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Controversies behind ambitious Lantau plan

  • 2016-01-09

  by Julianna Wu With its rich natural resources and beautiful landscape, Lantau Island is Hong Kong's backyard garden. However, the island, popular with tourists and hikers, may soon become a prospering metropolis with skyscrapers and shopping malls if the government is allowed to go ahead with its recent plan. Despite numerous criticism and insufficient public consultation, a plan to develop Lantau Island will be submitted to the Chief Executive by the end of 2015 and then to the Legislative Council. The Overall Spatial Planning and Conservation Concepts for Lantau, endorsed by The Lantau Development Advisory Committee (LanDAC ) in September, is expected to bring a nine-time increase in population from the current 105,000 living on the island and five times more jobs to the current market of 470,000. The plan, initiated in 2007, proposes to build infrastructure, housing, leisure facilities and tourist attractions while preserving nature and heritage. It outlines the creation The East Lantau Metropolis (ELM) as a core business district and also includes the creation of water taxis, a cable car, funicular railway, cycle tracks and a round-the-island shuttle. However, the plan faces strong opposition from the community. Many question whether this ambitious project is what the Hong Kong public actually wants. Tom Yam, management consultant with a doctoral degree in electrical engineering, doubts the plan objectives can be meet, saying Hong Kong will not have enough people to fill new towns. "Together with the Development Plan of Northeast New Territories, new towns including Lantau would bring 1.7 million more people to the city," he said. "But Hong Kong's population is only expected to increase for 600,000 more by the year 2050." "The government hasn't done a needs analysis for the Lantau Development Plan yet," said Mr Yam. "They already assume there's a need and they're pursuing the next step of feasibility study already." "That's not logical," the consultant said. "You need to show the public there's the need of doing so before you study the feasibility." He submitted a proposal last year to ask LanDAC to conduct a strategic needs analysis of the development …


Lack of quorum halts controversial internet Article 23

  • 2015-12-11

by Julianna Wu   Debate arose among online freedom of speech after the controversial Copyright Amendment Bill meeting was adjourned in Legislative Council yesterday. After five times' quorum called by pan-democrats, only 29 legislators, below the requisite 35, showed up, president of Legislative Council Jasper Tsang Yok-sing had no choice but cancelled the meeting. Before the meeting, pan-democrats said they would take legal moves in Legislative Council to delay the bill's second reading, which was restarted after the latest amendment on 2014. In the latest version of Copyright Amendment Bill, the government has revised its proposal and allows exemptions under the "fair use" criteria. According to Secretary of Commerce and Economic Development Gregory So Kam-leung, the new added six exemptions are "parodies, satires, caricatures, pastiches, and current affairs commentaries." But still, online secondary creations such as new lyrics to existing tunes, live broadcast game playing, comic cosplay, and others, could face criminal liability if the bill is passed. Plenty of online users commented on the Government Information Services Department's official Facebook page that the division of exemptions are unclear and they are afraid the bill would become a political tool striking freedom of speech. Keyboard Frontline, a voluntary internet freedom defending organization founded in 2011, said the exemption should include but not limit to these six ones. They requested the government to broader the criteria by applying the word "such as" to the examples. This criteria of "open exemption" is used by the US in her copyright bill, according to spokeswoman of Keyboard Frontline Glacier Kwong Chung-ching. Government said some relevant organizations, such as the record companies and songwriters, have signed deal with Youtube, a video-sharing website, to ensure the platform does not infringe the copyright if people upload their work and share there. But online users, such as uploaders …


