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Hong Kong’s mask mandate lifted after almost three years

  • By: Tsz Yin HOEdited by: Ming Min AW YONG
  • 2023-03-01

Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu has announced scrapping the COVID-19 mask mandate starting today. The lift came into effect and Hongkongers and tourists are free to not wear masks on public transport, public indoor and outdoor areas and all scheduled premises, without fines. Hong Kong is believed to be the last place on the planet to end the mask-wearing mandate according to Lee. The mask mandate has lasted for 959 days. “In order to give people a very clear message that Hong Kong is resuming to normalcy, I think this is the right time to make this decision,” said Lee. The majority of people in the city are still wearing masks, especially in crowded areas such as public transport and commercial districts. “The demand for masks will still remain in the short run,” said Zita Cheung, a salesperson at a mask shop. She said that the business of her shop is significantly worse today, as very few customers visited. Currently, her shop is providing discounts for clearance sales and the shop is no longer restocking masks. However, mask-wearing is still required for entering venues regarded as high risk, according to Lee, including medical facilities, residential care and elderly homes. The government also suggests that people with weak immunity or chronic diseases should also wear a mask. Hong Kong has axed several other major controls in recent months, including mandatory quarantine for all arrivals, social distancing and vaccine requirements.


New round of consumption vouchers and increased football betting tax centre Budget 2023’s discussion

  • By: Nga Ying LAUEdited by: Le Ha NGUYEN、Mei Ching LEE
  • 2023-02-23

Hong Kong Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po released the budget speech for fiscal 2023-24, the first under the administration of Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu, on Wednesday with major public concern surrounding the fresh round of consumption vouchers and raising the football betting duty of Hong Kong Jockey Club amid the government’s deficit. Eligible citizens will receive HK$5,000 electronic consumption vouchers in two instalments, HK$3,000 in April and the remaining in the middle of the year. The amount of consumption vouchers is reduced from HK$10,000 due to an expected deficit of HK$140 billion in the financial year 2022-23, said Chan. “HK$5,000 is the best we can do,” said Chan when asked why the amount of this year’s consumption voucher was lower than last year's during a press conference on Wednesday afternoon.  Non-permanent residents who have come to Hong Kong through different admission schemes or to study will receive vouchers in half value, i.e. HK$2,500 in total. But whether inbound persons admitted recently to the Top Talent Pass Scheme with rich work experience and good academic qualifications are eligible to receive the vouchers is yet to be confirmed.  The budget also introduced the annual special football betting duty of HK$2.4 billion on the Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC) for 5 years starting from 2023/24, a cumulative total of HK$12 billion.  HKJC, a local non-profit unit providing horse racing, sporting and betting entertainment, slammed the policy in its latest statement, saying that “any permanent hike in betting duty rates will irreversibly create structural problems, which will only benefit illegal and offshore betting operators. The soccer betting duty was originally set at the rate of 50% of gross profit. According to HKJC, even the original rate is already the highest in the world. “Most importantly, such increase will adversely impact the Club’s ability …


Budget 2023: Hong Kong introduces new investment entrant scheme to attract talent

