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News in a Nutshell - 24 January

By Julie Magno 24 January 2016
Too busy looking for snow to read the news? We've got it covered for you, in a nutshell!

1. Letters from Lee Bo

[caption id="attachment_45665" align="alignright" width="250"]Gui Minhai CCTV reports Gui Minhai's crime and his subsequent surrender, including his confession. Click to view[/caption] Monday 18, almost a week after an unofficial 14-day deadline for notification of a detention, Hong Kong authorities learnt from Mainland authorities that bookseller Lee Bo was indeed being detained  in the Mainland, having apparently been picked up in Hong Kong and spirited across the border. This was just days after his colleague, who had also "disappeared", but from Thailand last November, appeared on China Central TV (CCTV) declaring that he had turned himself for a crime he had committed years ago. A few days of speculation followed as to how Lee Bo had got there without his China pass. Similarly, critics were skeptical that Gui Minhai might voluntarily turn himself in to the Mainland authorities, having fled the PRC in the first place. On Saturday  Mrs Lee reportedly met her husband at a guesthouse on the Mainland on Saturday and was given a letter which she passed on to the Hong Kong police. The force said the letter’s content is similar to Lee’s previous letters. She said he is healthy and in good spirits, and that he is assisting in an investigation in the capacity of a witness.
According to the Security Bureau, over 12,000 notifications involving 9,400 Hong Kong residents have been made by the mainland authorities since the (notification) mechanism came into force (in 1999). Most of the notifications involved fraud, smuggling and drugs and most of the crimes took place in Guangdong province. SCMP

2. A Safe Haven for Some?

On the other hand, an “armed and dangerous” double-murder suspect accused of bludgeoning his two teenage nephews to death in the United States was arrested in a dramatic swoop at Hong Kong International Airport on Saturday night as he was trying to flee to the Mainland, which does not have an extradition agreement with the United States.

3. It's So Cold... We've all Become Weather Reporters

[caption id="attachment_45657" align="alignright" width="200"]Ice at Tai Mo Shan. Credit Hong Kong Observatory Ice at Tai Mo Shan. Credit Hong Kong Observatory[/caption] And now to what we're all talking and texting about ... the weather. A New Zealand weather station predicted snow for Hong Kong (The Standard) and they weren't far wrong. According to the Hong Kong Observatory, we've got an "intense cold surge" which means: "... temperatures on high ground were generally below zero degree and there was freezing rain and ice... owing to icy conditions in some places, public should be aware of slippery roads". The police have been called in to deal with traffic jams as Hong Kongers have headed for the hills to see some ice; more than 200 cars on Fei Ngo Shan, by one report. The Home Affairs Department has opened 17 temporary shelters for people in need of refuge from the cold for Sunday night. Our recommendation is to stay under the duvet and tune into Netflix.

4. Flight Fuel Levy Dropped

With temperatures around zero, your mind does turn to thoughts of jetting off for warmer weather and the good news is that this week The Civil Aviation Authority announced airlines would no longer have the right to levy fuel surcharges on flights purchased out of Hong Kong from 1 February, 2016.  Airlines have been reducing the fuel surcharge as oil prices have fallen so the reduction won't be so noticeable, currently (HK)$24 for short haul flights, and $109 for long haul flights but there was a time when we were paying as much as $1,164 for long haul flights. Happy days... until the currency fluctuations start becoming a burden for the airlines.

5. A Mean Means Test for the Elderly

It may have been cold on Saturday, but arguments were heated at the first public forum of the government's 6-month public consultation to discuss retirement protection. The government has put forward only two options: a universal pension where all those of pension age receive $3,000 a month regardless of income or assets versus (yes, that includes Li Ka Shing - clearly not a good idea) and a means-tested plan where only those with assets of less than $80,000 would get such a monthly allowance. The government has already made it clear they do not favour a universal plan, arguing that Hong Kong just could not stand the cost; critics believe the means test is just too mean and that the whole consultation is just a sham with its two unsatisfactory options. If you want to express your opinion visit the government's microsite on Retirement Protection.
"... Others questioned why the government was willing to put in so much money to build the bridge from Hong Kong to Zhuhai and Macau, yet was unwilling to support local elderly people." SCMP

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