Elizabeth II.” But Diana’s rapport with the public was storing up problems for Elizabeth. Compared with the charismatic princess, the queen appeared more attached to her pet corgis, her horses and her palaces than to her subjects. On a chilly November night in 1992, Windsor Castle, where she had spent part of her childhood, was set ablaze after a tungsten lamp burned a curtain in the private chapel. Some of the castle’s grandest rooms were gutted.  

 Annus Horribilis

The uninsured castle required tens of millions of pounds’ worth of repair, which the British taxpayer was in no mood to pay: The queen was already under pressure for being tax-exempt. Shortly after the fire, Buckingham Palace announced that both she and Charles would pay taxes on their private incomes. The Windsor fire came to symbolize the litany of misfortunes — including the divorces of two of her other adult children — that befell the queen in a year she would later describe as an “annus horribilis.” Journalist Andrew Morton published a tell-all biography of Princess Diana, with help from the princess herself. Another of the queen’s daughters-in-law, Sarah Ferguson, was photographed tanning in the company of a doting lover and Charles and Diana finally announced the end of their marriage. When Diana was killed in a car crash in Paris on Aug. 31, 1997, along with her lover, Dodi Al Fayed, a high-profile Egyptian billionaire’s son, an impression began to take hold of the queen as a heartless figure, cut off from the public’s concerns.

 ‘Show Us’

While the entire country went into mourning, the queen remained at her summer residence at Balmoral Castle in Scotland and initially resisted calls for a flag to be flown at half-staff over Buckingham Palace. “Show us you care,” urged the headline in the Daily Express newspaper. “Speak to Us, Ma’am,” pleaded the Mirror. “Not one word has come from the royal lip, not one tear has been shed in public from a royal eye,” the Sun wrote. The queen — who had been staying with her grandsons after the death of their mother — finally returned to London five days after the princess’s death, and delivered a televised address. She described Diana as “an exceptional and gifted human being” who had “made many, many people happy,” though she stopped short of expressing personal affection for her late daughter-in-law. Over time, Charles’s mistress, Camilla Parker-Bowles, emerged from the shadows and was accepted at court. When they married, almost eight years after Diana’s death, the queen was present at a service of blessing in Windsor Castle and hosted a reception for them, although she didn’t attend the civil ceremony. In a sign of Camilla’s full acceptance into royal life, the queen said in 2022 she should be named queen as Charles’ consort.

 Early Years

Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor was born on April 21, 1926, in the London district of Mayfair. Initially unable to pronounce her given name, she called herself Lilibet, a nickname that became widely used by close relatives. “She has an air of authority and reflectiveness astonishing in an infant,” Winston Churchill, later to be the queen’s first prime minister, said of the two-year-old Princess Elizabeth after a visit to her parents. Schooled at home by tutors, little Lilibet was, according to governess Marion Crawford, “very lovable” and fond of horses. Elizabeth was 10 years old when her life was transformed. Her uncle, Edward VIII, gave up the crown so that he could marry Wallis Simpson, an American divorcee, and Elizabeth’s father, Prince Albert, reluctantly became King George VI. The family moved to Buckingham Palace and Elizabeth, his first-born, was suddenly heir to the throne. Her memories of the abdication reportedly reinforced her strong sense of public duty, which later became a hallmark of her reign.

 Wartime Life

During World War II, the king refused to send Elizabeth and her sister Margaret to Canada, keeping them instead in royal residences outside the capital. When Nazi bombers pounded the East End of London in September 1940, the royal couple visited the victims. Buckingham Palace was also hit by German air raids. In 1945, with the war drawing to a close, Elizabeth Windsor was allowed to join the Auxiliary Territorial Service, the women’s branch of the British army, as a second lieutenant, becoming the first female member of the royal family to be a full-time active member of the services. She took a six-week course in driving and vehicle maintenance, learning to steer convoy trucks and strip engines. Once the war was over, the princess made clear she was in love with Prince Philip of Greece, whom she had met in 1939 when the royal family visited Dartmouth Naval College. The two were betrothed in July 1947 and married four months later at Westminster Abbey. Philip became Duke of Edinburgh. Charles, the heir to the throne, was born a year later. 

 Becoming Queen

 In the years following the war, the British Empire was starting to come undone. India shook off British rule in August 1947, Burma, now known as Myanmar, won independence in 1948, and Ireland declared itself a republic in 1949. In 1952, on a trip to Kenya, Princess Elizabeth learned of her father’s death. She immediately flew back to Britain, to be greeted as queen by Churchill as she disembarked from her plane. Elizabeth was crowned in Westminster Abbey in June 1953 in a televised ceremony, a first for the monarchy that was watched by more than 20 million people, half of Britain’s adult population. While the monarch’s role was a largely ceremonial one and Elizabeth had next to no say in government matters, she met each of her prime ministers once a week for a confidential discussion of which no record was kept, giving her a unique perspective on the life of her nation. Her final premier, Liz Truss, was invited to form a government in a meeting at Balmoral Castle on Sept. 6. In those weekly meetings, the queen listened to concerns over domestic and foreign policy, trawled through daily red boxes of state briefings, and helped smooth diplomatic relations by hosting world leaders. She also kept up a busy schedule of events, including opening ceremonies and meetings with people across the UK and elsewhere, as well as regularly touring Commonwealth countries. In her initial years as sovereign, the queen forged close ties with Churchill. “Like her father, and her grandfather, she was a natural conservative,” wrote biographer Kenneth Harris. 

 1969 Documentary

Churchill had served her father, George VI, during the war years, and Elizabeth and her prime minister frequently exchanged admiring letters, according to Churchill biographer Martin Gilbert. As the 1960s unfolded, with the empire disintegrating, social change gripped Britain. The royal family made a conscious attempt to demystify its image, with the queen, Prince Philip and their children featuring in a fly-on-the-wall television documentary in 1969. They were seen for the first time doing everyday things, such as eating dinner and having a picnic. While the intention was to present a more modern, informal view of the family, it also opened the door to wider television and press coverage of their activities which over the following years sparked controversy. The monarchy has historically been tinged with an aura of mystery, and as Victorian journalist and economist Walter Bagehot put it: “We must not let in daylight upon magic.” Harris wrote that while the royal family “must rely on the media,” he also said that “beyond a point, the members of the royal family do not want publicity.” In the Silver Jubilee year of 1977 the decline in deference was illustrated by the release of a single by the English punk band the Sex Pistols called “God Save the Queen.” The record had a defaced picture of the monarch on its cover and contained the lyrics, “God save the queen, the fascist regime.” The BBC banned its staff from playing it on air. The queen’s relationship with Margaret Thatcher, who became Conservative prime minister in May 1979, was described in the press as cool, though Thatcher denied that in her memoir “The Downing Street Years.”  

 Two Women

 “Of course, under the circumstances, stories of clashes between ‘two powerful women’ were just too good not to make up,” Thatcher wrote. She instead emphasized the queen’s “formidable grasp of current issues and breadth of experience.” When Thatcher died in 2013, Elizabeth joined the mourners in London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral, the first time she had attended the funeral of a British prime minister since that of Churchill in 1965. By the turn of the millennium, the popularity of the royals was recovering from the dark days of the 1990s and a new generation of the family was also starting to come on the scene. William and Harry were drawing more media attention, which intensified when William started dating Catherine Middleton, whom he had met at St. Andrews University. The queen’s Golden Jubilee celebrations in 2002, to mark 50 years on the throne, drew bigger crowds than expected. The eventual royal wedding in 2011, marked by a national holiday, signaled that the rehabilitation was close to complete. William and Kate, who came across as a down-to-earth couple in tune with the times, had helped soften the memories of Charles and Diana’s indiscretions. The birth of their son, George, in July 2013, also delighted the public. Two other children followed.

 New Generation

 As William and Kate, now the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, took on more public roles, the queen scaled back, saying at the end of 2016 that she would give up some of her charity work. Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle, by contrast, decided to give up their duties as working members of the Royal Family and move to the US. Markle, whose mother is Black, said in an interview with Oprah Winfrey in March 2021 that an unnamed senior royal had asked how dark her unborn son’s skin color would be, prompting a rare public response from the queen, who said the issues raised by the couple would be taken very seriously. The Palace also battled to contain a controversy over Prince Andrew’s friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, with a legal settlement eventually reached in February 2022 after he had stepped down from royal duties. He was also stripped of military ranks and royal patronages, although the queen demonstrated her fondness for her second son by giving him a prominent position at Prince Philip’s memorial service. With the end of Elizabeth’s reign, the British establishment loses a figure who has been able to connect each of her prime ministers with Churchill and the wartime spirit which has become a key part of the national identity. David Cameron, the 12th premier to serve under Elizabeth, said that he valued their weekly audiences as an opportunity to draw on “her knowledge, her commitment, her time-tested wisdom” and “an abundance of what I would call ‘Great British common sense,’ the ability to cut through the fuss and see what really matters.”

 Spirit of Fun

She was also known for a quiet sense of mischief. According to one widely reported anecdote, when out walking near Balmoral, she ran into a couple of American tourists, who failed to recognize her but were delighted to learn she had a house nearby. “Have you ever met the queen?” they asked. “No,” she replied, before pointing at the plainclothes policeman accompanying her. “But he has.” That spirit of fun was on display once again at the London Olympics in 2012. The opening ceremony featured the queen in her first movie role, in a short film in which she was met by James Bond actor Daniel Craig at Buckingham Palace. “Good evening, Mr. Bond,” the queen said, before she was apparently taken by helicopter and parachuted in to the Olympic Stadium — a stunt for which she had a stand-in. “You don’t have to tell her something twice,” said the director, Danny Boyle. “She picks it up straight away, about cameras and angles. She is a good actor.” In 2022 the Queen delighted the British public when she performed a skit with a CGI version of Paddington Bear. In the sketch, the monarch showed her sense of humor by “revealing” that she kept a marmalade sandwich in her handbag, the snack favored by the fictional bear.

Head of Hong Kong journalists group arrested while reporting.

 By Web desk 8th Sep 2022

The leader of Hong Kong’s largest journalists group was arrested on allegations of obstructing police, in the latest case to fan concerns about press freedom in the city. Hong Kong Journalists Association Chairman Ronson Chan Ron-sing was arrested Wednesday while reporting on a story, his news outlet, Channel C, reported. Chan, a deputy assignment editor, was detained while in the area of Mong Kok while trying report on a residential estate committee meeting about a property development, the outlet said. The Hong Kong police said in a statement that a 41-year-old man named Chan was arrested in Mong Kok on suspicion of obstructing a police officer and public disorder after acting suspiciously and refusing to show his identity card. The man was being held pending further investigation, the police said. Chan said in a text message to Bloomberg News he had been released without charge, and would need to report to police later this month. In a Facebook post published at about 3am, he apologized for worrying people. The international press freedom group Reporters Without Borders called for Chan’s “immediate release” in a Twitter post late Wednesday. Hong Kong fell 68 places year on year to 148th place in Reporters Without Borders’s most recent World Press Freedom Index as China cracks down on dissent in the former British colony. Several pro-democracy media outlets have shut down in the wake of a Beijing-drafted national security law implemented in June 2020. Apple Daily, the city’s largest pro-democracy newspaper, was forced to close last year after the government seized its assets, while independent media outlets including Stand News and Citizen News have also ceased publication. Both Chan and the Hong Kong Journalists Association have come under criticism from authorities and pro-Beijing media. Security Secretary Chris Tang last year said that the organization “infiltrates” schools to attract students to journalism, a claim the HKJA has denied. 

Liz Truss to continue UK’s hawkish stance towards Hong Kong authorities, analysts say.

By Web desk 7th Sep 2022

But scholars also predict London will not launch any new measures targeting Hong Kong or its ministers, with UK to focus on domestic front. British pathway to citizenship scheme for Hongkongers likely to continue under Truss as means of pressuring Beijing, one adds.

New British Prime Minister Liz Truss is expected to maintain her country’s hawkish stance towards the Hong Kong government, political analysts have said, with a special UK citizenship path for migrants from the city likely to continue. But scholars on Tuesday also predicted that London would not launch any new measures targeting Hong Kong or its ministers, as the leader would be focused on soaring energy prices and living costs at home. On the international front, Truss was also expected to priorities support for Ukraine in its war against Russia, they said. Ting Wang-leung, a political lecturer at the University of Reading, said such concerns would take up the new leader’s time rather than ones relating to mainland China or Hong Kong, adding she was unlikely to have the means to drum up support for further diplomatic actions against the city.

 

 Coronavirus

Hong Kong leader John Lee says no decision made on any further easing of hotel quarantine rules.

 By Web desk 6th Sep 2022

Chief Executive John Lee also denies any internal conflict among officials during discussions on Covid-19 strategy. Focus is on boosting vaccination rate among the elderly and children, he says.

Hong Kong has not come to any decision on whether all hotel quarantine measures can be lifted by November as the current focus is on dealing with high Covid-19 infection numbers and boosting the vaccination rate among the elderly and children, the city’s leader has said. Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu on Tuesday also denied there had been any internal conflict among officials during discussions on Covid-19 strategy, contrary to claims in a news report last week. In the fight against the pandemic, the government team is united. Our working relationship is pleasant and good, we will discuss all the pros and cons during our discussion, and the team will be consistent when implementing policies, Lee told a press briefing ahead of the first Executive Council meeting since the summer recess.

Use consumption vouchers to boost elderly vaccinations, health expert suggests.

 By Web desk 5th Sep 2022

The consumptions vouchers should be a financial incentive for the elderly to get vaccinated, the head of Hong Kong University's Centre for Infection, Ho Pak-leung, suggested on Monday. Speaking on a radio program this morning, the microbiologist said there are currently around 300,000 elderly aged 60 or above in the city yet to receive a single dose of Covid-19 vaccine, calling on authorities to provide more incentives to encourage vaccine uptake among them. Ho proposed that extra consumption vouchers could be distributed to elderlies who received all three doses of the Covid vaccine. Meanwhile, he urged authorities to enhance the dissemination of anti-epidemic information, especially to the elderly. The health expert said a number of elderly in the city have misconceptions about the epidemic that prompt unnecessary worries, leading to problems including the elderly’s refusal to take Covid drugs or report their infections. Hong Kong should ease the hotel quarantine measures for arrivals sooner, scrapping the hotel quarantine and replacing it with seven days of medical surveillance at home. He explained that imported cases only made up a small portion of Hong Kong's daily cases, in which the easing of the quarantine measures will pose minimal effect on the tally. However, if the easing is executed in winter near the end of this year, there is a much greater risk of seeing new Covid strains entering Hong Kong, he added.

Hospital Authority curtails service to fight the Covid epidemic.

 By Web desk 4th Sep 2022

The Hospital Authority (HA) announced Sunday that Lady Trench General Out-Patient Clinic's evening clinic session would be suspended from tomorrow. HA spokesman said the service curtailment focuses workforce and resources on enhancing further Designated Clinic and tele-consultation services for supporting patients confirmed with Covid-19 infection. HA will continue to monitor the situation and service demand. The spokesman added that if the epidemic continues to deteriorate, further services will be curtailed to mobilise more manpower to fight the outbreak.

China launches campaign against online rumors ahead of party congress 

 Web desk 03 Sep 2022

China's cyberspace watchdog said on Friday it would a launch a three-month campaign to clear up (rumors and false information involving major meetings), just weeks before the ruling Communist Party holds its five-yearly congress. General Secretary Xi Jinping is poised to secure a historic third leadership term at the congress, which is due to start on Oct. 16. The weeks immediately preceding this politically sensitive event are usually busy periods for the country's sprawling public security and online police apparatus, tasked with ensuring stability at all costs. While the congress was not mentioned in the announcement on Friday, the first work task of the campaign was to deal "strictly and quickly" with (rumors and false information involving major meetings), important events, and important policy announcements, according to a statement published on the official WeChat account of the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC). Xi is all but guaranteed to secure a third term as party general secretary, which will break a norm adhered to by his two predecessors to step down after 10 years, or two full terms. The CAC, which wields outsize influence in deciding what gets taken down or promoted on China's highly censored Internet, said that the campaign targeting online rumors would be "guided by General Secretary Xi Jinping's important thoughts on a strong cyberspace". It also said the campaign would increase the punishment of rumor-mongering behavior, investigate and expose typical cases to form a strong deterrent, maximize the squeezing of space for online rumors and false information. Under Xi, online speech has become further constrained, with social media platforms recently being imposed heavy fines if they fail to tackle discourse the Party considers unfavorable to its interests. Besides policing rumors about major meetings, the CAC said that other tasks in its campaign included stopping rumors about epidemics, the economy, public security, as well as the slandering of China's heroes and martyrs. It also said that it would supervise online platforms to improve technologies capable of tracing and containing active and even potential rumormongers, such as influential online accounts not affiliated with or run by the state. Do a good job of incremental containment, strengthen daily monitoring and analysis, the CAC said. When it comes information that is impactful and spread far by non-authoritative sources, take the initiative to the relevant departments for verification, swiftly identify and dispose, strive to nip new rumors and false information in the bud. 

Coronavirus

REVERCE QUARANTINE scheme may not bring much relief for Hong Kong travellers crossing border to mainland, say businesses and NGOs

By Web desk 2nd Sep 2022

The minimum seven-day quarantine in the city remains a big deterrent, says NGO deputy director City leader John Lee says he has secured backing from mainland authorities for the proposed scheme, to be implemented as soon as possible

The new REVERCE QUARANTINE arrangement planned by Hong Kong authorities may not provide much-needed relief to travellers heading to mainland China, businesses and NGOs have said, calling instead for sufficient quota slots and the isolation duration to be shortened. Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu said on Thursday he had secured the backing of mainland authorities for the new scheme, allowing travellers to undergo Covid-19 isolation in the city before crossing the border. Under the proposal, a local makeshift Covid-19 treatment facility at the Lok Ma Chau Loop, an area near the border, could be used to quarantine travellers. A government source said a few thousand places at the centre could be set aside initially for this purpose.

Coronavirus

Back to school for tens of thousands of Hong Kong pupils as stricter Covid vaccination rules loom.

 By Web desk 1st Sep 2022

In addition to taking daily Covid-19 test on Thursday, pupils and teachers were told to provide results for the previous two days. Parents of primary school pupils glad to see their children back at school, even for half-day lessons.

Tens of thousands of pupils in Hong Kong returned to school for the start of the new academic year on Thursday amid a government decision to tighten the vaccine thresholds for full-day in-person classes to combat a surge in Covid-19 cases. The return to classrooms this month came after a turbulent year, with students from many schools forced to take some of their summer break in March, face-to-face lessons restricted to half days and coronavirus tests required on a daily basis. In addition to taking a daily rapid antigen test (RAT) before turning up at school on Thursday, pupils and teachers were told to provide results for Tuesday and Wednesday.

John Lee’s first visit to Guangzhou and Shenzhen cancelled amid pandemic fears, border-reopening talks to move online

 By Web desk 31st Aug 2022

The chief executive was earlier expected to meet mainland authorities to discuss cross-border travel arrangements. City fighting surge in coronavirus infections, with health authorities reporting 8,848 new cases on Tuesday.

Hong Kong’s leader will discuss cross-border arrangements with mainland Chinese authorities in an online conference on Thursday, after his first official visit to Guangzhou and Shenzhen was postponed amid pandemic fears. Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu said on Wednesday the talks had moved online because of the worsening Covid-19 situations on both sides. Both the mainland and Hong Kong sides have coronavirus outbreaks to deal with. As far as anti-epidemic measures are concerned, I believe that this is the most convenient way for me to meet them and also join two opening ceremonies virtually in Nansha tomorrow.

 

China arrests hundreds in nation's biggest-ever bank fraud probe 

 By Web desk 30 Aug 2022

China arrested hundreds of people allegedly involved in the nation’s largest ever bank fraud and started repaying more victims of the US$5.8 billion scandal, in a bid to maintain social stability ahead of this year’s twice-a-decade Communist Party congress. Police in Xuchang city of Henan province arrested 234 suspects tied to the scam and made significant progress in recovering the stolen money, according to a statement late Monday. Police have said that a criminal gang led by suspect Lv Yi illegally controlled four rural lenders including Yuzhou Xinminsheng Village Bank, offering rates as high as 18 percent to attract funds that officials say amounted to 40 billion yuan (US$5.8 billion). Local authorities said they are repaying more victims, on top of the 18 billion yuan doled out as of mid-August. Investors with deposits of 400,000 yuan to 500,000 yuan will be repaid starting early Tuesday, the authorities said. Those who have lost more will be getting an initial sum of 500,000 yuan with the remainder reserved for now. Hundreds of protesters took to the streets in Henan earlier this year after being denied access to their deposits and investments from the rural banks. The scam dealt the biggest hit to confidence in China’s US$52 trillion banking system since 2019, when the government seized control of a lender in Inner Mongolia. The Communist Party is gearing up for its 20th congress later this year, where President Xi Jinping is expected to secure an unprecedented third term. Social stability ahead of the meeting is being put a premium as slowing economic growth, Covid lockdowns and a rumbling property crisis are creating hardships for broad swathes of the population. Regulators were urged to maintain stability in the financial markets and severely crack down on financial crimes at a Politburo meeting in late July. Although village banks aren’t allowed to seek deposits from outside their local area, the lenders involved in the scam marketed their deposits online via third-party platforms, making it a national problem. China has been trying for years to root out problems in its troubled rural banking system, a network of some 3,800 lenders which hold the lowest capital on hand against risky assets among peers. Beijing has raised 64.6 billion yuan in the first batch for a stability fund to bail out troubled financial institutions. 

