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By: Lisa Liu、LIN Zhihuai 林知懐、Sophia Sheng、Jade ZhouEdited by: Mark Chen

Health & Environment

Unhygienic Masks Sold Online Despite Ban

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Lisa Liu、LIN Zhihuai 林知懐、Sophia Sheng、Jade ZhouEdited by: Mark Chen
  • 2020-12-30

In November, Tony Chan, a vendor on the sales platform, Carousell, was offering to sell face masks for $250 a box. He agreed to meet us at an MTR station to collect the cash. But one hour before the scheduled meeting time, Mr Chan stopped responding to our messages. The brand of mask Mr Chan was selling, Bedah Karet Masker, had been seized by Hong Kong Customs in April after tests showed it contains an excessive amount of bacteria. Carousell is a Singapore-based online platform where users can buy and sell new or second-handed products. Apart from merchandise, it also offers tutoring services, properties and jobs. Counterfeit and prohibited products are supposedly not allowed, but there are no checks or enforcement procedures. There is also no specific regulation on the sale of face masks. "For masks, certification is not required, as long as they comply with the specifications in the listing rules on Carousell,"  a customer service spokesperson from Carousell explained during a live online chat with us. The Bedah Karet Masker masks Tony Chan offered was one of 15  [identifiable] brands seized by Hong Kong Customs under "Guardian", an operation in April this year to crack down on masks that did not comply with the Trade Description Ordinance. Since January, nearly 6 million masks have been confiscated by officers.   Test results show that 10 of the 15 brands seized had excessive levels of bacteria. Most of the packaging did not list where the products were manufactured. Hong Kong Customs said in a press release that most of the masks came from Southeast Asia or Central Asia.   Still on sale Seven months after the Hong Kong Customs operation was launched, our observation indicates that four of the problematic brands are still being sold through Carousell. These include AD …


Hong Kong's enhanced coronavirus control in the restaurant industry draws controversy

On December 8, Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced that dining regulations are to be more stringent as the fourth-wave of coronavirus fast approaches Hong Kong.  In addition to maintaining the two-person gathering limit, the dining time at the restaurant was further shortened to 6 pm Fitness centres, sports premises, beauty salons, massage parlours and other places that are normally open were also required to be closed. These measures take effect on December 10. These measures were taken in response to the consecutive rise in triple-digit confirmed new cases of coronavirus since December. "We experienced this before," said Percy Lam Kwok-Ming, the manager at Brotziet, a German cuisine restaurant in Tsim Sha Tsui. He referred to the third wave of Covid-19 and said that they lost around 30% of their business during that time. The food and beverage sector saw a 35.3% decrease in sales during the third quarter of 2020, according to government statistics.  "We had to take a lot of no-pay leaves so it affects our salary," said Pujan Rai, a staff at Brotzeit. She said that since part of her salary goes to supporting her family, whose income is also affected during covid, "it is a bit of a struggle every time a new wave hits Hong Kong." Ms Rai thinks it's too much to ask the restaurant to close at 6 pm as they can't get more revenue from the sale of alcohol or drinks, even have to rush customers to eat as soon as possible. She found the 6 PM limit to be excessive, since Brotziet is a restaurant and bar, closing at 6 pm means they sell fewer drinks and have to rush dining customers as well since the restaurant originally opens till 2 am, "pushing the closing time back to 8 or 9 pm …