Elected councillors have little say in district affairs

  • 2015-11-16

By Jonathan Chan Half an hour before six Banyan trees in Western District on Hong Kong Island were chopped down in August, Central and Western district councillor Wong Kin-shing received an email. Although he was fully aware of the opposition from the local community, there was nothing he could do to stop the trees from being removed. "This is notifying, not consulting," Mr Wong said. "The government does not respect our district council." Although they are directly elected by Hong Kong residents, district councillors have little say in government policies concerning local communities. The lack of power results in a low turnout rate in the council elections. Mr Wong said the Highways Department, which was in charge of the removal of the trees, held two meetings with the district council. Councillors proposed several solutions such as trimming the leaves, but none of them was taken in the end. "We are sad to see the District Council in this state," said Mr Wong, who will not run in the upcoming elections. To enhance communication between the government and residents of Hong Kong, the former colonial government established the District Boards in 1982. In 2000, the Boards were renamed District Council. The Home Affairs Department says on its website that District Council function as advisory bodies, giving suggestions to the government on matters affecting "the well-being of the people in the district." They also give advice on government programmes and the use of public funds as well as public facilities. If funds are allocated, the District Council should use them to improve the environment, spend on community activities or promote recreational and cultural activities within the district, the website says. But some councillors doubt if their suggestions are taken seriously by the government. "When it comes to government policies, the District Council is powerless as an advisory body," says Kelvin …


Hong Kong's election age limit: ageist or practical?

  • 2015-11-12

By Christy Leung   William Lloyd, formerly a British Conservative member of parliament, was elected at the age of 18 in 2007, a year after the eligible age for candidacy was lowered from 21. "The simple fact of the matter is that no one has life experience completely, no one knows everything," Mr Lloyd told BBC. In Hong Kong, the age limit for running in both the District Council or Legislative Council election is 21, though the age limit for voting is 18. Joshua Wong Chi-fung said the age limit ignores 18 to 20-year-olds' right to stand for election. The 19-year-old Scholarism convenor filed a judicial review to challenge the age ceiling on his birthday this month in hope to run in the LegCo election next year. "It is quite ironic. For anyone running for the election of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, the age limit is just 18 years old," said Mr Wong. Responses are split, with critics arguing that young people below 21 lack life as well as political experience. Albert Ho Chun-yan of the Democratic Party said Mr Wong's proposal lacks insight. "He could run for the election and criticise us, but legislators are elected. It's the voters' decisions," he said. He said it is unfair to say older legislators in council elections constitute an ageing problem in Hong Kong politics. "Hillary Clinton is 68, Joe Biden is 72. Can you say there is an ageing problem in the US?" Mr Ho said. "Of course we lack experiences, because we are still young," said 25-year-old Hsueh Cheng-yi, the youngest councillor in Taiwan. "But experiences can be accumulated when I am serving the community." An environmental activist who is involved in several NGOs, Ms Hsueh said the Sunflower Student Movement -- a student-led protest against …


Young candidates ready for the race

  • 2015-11-06

Faced with competition from veteran politicians, candidates in their 20s are determined to win in the election. By Choco Chan, Jonathan Chan CY. One year after the student-led Occupy Movement, some young democrats are bringing their political passion to the district council election. With the help of supporting groups, they are trying to challenge the established political parties and win over Hong Kong voters. At the age of 21, Kelvin Sin Cheuk-nam is the youngest candidate the Democratic Party is fielding in the upcomingdistrict council election. Mr Sin said a challenge he faces is the general perception that young people are inexperienced and incapable in politics. "In my district, being young is definitely not an advantage," said Mr Sin. Mr Sin is running for a seat in the Central and Western District's constituency of Kennedy Town and Mount Davis. Some of his opponents are much older then him. One of them, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong candidate Chan Hok-fung, is 38 years old and has been working as a district councillor since 2008. Mr Sin believes voters are likely to suppport experienced politicians. Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions vice-chairperson, Chan Yuen-han believes the pro-democracy young candidates will not pose a threat to the pro-establishment camp. "Young people have a passion for politics," said the 68-year-old legislator. "But they lack the ability to think and analyse the situation comprehensively like expereienced polticians like us." Despite the obstacles, many young candidates are determined to run. Baggio Leung Chung-heng, convenor of a new political group Youngspiration, said running for district councillor was not only about gaining seats, but to change people's perception. Youngspiration, which aims to become a voice for young people, are sending nine candidates aged from 23 to 29 to run in the election. The …