 

Another Hongkonger returns home after being caught up in Southeast Asia forced labour scam.

By Web desk 29th Aug 2022

Security Bureau says man returned safely from Thailand on Sunday. Hong Kong authorities have received 42 requests for help in relation to scam since January.

One more Hong Kong victim of a job scam luring residents to Southeast Asia for forced labour has been brought back home, bringing the total number of returnees to 23. The Security Bureau said the man returned safely from Thailand on Sunday. It noted his return was a joint effort by the foreign ministry’s office in the city, Chinese embassies in Myanmar and Thailand, a bureau task force and the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Bangkok.

 

Coronavirus

Hong Kong leader John Lee to pursue reopening of border with mainland China on Guangdong trip.

 By Web desk 28th Aug 2022

Hong Kong and mainland on same page on sorting out measures to restore quarantine-free travel, he says. Chief executive says he will lay down precise strategies and target high-risk activities in combating current wave of Covid-19 cases in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong’s leader will pursue the reopening of the border with mainland China during an expected visit to Guangdong province next week even though Covid-19 infection numbers have surged with the overall tally breaking through 1.5 million cases. Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu on Saturday said he was very conscious of the need to maintain the city’s connectivity with both the mainland and overseas countries, pointing to his decisions to halt a flight suspension mechanism and shorten the hotel quarantine period for arrivals since taking office in July. He said Hong Kong and the mainland were on the same page on sorting out viable measures to restore quarantine-free travel.

Suicides among elderly increase, Hong Kong charity blames coronavirus and increased loneliness.

 By Web desk 27th Aug 2022

One in every 2.3 deaths by suicide last year involved the elderly, charity says. Executive director of Suicide Prevention Services warns problem could get worse.

One in every 2.3 deaths by suicide in Hong Kong last year involved the elderly and a suicide prevention group put part of the blame for the statistic on the long-running coronavirus pandemic. Hong Kong recorded 1,010 deaths by suicide last year, eight down on the 1,018 recorded in 2020, but an increase of 10 per cent on the 916 logged in 2017. The statistics showed 446 suicides involved people aged 60 or above, 44 per cent of the total deaths.

Hong Kong applications for pathway to UK citizenship fall by almost 8 per cent in second quarter, British figures reveal.

 By Web desk 26th Aug 2022

Immigration specialists say Covid-19 restrictions and demand for education in the UK continue to fuel demand. But fears over MPF pension transfers may have helped cut demand for scheme in second quarter of the year.

The number of Hongkongers who have applied for a new route to British citizenship dropped by almost 8 per cent in the second quarter compared with the first three months of the year, but immigration specialists said the city’s coronavirus restrictions continued to fuel interest in moving to the UK. British government figures released on Thursday showed there were 18,100 applications for the British National (Overseas) visa programme between April and June, down by 1,400 from the 19,500 recorded between January and March. Almost all of the applications – 96 per cent – were filed from outside Britain and the remainder were made from inside the United Kingdom.

Judges shut down bid for same-sex marriage.

 By Web desk 25th Aug 2022

Pan-democratic and LGBT rights activist Jimmy Sham Tsz-kit's legal bid to make Hong Kong recognize same-sex marriages registered overseas has been rejected by the Court of Appeal once again. The court said the recognition of same-sex marriage is clearly contrary to the intention of the drafters of the Basic Law, stressing that legal marriage in Hong Kong is restricted to heterosexual couples only. Sham married his husband in New York in 2013 but his marriage is not recognized in Hong Kong. He filed a judicial review in 2018 against the government's decision as he believes same-sex couples should enjoy the same rights as heterosexual couples but it was dismissed in 2020. He filed an appeal but that was also rejected by three Court of Appeal judges - Jeremy Poon Shiu-chor, Susan Kwan Shuk-hing and Carlye Chu Fun-ling. In a written judgment yesterday, the judges said current law does not mandate the authorities to take positive steps in offering equal treatment to same-sex couples, adding marriages involve complicated issues and laws governing the recognition of marriage cannot be easily changed. Same-sex marriage was only recognized legally for the first time in the world when the Netherlands provided for it in 2001, the judges said. Self-evidently, the drafters of the Basic Law must have only used the term 'marriage' in the traditional sense of it being a union between a heterosexual couple. Any suggestion otherwise is divorced from reality. The judges said the Basic Law recognizes marriages in Hong Kong of couples married both locally and overseas, but only heterosexual couples are entitled to recognition of their foreign marriage. If the same recognition is afforded to same-sex couples married overseas, they would be able to circumvent the preference enshrined in (the Basic Law) clearly contrary to the intention of the drafters of the Basic Law, the judges said. That would also create an inherent incompatibility between them and those same-sex couples who wanted to marry in Hong Kong but could not. Sham did not attend the hearing yesterday as he was in custody awaiting the primary election case. That comes on the heels of Singapore's decision to decriminalize sex between men. But Singapore will still not allow same-sex marriages.

Relaxed rules on overseas delegates at some Hong Kong conventions welcomed by industry

By Web desk 24th Aug 2022

 Hong Kong government to allow overseas visitors to attend business to business trade shows in city during four-day medical surveillance period. Change in regulations welcomed, but convention industry figures appeal for all isolation restrictions to be axed.

The lucrative convention sector has welcomed the Hong Kong government’s decision to allow overseas delegates to attend city trade shows in the four days after Covid-19 hotel quarantine, but appealed for an end to isolation restrictions to further boost business. The industry earlier urged the government to lift travel restrictions and said the shortened quarantine made no difference to the sector as visitors could not attend events while under medical surveillance. Relaxing restrictions for business travellers in attending business to business events is an affirmative measure supporting the exhibition and convention industry to rebound, and a positive sign to resume the MICE, or meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions, market gradually, a spokeswoman for the city’s AsiaWorld-Expo said.

Can Hong Kong regain its status as a leading aviation hub? Analysts optimistic about city’s prospects despite Singapore’s Changi Airport forging ahead with planned expansion

 By Web desk 23rd Aug 2022

Changi Airport’s Terminal 5 expansion underlines Singapore’s commitment to capitalize on its leading aviation hub status in Asia. Experts point to Hong Kong’s own airport expansion project, which is scheduled for completion in 2024.

Analysts are optimistic about Hong Kong’s ability to regain its role as a major aviation hub once coronavirus restrictions are lifted despite Singapore’s Changi Airport forging ahead with a planned expansion, underlining its commitment to capitalize on its leading status in Asia. Experts pointed to the city’s own airport expansion project, which is scheduled for completion in 2024, while work on Changi’s Terminal 5, which will involve new features for handling future pandemics, will not be finished until the mid-2030s. Singapore’s Ministry of Transport on Sunday released details about the new design for the terminal, saying it would be able to operate as smaller sub-terminals with space which could be converted for Covid-19 testing or separating high-risk passengers.

 

Former Hong Kong opposition lawmaker Albert Ho granted bail while facing national security charge after serving jail time for illegal assembly.

 By Web desk 22nd Aug 2022

 Former vice-chairman of now-defunct Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China was jailed in May 2021 over previous offence. He was charged with inciting others to subvert state power while behind bars and has been held till now.

Former Hong Kong opposition lawmaker Albert Ho Chun-yan was on Monday released on bail while facing a national security charge laid against him when he was serving time behind bars for unlawful assembly. Ho, a former vice-chairman of the now-defunct Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, was jailed in May 2021 for 18 months over an illegal gathering in October 2019.

Hong Kong’s John Lee hints at raising daily quota of residents allowed to cross into mainland China.

By Web desk 21st Aug 2022

But Lee stresses at public talk on his upcoming policy address that any increase must be gradual. He also calls for more ideas on how city can attract talent, while community leaders question him on housing shortage, youth development and national education.

Hong Kong’s leader has raised the possibility of expanding the quota of residents allowed to cross into mainland China each day from the current 2,000, but stressed any increase must be gradual and in line with Beijing’s strategy to control the Covid-19 pandemic. Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu suggested boosting traffic across the border during a talk with more than 100 residents gathered at a government school on Saturday, one of dozens of sessions the leader had planned to gather feedback from residents as he prepares to deliver his maiden policy address on October 19. Lee sought their ideas on ways to attract talent to the city, a pressing concern as waves of emigration continue to erode the population and threaten the city’s status as a business hub, while community leaders pressed the leader over how he intended to approach the housing shortage, youth development and national education, among other priorities.

 

 A new Hong Kong story

Can battered city reclaim its image amid US-China tensions?

 By Web desk 20th Aug 2022

 City leader John Lee has made winning the narrative war a key task of his administration, but experts say it is more than just a publicity exercise. Changing perceptions of the city needs to be ‘a strategic conversation about the future image of mainland China and the future image of Hong Kong together’

Hong Kong’s reputation as a global city has taken multiple hits in recent years, from protests to a sweeping national security law and strict quarantine rules, but it wants to reclaim its image. Can it succeed against the odds? When the British press reported in June that UK ministers might have subjected their judges to political pressure over unfavourable rulings, Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee got behind her keyboard. What better evidence of the decline of Britain than the moral decline of British politicians? The top adviser from the Hong Kong government’s Executive Council fired away on Twitter.

China jails the oligarch Xiao Jianhua for 13 years, slapping an unprecedented US$8 billion fine on his Tomorrow Group

 By Web desk 19th Aug 2022

Canadian-Chinese tycoon guilty of illegally collecting public deposits, using entrusted assets in breach of trust, illegal use of funds and bribery, a Shanghai court says. Sentencing concludes a clean-up of Xiao’s financial empire, which was part of Beijing’s efforts to control financial risks.

A court in China has sentenced Xiao Jianhua, the founder of Tomorrow Group, to 13 years in prison, and slapped a fine of 55 billion yuan (US$8.1 billion) on the group, bookending the dramatic breakup of China’s largest privately owned financial empire after a five-year investigation. The Canadian-Chinese tycoon – who disappeared from a luxury hotel in Hong Kong in 2017 – was found guilty of illegally collecting public deposits, using entrusted assets in breach of trust, illegally using funds and bribery, the Global Times reported on Friday, citing the Shanghai No 1 Intermediate People’s Court. Xiao was also personally fined 6.5 million yuan. The sentencing wrapped up the cleaning up of Xiao’s financial empire with 3 trillion yuan of assets, and is part of Beijing’s ramped up efforts to control financial risks in recent years.

No-jury national security trial for Jimmy Lai, dozens more.

 By Web desk 18th Aug 2022

Three national security judges will preside without a jury over cases involving Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, founder of defunct Apple Daily newspaper, and one concerning a primary election procedure involving dozens of pro-democracy figures.

The Department of Justice said the arrangement does not undermine any legitimate rights and interests of the defendants. A case management hearing of Lai's case has been scheduled for the High Court on Monday, with security judges Esther Toh Lye-ping, Susana Maria D'Almada Remedios and Alex Lee Wan-tang involved. The hearing will start at 2.30pm and is expected to last an hour. Lai along with three companies linked to Apple Daily - Apple Daily Ltd, Apple Daily Printing and AD Internet - face charges of colluding with foreign forces to endanger national security and to "print, publish, sell, offer for sale, distribute, display and/or reproduce seditious publications." Lai was sentenced earlier to 20 months behind bars for illegal assembly cases and is now in Stanley Prison. Meanwhile, 47 politicians and activists in the primary election case are charged with conspiracy to subvert state powers under the national security law by organizing or taking part in primaries in 2020. It is understood the Department of Justice made the no-jury decision because the case involves "foreign factors" - the first time the department has cited this reason for not having a jury. Under the national security law, the secretary for justice can issue a certificate directing that the case be tried without a jury on the grounds of the protection of state secrets, involvement of foreign factors and the protection of personal safety of jurors and their families. When there is no jury for a national security case it is heard in the Court of First Instance by a panel of three judges. According to a certificate signed by Secretary for Justice Paul Lam Ting-kwok on August 13, the case should be heard without a jury because of foreign factors, juror safety and a risk justice might be impaired. The Department of Justice said, "The purpose of the relevant provisions that stipulate the arrangement for a case to be tried by a panel of three judges is precisely to ensure a fair trial and the due administration of justice." The department said Lam will take into account the circumstances of each case when considering whether to issue a certificate for the hearing to proceed without a jury. Executive Council member and lawyer Ronny Tong Ka-wah said as jurors lack legal training it would be difficult for them to discard personal political preferences and handle politically sensitive cases on an absolute legal basis. But he has confidence in Hong Kong's judicial independence, adding that justice will be better served by not having a jury in a politically based case.

 

Late arrivals face airport nightmare

 By Web desk 17th Aug 2022

Travelers arriving at the Hong Kong airport at night and testing Covid-19 positive are forced to stay there overnight for up to 12 hours as health authorities have failed to arrange night shift buses to carry them to isolation facilities, a Facebook group claims. A chat on Monday said some arrivals have complained that they suffered cold and hunger at the Hong Kong International Airport's baggage claim area. They also had to share restrooms with other travelers who tested negative for Covid, despite health experts warning of the risk of outbreaks. A traveler wrote, Heads up for families or travelers with late night flights. If you test positive on the RAT test, you will need to sleep in the baggage claim area. No joke, choose an earlier flight if you have a choice at booking. The traveler arrived about 11pm on Saturday from Tokyo but his six-year-old daughter tested positive at the airport. Staff told the family to stay at the baggage claim hall where some cots were placed and one parent could stay with the child while the rest of the family was sent to the quarantine hotel they had booked. Although the traveler said he strongly disagreed with this approach, he said had no choice but to let his wife accompany their daughter at the airport. However, instead of getting my wife and daughter on a bus to one of the three government isolation facilities we were told that they were sorry but the doctors and drivers do not work at night but would return at a time not known to them in the morning he said. Kind of unbelievable and truly avoidable and in my opinion seriously unacceptable he said, adding it was ironic that Covid patients were required to stay in the same area with other travelers and share the restroom with them. The Department of Health said last night the government will increase the frequency of transportation for transferring positive cases to isolation facilities during the small hours to reduce waiting time due to the increasing number of arrivals. It claimed that patients waiting at the airport are required to stay at a designated zone at the baggage reclaim hall with a restroom. The wife of the disappointed traveler, who has been undergoing seven-day isolation with their daughter since Sunday morning at Novotel Hong Kong Citygate in Tung Chung - one of the three free community isolation facilities - said yesterday that nobody offered anything to them at the airport. I was told that they would give us food in the morning and that a doctor would come - the reason why we had to wait. And no doctor ever came and no food was offered to us, she said. She added around eight to 10 travelers were stranded at the airport all night on Saturday. She said her daughter was almost asymptomatic with just a mild cough but still tested positive. We didn't receive any help from doctors or nurses after we landed. No one has even contacted us to see our progress with Covid. It's strange, in my opinion, she said. Another female traveler shared a similar experience when her 12-year-old daughter tested positive at the airport on Sunday night and they were trapped there from 10pm to 10am the following day. They just left us in the baggage claim area with no food, no blanket, no phone charging facilities also. The only thing the staff on duty said was, 'No, cannot and I don't know', the mother said. Once you are positive you will be taken to the baggage claim area and will be thrown there, she said. The worst is once you are positive, no one will come to check your temperature or even offer you any help. More than 24,000 travelers arrived at the airport from Friday to Monday after the hotel quarantine period was cut to three nights, from seven. The daily number of arrivals reached 7,428 on Sunday - the highest in months. Respiratory expert Leung Chi-chiu said yesterday that about two percent of inbound travelers would test positive and it was not an ideal arrangement to require Covid patients to stay at the airport overnight as they may pass the virus to other travelers and trigger clusters. It's possible that travelers who were not infected may catch the virus from them. As they only need to undergo a three-day quarantine at the hotels, the virus carried by them may not be detected and will enter the community, he said. Leung said that most imported cases now carry the highly contagious Omicron BA.5 sub variant and the arrangement for Covid patients at the airport may speed up the spread of BA.5 in the community. He said the government should arrange night shift shuttle buses for those testing positive at the airport or put them in a specific resting room. Since the Hong Kong government allows night flights to land in the city, they should set up related supporting facilities. That's what an international airport should do, he said.

Beijing sanctions 7 Taiwanese officials, bans them from visiting or doing business with mainland China.

 By Web desk 16th Aug 2022

Mainland’s Taiwan Affairs Office accuses seven, including six DPP members, of being pro-independence provocateurs. Sanctions announced following trips to the island by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and a US Congress delegation led by Democratic Senator Ed Markey.

Beijing has announced sanctions against seven Taiwanese government officials and politicians, saying they pushed a pro-independence agenda for the self-ruled island. The Taiwan Affairs Office of the Communist Party said on Tuesday those sanctioned and their family members would not be allowed to enter mainland China, Hong Kong or Macau. And organisations they were affiliated with could not cooperate with mainland organisations or individuals.

Why Afghanistan’s terrorism problem is bad for China – and Pakistan too.

By Web desk 15th Aug 2022

After al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahri’s killing, analysts warn instability under the Taliban could again turn Afghanistan into a terrorists’ haven. The group’s anti-Pakistan affiliate is also gathering in strength, threatening Chinese interests in a region filled with belt and road projects.

It’s not even been a full year since the chaotic US-led withdrawal from Afghanistan and already American drones are back in the war-torn country’s skies, hunting terrorists the Taliban had vowed never to allow back on Afghan soil again. Since a strike on a house in Kabul early in the morning of July 31 killed al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahri, US drones have been spotted circling over Afghanistan’s eastern provinces, seeking out more militant leaders from across the jihadist spectrum. Their presumed targets paint a murky picture, seemingly ranging from members of groups allied to the Taliban – al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent and Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) – to its sworn enemies Isis-K, the so-called Islamic State’s regional affiliate.

Hong Kong gets its first hydrogen-powered bus but, oops, it can’t hit the road yet.

 By Web desk 14th Aug 2022

 Plans to test hydrogen vehicles stall as city has no law on its production, storage, refuelling. Bus operators, green experts ask authorities to move faster, as hydrogen is still a ‘dangerous good’

Almost two months after Citybus showed off Hong Kong’s first hydrogen-powered double-decker, the vehicle has yet to leave the company’s depot. The customized bus, designed and built in Fujian province for Hong Kong’s hilly terrain, is stranded because hydrogen is still considered a dangerous substance and it remains illegal to drive a hydrogen-powered vehicle. Under current laws we cannot put the bus into service, said Kenny So Kwok-kin, a general manager at Bravo Transport parent company of Citybus Hong Kong’s second largest bus company. The government needs to bring forward regulations vigorously so that we can test it or adopt it on a large scale. Public transport operators and energy experts have warned that Hong Kong’s regulations are not keeping up with green tech development despite the authorities pledging for years to improve sustainability in mass transit systems. KMB Hong Kong’s biggest bus operator also said it was considering hydrogen-powered vehicles for its green fleet and had discussed it with manufacturers, suppliers and government agencies. Hong Kong’s bus operators are looking at ways to build more eco-friendly fleets with a combination of electric and hydrogen vehicles. Calls to develop hydrogen power began four years ago, when former environment chief Wong Kam-sing visited a hydrogen fuel cell manufacturer and a filling station in Japan. Last year city authorities, listed green transport in the climate action plan that aims to attain zero vehicular emissions before 2050.

Novelist Salman Rushdie on ventilator after New York stabbing. 