HK E-payment market expected an increase of 10.5% for 2020/21

Liang Jia uses WeChat Pay for her groceries when shopping in Marketplace as the Chinese digital wallet operator stepped up promotion to lure users amid a booming online payment service boosted by COVID-19. Digital wallet companies want to boost their turnover during the pandemic. Digital wallets in Hong Kong like WeChat Pay, AliPay and Bank of China have launched multiple promotions for the e-payment users to be benefited from.  "Since I heard of the risk of transmission of COVID-19 by cash, I use contactless payment methods more often," said Ms Liang, a 29-year-old insurance broker. Hong Kong recorded 23 new confirmed COVID-19 cases on Nov. 12, including 6 local infections. The city now has reported 5431 confirmed cases with 5170 patients recovered and 108 people died.  Speaking on a radio program earlier in mid-October, microbiologist and government adviser on the coronavirus pandemic, Yuen Kwok-yung expressed concerns that using banknotes to purchase increases the risk of infection. The research from Australia's national science agency CSIRO stated that the COVID-19 can survive on cash for up to 28 days at 20°C. Mr Yuen also addressed that the government should explore different digital payment methods with the business sector, contactless payment should be stepped up to reduce infection risks. Indeed, more shoppers prefer using self-checkouts to avoid contact with people. A cashier at Wellcome who refuses to disclose her name because she does not want to represent the company to speak. She said more customers have started to use self-checkout since the outbreak of COVID-19. The pandemic also creates more demands for the usage of financial technology tools as people tend to stay at home, and prefer online shopping over brick-and-mortar stores. Fintech adopts new technology to improve and automate the delivery and use of financial services. Its core is utilized to help …

Culture & Leisure

New Fashion Trend: Generation Z Promotes The Rise of Second-hand Market

Nearly 30 people crowded in a 200 feet factory building units for buying clothes. Ms Athena Lau Ka Yi, an 18 years old secondary student, was holding four to five pieces of clothes in her hand, still looking for more items. Many young girls shuttled between the clothing rack, eager to hunt for treasure among the pile of clothes. In the crowded space, a secondhand clothing weekend market was organised, attracted many young girls, mainly 15 to 23 years old. There were over hundreds of clothes in the market. They all looked new, but were actually second-hand. Clothes were divided into different styles which all looked young and fresh, particularly targeting young customers. "It is so fun to shop here," Lau said, "whenever I find clothes I love, it feels like a treasure hunt." Lau enjoyed her secondhand shopping in this market so much, as the price was very affordable while quality was good. Most of them ranged from HK$50 to HK$100, some were only HK$30. "Lifexit" is the organiser of this secondhand clothing weekend market, who collaborated with three online secondhand shops, "Retrovert", "Asian Angel" and "Chan4room". Ms Coco Lam started up Lifexit to provide a space for people to relax and enjoy their peaceful moment. It locates at an industrial building unit in Kwun Tong, provides space to organise all kinds of activities. Secondhand clothing weekend market is a new try. "As I can see the secondhand clothing trend growing among young people nowadays, and the message behind buying secondhand is meaningful," Lam said, "that's why I organised this weekend market." She hoped, through this market, more people can get to know more about secondhand clothing culture in Hong Kong. Secondhand fashion trend is growing globally and rapidly. ThredUP, one of the largest consignment and thrift stores in …

Health & Environment

Various experiences of mainland students' semi-closed post pandemic campus life--reasonable, formalised or creativity motivating?

As the new autumn semester began in September, 31 provinces have arranged students back to school for on-campus teaching according to the Ministry of Education. To better control COVID-19, universities have established a semi school-disclosure policy. It means students are not allowed to go out of school as usual. Universities implemented many protection measures to prevent COVID-19 as well.   Among many universities' school closure policies, Tsing Hua University has done a good job according to the Beijing Municipal Education Commission. "Tsing Hua University currently implements a filing system with an app called Tsing hua zijing app," according to the Beijing Municipal Education Commission. Acting as a tracking and reporting system, it is mandatory for students to use this wherever they go. When students leave school, they need to report the reasons for leaving the school, travel trajectory, time of entry and exit on the online system in advance. After filling in advance, they can enter and exit the campus without approval.  "This seems to lack the restraint of one student, but by giving students a certain degree of autonomy and inspiring everyone's awareness of epidemic prevention, it can eventually implement epidemic prevention measures," said Liyi, the Deputy Secretary of Beijing Municipal Education Working Committee, Spokesperson of Municipal Education Committee. Linked with every student's student ID, Tsing Hua zijing app tracks each student's location in Tsinghua university through their QR code scan record on campus. "When entering any interior space such as a canteen, a dorm or a classroom, we have to use this app to scan local QR code before the entrance," said Zhang Zhihao in a chat interview, a year 4 student in the department of civil engineering in Tsinghua University.  Moreover, this app has a function of "Report Body Temperature", which is connected to a robot body temperature …