Letter from the Editor

  • 2015-11-02

The Young Reporter editorial team was gathered in the 24-hour computer lab (more like a lounge) one day last week putting together this issue. I was researching the Electoral Affairs Committee statistics on voter turnout and watching one of my editors scrolling on his laptop on the sofa. I looked at the group and spontaneously asked, "Who in this room has actually voted?" Among the dozen 21 and 22-year-old journalists-to-be, only one person --Joey, our copy editor--had voted in a by-election at South Horizons, Southern District West last year. All the rest will be first time voters this November. Writing an election issue with no voting experience is a double-edged sword. Having never experienced voting procedures, timelines and reporting regulations has to be compensated for with massive amounts of research and planning. But as university students, it is easier for us to relate to young candidates and young voters. And, as a female-dominated group on a female-dominated campus, we are sensitive to gender issues in politics and workplace. The system of appointed members is to be abolished starting from this election, making the District Council the only generally elected and most democratic part of the government in Hong Kong. The council itself though possesses very limited power, even on community policies and transparency in the way taxpayers' money is spent. The people in Hong Kong are increasingly aware of their rights in politics, partly credited to the Umbrella Movement, and further reform in the District Council shall soon be appealed. Back in the lab (or lounge) one editor made the confession that she is not a registered voter and the guy on the sofa moved his stare away from the computer screen to her and let out a sigh. Crystal Tse Editor


Former Chief Executive Donald Tsang charged over misconduct

  • 2015-10-05

By Mari Chow Former Hong Kong SAR Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen was charged by the Independent Commission Against Corruption this morning with two counts of misconduct in public office. He has been released on $100 thousand bail after appearing at the Eastern Magistrates' Court this afternoon to answer the two charges, which made him the highest-ranking Hong Kong government official ever to face a corruption trial. The first charge alleges that when Mr Tsang was in office, he failed to disclose his interest in dealings with a major shareholder of Wave Media Limited, later renamed Digital Broadcasting Corporation Hong Kong, when the council discussed and approved its licence applications. The second one alleges that he "willfully misconducted himself" by failing to disclose his interests in the lease of a Shenzhen flat and the engagement of an architect responsible for the interior design work of that flat. Mr Tsang proposed the architect be referred for consideration for nomination under the city's honours and awards system. Mr Tsang, 70, stepped down from the Chief Executive position in 2012 and has since been investigated by the ICAC for allegedly accepting luxury favours from business people, which include low apartment rents and rides on private yachts and jets. But Mr Tsang insisted he had no conflict of interest. He showed confidence of being found innocent in a statement faxed to media earlier today. "My conscience is clear," it says. "I have every confidence that the court will exonerate me after its proceedings." Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung said the decision to commence prosecution was made in accordance to the related law and evidence. "There is no political consideration in the prosecution," he told reporters at ICAC today. Misconduct in public office leads to a maximum penalty of seven years in jail. The …


Judicial review a controversial next step for supporters of Johannes Chan

By Joanne Lee   As various groups seek to overturn the decision preventing Johannes Chan from becoming the deputy head of the University of Hong Kong, judicial review remains an option under debate. After Johannes Chan's appointment of pro-vice-chancellor was rejected in a 12-8 vote by HKU's governing council, the Student Union president Billy Fung Jing-en said the group was considering judicial review to resolve the case. However, most of Professor Chan's supporters are not enthusiastic about this proposal. Kevin Yam Kin-fung, convenor of Progressive Lawyers Group, said the student union has the autonomy to apply for judicial review and he respects their decision, but the group will not provide any legal assistance. HKU Alumni Concern Group member Patrick Wong Chun-sing said whether to apply for a judicial review depends on Professor Chan's will. "As far as I know, Professor Chan has expressed that he does not have the intention of doing it in a RTHK radio programme," Mr Wong said. Nevertheless, some are open to the suggestion. Carmen Chan Wai-men, a HKU alumnus who co-organised a protest against the council's decision on Sunday, shows support for the Student Union. "I don't know much about the legal system, so I can't tell if a judicial review would be plausible," Ms Chan said at the protest. "But I support the student union's decision." HKU's governing council stays silent towards the plan. Council member Lo Chung-mau said he had expressed his view in his statement and declined to comment further. However, he restated that Mr Fung's action would bring major impact to Professor Chan. HKUST Professor Francis Lui Ting-ming, who once publicly advised Professor Chan to withdraw from the selection process because of Chan's clear political stance, wrote in a recent column that a judicial review would not alter the council's decision. The …