By Web desk 13th Aug 2022

Salman Rushdie, the Indian-born novelist who spent years in hiding after Iran urged Muslims to kill him because of his writing was stabbed in the neck and torso onstage at a lecture in New York state on Friday and airlifted to a hospital police said. After hours of surgery Rushdie was on a ventilator and unable to speak on Friday evening after an attack. The news is not good Andrew Wylie his book agent wrote in an email. Salman will likely lose one eye the nerves in his arm were severed and his liver was stabbed and damaged. Rushdie 75, was being introduced to give a talk to an audience of hundreds on artistic freedom at western New York's Chautauqua Institution when a man rushed to the stage and lunged at the novelist who has lived with a bounty on his head since the late 1980s. Stunned attendees helped wrest the man from Rushdie who had fallen to the floor. A New York State Police trooper providing security at the event arrested the attacker. Police identified the suspect as Hadi Matar, a 24-year-old man from Fairview, New Jersey, who bought a pass to the event. A man jumped up on the stage from I don't know where and started what looked like beating him on the chest, repeated fist strokes into his chest and neck, said Bradley Fisher, who was in the audience. People were screaming and crying out and gasping. A doctor in the audience helped tend to Rushdie while emergency services arrived police said. Henry Reese the event's moderator suffered a minor head injury. Police said they were working with federal investigators to determine a motive. They did not describe the weapon used. White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan described the incident as appalling. We are thankful to good citizens and first responders for helping him so swiftly he wrote on Twitter. Rushdie who was born into a Muslim Kashmiri family in Bombay now Mumbai, before moving to the United Kingdom, has long faced death threats for his fourth novel The Satanic Verses. Some Muslims said the book contained blasphemous passages. It was banned in many countries with large Muslim populations upon its 1988 publication. A few months later Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, then Iran's supreme leader, pronounced a fatwa, or religious edict, calling upon Muslims to kill the novelist and anyone involved in the book's publication for blasphemy. Rushdie, who called his novel pretty mild, went into hiding for nearly a decade. Hitoshi Igarashi, the Japanese translator of the novel, was murdered in 1991. The Iranian government said in 1998 it would no longer back the fatwa and Rushdie has lived relatively openly in recent years. Iranian organizations, some affiliated with the government, have raised a bounty worth millions of dollars for Rushdie's murder. And Khomeini's successor as supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said as recently as 2019 that the fatwa was "irrevocable." Iran's semi-official Fars News Agency and other news outlets donated money in 2016 to increase the bounty by US$600,000. Fars called Rushdie an apostate who "insulted the prophet" in its report on Friday's attack. Rushdie published a memoir in 2012 about his cloistered, secretive life under the fatwa called "Joseph Anton," the pseudonym he used while in British police protection. His second novel, "Midnight's Children," won the Booker Prize. His new novel "Victory City" is due to be published in February. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was appalled that Rushdie was stabbed while exercising a right we should never cease to defend. Rushdie was at the institution in western New York for a discussion about the United States giving asylum to artists in exile and as a home for freedom of creative expression, according to the institution's website. There were no obvious security checks at the Chautauqua Institution, a landmark founded in the 19th century in the small lakeside town of the same name staff simply checked people's passes for admission, attendees said. I felt like we needed to have more protection there because Salman Rushdie is not a usual writer, said Anour Rahmani an Algerian writer and human rights activist who was in the audience. He is a writer with a fatwa against him. Michael Hill, the institution's president said at a news conference they had a practice of working with state and local police to provide event security. He vowed the summer's program would soon continue. Our whole purpose is to help people bridge what has been too divisive of a world Hill said. The worst thing Chautauqua could do is back away from its mission in light of this tragedy and I don't think Mr. Rushdie would want that either. Rushdie became a U.S. citizen in 2016 and lives in New York City. A self-described lapsed Muslim and hard-line atheist, he has been a fierce critic of religion across the spectrum and outspoken about oppression in his native India, including under the Hindu-nationalist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PEN America an advocacy group for freedom of expression of which Rushdie is a former president, said it was reeling from shock and horror at what it called an unprecedented attack on a writer in the United States. Salman Rushdie has been targeted for his words for decades but has never flinched nor faltered, Suzanne Nossel, PEN's chief executive said in the statement. Earlier in the morning, Rushdie had emailed her to help with relocating Ukrainian writers seeking refuge, she said. 

 

Taiwan drills

PLA sends in extra troops to back up Eastern Theatre Command

 By Web desk 12th Aug 2022

PLA brings in air force personnel and anti-submarine aircraft from neighbouring theatre commands for military exercises. Troops expected to be rotated through to work with Eastern Theatre Command for Taiwan contingency, analyst says.

PLA air force personnel from around the country were deployed to support drills led by the Eastern Theatre Command against Taiwan, with more troops expected to be deployed for regular joint combat training, according to observers. In anti-submarine and sea assault drills on Monday, several anti-submarine aircraft from the Southern Theatre Command in Guangdong province were deployed to the target waters. State broadcaster CCTV released footage showing Russian-made Ka-28 anti-sub helicopters taking part in the air and naval joint operation.

 

Airfares soar in price and flight inquiries hit highs not seen since start of pandemic after Hong Kong quarantine rules ease.

 By Web desk 11th Aug 2022

Would-be travellers struggle with expensive flights and lack of availability as quarantine period cut in Hong Kong. Travel experts say demand heavy, flights full as full quarantine cut from seven days to three.

Airfares have hit sky-high levels as the number of online searches in Hong Kong looking for flights to popular destinations such as Bangkok and Osaka jumped tenfold as pandemic regulations in the city ease. Denvy Lo, 41, head of talent acquisition at a city firm, said she struggled to find affordable flights after the Hong Kong government on Monday made travel more attractive with a cut in the hotel quarantine time for inbound travellers from seven days to three, plus four days “home medical surveillance” with limited freedom of movement. Lo, who hit her computer just after the quarantine period was cut, said she hoped to use up her air miles on a trip to Japan or London before the end of the year. But she explained that flights that allowed air miles redemption were fully booked and others were “ridiculously expensive”. “It costs HK$12,000 [US$1,529] to Narita Airport in Tokyo. Zero flights to London. It’s too ridiculous. I’ll look into other destinations or fly on a different airline,” Lo said. She highlighted that, in the past, she used to pay an average of HK$3,000 to HK$4,000 for a trip to Tokyo. Jebsen Travel, a long-established city travel agency, said the cheapest Cathay Pacific economy class round trip ticket from Hong Kong to London was HK$17,000 in August, 41 per cent higher than the minimum of HK$12,000 in June and July. The maximum cost of a round trip economy ticket to the British capital on the airline was HK$41,000 in June and July. Checks by the Post on Wednesday evening found economy class return tickets from Hong Kong to London on Cathay for next Tuesday, Thursday or Friday could cost as much as HK$35,000.

Easing quarantine measures won’t increase transmission risks, Hong Kong health minister says, as city logs 4,045 cases

By Web desk 10th Aug 2022

New quarantine arrangement, comprising three days in a hotel and four days at home, will be implemented from Friday. Microbiologist suggests replacing current system with seven days at home under medical surveillance

Hong Kong’s health minister has dismissed fears that the easing of quarantine measures for overseas arrivals will increase Covid-19 transmission risks in the community, but declined to lay down a time frame for the city to fully reopen for travellers. A day after the government announced it was cutting the hotel quarantine period from seven to three days, Secretary for Health Lo Chung-mau on Tuesday said officials needed to assess the local epidemic situation and look into relevant data before completely scrapping the arrangement and allowing a week of home medical surveillance instead, as suggested by a leading microbiologist. We have yet to fully control the local situation and the figures are still maintained at the 4,000 mark. There is also a threat of new Covid-19 variants, he said. I believe that we cannot give such promises to scrap hotel quarantine at this moment. Hong Kong reported 4,045 new coronavirus infections on Tuesday, 262 of which were imported, and three more deaths. The overall tally stands at 1,393,327 cases and 9,550 related fatalities.

Hong Kong is easing its hotel quarantine rules for overseas arrivals: here’s what you need to know

Quarantine period in lockdown hotel to be cut as Hong Kong relaxes anti-coronavirus measures from Friday. People to stay in hotel quarantine for three days instead of seven, but restricted movement for four more days if tests are clear

Hong Kong is to cut its coronavirus quarantine period for arrivals from overseas from Friday, down from seven days in lockdown in a quarantine hotel. People will instead be allowed to stay at quarantine hotels for three days and spend the remaining four at home or in other hotels, with limited freedom of movement, which will be enforced through a new health code system. Here’s what you need to know.

What is the rationale behind the ‘3+4’ measure?

Health secretary Lo Chung-mau on Monday said the decision was made after analysing scientific information, which showed most coronavirus cases could be identified in the first three days of hotel quarantine. PCR tests carried out two days after travellers entered hotel quarantine pushed the percentage of detections up to 80 per cent. For every 1,000 arrivals, only 4 per cent – 40 people – were found to be infected. A total of 20 were detected at the airport and 12 more were uncovered at quarantine hotels after two days. Only eight cases, less than 1 per cent, were detected on the third day or after.

 

 Travelers get early release as quarantine cut short

 By Web desk 9th Aug 2022

Travelers who arrived in Hong Kong last week and have completed at least three days of hotel quarantine can be released on Tuesday at the earliest. Despite the new three-day hotel quarantine arrangement coming into effect on Friday, the government said those who have already undergone three days of isolation can be released even earlier.  

For arrivals who have completed at least three days of hotel quarantine, meaning those who arrived in the SAR between August 3 and August 8, the government will arrange for them to leave the hotels between August 9 and August 12 after confirming their negative PCR testing results, the government said yesterday.  

The announcement yesterday also noted that arrivals who have booked their quarantine hotels need not make any booking changes as hotels will automatically refund their payments from the fourth to seventh days. Teddy Chung Wai-tong, chairman of one of the city’s quarantine hotels, said they have received thousands of inquiries about the refund process. Chung said those who booked their stay with credit cards may take a few weeks to receive a refund. He also said the hotel has received several requests from employers of incoming domestic helpers, hoping to allow their helpers to stay at the hotel to finish their four-day medical surveillance. Under the new measures, those who finished their three-day quarantine must leave the quarantine hotels for those who wish to complete their four-day medical surveillance at the hotel might have to book another hotel to accommodate their stay he added. Meanwhile, the executive director of the Hong Kong Tourism Association, Timothy Chui Ting-pong, said quarantine hotels have to handle more than 10,000 refunds and have to contact credit card companies for the refund arrangement. He appealed to customers to wait patiently for the refund, which is expected to take days. Even though the supply of quarantine hotel rooms in Hong Kong has doubled with the quarantine cut, Chui said the latest tweak may not attract foreign travelers as they were not allowed to visit restaurants during their four-day medical surveillance.

Hotel quarantine for HK arrivals reduced to three days

 By Web desk 8th Aug 2022

Chief executive John Lee Ka-chiu said on Monday that Hong Kong’s hotel quarantine for inbound travelers will be reduced from seven days to three days, with the change to take effect from Friday (Aug 12). Speaking to reporters at a press preference this morning, the Hong Kong leader announced the quarantine period for inbound travelers will be shortened to three days, plus four days of medical surveillance at home. The four days of health monitoring carry relatively loose rules, with travelers only unable to visit high-risk places like restaurants and bars. They can still leave their homes with their masks up at all times. Those undergoing medical surveillance will be allowed to take public transport to work, enter shopping malls, department stalls, and wet markets, under the premise they tested negative with the rapid antigen test each day. Authorities’ latest tweak to the quarantine rules also came with a tiered health-code system, with those people given a "yellow code" on their LeaveHomeSafe app to enforce the restrictions. Arrivals will have to take repeated PCR tests during this period and their health code will change to red if they have Covid-19, meaning they must self-isolate. If they remain negative for Covid after the entire period, the color of their health code will be changed to blue and they will be free to visit all venues again if they have the vaccine pass. Lee stressed that the shortening of the hotel quarantine period doesn't mean Hong Kong is giving up on controlling the epidemic. The government is striking a balance between controlling infection risks, allowing more economic activities and maintaining Hong Kong's competitiveness, he added.

HK$5k consumption voucher under Phase II disbursed today

 By Web desk 7 Aug 2022

The first installment of consumption voucher under Phase II has been disbursed to about 6.36 million people on Sunday. Depending on the categories of the eligible persons and whether they have received voucher under Phase I, the voucher value will be either HK$2,000 or HK$3,000. They will receive the SMS notifications or mobile app push notifications on the disbursement today. For people who have chosen to collect the voucher via AlipayHK, BoC Pay, PayMe from HSBC, Tap & Go or WeChat Pay HK, the voucher has been directly injected into their specified account, which will be separated from the existing e-wallet in the account. When making payment, people have to choose to pay with the voucher directly. For people who have chosen Octopus, they may collect the voucher by tapping the card through Octopus app or at the Subsidy Collection Points of the Public Transport Fare Subsidy Scheme at MTR stations, Light Rail Customer Service Centres, designated piers and public transport interchanges; designated convenience stores and supermarkets. The voucher will be combined with the existing value stored in the Octopus card. People can make payment using the Octopus card as usual. The government spokesman reminded people who collect the voucher via Octopus card at supermarkets or convenience stores that there is no need for them to make purchase. They just need to inform the shop assistant that they want to collect the voucher before tapping the card. The public may browse the apps and websites or call the following hotlines of the relevant stored value facility operators to enquire about how to use the vouchers, the value of the vouchers disbursed, unspent/available balance and expiry dates, etc.

 AlipayHK: 2245 3201

BoC Pay: 3988 1822
Octopus: 2969 5588
Payme from HSBC: 2996 7288
Tap & Go: 2888 0000
WeChat Pay HK: 3929 1666

 The public may visit the Consumption Voucher Scheme website or call the hotline 18 5000 for enquiries.

 

PLA turns train into mobile hospital, drones spotted over Quemoy in Taiwan war games

By Web desk 6th Aug 2022

Vehicle can handle more than 100 patients, mainland news outlet reports. In all, 49 flights from the mainland crossed the median line in the Taiwan Strait on Friday, Taiwanese military says.

The People’s Liberation Army staged medical drills on a high-speed train transformed into a mobile hospital on Friday, suggesting the military was preparing for the possibility of casualties. Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily said the train was equipped with a surgical theatre and an intensive care unit, and could accommodate more than 100 patients. The PLA launched unprecedented war games on Thursday near Taiwan in response to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island. They are expected to continue until noon on Sunday.

Quarantine reduction could be announced as soon as Monday

By Web desk 6th Aug 2022 

Hong Kong may announce a reduction in the amount of time international travelers need to spend in mandatory hotel quarantine as soon as Monday, according to people familiar with the matter, with discussions over the scale of the change still ongoing. While officials had anticipated making an announcement on Friday, it has been pushed back to Monday at the earliest since no firm decision has yet been made on the parameters of the cut, according to one person, who asked not to be identified discussing internal deliberations. A representative for the Department of Health said questions about the quarantine policy should be sent to the chief executive’s office, which didn’t immediately respond to an emailed request for comment. Hong Kong currently requires everyone arriving in the city to test negative for Covid within 48 hours of departure and on arrival, and then spend a week isolated in a hotel to ensure an infection wasn’t missed during the incubation period. The rules have put a stranglehold on visitors to the once booming Asian financial hub and made international travel difficult for those who live in the city. A briefing for Chief Executive John Lee’s advisers in the Executive Council was called off on Friday morning. A meeting with the hotels that provide quarantine services was also canceled, the paper said. One person said top officials are “still discussing” the best way forward, after conducting a scientific review of Hong Kong’s Covid figures to see which option is best. Officials have discussed cutting the hotel quarantine from seven days to three, four, or five, the person said. Travelers are expected to be told to remain largely at home, or to avoid high-risk venues, for an additional period of time that is expected to add up to the full week. More people are being diagnosed with Covid on the third day in hotel quarantine than on the fifth day since the rules changed to add the earlier testing time, according to another person familiar with the discussions. 

Beijing’s war games in Taiwan after Pelosi’s trip spark concerns in South China Sea

By Web desk 5th Aug 2022

Analysts say Pelosi’s Taipei visit was not just ‘unhelpful’ to Southeast Asia but could lead to increased aggression beyond the Taiwan Strait. The spectre of a US-China conflict over Taiwan could lead the region to be wary of holding joint drills, and cause ‘divisions’ within Asean, the observers say.

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan was counterproductive to Southeast Asia’s interests, analysts said, as it not only “unnecessarily” sharpened the rivalry between Washington and Beijing but also raised fears that increased Chinese aggression in the Taiwan Strait could spill over to the South China Sea. Despite warnings by China that the United States would “pay the price” should Pelosi travel to Taipei, she pressed ahead with her plans on Tuesday night. Beijing considers the self-ruled island a renegade province to be reunited with the mainland, by force if necessary. China launched live-fire drills after the US congresswoman’s trip, and sent more than a 100 warplanes flying near Taiwan in an unprecedented war game deemed a de facto blockade of the island.

 

Coronavirus

Hong Kong to relax hotel quarantine rule and introduce QR codes restricting access ‘next week at earliest’

 By Web desk 4th Aug 2022

Source who attended high-level meeting with city leader John Lee says government set to announce decision on Friday. Lee was told data shows 80-90 per cent of infected arrivals test positive on fourth or fifth night of quarantine.

Hong Kong is expected to relax quarantine rules for travellers next week at the earliest after the city’s leader was told in a meeting that more than 80 per cent of arrivals infected with Covid-19 tested positive on the fourth or fifth night of their week in isolation. But Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu had yet to decide whether the city should replace its hotel quarantine rule with a 4+3 or 5+2 plan, referring to varying number of days the isolation period could be served at home, said a government source who attended the meeting on Wednesday. A final decision was likely to be announced on Friday and the relevant changes implemented next week, the insider said, adding it would take time to coordinate the changes with hotel staff and airport authorities.

 

Flight tracker indicates Taipei as the destination for Pelosi's flight

By Web desk 3rd Aug 2022

The military aircraft likely carrying the delegation led by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was spotted bypassing the South China Sea and flew close to Taiwan, where China is reportedly ratcheting up military activity ahead of her potential visit to Taiwan. The plane likely carrying Pelosi left from a Malaysian air force base at 3.42 pm (0742 GMT) on Tuesday after a brief stopover that included a lunch meeting with Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob. The plane flew east towards Borneo on a route that skirted the South China Sea. It was unclear where she was headed from Malaysia. Local media in Taiwan reported that Pelosi is expected to land at Taipei Songshan Airport in the country's capital city around 10.30pm. Pelosi would become the highest-ranking elected US official to visit the island in more than 25 years if she makes the trip. The global flight tracking service, Flightradar24, on Tuesday once recorded up to 300,000 visitors on the page that tracks SPAR19 at the same time, in order to know the whereabouts of Pelosi's plane. The map also indicates Taipei Songshan Airport (TSA) as destination for the aircraft. The estimated time of arrival will be 22.43pm Taiwan time. The plane was seen avoid flying over the South China Sea, which involves conflicting islands and maritime claims in the region by several sovereign states, including China, which is reportedly ratcheting up military activity before the mooted visit.Chinese military units across the Southern Theater Command have entered a status of high alert, according to military officials in two neighboring countries as both Taiwan and the U.S. brace themselves for a potential violent reaction from Beijing, which has warned it would “not sit by idly” if Pelosi were to visit Taiwan. Hu Xijin, former editor in chief of China's state-run newspaper Global Times and a widely followed media personality, said a military counterattack need not necessarily refer to war, and could instead come in the form of an unprecedented show of military pressure. The United Daily News, Liberty Times and China Times — Taiwan’s three largest national newspapers — cited unidentified sources as saying she would spend the night in Taiwan. Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry declined to comment.

 

UN chief Antonio Guterres warns world is one step away from ‘nuclear annihilation’

 By Web desk 2nd Aug 2022

Guterres gave the warning to ministers, officials and diplomats attending a conference in New York to review the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Guterres cited the war in Ukraine and the threat of nuclear weapons to conflicts in the Middle East and Asia, two regions ‘edging towards catastrophe’

 The United Nations chief warned the world on Monday that “humanity is just one misunderstanding, one miscalculation away from nuclear annihilation”. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres gave the dire warning at the opening of the long-delayed high-level meeting to review the landmark 50-year-old treaty aimed at preventing the spread of nuclear weapons and eventually achieving a nuclear-free world. He cited especially the war in Ukraine and the threat of nuclear weapons to conflicts in the Middle East and Asia, two regions “edging towards catastrophe”.

