Govt to unveil low-cost flat plan soon: sources

Sources say the government will next week announce a pilot scheme to let charities run more than 300 low-cost flats to be rented out to needy families.

The idea was first floated in July by the Transport and Housing Secretary, Frank Chan, who said that non-governmental organisations (NGOs) could operate government-approved subdivided flats.

But the sources told RTHK that instead of dividing the flats into small units, residents taking part in the scheme will live in the same flat and share the living room and bathroom.

It’s understood that the government hopes that more property owners will rent out their flats to be used in this way.

Retail sales in Hong Kong see highest growth in over two years thanks to local consumption

A stock market boom and rising property prices in July prompted Hong Kong retail sales to grow at their fastest rate in more than two years, potentially spelling the end of a years-long downturn.


July sales jumped 4 per cent compared with the same period last year, significantly higher than the 0.1 per cent growth in the previous month, government statistics revealed on Tuesday.

Industry insiders attributed the stronger-than-expected growth to robust local consumption and improved inbound tourism, and expected the trend to continue in the second half of the year with support of a stable labour market.


“We are overjoyed at the July figure. The growth is much better than we have expected,” Thomson Cheng Wai-hung, chairman at Retail Management Association said on Tuesday.

He expected the full-year growth to hit 1 per cent, despite the 0.6 per cent decline in the first half.

This would put an end to a two-year contraction of the city’s once-booming industry, as big-spending mainland shoppers flew elsewhere to buy luxuries.

Retail sales in the city dropped for 25 consecutive months until a mild rebound in March.

Cheng said local consumers were a main driver for the upbeat figure, as they felt more comfortable spending money on big-tickets items, with their wealth boosted by the rising value of stocks and properties.

SAR residents to get improved access to mainland

The official Xinhua news agency says Beijing is looking at making it easier for Hong Kong and Macau residents to live on the mainland. President Xi Jinping has already called for such measures, and the move comes as Chief Executive Carrie Lam ended her four-day visit to the capital.

Xinhua said people from Hong Kong and Macau, who work on the mainland, will get equal rights to housing provident funds so they can buy homes and settle there. Currently, mainlanders put part of their salaries into such funds – along with a contribution from their employers – so they can get low interest home loans and other benefits.

Beijing also wants Hong Kong and Macau residents to be eligible for social security, if they are working or studying across the border. It said the Ministry of Education will ensure equal opportunities for students from the SARs to receive compulsory education.

Universities would also try to help Hong Kong and Macau students deal with the red tape they often face when trying to find a job on the mainland.

Another inconvenience faced by SAR residents – not being able to use their Return Homeland Passes at self-service ticket machines at train stations – is also being looked at.

Lam Cheuk-ting urges govt access for online media

Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting has urged Chief Executive Carrie Lam to follow through on her campaign pledge to grant online media access to government functions.

Currently, these outlets are barred from official press conferences and cannot access the government’s news system.

“So many Hong Kong people get their information or read the news from online media, so I think the government should have let all the online media have the right to interview government officials,” he said.

He told RTHK’s Jennifer Leung that the government could also consult the Hong Kong Journalists Association to define which online media should be allowed to attend government press conferences.

Govt ‘declaring war’ on HK people: opposition

The Democratic Party on Friday accused the government of “declaring war” on pan-democratic lawmakers and the people of Hong Kong, following the disqualification of another four legislators over their oath-taking.

The party’s chairman, Wu Chi-wai, said the rights of lawmakers to express their views in Legco could be restricted, if rules on filibustering are tightened now that pan-democratic lawmakers have lost their veto power.

He warned that the “One Country, Two Systems” principle could be adversely affected, as the Beijing and Hong Kong governments can do whatever they want now.

His colleague James To said the four “are still the ones chosen by the people”.

People Power lawmaker Raymond Chan said Hong Kong people, including those who did not vote for the latest legislators to be disqualified, will not agree with the government for using the courts as a “tool” to overturn election results.

Hong Kong First lawmaker Claudia Mo, who broke down in tears during a media briefing, claimed the government’s action was “calculated”, as it wants to make sure the pan-democratic camp will not win back all the seats it has lost in upcoming by-elections.

