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News in a Nutshell – May 22

By Julie Magno 22 May 2016
Too busy walking the long way round the police barricades to have any time to read the news this week? Well here it is, in a nutshell!

1. Zhang visit – 'seeing, listening and speaking'

Beacon Hill, not Lion RockZhang Dejiang, China's number 3 and head of Hong Kong & Macau affairs has been and gone without too much drama. Here's what happened:
  • Although Zhang claimed he'd come to 'see, listen and speak', 8,000 police officers were to hand to make sure that he didn't see too much of the localist demonstrators, except perhaps on TV. Never-the-less, despite police being stationed on Lion Rock in anticipation of 'unwanted' banner unfurling, a banner was cunningly unfurled on the adjacent, unguarded Beacon Hill. Other banners appeared around town, generally calling for universal suffrage.
  • Zhang got to see a development model of Lantau that the public has not seen, despite there having been a public 'consultation' over two proposed plans. At issue was the extent of reclamation. People questioned whether the consultation had been as transparent as it should have been. Perhaps better to ask who got to see the real plans? Zhang, or the public?
  • Surprisingly, Zhang brought up the topic first, and that is the topic of Guangdong's handling of the SARS breakout when Zhang was Guangdong Governor back in 2002. While he described it as scoring victory in the fight against SARS, Lawmaker Gary Fan put up 100 paper tombstones in Tamar Park to highlight what was considered  a cover up that resulted in SARs being far more deadly than it may have been with early intervention.
  • Naturally everything that Zhang said was deeply scrutinised, including his reference to CY Leung's performance in office. Did he mean 'satisfactory' or 'endorsed'? Nobody seemed sure so we are still none-the-wiser as to whether CY will be standing for a second term.
  • In his closing speech, Zhang urged Hong Kong to focus on developing its economy, pointing out that traditionally Hong Kong's success had been due to its access to the mainland, yet Hong Kong's traditional advantages are weakening and that it has yet to reinvent itself. He described calls for independence as unfeasible.
Read More: Hong Kong Free Press, SCMP

2. City U roof collapses raising concerns over rooftop gardens

It did look pretty!

Rooftop gardening and greening initiatives came into the spotlight after the collapse of the roof of a sports hall at City University this week. Three people were injured. The rooftop, which was designed to have a load bearing of just 73 kg per sq m was highly likely to have been overloaded. University of Hong Kong soil science and green roofing expert Professor Jim Chi-yung explained that the simplest green roof with thin soil and grass needed to be supported by a roof slab with a capacity of at least 350 kg per sq m. Hong Kong’s education minister has demanded a full report from City University.

“If everyone builds according to the legal requirement, there should not be any [problem]. I do not want people to blame green buildings for the problem,” – Mary Chan Suk-fun, architect

Read more: SCMP, Hong Kong Free Press

3. Kindergarten abduction attempts under investigation

Although no formal complaint was made to the police, police in Yuen Long are investigating the alleged attempt to abduct two children outside a Yuen Long kindergarten. The men were reported to be speaking Putonghua. The case came to police attention after the school issued a notice to parents warning them to be vigilant. Read more: SCMP

4. In court: the cash delivery man who made off with HK$1.68 million

A 'cash delivery man', Man Koon-sun, was in court over a 'sting' he managed to pull off, walking away from an HSBC ATM machine with HK$1.68 million. The court heard that he had called in sick before heading over to an ATM in Yau Tong, arriving shortly after his colleagues had refilled the machine. Pretending to be one of his colleagues returning for some purpose, HSBC staff and the security firm gave Man the access he needed. Despite Man triggering the alarm when he opened the cash machine, he did not raise suspicion. The robbery was only discovered the next morning. He is to be sentenced in May.

5. Ferry fares to be cut from July 2 to December 31

Having enjoyed a boom in business and benefited from the drop in fuel prices, two government subsidised ferry companies that serve Lantau, Lamma, Cheung Chau and Peng Chau  will be lowering fares from July to December. Meanwhile the MTR corporation, another transport company enjoying government subsidies and fair profits, is still thinking about their fare adjustment mechanism. Read more: SCMP, New World First Ferry,  Hong Kong & Kowloon Ferry Holdings

6. Government to take over Eastern Harbour Tunnel

Lawmakers passed a bill to allow the government to run the Eastern Harbour Tunnel when the current 30-year Build-Operate-Transfer contract expires in August. The Secretary for Transport said that the government would study ways to better distribute traffic between the tunnels, including the subsidy of tolls. Source SCMP (print).

7. New state-of-the-art sludge incinerator features free spa

Hong Kong's first self-sustained, zero-wastewater-discharge, sludge treatment facility and spa, T (transformation)·PARK, was opened this week. The facility is the most advanced of its kind in the region.  Waste sludge is reduced at the plant by 90 percent in volume, substantially reducing the load on landfills. Open to the public, the park also features a landscaped garden with five themes, a roof garden (hope the load bearing is up to scratch), a wetland habitat for wildlife and three spa pools heated using the waste heat energy recovered from the sludge incineration. Guided tours are also available upon reservation. Read more: T-park-spa

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