Pelosi to arrive in Taiwan on Tuesday 

By Web desk 2nd Aug 2022

U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi was expected to arrive in Taipei later on Tuesday, people briefed on the matter said as the United States said it would not be intimidated by Chinese saber rattling over the visit. One person familiar with Pelosi's itinerary said that most of her planned meetings including with President Tsai Ing-wen, were scheduled for Wednesday and that it was possible that her delegation would arrive in Taiwan early on Wednesday. Everything is uncertain the person said. Taiwan newspaper Liberty Times said Pelosi's delegation was due to arrive at 10:20 p.m. (1420 GMT) on Tuesday without naming sources. Pelosi was scheduled to visit Malaysia on Tuesday. She began her Asia tour in Singapore on Monday, and her office has said she will also visit South Korea and Japan. It has not mentioned a Taiwan visit. Taiwan's foreign ministry said it had no comment on reports of Pelosi's travel plans, but the White House - which would not confirm the trip - said she had the right to go. China has repeatedly warned against a Pelosi visit. Beijing's responses could include firing missiles near Taiwan large-scale air or naval activities or further spurious legal claims such as China's assertion that the Taiwan Strait is not an international waterway White House national security spokesperson John Kirby told reporters in Washington on Monday. We will not take the bait or engage in saber rattling. At the same time, we will not be intimidated, Kirby said. The Taiwan dollar slipped to its lowest levels in more than two years on the weaker side of 30 per U.S. dollar and investor worries about a potential Pelosi visit and China's reaction appeared to be behind Tuesday's declines in China's yuan and north Asian stock markets. One source told that the United States had informed some allies about Pelosi's visit to Taiwan. Two other sources said Pelosi was scheduled to meet a small group of activists who are outspoken about China's human rights record during her stay in Taiwan possibly on Wednesday. Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said on Monday that it would be a gross interference in China's internal affairs if Pelosi visits Taiwan and warned that it would lead to "very serious developments and consequences." We would like to tell the United States once again that China is standing by, the Chinese People's Liberation Army will never sit idly by, and China will take resolute responses and strong countermeasures to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity, Zhao told a regular daily briefing. Asked what kind of measures the PLA might take, Zhao said: "if she dares to go, then let us wait and see. China views visits by U.S. officials to Taiwan, a self-ruled island claimed by Beijing, as sending an encouraging signal to the pro-independence camp in the island. Washington does not have official diplomatic ties with Taiwan but is bound by U.S. law to provide the island with the means to defend itself. A visit by Pelosi, who is second in the line of succession to the U.S. presidency and a long-time critic of China, would come amid worsening ties between Washington and Beijing. A video by the People's Liberation Army's Eastern Theater Command, which showed scenes of military exercises and preparations and was posted on state media sites on Monday evening, urged troops to "stand by in battle formation, be ready to fight upon command, bury all incoming enemies." The White House has dismissed China's rhetoric as groundless and inappropriate. Kirby said that nothing about Pelosi's possible trip changed U.S. policy toward Taiwan, and that Beijing was well aware the division of powers within the U.S. government meant Pelosi would make her own decisions about the visit. The speaker has the right to visit Taiwan, he told the White House briefing. During a phone call last Thursday, Chinese President Xi Jinping warned U.S. President Joe Biden that Washington should abide by the one-China principle and those who play with fire will perish by it. Biden told Xi that U.S. policy on Taiwan had not changed and that Washington strongly opposes unilateral efforts to change the status quo or undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. Beijing considers Taiwan to be part of its territory and has never renounced using force to bring the island under its control. Taiwan rejects China's sovereignty claims and says only its people can decide the island's future. Last Wednesday, Biden told reporters he thought the U.S. military believed a Pelosi visit to Taiwan was not a good idea right now. 

 

 Next $5,000 ready from August 7

By Web desk 1st Aug 2022

Authorities have sent phone messages to citizens eligible for their second HK$5000 consumption voucher installment, which will be ready for collection from August 7. Those opting for the five stored-value platforms - Tap & Go, AliPay HK, WeChat Pay, PayMe by HSBC and BoC Pay - will receive HK$2,000 on August 7 and the remaining HK$3,000 from October 1. Octopus users will get their HK$5,000 in three phases: HK$2,000 on August 7, another HK$2,000 on October 1 and the remaining HK$1,000 on the 16th of the month after the HK$4,000 has all been spent. Citizens who have not received the SMS will not receive the voucher on August 7, including 100,000 Hongkongers who have been disqualified from the second installment as they intend to permanently move out of the SAR or have already done so. Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po said that the disqualification will save the public reserve HK$600 million.

 

Hong Kong Government May Announce Reduced Quarantine Measures , New Health Code Next Week. 

By Web desk 31st July 2022

Hong Kong’s current seven-day hotel quarantine requirement may be reduced to five days or less, and the two-colour health code may be introduced early next week. The Hong Kong government will reportedly announce a shortened hotel quarantine requirement for international arrivals as earlyas next week. The new two-colour health code is also set to be launched when the new quarantine measures come into effect. At present overseas travellers must stay at a designated quarantine hotel (DQH) for a minimum of seven days after they arrive in Hong Kong. Secretary for Health Lo Chung-Mau confirmed that authorities are reportedly considering changing this to a week-long split-quarantine arrangement by which international arrivals will spend a minimum of five days of their isolation period at a DQH and the remaining days at home. The health code will be combined with the vaccine pass system on the Leave Home Safe app. It will be issued to two categories of people in Hong Kong the first being international arrivalsundergoing home quarantine. They will get a yellow code that will prevent them from entering “high-risk areas”, such as restaurants and bars. In addition, people who have contracted Covid-19 within the city and are approved for home isolation will get a red code, in addition to the electronic tracking wristband they must currently wear to prevent them from leaving their homes during this period. This development comes after the Secretary for Health’s recent comments about the possibility of quarantine-free travel for international arrivals into Hong Kong by November 2022, and the recent suspension of the five-day flight ban on airlines that brought a certain number of Covid-positive passengers into the city. However, there have been no changes to the city’s current social distancing rules, which include various restrictions on dining and nightlife establishments, such as seating and capacity limits, ban on live performances and dancing, and regulations regarding opening hours. Hong Kong is also mulling turning some of the city’s temporary Covid-19 hospitals into isolation facilities for travellers to undergo quarantine before they enter the Mainland. The move is being considered because of the shortage of quarantine hotels on the other side of the border.

 

Chinese booster rocket makes uncontrolled return to Earth

 By Web desk 31st July 2022

A Chinese booster rocket made an uncontrolled return to Earth on Saturday, leading US officials to chide Beijing for not sharing information about the potentially hazardous object's descent. US Space Command can confirm the People's Republic of China (PRC) Long March 5B (CZ-5B) re-entered over the Indian Ocean at approx 10:45 am MDT on 7/30, the US military unit said on Twitter. We refer you to the #PRC for further details on the reentry's technical aspects such as potential debris dispersal+ impact location, it said. In a statement posted to its official WeChat profile, the China Manned Space Agency later gave coordinates for an impact area in the Sulu Sea, about 35 miles (57 kilometers) off the east coast of the Philippines' Palawan Island. Most of its devices were ablated and destroyed during re-entry, the agency said of the booster rocket which was used last Sunday to launch the second of three modules China needed to complete its new Tiangong space station. Malaysia's space agency said it detected rocket debris burning up on re-entry before falling in the Sulu Sea northeast of the island of Borneo. The debris of the rocket caught fire while entering the Earth's airspace and the movement of the burning debris also crossed Malaysian airspace and could be detected in several areas including crossing the airspace around the state of Sarawak. NASA administrator Bill Nelson criticized Beijing on Twitter saying the failure to share details of the rocket's descent was irresponsible and risky. All spacefaring nations should follow established best practices and do their part to share this type of information in advance, Nelson wrote, to allow reliable predictions of potential debris impact risk especially for heavy-lift vehicles, like the Long March 5B, which carry a significant risk of loss of life and property. He added. Doing so is critical to the responsible use of space and to ensure the safety of people here on Earth. The Tiangong space station is one of the crown jewels of Beijing's ambitious space program which has landed robotic rovers on Mars and the Moon, and made China only the third nation to put humans in orbit. The new module, propelled by the Long March 5B, successfully docked with Tiangong's core module on Monday and the three astronauts who had been living in the main compartment since June successfully entered the new lab. When China launched its first Tiangong module in April 2021, there was a similar frenzy around the possibility of damage caused by an unpredictable booster reentry. Objects generate immense amounts of heat and friction when they enter the atmosphere, which can cause them to burn up and disintegrate. But larger ones such as the Long March-5B may not be destroyed entirely. In 2020, debris from another Chinese rocket fell on villages in the Ivory Coast, causing structural damage but no injuries or deaths. China has poured billions of dollars into space flight and exploration as it seeks to build a program that reflects its stature as a rising global power.

Hong Kong publisher launches first English volume in chronicle of city’s 7,000-year history.

 By Web desk 30th July 2022

Title launch is part of project by think tank Our Hong Kong Foundation to produce Chinese and English accounts of various topics over city’s 7,000-year history. Chief Executive John Lee praises former leader Tung Chee-hwa for spearheading project, says English volume is opportunity to tell ‘success story of Hong Kong’.

The first English volume in an extensive chronicle covering Hong Kong’s 7,000-year history was launched on Wednesday, with the publisher planning to make its digital database available to 20,000 international organisations. The Hong Kong Chronicles, a project by think tank Our Hong Kong Foundation, a body founded by former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa, aims to produce both Chinese and English accounts covering various topics over the course of the city’s history. The first Chinese volume of the series was first published in December 2020 by the Hong Kong Chronicles Institute.

 

Don't 'play with fire' over Taiwan, China's Xi warns in call with Biden

 By Web desk 29th July 2022 

Chinese leader Xi Jinping warned against playing with fire over Taiwan in a call with U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday, highlighting Beijing's concerns about a possible visit to the Chinese-claimed island by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Those who play with fire will perish by it, China's foreign ministry quoted Xi as telling Biden in their fifth call as leaders. It is hoped that the U.S. will be clear-eyed about this. Xi said Washington should abide by the one-China principle and stressed that China firmly opposes Taiwanese independence and outside interference. Biden told Xi U.S. policy on Taiwan had not changed and that Washington strongly opposes unilateral efforts to change the status quo or undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, the White House said. Following the call, Taiwan thanked Biden for his support and said it would continue to deepen its security partnership with the United States, the foreign ministry said in a statement on Friday. The White House said the long-scheduled call was part of the administration's efforts to deepen lines of communication with China and responsibly manage our differences. It has been particularly anxious to lower the temperature on Taiwan. A visit by the House speaker would be a dramatic, though not unprecedented, show of U.S. support for the island, and some analysts worry such a move at a time of fraught U.S. ties with Beijing could spur a major crisis and even unintended clashes. Scott Kennedy, a China analyst at Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies, said leader-level contacts were essential to preventing this. One hopes they've done enough to avoid a collision in the near term, but it's clear there needs to be much more frequent and in-depth communication, he said. A senior U.S. official said Biden and Xi had discussed the possibility of holding a first face-to-face meeting as leaders and directed their teams to look into this. Biden stressed the importance of maintaining lines of communication on Taiwan and the two also discussed areas where there was the potential to expand cooperation, including climate change, health security and counter-narcotics, the official said. While highlighting Taiwan, Xi also stressed that the world's two largest economies needed to maintain communication on macroeconomic policies, global supply chains, and safeguarding global food and energy security, China's readout said. The senior U.S. official also emphasized the importance of macroeconomic coordination. Beijing has issued escalating warnings about repercussions should Pelosi - a Democrat like Biden - visit Taiwan. Xi has vowed to bring Taiwan under Beijing's control, by force if necessary. China has given few clues to specific responses it might make if Pelosi makes the trip, which she has yet to confirm. The U.S. official told reporters Xi had used similar language about Taiwan before and said the two sides acknowledged differing views that have existed for 40 years. The conversation between the two about Taiwan, it was direct and it was honest, the official said, while declining to offer more specific details about Biden's message to Xi. The call lasted over two hours. U.S. officials had said it would have a broad agenda, including Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which China has yet to condemn. Washington follows a one-China policy that recognizes Beijing, not Taipei, diplomatically. But it is obliged by U.S. law to provide the democratically governed Taiwan with the means to defend itself, and pressure has mounted in Congress for more explicit support. Some analysts believe Xi has an interest in avoiding escalation as he seeks an unprecedented third term in office this year. Others say playing up the Taiwan issue could serve Xi as a domestic distraction from China's slowing economy. Asked about the call, Taiwan's representative office in Washington told Reuters it was grateful to Biden for underscoring the importance of our shared interest in peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. Both Washington and Beijing have been grappling with economic difficulties. China's US$18 trillion economy has been battered by its strict COVID regulations and full urban lockdowns, while the United States is battling surging inflation amid concerns of a recession. Chinese state media said on Thursday China would try hard to achieve the best possible economic results this year, dropping previous calls that it will strive to meet its 2022 growth target. This followed a high-level Communist Party meeting chaired by Xi. Attempts at decoupling or severing supply chains in defiance of underlying patterns would not help boost the U.S. economy. They would only make the world economy more vulnerable, Xi said, referring to U.S. efforts to end reliance on China for strategic goods. The Biden administration has been debating whether to lift some tariffs on Chinese goods as a way to ease soaring inflation, but Biden did not discuss potential steps with Xi, the senior U.S. official said. When Biden last spoke to Xi in March, he warned of "consequences" if Beijing gave material support for Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and Washington believes this red line has not been crossed since. However, Taiwan has complained of stepped-up Chinese military maneuvers and just ahead of Thursday's call, Taiwan's military said it fired flares to warn away a drone that was possibly probing the defenses of a strategically located and heavily fortified island close to the Chinese coast. The last time a U.S. House speaker visited Taiwan was in 1997. As a co-equal branch of government, the U.S. executive has little control over congressional travel. China has grown far more powerful militarily and economically since then and the White House says the administration has been in touch with Pelosi's office to make sure she has all the context she needs to make decisions about her travel. 

Hong Kong to include heat index in guidelines for employers to take heat off workers

 By Web desk 28th July 2022

The Hong Kong Observatory’s heat index which reflects the city’s weather conditions may be included in the guidelines for employers to protect outdoor workers from heatstroke, the Secretary for Labour has said. Speaking on a radio program on Thursday, Secretary for Labour and Welfare Chris Sun Yuk-han said the government is planning to refer to the Hong Kong Observatory’s heat index to formulate a more comprehensive guideline to prevent heatstroke among outdoor workers. The heat index, measured by the city’s weather watchdog, monitors heat stress and considers temperature affected by moisture in air, radiation and wind. She also said authorities will step up their inspections and law enforcement actions to make sure employers are taking adequate precautions to prevent their employees from heatstorokes.

Hong Kong to launch HK$5 billion tech fund in August, finance chief reveals

 By Web desk 27th July 2022

Government hopes new measures will help future local unicorns reach their full potential. Entrepreneurs welcome plan, but one academic warns taxpayer dollars must not go to losing propositions.

Hong Kong will launch a fund worth HK$5 billion (US$637 million) next month to support local tech companies and attract foreign start-ups, the city’s finance chief Paul Chan. Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po said the government hoped the Strategic Tech Fund would fill the gap in series A and series B financing for start-ups and help convince investors to back projects by Hong Kong tech entrepreneurs. Series A refers to a start-up’s first major venture capital financing, while Series B refers to further and larger investments from corporations or institutional investors.

Daily Covid case count meaningless

 By Web desk 26th July 2022

It is no longer meaningful for health authorities to announce the daily Covid case count as Hong Kong keeps moving along the path to normalcy, said the head of Hong Kong University's Centre for Infection Ho Pak-leung. Speaking on a radio program Tuesday morning, the microbiologist called on health authorities to disseminate crucial information at the daily press briefings instead of announcing the daily case count. He said health officials could compile a weekly report of cases found in the overnight lockdown operations, or give an account of the city’s asymptomatic patients or those with mild symptoms. Separately, Ho said health authorities should put their resources into good use and let expert advisors for the government attend the daily press brief, provide citizens with scientific data to help them understand the city’s Covid situation. He also suggested authorities review the outcome of its sewage testing scheme and allocate more manpower to boosting the city’s vaccination rate when required.

 

Hong Kong to closely monitor spread of monkeypox as city adds 4,250 Covid cases

By Web desk 25th July 2022

Health officials said on Sunday that authorities will closely monitor the spread of monkeypox as the city reported 4,250 new Covid-19 cases - the fourth consecutive day that the daily coronavirus tally topped the 4,000-mark. Among the cases were 4,064 local infections and 186 imported cases. Separately, eight more elderly Covid patients - aged 75 to 103 - have died, half of whom were unvaccinated. The Centre for Health Protection was informed of new Covid infections at five more residential care homes, including the Kowloon Women’s Welfare Club Wong Cheung Kin Memorial Hostel for the Elderly in Kwun Tong, Po Leung Kuk Y. C. Cheng Center in Tai Wai, Chun Shek Halfway House in Sha Tin, and the TWGHS Jockey Club Tsin Cheung Day Activity Centre cum Hostel in Aberdeen. It was said that six residents and three staffers were infected, while 28 residents were required to go into quarantine. Meanwhile, a further 172 people with the virus had been admitted to hospital, bringing the total to 1,347. Three of them are critically ill. Speaking at a daily Covid briefing, Chuang Shuk-kwan of the Centre for Health Protection said authorities are keeping a close eye on infection numbers. Based on the recent trend, the infection tally doubles every two to three weeks. We certainly hope the number won't rise too quickly to a high level, she said, calling on the general public to comply with anti-epidemic measures. Additionally, Chuang said authorities will closely monitor the spread of monkeypox as the World Health Organization declares the outbreak of the infectious disease a global health emergency. She said while it's possible that the SAR may see imported cases of monkeypox, she hopes increased surveillance can prevent the virus from spreading in the community.

 

Pakistan’s Imran Khan may yet unseat Shehbaz Sharif as prime minister. But not without the military’s help

 By Web desk 24th July 2022

 Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf stunned Sharif’s ruling coalition with a big by-election win in Punjab, raising the prospect of an early election. Analysts say a return to power can’t be ruled out, if he can get the ultimate arbiter – army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa – on his side once more.

When Imran Khan’s government was unceremoniously deposed in a vote of no-confidence in April, most political pundits wrote off his chances of ever making a comeback as Pakistan’s prime minister. But after his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) pulled off a stunning upset by-election victory last Sunday, winning 15 of 20 seats contested, many commentators now think Khan is increasingly well-positioned to force an early general election – and even win it. Imran Khan’s return to power cannot be ruled out. He is riding on a wave of anti-establishment sentiment, has heightened his populist rhetoric, and his political opponents are on the defensive and without a clear agenda to pull the country out of the current economic crisis, said Raza Rumi, editor-in-chief of Naya Daur Media, a Pakistani digital news platform.

 

Greater Bay Airlines’ first flight set to take off for Bangkok from Hong Kong 

By Web desk 23rd July 2022

City’s newest airline will begin operations with a twice weekly service to the Thai capital. Carrier is hoping to expand to Malaysia, Japan and Korea and eventually China.

Hong Kong’s Greater Bay Airlines is to launch its first scheduled commercial flight on Saturday, offering a twice weekly service to Bangkok, as it competes for customers with the city’s flagship carrier Cathay Pacific. The newcomer will begin service with two commercial flights between Hong Kong and Bangkok, its first and only destination, on Saturday, with the outbound flight leaving for the Thai capital city at 10.30am. The inbound flight is expected to arrive in Hong Kong at 5.10pm on the same day. We are very happy to launch our first flight as we hope to see planes in the air as an airline company. However, there have been a multitude of external factors we could not control along the way, and we will try our best to cooperate with the government’s pandemic measures.

 

Coronavirus

Hospital’s data dashboard cuts patient discharge time by a third

By Web desk 22nd July 2022

Command centre makes allocating resources and monitoring patients easier and more efficient, says doctor. Queen Elizabeth Hospital takes a step closer to becoming a ‘smart hospital’ with introduction of new system.

A new command centre armed with a real-time data dashboard could cut patients’ discharge time at a leading Hong Kong hospital by a third and prove instrumental in the city’s effort to avert overloading the healthcare system during a resurgent fifth coronavirus wave, medical chiefs have said. The system at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, which is part of a reform initiative to modernize and digitalize, could also predict potential risks of deterioration for inpatients using artificial intelligence. We faced a sudden and unprecedented challenge during the fifth Covid-19 wave with a sharp surge in patients. The system allows us to have a real-time grasp of data, said Dr Calvin Mak, coordinator for information technology and system in the Hospital Authority’s Kowloon Central cluster.

 

 Article 23 finds new life online

By Web desk 21st July 2022

The Security Bureau said it is updating the website for article 23 legislation after the old website, created 20 years ago, was found to be in operational recently. In response to a media inquiry, it said yesterday it had closed the website temporarily in preparation for updates that will come with the anti-subversion legislation in line with article 23 of the Basic Law. Way back Machine archives and user screenshots show detailed information about the legislation of article 23, including press releases, Legislative Council documents and pamphlets. Speaking yesterday, Secretary for Justice Paul Lam Ting-kwok said the legislation of article 23 is not an undertaking that can be carried out immediately as authorities need to conduct a thorough and careful study of the law. "Since authorities are still carrying out a careful review, there isn't a concrete timeline for the legislation process yet," Lam said. "We need to make sure that the legislation can effectively deal with issues pertaining to national security, while also ensuring that people's freedoms are protected." Lam said that five of the seven article 23 offenses have not yet been "perfected," while the other two overlap with the terms of the security law. "But I can't say for certain whether article 23 legislation will be merged with the national security law," he said. Article 23 covers seven offenses - treason, secession, sedition and subversion against the central people's government, theft of state secrets, a ban on foreign political organizations conducting political activities in the city and a ban on local political bodies establishing ties with foreign counterparts. Lam also said no prosecutors have resigned following the US Congressional-Executive Commission on China's publication of a report that called on Washington to sanction Hong Kong prosecutors, calling it "baseless intimidation." "As long as the Department of Justice remains united, it won't be a problem for future hires," he said. Lam added that the Department of Justice will come up with a short-term timeline that will replace its use of key performance indicators. "The new administration is results-oriented and hopes to achieve concrete goals and see real results," he said. Deputy Secretary for Justice Horace Cheung Kwok-kwan said that he has faith that the government has enough time to complete the legislation process.