Leung Kwok-hung said he and the other three affected by Friday’s court ruling, Nathan Law, Lau Siu-lai and Edward Yiu, all intend to appeal over their cases.

They have been given two weeks to clear their Legco offices.

House Committee chair seeks less filibustering

The chairwoman of the Legislative Council’s House Committee, Starry Lee, says the legislature did not run as smoothly as she hoped in the past year, partly due to the opposition’s filibustering.

Speaking at a news conference on Tuesday to conclude the committee’s work in the past legislative year, Ms Lee also said chaos created by the oath-taking controversy surrounding Youngspiration localists Sixtus Leung and Yau Wai-ching had also slowed down Legco’s work.

Looking ahead, the DAB legislator said she hopes lawmakers and the government will work together to improve their relationship, which has been “tense” in recent years.

“I hope that with the new administration, with better communication, things can be smoother,” said Lee.

But the vice-chairman of the house committee, the Civic Party’s Dennis Kwok, rebuffed Ms Lee’s criticism of the pan-democrats’ filibustering.

He said legislators must spend time scrutinizing large funding requests and complex bills.

Referring to the reasons for filibustering, Kwok said, “sometimes it’s about blocking the wrong piece of legislation, or blocking the wrong piece of public work that shouldn’t cost the Hong Kong people so much.”

Kwok said he had spoken to the Chief Secretary about filibustering and Matthew Cheung understood his explanation that legislation is becoming more complex.

Kwok said that the effectiveness of Legco’s work must be judged in its larger context.

“Overall, I think that the Legislative Council is doing its job,” Kwok added.

Hong Kong market gains, Tencent bounces back

Hong Kong stocks ended higher on Wednesday, recovering some of the previous day’s sharp losses with technology giant Tencent edging up, although traders remain on edge over North Korea tensions.

The Hang Seng Index rose 0.5 percent, to 25,521.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.8 percent, to 3,207 while the Shenzhen Composite Index, which tracks stocks on the mainland’s second exchange, rose 0.9 percent, to 1,913.

In Japan, stocks rebounded, though nervous investors continue to keep close track of soaring tensions in Asia. The benchmark Nikkei 225 added 0.3 percent, to 20,081.

Seoul also added 0.3 percent and Singapore jumped 0.8 percent. Sydney finished 0.4 percent off while Wellington and Jakarta also edged down.

Asian tech firms saw some much needed buying after suffering a recent sell-off. Hong Kong-listed Tencent edged up from Tuesday’s fall of more than 4 percent, while AAC Technologies also bounced and Sony jumped 0.8 percent in Tokyo. (AFP)

Lawmakers give nod to seat increase in minibuses

Lawmakers have given the green light for the number of seats on minibuses to be increased from the current 16 to 19.

The Transport Secretary, Anthony Cheung, described the increase as a “breakthrough”, and said it would boost the overall efficiency of the city’s minibus services.

He added that the government will conduct a review next year to see if there’s a need to further increase their carrying capacity.

Earlier this year major minibus service operators agreed to freeze fares for at least one year if extra seats were added.

Ip Kin-yuen hails financial aid plan for students


Education sector legislator Ip Kin-yuen said on Monday that that he supports a plan by the incoming Chief Executive to support students from self-financing tertiary education.

He said this will ease the financial burden of the students and would be supported by their families.

The CE-elect, Carrie Lam, as a part of her election platform has promised to provide an extra HK$5 billion for schools. Lam said that she would increase the recurrent education expenditure when she takes charge.

Ip welcomed this initiative, saying the funding can fulfill the needs of teachers and students.


He said that the education sector has been discussing various measures with Lam over the past few months.

Protesters urge FEHD to drop case against old lady

Protesters have urged the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department to drop charges against a 75-year-old woman for unlicensed hawking.

She’s accused of selling a cardboard box for one dollar.

About 30 people staged a protest outside the department’s office in Sheung Wan to voice their dissatisfaction with its action against the woman.