Culture & Leisure

Online concerts becoming a growing trend in China amid COVID-19

It was Nov. 3, He Xun was supposed to have self-study class in the classroom instead of putting on nice make-up and opening NetEase Music on her smartphone in the dormitory. It was her first time skipping the class just for watching the online concert of Arashi, a J-POP idol group.  Ms He is a 19-year-old student who lives in Baoding, a northern city in Hebei Province near Beijing. She has been a fan of Arashi since middle school and dreamt of watching the live concert.  In February, Arashi announced that the concert scheduled for April at Beijing's Bird's Nest stadium would be cancelled due to the epidemic, so as the concert in May at National Arena of Japan. To meet their fans' expectations, Arashi decided to conduct an audience-free concert on their debut anniversary day, with no recording provided. "As they will suspend the group activities from the end of 2020, this online concert might be their last concert so I couldn't miss it at all," Ms He said. Although unable to attend the concert personally, she still took out her hand lantern and turned off the lights, pretending to be sitting in the Arena. In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, live shows, unfortunately, became a victim at the hands of gathering restrictions. According to the China Association of Performing Arts, the COVID-19 outbreak in the first quarter of this year led to the cancellation of 20 thousand performances nationwide and a box office loss of more than 2 billion RMB. When the artists can't perform normally and fans feel down because of the cancellations of musical events, online concerts popped up with the ubiquity of digital music and advanced technology. Tencent Music Entertainment Group has launched TME Live by utilizing a variety of scenes, innovative performance modes, …


Airbnb quarantine service boosts with local residents' concern

A girl with an electronic wristband dragged her huge suitcase into a building but dared not make a sound.  Chen Yanni, a student from the mainland, was going to do her 14-day quarantine in a flat in a residential building listed on Airbnb. Many mainland students, like Yanni, preferred to be quarantined in an Airbnb flat rather than a hotel. The fact that renters of Airbnb are not required to provide their travel history and usually conduct self-quarantine raises concern over hygiene safety among local residents. Airbnb, the world's largest lodging platform, has been operating in Hong Kong for four years. Up to July 2020, the number of mainland students who stated their intention to study in Hong Kong increased by 30.77% from the previous month, according to Kai Tak Education, a mainland education agency for Hong Kong Universities Application. At Hong Kong Baptist University, more than 90 Year 2 and Year 3 mainland students returned to Hong Kong for the new semester in September. That’s about one-third of the mainland students at the University. "Compared with hotels, Airbnb has the advantages of having cooking facilities. I am less lonely and space is bigger," Ms Chen explained. She quarantined with two friends in an Airbnb apartment in Tsim Sha Tsui. "No outdoor activity for 14 days is already frustrating enough, not to mention in a very tiny space," Ms Chen added. She wanted to live somewhere that felt more like home.   On the Airbnb listing, there was no description of whether this apartment accepts quarantine tenants. Potential tenants need to personally message the house owner to ask. "After texting about 30 landlords in person on Airbnb, about 28 replied that they accepted quarantine but needed to make sure nobody would notice us when we enter the apartments," said Ms …


