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News in a Nutshell – March 13

Too busy going fishing in your lunch break to read the news last week? Well here it is, in a nutshell.

1. CY fishes for popularity

Scorn was poured on CY Leung for his suggestion that Central’s office workers might be well served if a fishing zone, and perhaps even a swimming shed were to be developed off Central’s waterfront. Labour Party’s Lee Cheuk-yan asked whether Leung was living on Mars.

Localiiz - Hong Kong harbour
Looks good enough to swim in – from here

2. Rioting in Legco as high-speed rail link funding given go ahead

With high drama, scuffles broke out and an inkpot was thrown in the Legislative Council on Friday as a controversial ‘snap vote’ was passed to approve the additional  $19.6 billion high-speed rail link funding. The approval for funding has been delayed for months as pan democrats have used filibustering as a delaying tactic. Pan democrats are now challenging the legality of the vote.

On Saturday around 2,000 construction workers rallied outside Legislative Council calling for pan democrats to back off as their filibustering is affecting the livelihood of Hong Kong’s construction workers.

3. ATV saga continues

On Monday ATV’s provisional liquidator Deloitte China said that the new investor, China Culture Media International, had failed to come up with the full funding promised the previous Friday to save the 60-year-old TV station.  China Culture Media countered that they didn’t trust Deloitte with the money.  On Thursday another possible investor stepped into the ring, offering $500 million in loans, and suggesting that ATV could be Asia’s next Netflix.

Meanwhile staff are unable to apply for the Protection of Wages on Insolvency Fund at the Labour Department as the company has still to be liquidated.

4. Booksellers return to the mainland

SCMP reported that booksellers Lui Por and Cheung Chi-ping returned to the mainland just hours after returning to Hong Kong last week.  According to the president of Chinese PEN Centre, they returned to Hong Kong simply to tell the Hong Kong police to drop the case on them.

In another report, a Hong Kong author who previously worked for Causeway Bay Books revealed that he had been detained briefly by mainland authorities in 2012. He commented that such disappearances were all too familiar.

5. $78 million in phone scams so far this year

Police announced that phone scammers have cheated Hong Kongers out of more than $78 million in the first quarter of 2016 alone. In the current climate it is easier to understand how swindlers posing as mainland officials might be able to persuade victims to hand over money.

6. Retailers head to the NT as sales continue to fall

Swire figures showed retail sales at The Mall, Pacific Place and Citygate Outlets fell by 12 and 10 percent respectively in 2015, year on year. Swire’s chief executive attributed this to the decline in mainland visitors.

Sun Hung Kai Properties (SHKP) expects to benefit from the retail slump as luxury retailers look for cheaper rents outside of the key tourist areas – moving as far north as Yuen Long according to one SHKP spokesperson.

Home buyers are also finding better deals in the New Territories and this resulted in “the best performance in the past seven months” last week when it came to home sales in the secondary market, according to Ricacorp Properties.

7. Mainland tourism chief calls on Hong Kongers to be nice

Meanwhile up at the NCP and CPPCC in Beijing, China’s tourism chief called on Hong Kong to learn some manners and improve services when it comes to welcoming visitors from the mainland, particularly highlighting localist protests against mainlanders. The mainland government also offered to support Hong Kong in building up its tourism sector again, possibly by increasing the number of mainland cities eligible for the individual visit scheme. Some voices in Hong Kong complained that this would only increase tensions in Hong Kong.

“The Hong Kong tourism industry is suffering its worst downturn since Sars hit the city.” –  SCMP

8. Localist received flak for being born on the mainland

Radical localist Edward Leung came under fire when it turned out that he had been born in the mainland, coming to Hong Kong with his mother when he was young.  SCMP columnist Alex Lo commented that  “The city did not spit in their faces, as localists do on mainland visitors… it embraced and offered them a chance at a better life.”

9. Cold conditions give rise to 24-hour waits at A&E

With an influx of patients seeking treatment for flu and chronic conditions, the Hospital Authority reported being stretched to ‘breaking point’ this week. The rise in patients was blamed on the continued cold weather. Non-urgent accident and emergency patients were reportedly having to wait as long as 24 hours before being seen by doctors. A doctors’ group criticised the Health Authority’s decision to send 30 front line doctors to Beijing this April when the system was under such stress.

10. Octopus storage limit raised to $3,000

The way we use our Octopus cards may change significantly within the next year as the Octopus company got the right to increase the card’s storage limit to $3,000 when their licence is renewed. Octopus has to iron out a few technical issues before a new card can be launched. Economists say the new card may threaten the use of credit cards as Octopus is so much simpler to use.

Did you know: 30 million Octopus cards have been issued – about four for every Hong Konger

Reference: SCMP (subscription), RTHK, Hong Kong Free Press

More reading: Past editions of ‘News in a Nutshell’


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