They brought along four kilogrammes of used cardboard boxes, with a market value of only two dollars, to show how hard it is for people at the grassroots level to make a living.

Au Lap-hang, the organiser of the protest, said it’s ridiculous that the department has pressed charges against an old woman.

The 75-year-old woman, surnamed Chu, was arrested by FEHD officers after she allegedly sold a cardboard box to a domestic helper for one dollar last week.

Her cart was also confiscated.

The Food and Health Secretary, Ko Wing-man, refused to comment on the case, as legal proceedings are underway.

But he said the government tries to emphasise both reason and compassion when enforcing the law.

Little damage as Merbok skirts Hong kong

Hong Kong has escaped any serious effects after the first storm of the typhoon season passed just east of the territory.

Merbok made landfall over Mirs Bay shortly before midnight and weakened into a tropical storm.

The Observatory says it will drop the Number 8 signal to Number 3 shortly.

There have been heavy rains and winds in excess of 100 kilometres per hour, causing over a dozen trees to topple, but so far no reports of serious damage.

Over 200 people made use of 22 temporary shelters opened in various districts.

Dozens of flights have been cancelled and hundreds delayed as a result of the storm. Travellers have been urged to check their flight details before departing for the airport.

The government says several people have sought medical assistance at public hospitals, but it’s unclear if their injuries are related to the storm.

Doctors say government failing on child health

Doctors groups have criticised the government for lacking a comprehensive child health policy over the past 20 years.

The Paediatric Society and the Paediatric Foundation polled over 1,300 parents of kindergarten and primary pupils on mental health issues.

More than 60 percent of the parents ranked the current education policy worse than before the handover. And almost 90 percent said they received inadequate support.

The chairman of the Hong Kong Paediatric Foundation, Dr Chan Chok-wan, said the government needs a holistic policy.

He said: “I think if you try to summarise the policy of the current government, I would say that in medical terms it is palliative, meaning you only treat what is in front of you. But you don’t have any idea that prevention is better than cure.”

Chan recommended the next administration to set up Children’s commission for a better policy in children’s health.

‘One Country Two Systems’ is drifting, says Ip

New People’s Party chairwoman Regina Ip says she thinks the “One Country Two Systems” principle has drifted apart in recent years.

Speaking on a Commercial Radio programme about the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to China, she said independence is not practical, and young people should understand that Hong Kong is only a special administration under Chinese rule and has no bargaining power.

She said both from the perspective of the central government, and from the viewpoint of some Hong Kong people, the implementation of the “One Country Two systems” principle had deviated from the original intention.

Ip said Beijing may think that its authority and sovereignty had not been respected, while some locals might feel the SAR’s high level of autonomy had been threatened.
She said the incoming administration had a lot of work to do to promote the concept and improve mutual trust.

HK youth need to accept they’re Chinese: CY Leung

The Chief Executive CY Leung said on Tuesday that young people in Hong Kong are Chinese “no matter what they think”, and this is how the whole world sees them.

He was responding to a claim by university students this week that part of the reason they decided not to join Sunday’s June 4 vigil is because they are Hongkongers, not Chinese, and pushing for democracy on the mainland is none of their business.

Leung said while there is freedom of speech in Hong Kong, young people need to think things through clearly.

“I believe that if they can ponder for a bit, they’ll know Hong Kong is a part of China. No matter what they think, people in society, including international ones will treat you as Chinese,” Leung said.

“Even for Hong Kong people holding foreign passports. When you travel to other countries, people there will treat you as Chinese, by looking at your name, your cultural background and upbringing.”

Leung was speaking to reporters as he headed into the weekly meeting of the Executive Council.

On a separate note, he also said the government was very concerned about the safety of the future bridge to Macau and Zhuhai. It was revealed on Monday that a contractor for the project faked the results of tests on concrete samples more than 200 times.


HK leader candidates hold testy debate

The three candidates vying to be Hong Kong’s next leader squared off in a feisty debate in front of hundreds of voters who peppered them with questions.