National Day wrap-up: another day of post-Occupy political debate

By Charlotte Yang and Christy Leung   Even before the national anthem was played for the Flag Raising Ceremony at 8 am, protestors outside Golden Bauhinia Square were ready with their five-star flags, colonial flags, banners and yellow umbrellas. Police officers were nervously standing by. As the Hong Kong government celebrates the 66th Chinese National Day with ceremonies, concerts and fireworks, various political groups are seizing the opportunity to voice their demands in the post-Occupy era. This morning in Wanchai, about 20 activists led by lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung protested to demand that the Communist Party rehabilitate Tiananmen victims and release jailed human rights lawyers in the mainland. They were carrying yellow umbrellas and coffins representing those who died due to the military crackdown in 1989. On the other side of the road, young activists who call themselves "localists" held different opinions. People wearing masks and waving colonial flags said they were not Chinese and democracy in China was not Hong Kong's business. Their separatist sentiment irritated members of a pro-Beijing group, who brought out national flags and yelled "Go Away" at their opponents. Conflicts did not end as people began leaving Wanchai. Right after the ceremony, Tiananmen Mothers, along with other pan-democratic groups, staged a Tiananmen-focused march towards the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government. Along the way, participants got involved in quarrels with people carrying Chinese flags, who accused the democrats of "messing up Hong Kong". Meanwhile in Tsim Sha Tsui, about 100 democracy advocates gathered to raise awareness of defending the city's core values. "Rule of law, press freedom, everything is getting worse," said one of the organisers, hedge fund manager Edward Chin Chi-kin, "It is not really a day to celebrate the National Day. It's a day to mourn if China starts premature influence over Hong …


A year after : Umbrella Movement

  • 2015-09-28

By Janet Sun, Fred Lai, Tanya McGovern and Crystal Tse It is the one year after the police fired tear gas to disperse pro-democracy protesters in Admiralty, followed by a 79-day civil disobedience campaign named the Umbrella Movement. From September 28 last year, thousands took to the streets and occupied the busiest business districts. Yellow umbrellas representing the movement became a new logo of Hong Kong. The movement was an attempt to gain the right of electing Hong Kong's chief executive democratically. Protesters accused a Beijing-backed political reform proposal of being a "fake universal suffrage" for requiring the candidates to be filtered before entering the public vote. Earlier in June this year, the Legislative Council rejected the controversial proposal, leaving no timeline for future discussion on political reform. On the first anniversary of the Umbrella Movement, political groups and individual protesters are heading towards Admiralty again. Some are trying to bring back memories, and many are coming up with their own plans of what Hong Kongers should do next. People's Power Tam Tak-chi tells TYR why the party called off the occupy plan. Follow TYR reporters for the latest updates on the 1st anniversary of Umbrella Movement. Yellow Umbrella Blossoms @tyr_mag — Fred Lai (@Fredlai_) September 28, 2015 Police warning Chan Tak Chi stop provoking ppl to crash into the police front line" @tyr_mag — Fred Lai (@Fredlai_) September 28, 2015 Police warning protestors and journalists not to attempt to breakthrough the security at Harcourt Road — Crystal Tse (@crystalttc) September 28, 2015 Participants gathering at Lennon Wall — Fred Lai (@Fredlai_) September 28, 2015 Yellow Umbrella Christian Base Community pray in memory of OC outside LegCo Complex @tyr_mag — Fred Lai (@Fredlai_) September 28, 2015 The group then set up sign-up station under Canal …