 

 Coronavirus

What is ‘hybrid immunity’ and would Hong Kong benefit as several health experts say?

 By Web desk 20th July 2022

Several public health experts have called for authorities to gradually lift social-distancing rules as part of efforts to develop hybrid immunity among residents. With serious cases and hospital admissions on the rise, government has expressed concerns about growing pressure on the healthcare system.

As Hong Kong once again reports an increase in coronavirus infections and hospitalization rates, some health experts have suggested “hybrid immunity” could be a way of preventing a repeat of the city’s fifth wave of cases. With case numbers rising, Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu on Monday said a quarter of healthcare resources would be allocated to caring for Covid-19 patients by the end of this month. Several public health experts, including two government advisers, however, have called for authorities to gradually lift social-distancing measures as part of efforts to develop hybrid immunity among residents.

 

China’s global yuan goals aided by RCEP trade deal, Hong Kong’s role as “super connector” top banker says

 By Web desk 19th July 2022

Asia-Pacific trade deal will expand international use of yuan by lowering financial market barriers, says Li Haiying, managing director of renminbi business at Bank of China (Hong Kong) Under the trade deal and the Belt and Road Initiative, Hong Kong can play connecting role for yuan-related financial activities, says Li

The world’s largest free-trade agreement involving China and 14 other Asia-Pacific countries sets the stage for greater yuan internationalization according to a top banking executive who says Hong Kong can play “super connector” role among members for yuan-related financial activity. Li Haiying, managing director of renminbi business at the Bank of China (Hong Kong) said the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) had enhanced economic ties between China and other members. RCEP has lowered the entry threshold for financial markets which helps expand the use of the renminbi.

 

Hong Kong hotelier hopes for restriction-free travel as industry slowly returns to pre-pandemic heyday across the world

By Web desk 18th July 2022

The rest of the world has opened up, and that is the way to go for Hong Kong, says Ovolo Hotels founder Girish Jhunjhnuwala. Hotel rates in Hong Kong are about 35 per cent lower than in 2019, while they continue to rise in other parts of the world, according to data provider STR.

With much of the world lifting tough Covid-19 travel restrictions, a Hong Kong-based hotelier is filled with a tinge of sadness as operators in Europe and Australia brim with an influx of guests that has pushed room rates back to pre-pandemic levels. After spending five weeks travelling in Italy, France, the UK and Belgium, Girish Jhunjhnuwala, founder and executive chairman of Ovolo Hotels, could not help but feel nostalgic about pre-pandemic times, when Hong Kong was the most visited city in the world and widely regarded as the main finance and business hub in Asia. Founded in 2010, the family-run Ovolo owns and operates 13 hotels - eight in Australia, four in Hong Kong and one in Bali, Indonesia.

 

No smartphone, no entry?

Isolated by Covid-19 rules,

Hong Kong’s elderly dread changes to Leave Home Safe mobile app

 By Web desk 17th July 2022

Thousands of seniors do not own a smartphone or are clueless about coping with pandemic digital checks. Social workers warn elderly residents struggling to adapt to tech demands; seniors need help figuring out changes.

Eighty-year-old Hongkonger Chan Yim-chun owns three phones  an old-school 3G flip phone, a smartphone and a specially designed mobile phone that connects to an emergency hotline. But the mother of three, who lives alone in a subdivided unit in Sham Shui Po, said she only used the flip phone and had no idea how to use the internet. I cannot read what’s on the smartphone and it just makes me feel clumsy and confused, she said. I need to rely on other people to help me with anything that involves the internet.

US Navy destroyer asserts freedom of navigation in South China Sea 

 By Web desk 16th July 2022

The U.S. Navy in a statement the USS Benfold carried out what it calls a freedom of navigation operation in the South China Sea near the Spratly Islands. On July 16, USS Benfold (DDG 65) asserted navigational rights and freedoms in the South China Sea near the Spratly Islands, consistent with international law, it said. The USS Benfold (DDG-65) is an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer in the United States Navy. It boasts a multi-mission platform, capable of anti-aircraft warfare due to its Aegis Combat System and anti-aircraft missiles; it can seek and destroy enemy submarines with its towed sonar array and anti-submarine rockets. It also has surface-to-surface and land strike capabilities with a Harpoon missile launcher and Tomahawk missiles.  

Hong Kong is stepping up Covid fight by issuing electronic wristbands, quarantining outbound travellers. Here’s what you need to know

 By Web desk 15th July 2022

People under home quarantine will need to wear electronic wristbands while those who test positive at mainland border will be sent to isolation centres right away. Health chief Lo Chung-mau says he will approach pandemic with targeted measures to prevent repeat of fifth wave of infections.

The new Hong Kong government, now into its third week, has introduced measures to step up monitoring of Covid-19 patients on two fronts, requiring those under home quarantine to wear electronic wristbands and outbound travellers who test positive at the border with mainland China to be sent to isolation centres right away. Secretary for Health Lo Chung-mau has said he will approach the pandemic with targeted measures to prevent a repeat of the fifth and deadliest wave of infections, rather than return to tightened social-distancing rules. Here’s what you need to know about the two latest moves, as well as plans in the pipeline.

 

 City sees infection rebound, should not reach previous levels, says health expert.

 By Web desk 14th July 2022

Respiratory expert David Hui Shu-cheong said Hong Kong has seen rising infections lately, but the city’s Covid situation would not return to the peak of the fifth wave, calling on residents not to worry. Hui’s comments came as the city’s health chief said earlier that internal modeling predicted a rebound in the city’s recent fifth coronavirus wave and a peak in September with up to 10,000 patients needing hospitalization. The government Covid adviser explained that up to 60 percent of Hong Kong’s population has already caught Covid, while the city’s vaccination rate has also improved. He noted there are currently 18 Covid patients in critical condition in hospitals and that the figure is way less severe than during the peak of the fifth wave. Separately, Hui called on residents to get vaccinated as soon as possible as there were plenty of untraceable cases in our community, adding that the antibodies for those who recovered from Covid will start to decline over time.

Covid health code may not be mandatory.

A planned China-style health code system in Hong Kong is likely to apply only to people who test positive to Covid and incoming travelers rather than the entire population, according to local media reports. It is understood that people who test positive to the virus will be assigned a red code, and arriving travelers will be given a yellow code, which will prohibit them from activities such as dining at restaurants or attending gyms. Such a system would allay fears of rolling out China’s mandatory code, which assigns higher-risk residents red and yellow codes -- with green for low-risk people -- based on their testing and travel records. Red-coded people have their movement restricted until they test negative over a certain period of time. The proposed Hong Kong system will possibly lean on the city’s existing vaccine pass, the reports read. Hong Kong’s new health chief this week floated the possibility of shortening hotel quarantine with measures such as medical surveillance and health codes, as the city wrestles with rising cases and impatience from businesses from more than two years of Covid restrictions, which has led to a record exodus of residents and brought into question the city’s future as a financial hub. Meanwhile, Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu will propose a plan to China to open borders, but it was said that he won’t discuss it publicly before reaching a consensus with the mainland, citing Executive Council Convener Regina Ip, without elaborating on details.

Hong Kong’s health chief eyes quarantine-free travel by November.

 By Web desk 13th July 2022

One country, two systems’ lets Hong Kong have own Covid policies without copying mainland, quarantine-free travel expected by November, Secretary for Health Lo Chung-mau says he favours a local health code and more testing to better ring-fence cases, ensure city does not have to return to tightened social measures. Lo says President Xi Jinping had stressed Hong Kong must maintain its own uniqueness and Beijing will not blindly ask city to follow its policies.

Hong Kong need not copy mainland China’s tough Covid-19 policies as it enjoys wide latitude under the “one country, two systems” principle, the new health minister has said, as he forecast that quarantine-free arrivals with conditions attached could be allowed by November in time for a global bankers summit. In an exclusive interview, Secretary for Health Lo Chung-mau argued he favoured a local health code and more testing not to mimic the mainland’s approach but to better ring-fence cases and ensure the city did not have to return to tightened social measures, a move he wanted to avoid. During the wide-ranging session, he also revealed internal modelling predicted a rebound in the city’s recent fifth coronavirus wave and a peak in September with up to 10,000 patients needing hospitalization, but he vowed not to let the infections run out of control.

Proposed Covid-19 health code for Hong Kong will not be used for any political agenda, only pandemic purposes: John Lee

 BY Web desk 12th July 2022

Chief executive says colour-code system will be ‘very specific’ and only target ‘small numbers’ He also sounds warning on protecting high-risk groups and not repeating mistakes of fifth wave.

Hong Kong’s proposed mainland Chinese-style health code will only be used for pandemic purposes and not to restrict people’s mobility under any political agenda, the city’s leader has said. Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu, in a media briefing before his weekly Executive Council meeting on Tuesday, reassured residents the colour-code system was limited to “identifying Covid-19 patients and individuals currently in hotel quarantine”. He called on the public not to believe anyone who tried to smear the proposed health code. “Hong Kong is a very law-abiding place, so of course the government will also follow legislation.

 

Hong Kong’s use of electronic tracking wristbands not ‘foolproof’ solution to deter Covid-19 patients from breaching quarantine, experts say

 BY Web desk 12th July 2022

Experts call for rethink of Covid-19 policies given rebound in infection numbers, as new health minister reveals plans for colour-coded system for patients Strictly enforcing a seven-day home isolation for patients without proper government support could lead to unintended consequences, they warn.

Using electronic tracking wristbands to deter Covid-19 patients from breaching quarantine in Hong Kong is not a foolproof solution, IT and health experts have said. A mainland Chinese-style three-colour system was also considered fraught with loopholes as patients could still access public transport and go to work, the experts added, as they called for a deeper rethink of Hong Kong’s Covid-19 policies with the rebound in infections. The experts said strictly enforcing a seven-day home isolation for patients without proper government support could lead to unintended consequences. How can those elderly residents living alone buy food and daily necessities without leaving their home for seven days? What happens when the breadwinners in a family can’t go out to work and make a living? Not everyone can work from home, said Dr Joseph Tsang Kay-yan, co-chairman of the Medical Association’s advisory committee on communicable diseases. Since taking office on July 1, Secretary of Health Professor Lo Chung-mau has embarked on a policy blitz, including halting the city’s flight suspension mechanism and indicating a wider overhaul of its tough quarantine regime for overseas arrivals. Over the weekend, Lo said he planned to introduce a real-name registration system for the government’s Leave Home Safe risk-exposure app, a component of the vaccine pass scheme required for entry into premises such as restaurants and entertainment venues. Lo said the system would have colour codes to identify patients and high-risk individuals, with red denoting a positive Covid-19 result and yellow representing an active quarantine status for arrivals, both of which would deny users entry into high-risk venues. Everyone agrees that those who have Covid-19 should actually not go out and harm the rest of the population, Lo said on Sunday. If we  let (Covid-19 patients) roam the (city), those without Covid-19 will have their freedoms affected. On Monday, the minister revealed that electronic wristbands, most recently required for all self-isolating patients and overseas arrivals during the city’s fifth Covid-19 wave, would be reinstated as a requirement for home-isolating patients from Friday. Currently, individuals who test positive but are deemed suitable to be quarantined at home are usually required to undergo a two-week isolation period. Those with at least two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine will be allowed to leave home after testing negative for two days in a row. But Tsang said he believed the new approach was still flawed and questioned the sensitivity of the wristbands. There have long been questions about the accuracy of those wristbands, such as whether someone could just take them off and hang them at home, Tsang said. Would those wristbands be sensitive enough to detect a person leaving their home and going from the 16th floor of a building to the third floor, for example? According to the government, people starting their quarantine have to activate the wristband by walking slowly in their home for one minute. During the quarantine, the app will analyse communication signals, such as Bluetooth, Wi-fi and GPS, in the neighbourhood and their respective strengths. If a change in such signals is detected and officers judge that a person has left the quarantine place, law enforcers may conduct spot checks, make an arrest or issue a warrant. Technology experts have raised similar concerns. Francis Fong Po-kiu, honorary president of the Hong Kong Information Technology Federation, said the wristband, operated in conjunction with the government’s Stay Home Safe app, was connected to a mobile phone via Bluetooth, which depended on GPS and the service provider’s signal to position one’s location. Such positioning is very hard to determine whether an individual is going up and down within a building. Sometimes the positioning point moves by itself even if the individual is sitting still inside a room. The mobile signal is not always steady. The margin of error could range from 50 metres to 100 metres, Fong said, adding it was hard to receive GPS signals indoors. Tsang said there could be enforcement issues with regard to the scope of the app, which applied to only 23 types of premises at present. Currently you can take the MTR or other public transport and go to work without using the app, he said. Health minister Lo has said the colour-coded system would only bar patients and quarantining travellers from visiting high-risk venues. Tsang said he believed those should be limited to places where mask less activities took place such as restaurants and bars while cinemas, libraries and art galleries should be excluded. Hospitals and care homes should be included to protect the vulnerable but emergency rooms should still be accessible to the general public Tsang added. Medical and health services sector lawmaker Dr David Lam Tzit-yuen said he agreed with the principle of safeguarding the public from Covid-19 carriers, but that the precise operational details still had to be carefully thought through. Someone could easily use their friend’s phone to scan for entry, Lam said, adding that there was a possibility that some people would refrain from getting a test for fear of a strict seven-day home isolation, thereby creating more silent carriers in the community. Fong also raised a technical issue regarding the implementation of colour codes. If one person tested Covid-19 positive in Central and compulsory testing notices were issued to the few blocks nearby what colour code should all the people who got tested get? The categorizing criteria has to be precise. The Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data meanwhile has told that the real-name registration proposal would not contravene the existing privacy legislation, even though there would be certain legal requirements on the collection, handling and storage of data. IT lawmaker Duncan Chiu Tat-kun said the establishment of a central data bank for the Leave Home Safe app should address the privacy concerns. All user data can be encrypted and transferred to the central data bank. For anti-pandemic purposes, I think keeping the data for 30 days is more than enough before deleting it, Chiu said. We have proposed the central data bank idea several times and I don’t know whether the government would adopt it this time. It is a technological way to address the privacy issue. In that case, people don’t have to worry about whether their whereabouts are exposed or being monitored.

 

Smart bracelets for Covid patients isolating at home

 

Covid patients isolating at home will have to wear smart bracelets from Friday, Secretary for Health Lo Chung-mau says, and their Leave Home Safe app will turn red when the color-coded health-code system launches to bar them from going out. According to guidelines, if an infected person has received at least two Covid shots and their rapid antigen tests results are negative on days six and seven or any two consecutive days after day seven of the home quarantine period they are allowed out of their front doors. These arrangement also apply to close contacts. Lo said the preliminary plan is a red code for people testing positive and yellow for high-risk groups including overseas arrivals under medical surveillance. That would ban them from entering no-mask premises such as restaurants and high-risk venues such as care homes and hospitals. A green code will indicate a healthy person. On the seven-day hotel quarantine for overseas arrivals for Hong Kong and non-Hongkongers, Lo said he is mulling a change with part of the confinement to be home isolation. As for those under a yellow code, they could take public transport, though details have to be confirmed. He also said authorities are working to launch the color-coded system in the Leave Home Safe mobile app under a real-name registration. But the new feature will not come with location tracking as the intention is to identify infected patients and people who are under quarantine. Lo said currently about 60 percent of Covid patients, or over 12,000 people, are under home isolation. However, there is no precise measure to monitor whether these people abided by the quarantine order. He said there were precedents for people in isolation to remove smart bracelets, so it was necessary to establish a color-coded system to ensure they followed the law. Lo said authorities want to carry out more precise anti-pandemic work and do not want to make people pay a higher price for going along with the rules. And authorities do not want to implement a general lockdown like in Shanghai and Macau. He said. Hong Kong is very different from Shanghai or Macau in terms of the total population in terms of the age distribution and also in terms of vaccination (rates) as well as the fact that Hong Kong has already had the fifth wave, which has caused widespread infections. We've paid the price. In addition, Hong Kong is an international hub. All these factors are considered when we design our policy. On long waits for travelers crossing the border via Shenzhen Bay Port Lo apologized again for failing to implement crowd-control measures when the quota was increased to 2,000. He expected around 500 quotas for humanitarian care covering eight types of travelers including seniors above 70, children under 14 and pregnant women. Lo said an online registration system for people crossing the Shenzhen Bay Port will hopefully be launched this week. Long queues remained at Shenzhen Bay port yesterday as people had to take a PCR test and await a result. If they test negative they are given a green bracelet and can enter Shenzhen. But some travelers who tested positive and were given a red bracelet have been spotted leaving the port themselves.

 

Daily Covid tally could double in two weeks, health expert warns

 By Web desk 11th July 2022

A health expert warned that Hong Kong's daily Covid tally could double in two weeks' time, after the city recorded two deaths and 2,992 infections, including 37 unknown-source cases of highly transmissible Omicron sub variants on Sunday. Speaking on a radio program Monday morning, University of Hong Kong microbiologist Ho Pak-Leung said Hong Kong’s current outbreak was not yet past its peak, with the city now in a post-vaccine period. He noted that the dominating strain in Hong Kong is still BA.2, but the BA.4 and BA.5 strains would slowly catch up as the two fast-spreading sub variants of Omicron triggered widespread outbreaks around the world. The daily Covid tally may also double in one to two weeks, the infectious diseases expert said. Meanwhile, commenting on the possible implementation of a mainland-style color-coded health system under real-name registration in Hong Kong, Ho said the new system could enable more relaxation of border control measures. His comments came after the city’s health chief Lo Chung-mau revealed that authorities are considering introducing a color-coded system via the Leave Home Safe mobile application, with the app having to operate under a real-name registration system. Ho said those coming into the city would have their health code changed to red in color, which limits them, as well as infected patients or people with high infection risk from entering some places. However, he said limiting residents’ use of public transport with the health code system may not be the best way to contain the epidemic, and would add uncertainties.

Pakistan exchanges warm Eid greetings with Bahrain, Turkey

King Hamad, President Erdogan agree with PM Shehbaz to broaden bilateral cooperation.

 By Web desk 10th July 2022

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, on behalf of the government and the people of Pakistan, conveyed warm greetings to the governments and the peoples of Bahrain and Turkey on the occasion of Eidul Azha.

After exchanging greetings, Premier Shehbaz, while speaking to Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, highlighted that close bilateral ties provided significant opportunities for deeper cooperation in diverse areas, particularly trade and investment. During the telephonic conversation on Saturday, Shehbaz reaffirmed the longstanding fraternal relations between Pakistan and Bahrain and conveyed his best wishes for the continued progress and prosperity of the people of Bahrain. Reciprocating, King Hamad also extended best wishes to the people of Pakistan on this occasion. The king expressed his resolve to broaden cooperation for the benefit of the people of the two countries. Pakistan and Bahrain enjoy longstanding cordial relations, rooted firmly in shared faith, mutual understanding, and commonality of interests. Further, talking to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over the telephone, Shehbaz extended Eid’s warm greetings. Reciprocating the greetings from the prime minister, President Erdogan also extended best wishes to the government and the people of Pakistan. During the course of their conversation, the Turkish president also offered prayers for the victims of the devastating floods in Balochistan. In this context, President Erdogan reaffirmed his government's steadfast support to Pakistan during this testing time. While recalling his recent visit to Turkey and warm hospitality extended to him and his delegation, the prime minister expressed his government's firm resolve to further enhance its bilateral cooperation, especially in areas of trade, investment, energy and other important sectors. Both the leaders also exchanged views on regional and international peace and security matters, including enhancing cooperation for addressing global energy and food crises. The prime minister conveyed that he was looking forward to welcoming President Erdogan for the 7th Session of the High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council (HLSCC) scheduled to be held in Pakistan in September 2022.

 

Health expert lists criteria for scrapping hotel quarantine.