Mandy Lee: A Pioneer in Escapism Cooking

Using a finger to make a well in the flour, Mandy Lee poured in the beaten egg yolks. She added water and salt to the mix and aggressively manoeuvred it, kneading and tearing it until a silky dough was formed. She carefully flattened it through a pasta machine and unwaveringly incised it to create uniform strands.  Staring at the finished product in front of her, Ms Lee found her suppressed anger and anguish briefly consoled via the exhaustive pasta-making session. Spellbound by this sensation, she did not leave her apartment until she perfected the tonnarelli recipe two weeks later.  "Without knowing it yet, I became what I would like to call later on – an escapist cook," Ms Lee wrote in her blog Lady and Pups. The Taiwanese-Canadian, 40, moved to Beijing in 2010, where she struggled living under China's communist regime. She began cooking as a form of escapism from the torture of her reality. This later evolved into her writing an "angry food blog" and the cookbook The Art of Escapism Cooking. Ms Lee was born in Taiwan in 1980 and spent her teenage years in Canada. She dropped out of University of British Columbia after a year to pursue art school in New York. Graduating from Parsons School of Design, she then worked at an architecture firm before starting her own dog food business with a friend. Reflecting on her seven and a half years in New York, Ms Lee said the city complemented her personality the most. "I love New York for the kind of city it is and the kind of energy it has and the kind of freedom it provides," she reminisced. However, such a lifestyle was quickly uprooted when her husband had to move to Asia for a job, finding herself living in …


US Traveller seeking help from Facebook Support Group

Back in July, when he was helping his mom look through Reddit for Hong Kong travel information, Brian stumbled upon the Hong Kong Quarantine Support Group on Facebook.  Brian, who refused to disclose his full name because of privacy issues, a Hongkonger who works in the legal industry, travelled from Los Angeles to Hong Kong at the end of August because of an expiring American visa. Joining the Facebook group in late July after the Hong Kong government implemented the Cap. 599H Prevention and Control of Disease Regulation, Brian was never worried about the inbound trip back to Hong Kong.  "I wasn't too stressed about it. I was just thinking I had another month, so I would follow the situation on Facebook," he said. The Facebook group, created on March 17 by the initiative of Kunj Gandhi, now has more than 18,000 members worldwide, including the Philippines, Malaysia, Australia, Canada, the US, and the UK. "In this brand new world when so many felt so isolated and had so many questions, we wanted to reach out and help create a place where people could gain information, comfort, and community," Tess Lyons, a moderator of the Hong Kong Quarantine Support Group, said. With an average of 50 daily posts appearing on the page, the support group serves as a forum for anyone who seeks answers and insights regarding travelling to Hong Kong. Common discussion topics include pre- and post-arrival Covid-19 testing, Hong Kong airport procedures, public transportation arrangements, hotel recommendations, and food delivery services. The legal officer contacted a woman who successfully boarded from Los Angeles in the group and went to the same laboratory for the necessary documents. "If Person A found success by going to this laboratory and using these documents, the safest thing to do is to do …

Culture & Leisure

Veganism on the Rise in Hong Kong

It's time for another family gathering… Eugenia Chow, a Hong Kong vegan blogger, pushed up a forceful smile and sat in front of a table filled with traditional Chinese dishes with her family. "One of the main difficulties I face with being vegan is the cultural aspect of eating in Hong Kong," said Ms Eugenia Chow. With Hong Kong's traditional food mainly consisting of animal products, she said eating with family is often difficult, especially as a younger member of the family, "It's difficult to be picky with food in front of elders as it may seem disrespectful." Concerned about the sustainability of eating meat and the effect of animal farming on the environment, Ms Eugenia Chow started an Instagram account three years ago to blog her vegan lifestyle in an effort to encourage more people to start a vegan diet by proving that it is not a difficult task to be a vegan in Hong Kong.  Today, she has more than 8,000 followers on Instagram, alongside a blog and podcast of her own, where she discusses topics such as sustainability and environmentalism. Ever since she started blogging on her social media accounts, more people have asked her for advice on their diets.  Within two years, there was a 50% increase in the number of vegetarians in Hong Kong, according to a 2018 survey conducted by Green Monday, an organization based in Hong Kong that promotes green eating habits.  Ms Eugenia Chow commented that the sudden growth in interest in veganism is because documentaries about animal cruelty have gone viral and people started to be more conscious about their food choices. Another part of the reason is the growing concern on the environment as well as their personal health.  A twofold increase in both the number of Deliveroo's restaurant partners …