  • By: Junzhe JIANG、Yuhan WANG、Xiya RUIEdited by: Kei Tung LAM
  • 2023-02-22

Hong Kong’s Financial Secretary, Paul Chan Mo-po plans to attract capital investors to settle in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong government will introduce the Capital Investment Entrant Scheme, said Chan in his budget speech this morning.  Applicants who invest HK$10 million in Hong Kong’s asset market are eligible to apply for the scheme, but investing in property is excluded, Chan said. The Hong Kong government will establish a new committee to promote the policy and assist the applicants to start and expand their business in Hong Kong. According to IMD World Talent Ranking 2021, Hong Kong dropped from 18th to 26th in attracting and retaining talent, while Singapore rose to 15th. The scheme may have little impact to attract investors because Hong Kong lacks competition, compared to other popular immigration countries, Chung Man-kit, an economics professor from Hong Kong Baptist University, said.  “Many people believe Singapore is the greatest alternative for immigration rather than Hong Kong because of the suspension of the previous investment immigration program,” Liu Yajun, 43,  a former human resources director from the mainland who plans to migrate to Hong Kong through the Capital Investment Entrant Scheme.  Liu plans to invest HK$ 10 million to purchase financial products in Hong Kong. However, Liu said she may not spend a lot of time in Hong Kong. “I may migrate to the UK after obtaining Hong Kong permanent residence,” Liu said. “Not only me, but most of my friends also use Hong Kong's investment scheme as a springboard to apply for foreign status,” Liu added.  According to the Census and Statistics Department, Hong Kong has lost around 140,000 workers in the past two years. Chung, the economics professor, said Hong Kong has big drain because of lack of local development. Chung said the Hong Kong government should learn lessons …


Smart ID Exhibition reminds citizens renewal program is drawing to a close

  • By: Hanzhi YANG、Yiyang LIEdited by: Tsz Yin HO、Ming Min AW YONG
  • 2023-02-10

The last application date for replacement of new smart identity cards at the Smart Identity Card Replacement Centres (SIDCCs) has been extended from the original date, February 11 to March 3. Meanwhile, the identity card collection service will be maintained through to March 3, 2023. A roving exhibition by the Immigration Department has been held in PopCorn mall in Tseung Kwan O from February 8 to 9. The exhibition aimed to promote publicity on applications for smart identity cards and appeals for ID cards.  Failing to apply for a new ID card within the time limit would be against the law unless there is a reasonable excuse and could result in a maximum fine of HK $5,000. Hongkongers are also not allowed to keep their old ID cards and are required to return them to the Registration of Persons Office. Those found in possession of more than one ID card can be fined up to HK$5000 and imprisoned for two years without a reasonable excuse.  The exhibition includes showcases of ID card history, panels showing the requirements for the renewal of ID cards, and the rules for applying for the new smart ID cards. There are also staff from the immigration department stationed to help citizens with any enquiries about the replacement. According to the information shown in the exhibition, the new smart ID card uses a variety of new security features, including colourful UV patterns that appear under ultraviolet light, which improves overall security measures. The new smart ID cards are also more durable than the old ID cards. “Most of the people we helped and explained to are the elderly, and this exhibition surely provided them with what they needed to know," said Lin Si-en, a staff member of the immigration department. Neighbours staying near the mall are …


Prosecutors in Hong Kong’s largest national security trial allege unofficial political election could have harmed stability

  • By: Junzhe JIANG、Juncong SHUAIEdited by: KOO Chi Tung 顧知桐
  • 2023-02-08

Prosecutors on Tuesday said the unofficial 2020 Hong Kong pro-democracy legislative primaries diminished the city’s livelihood and stability in the trial of 47 defendants charged with subversion. Prosecutors listed the details of how defendants organized the Legco primaries in May 2020 and showed videos and posts in their opening remarks during the first two days of Hong Kong’s largest national security trial. The prosecutor said the 47 defendants were inspired by Hong Kong legal scholar Benny Tai Yiu-ting’s article outlining 10 steps of lam chau, a slogan used by democracy activists often translated as “burn together”,  to control the Legislative Council through the pre-election. Deputy director of public prosecutions Anthony Chau Tin-hang said the objective of the group was to snatch at least 35 out of 70 Legco seats and then vote down the government budgets, forcing Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor to resign. Evidence shown in court on Tuesday included a statement signed by some of the accused from Kowloon East and New Territories West asking the then-Chief Executive to respond to the “five major demands”. Sixteen out 47 defendants pleaded not guilty on Monday. Of the defendants who have not pleaded guilty, six are on remand, four of whom have spent more than 700 days in custody. Former member of the Yuen Long District Council Ng Kin-wai and founder of local retail chain AbouThai Mike Lam King-nam plead guilty on Monday. Lam will testify for the prosecution with three other organizers of the primary.  In August, Security for Justice Paul Lam Ting-kwok ordered a non-jury trial because of “involvement of foreign factors” and “the protection of personal safety of jurors and their family members”.  From midnight, hundreds waited outside the court for public seats. Long queues caused the judiciary to extend the trial to the entire fourth floor and …