BY Web desk 9th July 2022

Increased testing capacity to conduct daily PCR tests can be one of the conditions for the government to exempt returnees from hotel quarantine, health expert Ivan Hung Fan-ngai said on Saturday. Hung on a radio program this morning said canceling the flight ban mechanism won’t significantly impact the pandemic development, and it is now more important to review the testing and quarantine arrangements for returnees. Given citizens conduct regular Covid tests, the government can consider further shortening the hotel quarantine to three days, followed by four days of home isolation. If authorities can arrange daily PCR tests -- the government’s “gold standard” dubbed by health minister Lo Chung-mau -- for travelers with the results returning within four to eight hours, hotel quarantine may be canceled. Yet, whether or not his proposal work depends on the testing capacity of the contractors’ laboratories, Hung noted. He also echoed Lo’s remarks on boosting PCR testing capacity and suggested setting up more community testing centers, so citizens do not wait in long lines for a PCR test. On the other hand, Hung backed the government’s decision to keep the existing Covid curbs instead of relaxing them. He told the public to stay at ease despite the rising infection figures, saying the current pandemic has yet to threaten the public healthcare system. 

 

 Coronavirus

Hong Kong expert suggests no more hotel quarantine for arrivals if travellers undergo daily PCR tests that can deliver results in under 8 hours.

 BY Web desk 9th July 2022

Professor Ivan Hung from HKU says arrangement hinges on efficiency of tests, with isolation reduced to ‘3+4’ format, and eventually just seven days of screening. He warns about rise of Omicron BA.5 sub variant, but says cases expected to be mild or asymptomatic with city’s overall ‘hybrid immunity’ from jabs and infections.

Overseas arrivals in Hong Kong could be spared hotel quarantine if they undergo daily nucleic tests for Covid-19 with the results delivered in under eight hours, a top health expert has said. Professor Ivan Hung Fan-ngai, chief of the infectious diseases division of the University of Hong Kong (HKU), said on Saturday that enhanced efficiency of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test could first enable a “3+4” arrangement, comprising three days of hotel quarantine and four days of home isolation with regular tests. “If the situation is stable, then daily PCR testing for seven days in a row could replace the quarantine arrangement,” Hung told a radio programme, adding that this hinged on testing efficiency.

Health chief dismisses quarantine free travel for Hong Kong.

By Web desk 8th July 2022

Hong Kong’s new health chief has rejected calls for quarantine-free travel in the near future and to live with Covid-19, even as the city relaxes some restrictions amid a surge in cases, according to an interview with local newspaper Oriental Daily.  Lo Chung-mau, who was appointed Secretary for Health by new Chief Executive John Lee, said that it’s unreasonable to pursue a full-blown border reopening with mainland China or the rest of the world, and that the government is currently targeting reducing inconveniences to allow more people to travel. The city would see far more than 9,000 deaths if it were to live with the virus, Lo added, citing the large numbers of deaths in the US and UK after the countries reopened. Lee has said that Hong Kong must reduce travel inconveniences while curbing the spread of the virus, confirming that the city will continue to adhere to China’s Covid-Zero policy and avoid lifting travel restrictions completely. The Hong Kong government has relaxed some measures recently, including the suspension of a system that banned airlines if they carried too many infected passengers. However, local business groups have been pushing the government above all to cancel hotel quarantine, arguing the city risks losing its status as a global financial hub if travel continues to be restrictive A surge in infections will further test Hong Kong’s ability to relax travel. The city reported more than 3,000 cases on Thursday, with health officials warning that daily infections could double in two weeks. Lo said in the interview that he’s concerned that the rising tally will pressure the city’s health system, and called for more people, especially the elderly, to get vaccinated. About 89 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated, but the ratio falls to 64 percent for those 80 and above. The number of Covid patients in Hong Kong’s hospitals has doubled to more than 800 from last month, health officials said earlier this week. If the situation deteriorates, hospitals may have to suspend non-essential care services to cope with the pressure, they added.

 

We have to tell people how great we are Hong Kong’s John Lee to adopt more proactive approach to promoting city on world stage.

By Web desk 7th July 2022

New leader uses Chinese proverb and Cantonese phrase in showing how his approach differs from that of his predecessor. Analysts say Lee’s strategies do not seem promising, and that efforts could hinge on whether authorities are continuing crackdown on opposition camp.

Using a Chinese proverb and a Cantonese phrase, Hong Kong’s new leader John Lee Ka-chiu on Wednesday sought to distinguish his approach to promoting the city on the international stage from that of his predecessor. Quoting a Chinese saying that musk naturally has fragrance, essentially meaning the appeal of a particular thing is obvious, Lee said such a pragmatic and conservative approach was no longer ideal under the current political climate. “Instead, when we draw a cartoon character, we should draw its intestines as well,” he continued, using a colloquial Cantonese phrase that refers to how one should offer more details about a particular thing.

 

 Hong Kong leader John Lee in Legco:

City not ‘lying flat’ in pandemic fight, PCR tests can be extended to exempt residents from restrictions.

 By Web desk 6th July 2022

Lee answers questions from legislators during his first appearance in the Legislative Council as chief executive. He also stresses positive relationship between his administration and Legco, dismissing previous era in which some used ‘two systems to resist one country’

Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu made his first appearance at the Legislative Council as city leader on Wednesday in a 90-minute question and answer session with lawmakers. But Lee courted controversy before the session even began by making an unprecedented request for lawmakers to confine their questions to a handful of policy areas, sparking criticism the move would belittle the chamber.

 

John Lee, stresses cautious opening on virus

The city must balance reducing travel inconvenience with limiting the spread of Covid-19

 By Web desk 5th July 2022

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, John Lee Ka-chiu, declared the city must balance reducing travel inconvenience with limiting the spread of Covid-19, signaling a cautious virus approach. Lee's remarks came when he and the 16 non-official members of his Executive Council, as well as three top secretaries, met the press before their first weekly meeting. I have asked the health secretary to look at the evidence and statistics to see how we can on the one hand contain the spread of the pandemic and at the same time reduce the inconvenience to travelers, said Lee. One of the areas that he’s looking at is how the duration of quarantine should be handled, Lee said, adding that Health Secretary Lo Chung-mau was preparing a series of options for him. He also warned that people in Hong Kong should only be allowed to go about their normal activities once being identified as not infected, to prevent a spike in deaths. However, Lee offered no concrete solutions at the Tuesday briefing, only saying that his government was considering ways to satisfy both goals, without acknowledging the seemingly contradictory nature of simultaneously achieving those tasks. Meanwhile, the chief executive expressed his appreciation for the 16 non-official members for taking the invitation for being the Exco members, saying their vast experience in different areas will help him make important decisions. Lee also noted that veteran politician Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, who will serve as the convener of the meeting, has ample political experience and understood administration works. Her concerns about social issues will also enable her to speak up for Hong Kong', said Lee. Under the Basic Law, the Exco is an organ for assisting the chief executive in policy-making. The Exco normally meets once a week and the CE presides over the meetings. Except for the appointment, removal and disciplining of officials and the adoption of measures in emergencies, the CE shall consult the Exco before making important policy decisions, introducing bills to the Legislative Council, making subordinate legislation, or dissolving the LegCo.

Govt refuses to comment infection related to July 1 event, HK adds 1,828 Covid cases

 By Web desk 4th July 2022

HK adds 1,828 Covid cases, as the Center for Health Protection refused to comment on the infections among people who attended Hong Kong's handover anniversary. Among the cases, 1,681 were locally transmitted while the remaining 147 were imported cases, according to the Centre for Health Protection's principal medical and health officer Albert Au Ka-wing. Eighty of the imported cases were detected at the airport, 58 at quarantine hotels and 9 were patients who tested positive after they completed the seven-day isolation. The caseload of the fifth wave now exceeded 1.239 million. Hospital Authority's chief manager for quality and standards Lau Ka-hin reported no new death and the death tally stands at 9,192.As for confirmed cases of people who attended the handover celebration ceremony, Au said he would not comment on individual cases. He also said that an investigation would be conducted in general, and people including their family members and those who had face-to-face contact during the infectious period would be classified as close contacts. Asked whether they had contacted the mainland on the incident, Au said he had maintained close contact before and had nothing to add now. He added that if a confirmed case has stayed in any of the two quarantine hotels, the hotel would be required to conduct thorough disinfection. Hotpot Foodie in Kwun Tong Kwun added three new cases, all of which were customers. The cluster has so far seen 14 customers being infected. The restaurant did not violate anti-epidemic measures, while all environment samples and staff members tested negative. As the ventilation of the restaurant has met relevant criteria, Au said it may involve BA.4 or BA.5 Omicron sub variants, which were more contagious than other sub variants. It was also the first time that the transmission of BA.4 or BA.5 was found in a restaurant. The center, on the other hand, identified 28 cases carrying the BA.4 or BA.5. Three of them were imported cases and 10 were local unknown source cases. Twenty-three cases of the BA.2.12.1 Omicron sub variant were reported today as well, of which 20 were of unknown origin. When investigating the BA.4 or BA.5 cases, the authorities found two students were enrolled in class 5A of Chiu Lut Sau Memorial Secondary School in Yuen Long. Therefore, the class has been recommended to suspend for a week. The authorities received 1,073 confirmed cases from schools between June 27 and 30, similar to the previous week, involving 899 students and 174 staff members. Four more elderly homes reported new infections, including four staffers ad one resident. Public hospitals and treatment facilities are now housing 761 patients. Eleven of them are in critical condition, 13 are in serious condition, and two are in hospital intensive care units.

Elahi extols SC for accepting PTI's option

 By Web desk 3rd July 2022

 Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Umar Ata Bandial  paved a way for transparent polls in future

Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi on Saturday the Supreme Court's verdict on Punjab by-elections, saying CJP Umar Ata Bandial has played a bridging role to promote democracy by accepting PTI's option.

The provincial assembly speaker said, while chairing a meeting regarding the upcoming by-polls. General Secretary Punjab Senator Kamil Ali Agha, former provincial ministers Chaudhry Zaheeruddin, Mian Imran Masood as well as former MNAs Chaudhry Tahir Bashir Cheema and Shadab Jaffery were also present. Cheering the apex court's order to hold are-election for the office of chief minister of Punjab on July 22, Elahi predicted the CJP's decision will go a long way in enabling clean and transparent elections while preventing fraud. He went on to criticise the incumbent PML-N-led coalition government over its economic policies, lamenting that the skyrocketing inflation has made life difficult for the people. No one cares about the poor and the government has no policy to curb the rise in prices of petrol and other daily necessities, he said. The PML-Q speaker reiterated that his party would fully back the PTI candidates in the by-elections. Insha-Allah, there will be a clear difference from our support, after which we will also win the July 22 elections Insha-Allah. People should use their right to vote to reject the imported government, Elahi added. The Supreme Court had on Friday ruled that re-election for the Punjab chief minister’s slot will be held on July 22 after the rival parties — PML-N, PML-Q and PTI — reached consensus on the matter. A three-member bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial issued the order on PTI’s plea challenging the Lahore High Court (LHC) order. Both Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz and Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi appeared satisfied with the decision. However, political pundits see a new chapter of legal complexities, further plunging the teetering Punjab administration into quagmire.

 

No.8 Storm Signal to remain in force before 4pm Saturday.

 BY Web desk 2nd July 2022

 The No. 8 Storm Signal will remain in force before 4pm Saturday as the observatory advised the public to stay away from the shoreline and not to engage in water sports. The signal means that winds with mean speeds of 63 kilometers per hour or more are expected from the southeast quarter. At noon, Typhoon Chaba was centered about 320 kilometers west-southwest of Hong Kong and is forecast to move northwest at about 16 kilometers per hour towards the coast of western Guangdong. Chaba’s rain bands are bringing violent winds and heavy showers to the Pearl River Estuary. Gale force winds are affecting many places in the territory, while winds occasionally reach storm force offshore and on high ground. Gales associated with Chaba will continue to affect the vicinity of the Pearl River Estuary in the early afternoon. In the past hour, the maximum sustained winds recorded at Cheung Chau, Tap Mun and Sha Chau were 76, 65 and 60 kilometers per hour with maximum gusts 94, 73 and 75 kilometers per hour respectively. The public are advised to lock all windows and doors, and insert reinforced shutters and gates if available. Adhesive tape fixed to large window-panes in exposed positions will reduce damage and injury by broken glass. Meanwhile, owners of neon signs should switch off the electricity supply to the signs. 

7 top innovations President Xi Jinping saw at Hong Kong Science Park.

By Web desk 2nd July 2022

Chinese president visited Science Park during his busy two-day trip, meeting some of Hong Kong’s scientists, innovators and young entrepreneurs. Xi witnessed Hong Kong’s advances in AI technology, possible applications of robotics in surgery and an award-winning prenatal test for Down’s syndrome

During his busy two-day trip to Hong Kong to commemorate the 25th anniversary of its return to Chinese rule and officiate the swearing-in ceremony of the new government, President Xi Jinping opted to visit the city’s technology hub. Spending about an hour at the Science Park in Pak Shek Kok, he met some of Hong Kong’s scientists, academics, innovators and young entrepreneurs, while also familiarizing himself with the city’s seven top innovations. Readers can learn about all seven of these revolutionary creations below.

 

Hong Kong's 'true democracy' started after handover: Xi

By Web desk 1st July 2022

Chinese leader Xi Jinping said Friday that Hong Kong's true democracy started after the city's handover to China from colonial Britain 25 years ago. After reuniting with the motherland, Hong Kong's people became the masters of their own city, Xi said. Hong Kong's true democracy started from here. He added that the "One Country, Two Systems” principle has been successful for Hong Kong over the past 25 years. There is no reason to change the "One Country, Two Systems” style of governance and it will continue. He emphasized that the “One Country, Two Systems” is supported by 1.4 billion Chinese people, endorsed by Hong Kong and Macau compatriots, and has the general approval of the international community.Xi also said that national security law is beneficial for citizens' democratic rights and to ensure Hong Kong's prosperity and stability. He said that Hong Kong is a window and bridge connecting the mainland to the world. Xi’s speech also highlighted that Beijing enjoys full jurisdiction over Hong Kong and the importance of “patriots” administering the city. The regime must be in the hands of patriots. There’s no one in the world who would allow outsiders betrayers or even traitors to get hold of political power he says, adding that this principle must be upheld to ensure the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong.

Hong Kong's John Lee sworn in as city leader by Xi Jinping on day 2 of president's visit for 25th handover anniversary.

 By Web desk 1st July 2022

Xi will deliver a keynote speech, in which he is expected to lay down Beijing’s future direction for the 'one country, two systems' governing formula over the city. President on Thursday described Hong Kong as having 'risen from the ashes' after overcoming various severe challenges since his last visit in 2017.

John Lee sworn in as Hong Kong’s new leader. 

John Lee is sworn in as Hong Kong’s fifth chief executive by Xi Jinping.

Speaking in Mandarin, he says: “I, Lee Ka-chiu, swear that, in the office of chief executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, I will uphold the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, bear allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China and serve the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region conscientiously, dutifully, in full accordance with the law, honestly and with integrity, and be held accountable to the Central People’s Government of the People’s Republic of China and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.” Lee then bows to Xi, and they take a photo together, with a round of applause from the audience.

Journalist Ayaz Amir attacked in Lahore

 By Web desk 1st July 2022

Unidentified assailants allegedly manhandled journalist and took away his belongings including mobile phone.

Senior journalist Ayaz Amir was attack by six unknown people, who manhandled him and torn his clothes late on Friday night after he was coming out of the office of a private TV channel in Lahore.

Amir was returning home after participating in a TV programme when unknown persons stopped his car. The attackers then manhandled him and also tortured his driver before fleeing from the scene. In a tweet later, Amir said those who attacked him did not care about his age.  “I have no personal enmity with anyone and I had no quarrel with anyone. Whoever attacked me didn't even care about my age. Is there a law of the jungle here? What will happen to a common man if a person like me is not safe?” Taking notice of the incident the top city police officer Bilal Siddique had sought report from Civil Lines police. The Civil Lines police officials later recorded statement of Amir and assured him of tracing the culprits with the help of CCTV footage. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shahbaz strongly condemned the attack on senior journalist Ayaz Amir. The prime minister also ordered a high level inquiry into the incident. Prime Minister Shehbaz said that the attackers must be brought to justice soon. He expressed sympathy with Amir and instructed that protection and safety of journalists must be ensured. Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shahbaz also condemned the incident of violence against senior journalist and columnist Ayaz Amir. He directed the police that the culprits must be arrested soon and brought to book. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan in a tweet also condemned “in strongest terms the violence” against senior journalist Ayaz Amir. “Pak descending into the worst kind of fascism with violence & fake FIRS against journalists, opp politicians, citizens. When the State loses all moral authority it resorts to violence,” he said.

 Tightening pollution rules for classic cars, keeping exemptions for vehicles aged 30 years or more.

BY Web desk 30th June 2022

Environmental Protection Department says it has considered views from stakeholders that industry and enthusiasts’ lifestyle will be crippled. Members from community welcome changes, but some collectors of Japanese cars, which may not fall into age category for exemption, still unhappy

Hong Kong authorities have made a U-turn on tightening pollution rules for classic cars, allowing vehicles aged 30 years or more to be exempted at first registration if owners provide test reports. The decision would take immediate effect the Environmental Protection Department announced on Wednesday night. In response to the opinions and suggestions received from trade and relevant stakeholders and to strike a balance between the interests from different sectors the EPD has updated the relevant exemption arrangement the statement read, referring to an earlier decision to tighten the exemption for classic cars.

 

Coronavirus

Hong Kong business leader calls for quota boost in quarantine-free Return2HK scheme in light of mainland China easing rules for arrivals.

 By Web desk 29th June 2022

Allen Shi of the Chinese Manufacturers’ Association of Hong Kong says he expects more residents to travel to mainland China as a result of Beijing relaxing its policy. He says the daily quota should be increased from 3,000 to 5,000 for those returning via Shenzhen Bay Port.

A major business chamber in Hong Kong has urged the government to increase the daily quota of a quarantine-free scheme for residents returning from mainland China, a day after Beijing announced it would ease isolation rules for overseas arrivals. Allen Shi Lop-tak, president of the Chinese Manufacturers Association of Hong Kong, said he expected more Hongkongers to travel to the mainland as a result of the relaxed policy and called for an increase in the daily quota of the Return2HK scheme under which locals are exempt from quarantine from 3,000 to 5,000 for those returning via Shenzhen Bay Port. It has been hard for people to travel to mainland China due to the 21-day quarantine period, Shi, who represents 3,000 companies, told a radio programme on Wednesday.

Can Hong Kong’s next leader John Lee fix the city’s housing crisis?

By Web desk 28th June 2022

Years of policy paralysis have set Hong Kong on its way to an entrenched housing crisis, with homes growing smaller but more expensive. New political landscape offers the best chance to succeed where past administrations have failed.

Zoe But said it was the luckiest day in her life when she and her fiancé were chosen in the ballot to buy a subsidized home 25 years ago. We were really lucky. Without the flat, we would have had no way of having a home of our own to start a family, said But, now 59. Although paying up the mortgage was hard – you couldn’t travel as much as you like or eat whatever you wanted – it was worth it. She was among 89,476 applicants who bid for 10,502 flats under the Home Ownership Scheme in October 1997, three months after Hong Kong returned to China.

 

Coronavirus Hong Kong

Hospitals experience uptick in Covid-related admissions as city logs more than 1,900 cases

 By Web desk 27th June 2022

Health official says number of hospital patients admitted with mild coronavirus symptoms has ‘increased slightly’, but severe cases remain stable. City records 1,917 cases, comprising 1,799 local and 118 imported infections, and no additional deaths.

Hong Kong hospitals have experienced a slight uptick in coronavirus-related admissions but the number of serious cases is stable, a health official has said, with the daily infection tally remaining in the four-digit range for the 12th day in a row. The city on Sunday recorded 1,917 coronavirus cases, comprising 1,799 local and 118 imported infections. The figure marked an increase from Saturday’s total of 1,794. No additional virus-related deaths were reported. Hong Kong’s overall Covid-19 tally stands at 1,237,623 cases and 9,398 fatalities.

Business chambers urge Beijing’s liaison office to help push for removal of Covid-19 quarantine.

 By Web desk 26th June 2022

Liaison office held series of closed-door individual meetings with city’s major foreign business chambers to ‘directly’ gauge their views on issues, sources say. Business community expresses ‘valid and frank opinions’ about how quarantine rules are undermining Hong Kong’s financial hub status.

Business chambers in Hong Kong have urged Beijing’s representatives in the city to help push for the immediate relaxation of its stringent Covid-19 quarantine measures to resuscitate the economy and retain its financial hub status. Sources told on Saturday that Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong had earlier this month initiated a series of closed-door individual meetings with the city’s major foreign business chambers to gauge their views on various issues in the run-up to new leader John Lee Ka-chiu taking office on July 1st. A source said it was the first time the liaison office met the business group on a one-to-one basis to canvass their views on topics including Hong Kong’s competitiveness and the development of the Greater Bay Area, China’s scheme to link Hong Kong and Macau with nine cities in Guangdong province to create an economic powerhouse by 2035.

