As another year bites the dust, Google Trends has given us a list of the local stories at the forefront of every Hongkonger’s mind this year. These 10 news stories will help you recap exactly what the hell happened this year — the good and the bad moments that brought us together.
1. Typhoon Mangkhut
Topping the list of Hong Kong’s most Googled news is, of course, the most intense storm ever recorded in the city’s history, Typhoon Mangkhut. As the No. 10 signal remained in place for 10 hours on September 16, the destructive storm made its way across Hong Kong where trees were uprooted, windows broke, and buildings swayed. In its aftermath, the streets were littered with shattered glass and fallen trees, slowing the city down as commuters battled their way back to work the next day.
2. Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge
The new 55-kilometre Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge opened in October this year and is the longest in the world. The bridge gives Hongkongers a faster route to access mainland China and Macau. But apart from its obvious commuting benefits, the bridge has been a hot topic of conversation, with rumours of dodgy construction, budget overruns, accusations of corruption, its environmental impact, and more.
3. Faster Payment System
While major cities such as Shanghai and Shenzhen have been leading the world in online payments, Hong Kong has been lagging greatly behind. In an effort to catch up, the Hong Kong Money Authority (HKMA) launched the Faster Payment System (FPS) in September – an arrangement that helps speed up transactions and enable people to make inter-bank and stored value facility (SVF) payments easily. All you need to do is enter the mobile phone number or the email address of the recipient, and the funds will be made available to the recipient almost immediately.
4. Express Rail
Eight years after construction began, the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link finally opened on September 23 after several delays, legal controversy, and budget overruns. The cross-border high-speed rail link connecting Hong Kong to mainland China provides Hongkongers with a faster and more convenient connection to the rest of the mainland, connecting the new West Kowloon terminal to 44 stations across the border.
5. Anyone (Fire Mascot 任何仁)
While most cities tend to opt for the obvious ‘hot firemen posing shirtless’ to promote their Fire Department, Hong Kong’s Fire Service Department got a little creative with the launch of an obscure blue character – Anyone – as their new mascot. At a press conference in November, Hong Kong’s Fire Service Department introduced the public to Anyone, who proceeded to demonstrate life-saving techniques to the crowd. The photos and videos of Anyone went viral on the internet, and the blue mascot quickly shot to fame with tens of thousands of people turning to Google to find out more about this bizarre character.
6. Dengue Virus
When 19 people in the city were diagnosed with Dengue Virus in a single week in August, city dwellers were sent into a frenzy of fear. Panic started to spread across the city as the number of people with the mosquito-borne virus continued to rise. 29 people were confirmed to be infected with the virus from August 14 to December 18. All infected persons had been near the Lion Rock Park in Wong Tai Sin or to Cheung Chau island.
Hong Kong’s fiscal budget topped Google searches this year, with everyone was waiting to see what changes would be made under the new Chief Executive Carrie Lam during her first year in office. But Hongkongers were left dissatisfied with this year’s budget speech. The Financial Secretary announced yet another big surplus and proposed up to $4,000 cash handouts to those who didn’t benefit from this year’s scheme.
8. Tai Kwun
2018 saw the long-awaited opening of the Tai Kwun Centre for Heritage & Arts. Managed by the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust, the complex includes the revitalised Central Police Station, Central Magistracy, Victoria Prison and two new buildings added to the site. Tai Kwun is home to museum-standard art galleries, and regularly invites third-party institutions and art groups to present exhibitions.
9. Typhoon Yutu
Typhoon Yutu was an extremely powerful tropical cyclone that caused catastrophic damage to islands in the Northern Mariana Islands and parts of the Philippines. The storm edged close to Hong Kong, but never made a direct hit. The Strong Wind Signal No. 3 was hoisted on Thursday, November 1 in the afternoon, but the typhoon brought little rain and the signal was cancelled by Friday morning. However, it marked the first time a No. 3 signal has been raised in November since 1993. A 25-year-old man tragically passed away surfing in Big Wave Bay while the signal No. 1 was hoisted.
10. Home Ownership Scheme
The Home Ownership Scheme (HOS) is a regular part of the government’s housing policy that comes out every few years. Under the scheme, Hongkongers can buy government-owned flats at a price below market rate. Whenever the scheme is announced, residents go straight to Google to find out all there is to know about the scheme. More information is available on the Housing Authority website.
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