They wrangled over policy proposals for the territory and took jabs at each other at Sunday’s forum. In one particularly testy exchange, former chief secretary for administration Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥), the frontrunner, sniped at rival former secretary of finance John Tsang (曾俊華) for keeping a clean desk during his tenure, implying that he had not kept himself busy enough.

“No files, no papers, so I really envied him,” Lam said, adding that her desk was always covered in documents.

Tsang replied that “besides working hard, we have to work smart,” drawing cheers from the audience.

With the vote for Hong Kong’s next chief executive to be held on Sunday, the forum was one of the last big chances for the contenders to drum up support from among the 1,194 members of an election committee who take their cues from Beijing.

Voters from among Hong Kong’s 7.3 million residents have no say in choosing the chief executive.

Although the mustachioed Tsang, nicknamed “Pringles” or “Uncle Chips” for his resemblance to the snack food mascot, enjoys broad support, Lam is widely expected to win.

The election committee, whose members organized and attended the debate, is heavily stacked with representatives of business, trade and professional groups who vote according to the wishes of Chinese Communist Party leaders. There are also about 320 pro-democracy supporters among their ranks.

The electoral system was the main target of 2014’s massive pro-democracy street protests that gripped the city for 79 days and grabbed world headlines, altering common views of Hong Kong as a ruthlessly efficient business center with little interest in politics.

In contrast to Lam, Tsang has an affable, easygoing persona and has deftly used social media to connect with ordinary people. He earned kudos in 2015 for cheering on Hong Kong’s soccer team in World Cup qualifier matches against China, while other officials took a more politically correct noncommittal stance.

In a mock poll organized by Hong Kong University researchers, Tsang had a net support rate of 87.7 percent from about 65,000 votes cast electronically or in person. Lam had net negative support of 94.5 percent. A third candidate, retired judge Woo Kwok-hing (胡國興), had negative support of 12.3 percent.

“Nobody is in doubt that Carrie will win,” because Beijing has been heavily lobbying pro-establishment election committee members to support her, said Willy Lam (林和立), a political scientist at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Willy Lam and Carrie Lam are not related.

Lam has Beijing’s backing but she has been ridiculed for gaffes that give the impression she is out of touch with ordinary people.

In one incident, Lam said she could not find toilet paper for the new apartment she moved to after vacating her official residence upon launching her campaign for chief executive. She was forced to make a late evening return to her government apartment to spend the night.

Despite that, Lam has a reputation for being a pragmatic and effective administrator. Beijing’s support for her candidacy is seen as a reward for her loyalty while serving under the deeply unpopular Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying (梁振英), known by his initials “C.Y.”

Leung has passed on the opportunity to seek a second term in office, citing family reasons. His surprise announcement was seen by analysts as an indication that Beijing had asked him to step aside in favor of someone less unpopular, but who could still be trusted to carry out its agenda in Hong Kong.

The territory is supposed to have much leeway in running its own affairs, but recent incidents have stoked fears that Beijing is tightening its grip.

Analysts said Beijing wants to ensure Hong Kong’s next leader will have more support than Leung, who could never shake off his nickname “689,” a reference to the number of votes he received — barely half of the total.

“The last time it was a bit humiliating, 689 was considered to be a bit low,” Willy Lam said. “This time their top priority [in Beijing] is that Carrie must be seen as doing substantially better than C.Y., so that means at least a vote closer to 750.”

Lam has been dubbed “C.Y. 2.0,” because many Hong Kongers believe she will adopt the same hard-line policies pursued by her former boss.

Samson Yuen (袁瑋熙), a politics lecturer at the Open University of Hong Kong, predicted a Lam administration would continue to take actions that constrain the “organizational resources” of pro-democracy parties, making it difficult for them to survive.

Under Leung, the government won an unprecedented lawsuit last year disqualifying two lawmakers who advocated Hong Kong independence, for improperly taking their oaths of office. It is pursuing similar suits against four others.

Carrie Lam “will inherit the tactics of C.Y. Leung, because if Carrie wins that means C.Y. will have a lot of influence over the political system,” Yuen said. “That means such kind of repression will still go on. I do think the space for the pro-democracy movement will shrink.”