Xi Jinping to attend 25th anniversary celebrations of Hong Kong’s return to Chinese sovereignty and swearing-in of new city leader John Lee.

 By Web desk 25th June 2022

State news agency Xinhua reports on Saturday morning that Xi Jinping will officiate ceremony to mark quarter-century of Chinese sovereignty over city. Outgoing leader Carrie Lam, Chief Executive-designate John Lee express gratitude for Xi’s plan to visit Hong Kong, Lee says tour has significance for transitioning city.

Chinese President Xi Jinping will officiate at the event to mark the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover and swear in the new administration of incoming leader John Lee Ka-chiu. State news agency Xinhua reported on Saturday morning that Xi will attend the ceremony to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s reunification with the motherland and to inaugurate the city’s sixth-term government. The visit will be the second time Xi has presided over the anniversary festivities and the swearing-in ceremony of a new city leader since becoming China’s president in 2013.

 

Shorten the hotel quarantine period to five days or less for overseas arrivals. 

 By Web desk 24th June 2022

Hong Kong will try to shorten the hotel quarantine period to five days or less for overseas arrivals with a closed-loop journey and home quarantine incoming health secretary Lo Chung-mau says. A closed-loop journey entails travelers to only go to places they have scheduled beforehand on their itinerary. Lo - talking on radio a day after incoming chief executive John Lee Ka-chiu said he will strive to relax quarantine curbs - said he will roll out measures to relax restrictions on travelers once he assumes office next month. Only 1 percent of inbound travelers were carrying the coronavirus, Lo said. As long as the government can identify Covid patients as quickly as possible, authorities can shorten the hotel quarantine period to five days or less. The speed quantity and accuracy of PCR tests also need to be stepped up for the relaxation to work, he said. Lo said it is not a policy shift from the anti-Covid approach as the virus still threatens the lives of the elderly and the chronically ill. The government has the responsibility to protect people's lives and health but we will roll out more measures to make lives more convenient and allow economic development to resume normally under a precise prevention of infection, Lo said. If the number of infections continues to rise it may cause the public hospital service to collapse. The next government will continue to cut down the number of infections. Lo said the policies differ among regions and Hong Kong and the mainland's standard of the virus test will have to be unified before reopening borders. Lee told that he will prioritize his work on reopening the borders between Hong Kong and the mainland as well as the rest of the world possibly by reducing the period required to undergo mandatory quarantine for travelers. “Other countries have already lifted their quarantine period”.

 

دنیا کے وہ ممالک جہاں پیٹرول مہنگا اور سستا ترین ہے

دنیا میں سب سے مہنگا پیٹرول ہانگ کانگ جبکہ کم ترین قیمت میں وینزویلا میں فراہم کیا جارہا ہے۔

By Web desk 24th June 2022

 

ایک طرف تو کورونا وبا نے دنیا کو مہنگائی کے دلدل میں دھکیلا تو دوسری طرف روس یوکرین جنگ کے

باعث مہنگائی کے جن نے بے قابو ہوکر دنیا پر اپنی گرفت مضبوط کرلی اور اب پیٹرولیم مصنوعات کی قیمتوں میں اضافے کے آفٹر شاکس بھی آرہے ہیں۔

کیا آپ جانتے ہیں دنیا میں سب سے زیادہ مہنگا اور سستا ترین پیٹرول کن ملک میں ملتا ہے اور پیٹرول کی فروخت کے حوالے سے دنیا مہنگے تیرین سستے ترین دس ممالک کون سے ہیں۔

وہ ممالک جہاں پیٹرول سب سے مہنگا فروخت کیا جارہا ہے

دنیا میں سب سے زیادہ مہنگا پیٹرول چین کے زیر انتظام برطانوی کالونی ہانگ کانگ میں ملتا ہے جہاں پیٹرول کی فی لیٹر قیمت 634 روپے ہیں۔

فن لینڈ : 562.63 روپے فی لیٹر
آئس لینڈ : 557.45 روپے فی لیٹر
ناروے : 544.48 روپے فی لیٹر
یونان : 539.30 روپے فی لیٹر
ڈنمارک : 534.11 روپے فی لیٹر
نیدرلینڈ : 526.33 روپے فی لیٹر
وسطی افریقین ریپبلک : 508.18 روپے فی لیٹر
موناکو : 503.00 روپے فی لیٹر
سنگاپور : 495.22 روپے فی لیٹر

وہ ممالک جہاں پیٹرول انتہائی کم قیمت پر عوام کو میسر ہے 

دنیا بھر میں شدید مہنگائی کے باوجود امریکی پابندیوں کا شکار ملک وینزویلا میں پیٹرول سب سے زیادہ سستا فروخت کیا جارہا ہے جہاں فی لیٹر پیٹرول کی قیمت 4.67 روپے ہے۔

خانہ جنگی کے شکار ملک لیبیا : 6.48 روپے فی لیٹر
چالیس برس سے عالمی پابندیوں کا سامنا کرنے والے ملک ایران : 11.41 روپے فی لیٹر
خانہ جنگی اور اسرائیلی و امریکی حملوں سے نبرد آزما ملک شام : 60.41 روپے فی لیٹر
الجیریا : 66.63 روپے فی لیٹر
کویت : 72.34 روپے فی لیٹر
انگولا : 78.30 روپے فی لیٹر
نائجیریا : 87.12 روپے فی لیٹر
ترکمانستان : 91.01 روپے فی لیٹر
ملائیشیا : 98.53 روپے فی لیٹر

 

 

Hong Kong border with mainland China, may reduce quarantine for arrivals, John Lee working on strategy to reopen.

 By Web desk 23rd June 2022

John Lee concedes scrapping curbs may take time to achieve but says his administration can set interim goals towards that end. He also reveals he plans to attend annual Apec leaders’ summit in Bangkok in November, despite being under US sanctions.

Incoming leader John Lee Ka-chiu is working on a strategy to reopen Hong Kong’s borders with mainland China and the rest of the world, including a possible reduction of mandatory quarantine for travellers, and also plans to attend the Apec leaders’ summit in Bangkok in November as part of a more aggressive drive to promote his home city. Lee, who has been sanctioned by Washington since 2020 over his role in the implementation of Hong Kong’s national security law, said one of his goals was to personally travel to the next meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, of which the city has been a member since 1991.

Unpacking Hong Kong’s laws,

25 years after handover

5 rulings on Basic Law where Beijing, not the city’s courts, had final say in key cases

By Web desk 22nd June 2022

NPC Standing Committee’s interpretations averted migrant crisis, improved grasp of Basic Law. No interpretations since 2016, but top Beijing body has issued decisions on critical issues in city.

As part of the group drafting Hong Kong’s Basic Law in the late 1980s, veteran pro-Beijing politician Tam Yiu-chung knew even then some provisions of the mini-constitution, when taken together, could trigger controversy after the city returned to Chinese rule in 1997. Article 2, for example, gave Hong Kong’s courts independent judicial power, including the final say on cases. However, Article 158 said China’s top legislative body, the National People’s Congress (NPC) Standing Committee, had ultimate power of interpretation over the Basic Law. This was based on China’s constitution, which empowered the standing committee to enact laws and interpret them, Tam said.

Hong Kong could start quarantine-free business travel corridor with mainland China, fight for more flexible rules on border reopening, advisers urge.

 By Web desk 21st June 2022

Exco members propose allowing travellers to head to mainland China on small-scale basis, to meet employees and business partners. New administration could press Hong Kong’s case during border reopening talks by emphasizing stable streak of hospitalization and severe cases, advisers say.

Hong Kong should aim for a quarantine-free business travel corridor as a precursor to a full-scale reopening of its borders, as the city’s reconnection with mainland China and other parts of the world is ranked high among Beijing’s priorities, government advisers have said. To achieve that, the incoming administration under Chief Executive-designate John Lee Ka-chiu should fight for more flexible rules during negotiations on border reopening, analysts and medical experts added. The State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO) on Sunday laid out five expectations for Lee’s team, including tackling pressing issues such as the border reopening and strengthening the city’s role as an international hub connecting the mainland and the world.

Data on asylum seekers detained in Hong Kong should be disclosed more proactively, legal expert says.

 By Web desk 20th June 2022

Legal scholar Surabhi Chopra says research efforts showed public information on immigration detainees was harder to find than data for prisoners. Researchers made hundreds of access to information requests to authorities, with mixed success retrieving basic information’ regarding immigration detainees.

A legal expert studying Hong Kong’s immigration detention facilities has called on authorities to be more proactive in disclosing data, saying it is a real concern that information on those held in custody is not readily available. Surabhi Chopra, an associate professor at Chinese University who specializes in forced migration and rights of the poor, said her research led her to conclude that it was even harder to find public information on immigration detainees than on prisoners. While the Correctional Services Department (CSD) keeps basic statistics on the demographics of prisoners on its website, Chopra and her team had to dig through annual reports and file hundreds of access to information requests to try to get similar data on immigration detainees.

Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee's cabinet approved by Beijing.

 By Web desk 19th June 2022

 Mainland China’s State Council has given the green light to John Lee Ka-chiu’s choice of key officials in cabinet. Long-time bureaucrat Eric Chan becomes chief secretary, Financial Secretary Paul Chan to stay in current post. Incoming Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu's cabinet nomination was approved by the central government on Sunday. Lee expressed gratitude to the central government for accepting and approving the 26 nominations made by him. He also thanked for its trust in and support for him and his governing team. The 21 Principal Officials appointed under the political appointment system are on non-civil service terms:

Secretaries of Departments

Chief Secretary for Administration, Chan Kwok-ki
Financial Secretary, Paul Chan
Secretary for Justice, Paul Lam Ting-kwok, SC

 Deputy Secretaries of Departments

Deputy Chief Secretary for Administration, Cheuk Wing-hing
Deputy Financial Secretary, Michael Wong
Deputy Secretary for Justice, Cheung Kwok-kwan

 Directors of Bureaux

Secretary for Culture, Sports and Tourism, Kevin Yeung
Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Erick Tsang Kwok-wai
Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury, Christopher Hui
Secretary for Security, Tang Ping-keung
Secretary for Environment and Ecology, Tse Chin-wan
Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Algernon Yau
Secretary for Health, Lo Chung-mau
Secretary for Transport and Logistics, Lam Sai-hung
Secretary for Development, Bernadette Linn
Secretary for Housing, Winnie Ho
Secretary for the Civil Service, Ingrid Yeung
Secretary for Education, Choi Yuk-lin
Secretary for Innovation, Technology and Industry, Sun Dong
Secretary for Home and Youth Affairs, Ms Alice Mak
Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Chris Sun.

Five Principal Officials heading the disciplined services were also appointed today. They are the Commissioner of Police, Siu Chak-yee; the Commissioner, Independent Commission Against Corruption, Woo Ying-ming; the Director of Audit, Nelson Lam; the Director of Immigration, Au Ka-wang; and the Commissioner of Customs and Excise, Louise Ho. In addition, Lee announced the appointment of Carol Yip as the Director of the Chief Executive's Office.

Incoming Hong Kong leader John Lee finalizes cabinet line-up, submits list to Beijing for consideration

 By Web desk 18th June 2022

Declining to give any names, Lee says he has brought in incumbent ministers, civil servants, professionals from private sector and people familiar with district work. He pledges to reveal the list once it receives the green light from Beijing.

Hong Kong’s incoming leader John Lee Ka-chiu has finalized the line-up of his cabinet and submitted it to Beijing for consideration, and has pledged to announce the list once it receives the green light. Declining to give any names, Lee on Friday said he had brought in incumbent ministers, civil servants, professionals from the private sector and people familiar with district work.

Hong Kong consumption vouchers, what you need to know about second batch of e-coupons, who is eligible and special offers available.

By Web desk 17th June 2022

Scheme extended to cover people in Hong Kong eligible for permanent residency while excluding locals planning to emigrate. Users of any of six service providers can look forward to host of offers including discounts and gift packs.

The Hong Kong government will hand out a second batch of HK$5,000 (US$637) in consumption vouchers from August 7 after the first round of the same amount was distributed in April. The scheme was first introduced last year in a bid to boost the city’s economy amid the Covid-19 pandemic, with each eligible resident receiving e-coupons worth HK$5,000. The second iteration of the scheme doubled the amount but split the handouts into two batches.

 Cathay Pacific to hire 4,000 staff by the end of 2023, as part of ambitious recruitment drive, CEO Augustus Tang 

 By Web desk 16th June 2022

 Across Cathay Pacific Group, a total of 8,000 new staff will be hired from now to the end of next year, CEO Augustus Tang says. Cathay Pacific plans to recruit 700 pilots and 2,000 cabin crew by the end of 2023.

Cathay Pacific Airways is aiming to hire 4,000 staff by the end of next year as part of an ambitious group-wide recruitment drive to take on 8,000 new workers, with Hong Kong’s flagship carrier preparing for the city’s recovery, its CEO has revealed. on Wednesday, Augustus Tang Kin-wing said the airline was very much in a growth mode and growth mentality almost two years after the company went through major restructuring during which it closed down regional carrier Cathay Dragon and laid off thousands of staff. Tang said Cathay Pacific planned to recruit 700 pilots and 2,000 cabin crew by the end of 2023, with the rest of the 4,000 new employees to be hired as airport frontline staff and for its customer service centre.

Whether all judges in city should be Chinese nationals ahead of 2047,

Hong Kong’s first

Chief justice Andrew Li.

By Web desk 15th June 2022

City needs to be prepared should fewer non-permanent, overseas judges be available to serve in next 10 years, he says. Li also calls on younger people to think beyond just their rights, arguing they should also focus on their responsibilities to the community and country.

Hong Kong’s first chief justice after the end of British rule expects the question of whether all judges should be Chinese citizens to emerge as among the issues to be debated in the run-up to 2047. Such matters would surface well before that year, Andrew Li Kwok-nang said, referring to the 50 year mark of the city’s handover of sovereignty from Britain to China amid a promise that its way of life would be preserved under the one country, two systems governing model. The 25th anniversary of the return to Chinese rule, Andrew Li Kwok-nang, who presided over the judiciary from 1997 to 2010, said the rule of law and judicial independence had been maintained in the past quarter century.

 

Hong Kong will not give in a single inch to requests by business chambers consulates to ease Covid rules Lam says. Citing state officials visit and transition of power.

 By Web desk 14th June 2022

Chief executive also says health authorities will announce new measures by public hospitals to deal with rising trend in coronavirus infections. She makes clear that current social-distancing rules will be maintained till the end of her term on June 30.

Hong Kong’s outgoing leader has said she will not “give in a single inch” to requests by international business chambers and consulates to ease the city’s tough pandemic measures, citing an expected visit by top state figures and the need to avoid confusion in light of the coming transition of power for the local administration. At a press briefing on Tuesday before the final regular meeting of her de facto cabinet, the Executive Council, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor also noted the recent rise in the number of Covid-19 infections from about 200 to more than 800. Lam said the health minister and other officials would soon announce plans by public hospitals to address the situation. Asked how she would ensure favourable conditions for an expected visit by President Xi Jinping for the inauguration ceremony of the new administration on July 1, Lam revealed she had turned down requests by international chambers of commerce and consulates to further relax pandemic restrictions.

 

 

Is Hong Kong a great place to live?

How quality of life changed after the handover.

By Web desk 13th June 2022

Crime has come down, city’s transport networks have grown and people have more leisure choices now. A big downside for residents is how homes have shrunk, cost much more and the queue is longer.