Five arrested after yelling in store linked to 47 democrats case

  • By: KOO Chi Tung 顧知桐Edited by: Yu Yin WONG
  • 2023-02-07

Police arrested five men over the past 48 hours for alleged disorderly behaviour at the Mong Kok branch of AboutThai grocery store. The chain store was founded by Mike Lam, one of 47 defendants currently being tried for a national security law case. The five, aged 14 to 28 years, were taken away by police on Monday night and early Tuesday morning in Kwai Chung, Kowloon City, and Hung Hom.  Staff at AbouThai told police that the five were yelling and harassing customers last Friday and two of them returned on Sunday. An online video shows one entering an AbouThai store and yelling Mike Lam King-nam’s name. “Lam King-nam, come out! Where are you, betrayer?”, the man in the video said.  Lam was charged in February 2021 with 46 other pro-democracy activists under the national security law after he stood for election in an unofficial 2020 Hong Kong pro-democracy primaries.  He pleaded guilty on Monday and has agreed to be a prosecution witness at the West Kowloon Magistrates Court.  Some businesses which claimed to be on the pro-democratic side announced that they would no longer trade with AbouThai.  “MeeApp”, an application which provides rewards for people spending at “pro-democratic” stores and restaurants, announced on their Facebook page on Monday that they would remove AbouThai from their platform.  “AbouThai is one of the most popular businesses on the platform and Mee purchased their vouchers with money for members to redeem. We have spent tens of thousands of dollars,” the statement reads. “As fellows, we could understand each other’s hardships and circumstances.” “However, this should not include pointing your knife at fellows as it is the foundation for being ‘fellows’.” Chapman To, a Hong Kong actor with a food importing business, said on Facebook that he won’t be selling his products at …


HK-Mainland border fully reopens on Monday

  • By: Yuhan WANG、Yuqi CHUEdited by: Chengqi MO、Ming Min AW YONG
  • 2023-02-04

Revised on 5/2/2023 All travel restrictions between Hong Kong and mainland China will be lifted from Monday, Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu announced today. There will be no more quota limits and PCR tests.  Crossing points at Lo Wu, Heung Yuen Wai, and Huanggang will be back in service  after three years of Covid restrictions. “Hong Kong’s economic activities will be promoted with the increased travellers and cultural exchange,” said Lee.  Hong Kong's GDP has declined by 3.5% year on year between 2021 and 2022 according to the Census and Statistics Department.  “Since the border shutdown in 2019, passenger flow at our store has been reduced by two-thirds,” said Irene So, a  promoter at a branch of  Watsons in Sheung Shui, a business district near the Lo Wu and Lok Ma Chau border crossing.  “It may take a month to recover,” she added, “but the situation will finally get better and better.” Nancy Meng, the owner of a currency exchange store in Sheung Shui, said that during the past three years of the pandemic, there has almost been no renminbi to exchange. That has heavily affected her business. “I was at a loss,” she said. Meng has seen a gradual recovery in her business since border policies began to ease last month.“I decided to renovate the store for future business,” she said.  Marine Sun moved her cosmetics store to Sheung Shui three months ago. She is also busy preparing for the reopening by putting up signs and plaques to attract new passengers next week. “Not only our store, but also the whole business district is looking forward to the reopening,” she said. Daniel Cai, 22, was a cross-border high school student before the Covid shutdown. He moved to Hong Kong to study at a local university. He doubts if life …


A Tale of Two Hotels: Food quality varies wildly between Hong Kong’s budget and luxury quarantine hotels

