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News in a Nutshell – February 28

By Julie Magno 28 February 2016
Too busy praying the for an awe-inspiring Budget to read the news this week? Not to worry, we've got a roundup here, in a nutshell [caption id="attachment_48744" align="alignright" width="300"]Click to see detailed infographic Click to see detailed infographic[/caption]

1. The Budget – The rich get rich, and the poor get poorer

In Financial Secretary John Tsang's 9th Budget the headlining budgetary strategy was a tax break for those lucky enough to earn sufficient money to be taxed in the first place. For those who fall in that hole of earning something, but not quite enough to get taxed, John Tsang had "nothing for ya". Harbour Times's Alex Fok summarised Tsang's budget as a wasted opportunity with no structural reform but more interventionist measures towards various sectors (film making, tourism, Fintech, creative industries). "[Tsang] has been stashing away part of the profit every year as if running the Government for profit rather than for the people," he said.  On the other hand, SCMP's Alice Tang suggested his budget, and accompanying address, are spot on if he is angling for Hong Kong's top job. You can read other "highlights" here.

2. A "concerned citizen's" anti-establishment rant goes viral In a measure of the frustration felt by many Hong Kong citizens with the government, a YouTube video of an impassioned speech by "concerned citizen" Kwan Wing-yi, went viral in Hong Kong this week, according to reports in several publications. As reported by the SCMPKwan criticised the government for failing Hong Kongers on multiple fronts, including its refusal to implement a universal pension scheme and the billions spent on “white elephant” infrastructure projects. Demonstrating that he is not out of touch, Financial Secretary John Tsang commented on the viral video on RTHK at the week end, saying: “I totally understand a lot of the different sentiments that have been expressed. It is something that we need to hear, we need to understand and, perhaps more importantly, we need to have a dialogue with.” Empathy? Perhaps he does have his eye on the top spot.
“In today's Hong Kong, with its colluding officials and businessmen and soaring inflation, even buying a pound of 'poison vegetables' (from mainland China) in the market costs HKD30. [...] How is HKD3,230 supposed to be enough for daily expenses?"” – Kwan Wing-yi, Hong Kong Free Press

3. Who needs a vote when you have Facebook emoticons?

[caption id="attachment_48747" align="alignnone" width="600"]Feel free to add your own caption in the comments section... Feel free to add your own caption in the comments section...[/caption] If Kwan wing-yi's video going viral had not already given the government an indication of public opinion, the launch of Facebook's new emoticons provided an additional, more accessible platform for public voice. Specifically, CY Leung's Facebook page. And it seems that CY cannot do anything right; even his post about the popular Glowing Roses art installation got 32,231 angry faces. A post about the Employers' Federation Luncheon got 98,071 angry faces (as at 6pm on Saturday 27) and a post about a new subsidised housing scheme got 35,000 angry faces (6pm, Saturday 27). While negative comments can be deleted, we understand that emoticons are there to stay.

4. Reuse, recycle and profit... intrigue in the scrap coin trade

They say that where there's muck, there's brass and this seems to be the case for bent and "not machine countable" US coins that find themselves in the Mainland, thanks to the global scrap metal trade. According to the appropriately named Wealthy Max Ltd, a Hong Kong based coin recycling company,  the US authorities are withholding HK$62 million worth of coins and payment owed for transactions between Wealthy Max and the US government in 2014 and 2015. In turn the US government is accusing Wealthy Max of  including counterfeit currency among genuine coins sent to the US Mint. A judgment is expected this coming week. According to the report in the SCMP, companies like Wealthy Max buy junk coins at a discount from Mainland companies who sift through scrap metal bought from the US to reclaim these coins. The Hong Kong companies then ship the coins back to the mint, which pays for the coins at face value allowing such Hong Kong businesses to make a tidy profit.

5. Loan sharks behind sharp rise in domestic helper suicides

The Phillipines Consul General has spoken out as four domestic helpers have already taken their own lives this year – the same number as for the whole of 2015 – with three of the cases confirmed as debt-related, according to a report in the SCMP. The Hong Kong government has pledged to implement a code of conduct as a solution to the problem, which is set to be put in place later this year, critics say it will not be legally binding.

6. A rebel heart is someone who is prepared to fight for what they believe in... Watch Madonna's closing act in her sold-out-in-minutes one-night-only Hong Kong Rebel Heart tour performance. While some where horrified at Madonna's explicit language and finger action, this SCMP writer seemed to enjoy the show: "Hong Kong finally got to bask in Madonna’s glow, but it was far too much fun to be a one-night stand." Naturally, Madonna was politically risque: "A rebel heart is someone who is prepared to fight for what they believe in..."

and other news...

  • New Territories East by election today (Sunday 28) may give Localists access to power
  • a light plane crashed in the sea off Plover Cove killing the government services pilot
  • the long-running attempt to amend the copyright protection bill was withdrawn by the government to allow them to proceed with the backlog of other bills
  • tempers flared in the inconclusive 9-hour Finance Committee debate over approval for additional funding for the high-speed rail link.

More reading: News in a Nutshell – February 21

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