With more than 7 million people Hong Kong is both a bustling high-rise metropolis and a city with wide open spaces. It is a global financial centre and a place where conservation heritage and the arts have come to matter more. Since its return to Chinese sovereignty in 1997 the city had more than two decades of boisterous civil society activism street processions and demonstrations. All that changed in the wake of 2019’s social unrest as Beijing introduced a national security law and sweeping electoral reforms. But has Hong Kong become more live able for residents who call the city home? The some indicators of whether life has changed for the better over the past 25 years. Has the housing situation improved? No. Just ask poor Hongkongers languishing in the queue for public rental housing and middle-class homebuyers who cannot afford the exorbitant prices of private flats. The wait for a public rental flat is almost as long today as in 1997. The average waiting time was 6.6 years in 1997, dropped to 1.8 years in 2007, but by March this year, stood at 6.1 years, the longest in more than two decades. While waiting, many of the city’s poorest live in tiny, subdivided spaces, the worst housing option. Meanwhile, private home prices soared by 136 per cent between 1997 and the first quarter of 2021. In 1997, a 430 sq ft flat on Hong Kong Island would have cost HK$2.77 million. Early last year, it was HK$7.6 million. The price of a flat of the same size in the New Territories would have gone up from HK$2.4 million to HK$6.1 million over the same period. As private homes have become pricier, living space has shrunk with the trend of nano flats. These tiny housing units, as small as 200 sq ft, rose from 0.2 per cent of total new units offered in 2010 to 10.3 per cent in 2020, according to think tank Liber Research Community. The entry price of Soyo, a new nano flat project in Mong Kok, started at HK$3.38 million for flats of 152 to 228 sq ft. Hong Kong’s housing woes are created by many layers of problems but all can be traced back to the government’s land administration housing and taxation policy. The government has conceded too much to developers in the past 25 years, and the general public as a whole has paid a heavy price by being forced to live in cramped, unaffordable space, a member said. Does it cost more to live in Hong Kong now? Yes. Although incomes have gone up that has been outpaced by the rising cost of housing, food and transport. The monthly wage average for Hongkongers for the period May to June last year was HK$18,700, up about 68 per cent from HK$11,113 in April to September 1997. The price of a Big Mac hamburger from fast food chain McDonald’s, which has more than 200 outlets across the city more than doubled from HK$10.20 in 2000 to HK$22 this year. A can of fried dace with salted black beans, a staple in the pantries of grass root homes, costs nearly five times more, rising from HK$5.60 in 1997 to HK$32.90 this year. Hong Kong has a long way to go to fix its widening wealth gap. The city’s poorest residents received some relief when the government introduced a minimum wage in 2011. Starting at HK$28 an hour, it is now HK$37.50, with calls to raise it further. Around 1.65 million people almost one in four in the city were considered to be living in poverty last year earning only half the average household income. That was the highest rate of poverty since records began in 2009.Is it easier to get around the city? Hong Kong has invested heavily in improving transport networks and connectivity especially by train slashing travel times within the city and with mainland China since the handover. Major rail projects include the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link, the South Island line reaching Aberdeen, and the Sha Tin-Central line with the East Rail line extension, connecting Tuen Mun with Kowloon and New Territories East as well as Admiralty with the Northern district. The costliest of them all was the HK$90.7 billion Sha Tin-Central line which opened in mid-May as the East Rail line extension to Admiralty. In comparison, the high speed rail line connecting Hong Kong and the mainland cost HK$84.4 billion. The MTR’s local network, which carried 812 million passengers in 1997 carried 1.4 billion last year. Thanks to a fare adjustment mechanism adopted 12 years ago, rail fare increases have been regulated to stay in line with inflation. An adult travelling by MTR from Tsuen Wan to Admiralty pays HK$15.50 now, 32 per cent more than HK$11.7 in 1997. The high-speed cross-border rail from Guangdong province to the West Kowloon terminus, cut travelling time to 19 minutes to Shenzhen and 47 minutes to Guangzhou. The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, which opened in 2018 and shortened cross-border travel times by road, cost HK$120 billion and took nine years to complete. Other overland connections include the Hong Kong-Shenzhen Western Corridor and the Liantang/Heung Yuen Wai Border Crossing.How safe is Hong Kong? The overall crime rate in Hong Kong saw a notable decrease until the social unrest of 2019 saw widespread clashes between protesters and frontline police. While the number of hard crimes declined sharply the increasing use of technology saw more Hongkongers falling victim to online fraudsters. Between 1997 and 2021, the number of robbery cases fell from 2,914 to 123, while burglary cases slid from about 6,400 to 1,472. The number of severe violent crimes also fell in the past 25 years. Murder cases dropped from 102 in 1997 to 23 in last year, while wounding and serious assault cases went down from nearly 7,000 to around 4000. Sex crime cases went down slightly from 1,188 to 1,097. Triad-related crime dropped by nearly 30 per cent from 2,599 cases in 1997 to 1,888 last year. Soon after Hong Kong returned to China, several high-profile armed robberies and kidnappings occurred. Notorious gangster “Big Spender” Cheung Tsz-keung kidnapped property tycoon Walter Kwok Ping-sheung, then-chairman of Sun Hung Kai Properties, in 1997. Cheung was arrested and executed on the mainland in 1998. There has been no high-profile kidnapping case since. In 1998, “King of Thieves” Kwai Ping-hung hit two shops in Causeway Bay and escaped with more than HK$3 million in watches and jewellery. He was arrested in 2003, jailed and released earlier this year. More recent years have seen a sharp rise in telephone scams and cybercrime. Between 2005 and 2021, more than 11,100 people in Hong Kong lost a total of HK$1.8 billion in scams involving confidence tricksters operating easily across borders. The victims have included women and men scammed by sweet-talking online lovers they never met, individuals frightened into believing they had run afoul of the law in mainland China and families tricked into paying to get a family member out of trouble. After the handover Hong Kong allowed citizens to express their views in public gatherings processions and demonstrations. From barely around 1,000 public order events a year during the colonial era all with police approval, the number rose to 3,824 in 2007, 11,811 in 2017, and 20,859 last year. On July 1, 2003, an estimated crowd of 500,000 took to the streets, resulting in the government shelving its plan to enact national security legislation required under the Basic Law, the city’s mini constitution. The Occupy pro-democracy protests of 2014 shut down parts of the city for 79 days. Then, in 2019, there were months of anti-government protests over an extradition bill which would have allowed fugitives to be sent to the mainland, with violent clashes between demonstrators and the police. In June 2020, Beijing imposed the national security law banning acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. Dozens of political and civil society groups disbanded, and more than 100 opposition politicians, civil society activists and journalists and media owners were arrested. Have public and cultural spaces improved?  Despite intensive urban development, Hong Kong has kept most of its country parks intact. They account for 40 per cent of the city’s 1,113.76 sq km land area and drew 12.4 million visitors last year. There are 24 country parks, six marine parks and one marine reserve. Robin’s Nest in Sha Tau Kok has been approved to be the city’s 25th country park and the South Lantau marine park will be the seventh and largest marine park. In heritage conservation, a government scheme has engaged the private sector to turn more than 20 disused historic sites into new cultural spaces. Lui Seng Chun, a pre-war era Chinese-style shop house in Mong Kok, has been converted into a Chinese medicine healthcare centre, while Mei Ho House, the last surviving building of the city’s first public housing estate in Shek Kip Mei, is now a youth hostel. The city’s largest conservation project since the handover was the transformation of the former Central Police Station compound into the Tai Kwun culture venue by the Jockey Club. Completed in 2018, it now houses a museum and exhibition and event spaces. The HK$21.6 billion West Kowloon Cultural District has opened in stages, after more than a decade of construction delays, leadership shifts and budget woes since 2008. The Xiqu Centre was the first venue to open in 2019. The showpiece M+ Museum opened last November and the Palace Museum will open this summer to mark the 25th anniversary of the handover. A continuous public promenade being built around Victoria Harbour has opened new space for relaxation, jogging and other leisure activities and is expected to reach 34km by 2028. Academic Sampson Wong from Chinese University said the improvement of public spaces must go beyond providing designated public areas, as the value of these spaces depends on how residents use and enjoy them. It’s about letting people know that this space is theirs, they have ownership and can explore how to use it. If a house is yours, you will be thinking about how to use it well, Wong said. Is the air cleaner? Annual average concentrations of most major pollutants have been decreasing over the past seven years, analysis of government data on air quality in roadside and general stations found. One indication is the annual average of respirable suspended particulates (PM10), which include smoke, dust and other tiny matter in the air. Data from the Central and Western district air monitoring station showed 25 micrograms per cubic metre in 2020 half the annual limit of 50 micrograms and 51 per cent lower than the 1997 average. Among all pollutants, the decrease in sulphur dioxide was most pronounced. The annual average concentration of the chemical in various districts dropped by 60 per cent from 2013 to 2020, according to green group Clean Air Network. The improvement is attributed to various policies tackling vehicle emissions, a major cause of air pollution in Hong Kong. The government introduced a fine on idling motor vehicle engines in 2011 and began phasing out diesel vehicles by subsidising owners to switch to cleaner models in 2018. Subsidies for electric vehicles were introduced last year. The decline of manufacturing activity in southern mainland China since the early 2010s has also helped, with fewer pollutants blowing into Hong Kong from there. How does Hong Kong care for minorities? The city is home to about 580,000 non-Chinese residents from minority groups who make up 8 per cent of the population, according to the 2016 census. Filipino and Indonesian foreign domestic workers make up 57.7 per cent of Hong Kong’s ethnic minority population. Those who have settled in the city for generations include many of South Asian origin, from countries like India, Pakistan and Nepal. Hong Kong’s ethnic minority groups have faced challenges in education, disadvantaged by their lack of knowledge of Chinese, and many are trapped in low-paying jobs. The Race Discrimination Ordinance, in effect since 2009, remains the main legal protection for these residents. Complaints can be made to the Equal Opportunities Commission, which will investigate, mediate between parties or offer legal help for the complaint to go to court. There have been only three such court cases so far. Prejudice and discrimination persist. A 2016 survey by the commission found that just over half the ethnic minority respondents said they had not experienced discrimination in their daily lives. Phyllis Cheung, chief executive officer of Hong Kong Unison, an NGO helping ethnic minority groups, said current laws do not go far enough. Stereotypes of ethnic minorities continue to perpetuate and materialize into explicit and unconscious racial bias and discriminatory treatment, she said. Individuals from the city’s LGBT+ community have gone to court and persuaded the city’s judges to grant same-sex partners spousal benefits, custody rights and equal rights in home ownership. But the judges have been unmoved on recognising same-sex unions in Hong Kong. Judicial review and case law can provide guidance and be used to educate people on human rights but have their limits. Judges cannot draft the legislation necessary to protect these groups, said human rights lawyer Mark Daly, who has been involved in landmark legal victories for equal rights. There are also anti-discrimination laws covering sex, family care responsibilities and disability. Those from sexual minorities have complained of inadequate protection. Individuals from the city’s LGBT+ community have gone to court and persuaded the city’s judges to grant same-sex partners spousal benefits, custody rights and equal rights in home ownership. But the judges have been unmoved on recognising same-sex unions in Hong Kong. Judicial review and case law can provide guidance and be used to educate people on human rights but have their limits. Judges cannot draft the legislation necessary to protect these groups, said human rights lawyer Mark Daly, who has been involved in landmark legal victories for equal rights.

 

 “We will fight at all costs, and we will fight to the very end,” Wei said.

“This is the only choice for China.”

We will fight to the very end, Chinese defence chief warns on Taiwan independence.

 By Web desk 12th June 2022

Taiwan independence is a dead end General Wei Fenghe tells Shangri-La Dialogue, as he asserts Beijing’s peaceful aims and slams US threats against China. US trying to ‘hijack’ countries in the Indo-Pacific with exclusive multinational groups that target China, Wei declares.

China would fight at all costs any efforts to make Taiwan independent, Defence Minister General Wei Fenghe has warned, while saying Beijing was trying its best to peacefully reunify the self-ruled island with the mainland. Fighting to the very end when independence is pursued is China’s only option, Wei said as he set out Beijing’s vision for regional order in a speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue defence conference on Sunday.

More than 540,000 Hongkongers issued BN(O) passports since 2019 with most approved after UK citizenship scheme unveiled.

By Web desk 11th June 2022

Freedom of Information request to British government shows 541,873 BN(O) passports were approved for issue between 2019 and 2022, with 58 per cent granted in 2020. Immigration consultants say BN(O) pathway scheme two years ago led to ‘enormous increase’ in applications for passports over past three years.

More than half a million Hong Kong residents have received British National (Overseas) passports since 2019, with about 60 per cent of the travel documents approved for issue in 2020, when the UK announced a new pathway to citizenship scheme. Immigration consultants said the unveiling of the pathway scheme for BN(O) holders two years ago had led to an enormous increase in those renewing or applying for their passports in recent years. The initiative was announced by the United Kingdom a month after Beijing’s decision to impose a national security law on Hong Kong in June 2020. The legislation bans acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign powers.

 

Can Hong Kong become a ‘legal hub’? State official urges city to lean on strengths to aid country’s ‘foreign-related’ work in field, such as in treaties and international legislation

By Web desk 10th June 2022

Xie Feng, formerly Beijing’s top envoy in Hong Kong, says city should follow Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s thoughts on diplomacy and rule of law. He calls on Hong Kong to provide wisdom for China when ‘applying, leading and shaping’ international rules.

Hong Kong should lean on its strengths in legal services to help foster the country’s foreign-related work in the field such as in forming treaties and international law, a top state official has said. Chinese foreign vice-minister Xie Feng, formerly Beijing’s top envoy in Hong Kong, said the city should make greater contributions to the construction of China’s legal work on the global stage by following President Xi Jinping’s thoughts on diplomacy and rule of law. (Hong Kong) should use its edge in the rule of law to continue attracting international legal organisations to set up their branches in the city and hold legal conferences, and operate the Asian-African Legal Consultative Organisation Hong Kong Regional Arbitration Centre well to turn the city into a legal hub in the Asia-Pacific region,” Xie said on Thursday at a conference in the lead-up to the 25th anniversary of the city’s return to Chinese rule.

Moonis rejected this rumour terming it fake news in his tweet.

Chaudhry brothers seem to be parting ways, finally. Shujaat backing incumbent govt, his cousin Parvez Elahi supporting PTI.

 By Web desk 9th June 2022

The PML-Q -- led by the famous Chaudhry brothers of Gujrat – appears to be finally heading towards a split – which at one time appeared impossible -- as one of them, Shujaat Hussain, the chief of the party, seems to be closer to the current coalition government, unlike the other, his cousin, Punjab Assembly Speaker Parvez Elahi, an equally influential leader of the party, is endorsing its rival, the PTI.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Wednesday met PML-Q President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain at the latter’s residence and inquired after his health. On the occasion, Shujaat presented certain suggestions regarding overseas Pakistanis and the upcoming fiscal budget. The prime minister welcomed these “public-oriented” proposals and said they would be included in the next budget. He told Shujaat that two federal ministers from the PML-Q were very hard working and honest. During the meeting, federal ministers Tariq Bashir Cheema, Salik Hussain, Khawaja Saad Rafique, provincial ministers Malik Ahmed Khan, PML-Q central leaders Chaudhry Shafay Hussain and PML-Q MNA Farrukh Khan were also present. The PML-Q president expressed the resolve to steer the country out of the financial crunch collectively. On Monday, Shujaat’s sons, federal minister Salik and Shafay Hussain called on Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz at his office, announcing their complete support to the incumbent government and reassured that their political alliance would continue in the future as well. The Punjab CM also inquired after the health of their father, Shujaat, and expressed good wishes for him. Another PML-Q leader Tariq Bashir Cheema separately met Hamza along with Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Raja Riaz. They too expressed their desire to continue their political alliance. Elahi had chosen to side with the PTI by rejecting the Sharif brothers’ offer for the Punjab chief minister’s position, while his cousin, Shujaat, preferred to shake hands with the PML-N-led government. Later, the PML-Q president’s son, Salik, was inducted into the new government’s cabinet along with  Cheema.  Salik and Cheema were appointed federal ministers for the Board of Investment and national food security and research, respectively. However, Hussain Ellahi, son of Chaudhry Wajahat Hussain -- Shujaat’s brother – wrote in a tweet that his journey with the PML-Q had to come to an end and he would decide his political future with his cousin, Moonis. I cannot be in a party that supports Shehbaz Sharif-led Imported Government, he added. Sources said Hussain Ellahi was leaving on a foreign trip and the Chaudhry family of Gujrat would make a major announcement after his return. Elahi and his son Moonis are supporting the PTI, which was ousted from power in the Centre and Punjab by the then opposition parties. The Punjab Assembly speaker has been pretty vocal against the present regime. On April 16, PMLN’s Hamza was elected as the new chief minister of Punjab securing 197 votes amid the chaos that erupted in the provincial assembly, but his rival candidate, Elahi, had declared the polls as illegal. However, after a long, drawn-out legal and political battle, Hamza was finally sworn-in as the Punjab chief minister on April 30. The oath of office was administered to him by National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, in accordance with the Lahore High Court’s order, at the Governor’s House in Lahore. Earlier, the LHC CJ had passed orders twice. The first was to President Arif Alvi to nominate anyone for administering the oath to Hamza but the order was in vain. The second time, the LHC chief justice had advised the Punjab governor to ensure the swearing-in of Hamza, but the constitutional obligation was not followed. The PML-N leader for the third time knocked the LHC doors over not being administered his oath. This time, the petitioner had requested the LHC to “nominate any person” for the administration of oath at the Governor House at a specified time calling for the (coercive arm of the state to be set in motion for the implementation of the court orders). On Monday, rumours were making rounds on social media about a possible patch up between Elahi and Hamza through Shujaat who, according to sources, wanted the two sides to come to terms with each other. However, Moonis rejected this rumour terming it fake news in his tweet. He also asked those propagating this news to check the sources.

I have delivered a report card I do not regret, Hong Kong's Carrie Lam says in emotional speech in last Legco session.

 By Web desk 9th June 2022

Chief executive declares a 'perfect full stop' to her 40-year career in final question and answer session in legislature. Lam ends her five-year term on June 30, with her legacy also expected to be touched on by Legco members.   

Hong Kong’s outgoing leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor attended her final question and answer session in the Legislative Council on Thursday morning, a swansong before the end of her five-year term on June 30. Lawmakers are likely to grill the chief executive on strategies for combating the Covid-19 pandemic as a potential sixth wave of cases looms over the city and progress on reopening the border with mainland China. Housing policies and a controversial proposal to increase senior civil servants’ pay by a record 7.26 per cent are also likely to be covered during the 1½-hour session. Legislators are also expected to offer their opinions on Lam’s legacy before her former No 2, John Lee Ka-chiu, takes the reins on July 1.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam defends police action to close off Victoria Park on June 4, saying anniversary of Tiananmen Square crackdown could spur violent activism.

By Web desk 8th June 2022

Chief executive notes radicals have gone underground since the imposition of the national security law two years ago. Of course I support my law enforcement departments in taking this risk-oriented attitude, she says.

Hong Kong’s leader has defended a police move to shut down parts of a park used for an annual June 4 vigil commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, saying the politically sensitive date could have spurred activists to incite violence. Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said on Tuesday it was the force’s responsibility to assess risks at Victoria Park in Causeway Bay as radicals had gone underground after the enactment of the Beijing-imposed national security law in June 2020. Police have always made risk assessments and conducted operations to protect Hongkongers, and as the chief executive, of course I support my law enforcement departments in taking this risk-oriented attitude, she added.

 

Malik Riaz rubbishes fake audio attributed to him.

By Web desk 7th June 2022

PML-N had shared audio clip on social media, claiming Imran, Bushra and Farah made billions during PTI’s tenure.

Bahria Town Chairman Malik Riaz on Sunday 5th June said that an audio clip attributed to him on social media was fake, stressing that it was not surprising to create a fake audio in the presence of deep-fake technology.

The audio attributed to me on the social media is the product of this (deep-fake) technology, Riaz said in a statement. I do not want to be involved in the campaign of any political party but it is a fact that my voice was misused for political gain, he added.

I have been attacked repeatedly, now my family is also targeted. I intend to initiate legal proceedings in this matter and I will approach every legal forum to track down the people behind this conspiracy, he said. Riaz’s statement came after Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leaders played an audio tape purportedly a conversation between the Bahria Town chief and his daughter revealing how Farah Gogi demanded a gift for former first lady Bushra Bibi. During the conversation, the woman in the audio clip was saying to her father that Farah allegedly demanded a precious diamond as a gift for the ex-first lady in return for removing locks on a project site and withdrawing a report against her father. Riaz said that the audio clip was fake and that he would approach every legal forum to track down the people behind this conspiracy. Whoever is involved in this will be taken to task, he added. Addressing a news conference, PML-N leader Attaullah Tarar alongside his party colleague Uzma Bukhari claimed that the troika of former premier Imran Khan, his wife Bushra Bibi and her friend Farhat Shahzadi alias Farah Gogi made "billions" during the tenure of the PTI government. It started in 2019, when Imran Khan gave a relief worth Rs320 million to Ahsan Jamil Gujjar Farah’s husband under an amnesty scheme, Tarar said. He added that the former PM gave the relief due to his personal relations and friendship between Bushra and Farah. Tarar alleged that Imran and his family continued to remain in corrupt practices throughout the PTI's tenure. Commission and kickbacks were given while new records of corruption were made during the PTI's tenure. He said that Farah used Bushra’s influence for appointments and transfers in Punjab. He added that Farah and her husband now owned assets worth Rs10 billion. The assets that were in millions are now in billions. They should tell the poor Pakistani (people how they did it) so that they could also use their the couple’s knowledge to come out of poverty.

 

Coronavirus

Too early to suggest arrival of sixth wave, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam says amid rising number of cases.

 By Web desk 7th June 2022

Chief executive tells reporters that she will be consulting pandemic advisers later to discuss further measures. She also says city is eager to welcome state leaders for July 1 celebrations, but declines to comment on ‘closed-loop’ arrangement for local officials.

Hong Kong’s outgoing leader has said it is still too early to suggest that the city is facing a sixth Covid-19 wave despite a rising trend of infections this month. In a press briefing before the weekly meeting of her de facto cabinet the Executive Council on Tuesday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said she would be consulting government pandemic advisers later in the day on other measures to be put in place. She added that her administration would create conditions to facilitate visits by state leaders at the end of the month for the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the city’s return to Chinese rule.

 

Embattled UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson could face leadership challenge this week.

By Web desk 6th June 2022

A growing number of Johnson’s Conservative lawmakers have withdrawn their support for the British leader. It comes after a damning official report detailed a series of illegal parties at his office during Covid-19 lockdowns.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson sees rebel MPs from the governing Conservative Party triggering a vote on his leadership as soon as this week, according to a key ally of the premier. Tory MPs seeking to oust Johnson may be on the cusp of securing the 54 letters required to force a confidence vote, said the person, who insisted that the prime minister is confident that he would win any ballot if it were to take place. One MP who has been mobilising against Johnson said they thought the rebels already have the numbers to call a vote.

Wear masks for long term to reduce antibiotics use, University of Hong Kong researchers say.

By Web desk 6th June 2022

Social-distancing rules appear to have played a role in driving down incidences of other respiratory illnesses, University of Hong Kong team finds. That in turn may have led to fewer prescriptions of antibiotics, which have been losing their effectiveness due to overuse.

Measures adopted to protect against Covid-19, including wearing masks and regularly washing hands, have led to fewer Hongkongers being infected with respiratory illnesses such as tuberculosis, and could have also reduced the need for antibiotics and lowered the resistance bacteria show to treatment, a study has found. The research, conducted by the University of Hong Kong (HKU) and published in medical journal Antibiotics on May 31, also prompted a recommendation by a government pandemic adviser for mask wearing to continue during the winter flu season even when the pandemic was over. Our findings suggested that non-pharmaceutical measures in reducing the incidence of respiratory infections may be one of the strategies to control the amount of antibiotic consumption in humans, which may impact the burden of antibacterial resistance in the long run wrote Professor Yuen Kwok-yung, HKU’s chair of infectious diseases.

 

Hong Kong government expresses ‘strong opposition’ to US criticism of religious freedom in city

 By Web desk 5th June 2022

US State Department report cites religious leaders and groups in Hong Kong as saying authorities ‘less tolerant since the passage of the national security law All enforcement actions taken under the national security law are based on evidence and have nothing to do with their political stance,’ city administration says.

The Hong Kong government has expressed strong opposition to criticism in a US State Department report of religious freedom in the city. The paper published by the State Department on Thursday cited religious leaders and organisations in Hong Kong as saying the city government had grown less tolerant since the passage of the national security law. Titled 2021 Report on International Religious Freedom details also included interviewees concerns over self-censorship and potential targeting of civil society organisations affiliated with religious groups active in the 2019 pro-democracy movement.

Incoming Hong Kong leader John Lee vows to uphold revamped electoral system to pave way for economic development and resolve housing, livelihood issues.

 By Web desk 4th June 2022

 He also voices ‘absolute confidence’ there will not be a repeat of the 2019 social unrest. He adds process of forming new team has been smooth and more time is needed to submit list to Beijing for approval

Hong Kong’s incoming leader John Lee Ka-chiu has vowed to uphold the city’s revamped electoral system to pave the way for economic development resolve housing woes and address livelihood issues. The chief executive-elect also expressed confidence there would not be a repeat of the 2019 social unrest saying that with national security risks largely reined in a recurrence of such political turmoil would be impossible. Lee, in an interview with Hong Kong China News Agency on Friday, insisted he would seek to maintain the Beijing-imposed political overhaul in the long term, adding the improved system was aligned with the city’s development needs.

 

Joe Biden again pleads for limits on assault weapons after US mass shootings.

By Web desk 3rd June 2022

Joe Biden urged Congress to ban assault weapons and implement other gun control measures. The United States has been shaken in recent weeks by the high-profile mass shootings.

US President Joe Biden called for a ban on sales of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, pleading with Congress to toughen gun laws following a spate of mass shootings. We need to ban assault weapons and h