Burst pipe floods new South Horizons MTR station

South Horizons MTR station on the recently opened South Island Line was temporarily closed on Tuesday night after a burst water pipe caused it to flood.

Regular service resumed around 12.25am on Wednesday after the reopening of the station.

The flooding had prompted service on the South Island Line to terminate at Lei Tung station, with lower train frequencies.

Pictures circulated online by passengers showed ankle-deep water flooding the lobby and water raining down from the ceiling.

An MTR spokesman said water had leaked from the ceiling near exit B at South Horizons at about 8.45pm.

The station’s closure prompted the MTR to arrange alternative buses from Lei Tung station for passengers heading towards the South Horizons area – the last stop on the new South Island Line, which commenced services on December 28.

South Horizons resident Nick Tse said he went to catch the train from Wong Chuk Hang to the end of the line at about 9.50pm, but he was not alerted to the closure until he boarded the train.

He said he an announcement at Lei Tung station informed passengers of the alternative shuttle bus.

“There were not many people waiting for the buses. Only about 20 people on the one I took,” Tse said.

The Water Supplies Department said the private fresh water pipe which provides water to parts of South Horizons estate had been shut down by its workers.

In the meantime, two water trucks and eight tanks were sent to the affected areas.

Hong Kong government hopes two new fishing zones in Central and Tai Po will catch on

Two fishing zones in Central and Tai Po – proposed by the chief executive in last year’s policy address and costing HK$5 million in total – are expected to open to the public next month, the government has said.

The announcement by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department came after the plan in Tai Po was approved only last month following a cost cut of more than half the original budget and a change in location.

Last year, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying announced a pilot scheme to establish angling zones in venues managed by the department in Central, Tai Po and Tsing Yi.

But the proposals in Tai Po and Tsing Yi were shot down by district councillors over concerns of high costs and water quality.

In January, the department submitted a revised plan to the Tai Po District Council, which saw the proposed cost reduced from HK$3.5 million to HK$1.5 million, and the location changed from Pak Shek Kok Promenade to a pier near Tai Po Waterfront Park.

Lau Yung-wai, a district councillor in Tai Po who opposed the initial plan, said it was “a waste of taxpayers’ money”, and that the original location was not especially popular among anglers.

But Lau said he did not reject the revised plan as the cost was reduced significantly and new facilities such as water coolers could benefit residents.

While Cheng Lai-king, a Central and Western district councillor, welcomed the additions, she raised concerns over the water quality at the fishing zone in Central Promenade, advising people not to consume the fish caught there.

11 food trucks roll onto streets from tomorrow

Eleven food trucks will begin selling their fare from tomorrow at eight locations popular with tourists and locals. Not every truck will begin operating from tomorrow. Some will be at designated locations on February 16, while others will operate from February 24.
Food truck operators, Chee Kei, Book Brothers, Ho Yuen Express, Princess Kitchen, Table Seven X W. Burger, Hung Fook Tong’s Food Truck, Pineapple Canteen, Mein by Maureen, Crunch Munch, Pat Chun Saucy Truck and Ma Ma Dumpling, are in the first batch approved for business.
Chee Kei offers braised pork rib, Book Brothers serves American-style barbecue meat in steamed bread, and Ho Yuen promises grilled squid. Fried rice, dumplings, pineapple bun, soup with fish maw, burgers, and fruit bowls, are among the specials that other food trucks are promising to serve.
The Tourism Commission has launched a mobile app, “HK Food Truck,” to help locals and tourists alike to trace the whereabouts of the food trucks. The mobile app is available for free download in Google Play and the Apple App Store.-The Standard

HK splurges HK$25 billion on clothes annually

A survey has found that Hong Kong people spend around HK$25 billion a year on new clothes – twice the amount spent by people in Taiwan.

It also revealed that each person in the city spends an average of HK$800 per month while those in Taiwan spent around HK$350.

The survey was conducted by Greenpeace Hong Kong. It said the cost of clothes was higher in the territory and people tended to shop more frequently.

The group said about 40 percent of the people it spoke to said they feel the urge to buy again within a week of their shopping.