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Tracy LeungEdited by: AMALVY Esten Carr Claude Ole Eriksen
  • 2022-07-29

Hong Kong’s government-designated quarantine hotels are required to provide three meals a day to guests. But many staying in the least expensive hotels have been horrified by what they are served, while those that can afford it, order delivery or stay in more expensive hotels, often double or triple the price. “Can’t believe this is called a hotel. Motels overseas are much better than this, even Airbnb. The food tastes bad and there is even no chair for eating. I feel helpless,” said Fanny Chan, a guest at the Ramada Hong Kong Harbour View Hotel in Sai Ying Pun on quarantine day 16. Ms Chan said she paid HK$12,390 for 21 nights. Ms Chan reported that after a week, she had developed an allergic skin reaction due to the dirty state of the room and poor quality of the food she was offered. The hotel did not provide any help for her, she said.  The Ramada hotel has yet to comment. “Healthy food includes grains, dairy such as milk and soya milk, vegetables, fruit and meat or alternatives like nuts and canned fish,” Director of the Hong Kong Community Dietitian Association, Bonnie Leung said. “It is highly recommended for people with special needs to notify hotels about their history of allergy when they first move in,” Ms Leung said. Nicholas White and Edith White stayed at the Sheraton Hong Kong & Tower in Tsim Sha Tsui in September for 21 nights. They paid HK$36,330 for a room with a city view, nearly double the cost of Ms Chan’s room. “We were fully aware of how difficult a 21-day quarantine stay would be so prepared to pay a bit more for a decent sized room with reasonably good food,”  said Mr White.  “Frankly speaking, most dishes are not bad compared to …


Hongkongers’ Book Fair goes online after last-minute cancellation

A private book fair was forced to go online after the owner of the venue where it was to be held threateend to take legal action against the organiser.  Raymond Yeung Tsz-chun, organiser of the Hongkongers’ Book Fair, received a notice of from Mall Plus in Wan Chai on July 12. The venue owner, Permanent Investment Company Limited issued a lawyer's letter through Man Hing Hong Properties Company Limited the following day, accusing Yeung of “sub-letting” and “causing nuisance, annoyance or danger to occupants or visitors” and would no longer rent out the premises. As a result, the online version of “Hongkongers’ Book Fair” can only showcase products from  Yeung’s bookstore, Hillway Culture. Publications from seven other publishers and at least six commercial outlets which originally participated in the book fair are not in the online event. “I believe that anything related to the name “HongKongers’ Book Fair” is considered politically sensitive now,” said Yeung. Yeung organised the private book fair after the Hong Kong Trade Development Council being rejected his application to take part in the Hong Kong Book Fair by on May 16. Yeung claimed he then invested more than HK$500,000 to run his own fair instead. He said he contacted Man Hing Hong Properties after receiving the notice and scheduled a meeting with the property agent on July 12 at 10:30 a.m., but the agent did not show up. He did not have the contact number of Permanent Investment, the venue owner. TYR tried to contact Man Hing Hong Properties Company Limited and Permanent Investment Company Limited through email. They did not respond to our inquiries. “We made sure we followed all laws and regulations. We believed we can hold an independent book fair under the Rule of Law in Hong Kong,” Yeung said. “But it seems …


Desperate for drugs during the lockdown in China

Liu Tian, 27, in Changchun, Jilin province, suffers from a major depressive disorder. She has been off her medication for ten days since the city went into lockdown due to COVID-19 in March. Her medicine is only available at three pharmacies in the city far away from her home, and she cannot get it delivered. She tried to contact epidemic prevention staff in the community and the hospital for help. The community staff issued her an emergency medication certificate, but she could not go to the hospital because of local traffic control.  As a result, she had headaches, was irritated and emotionally unstable. She tried calling the hospital’s emergency number but was told that they were only responsible for emergency care and not prescriptions. “I don't want to keep looking for medicine anymore because I'm afraid of being rejected again,” Liu said. “When I was at my worst, I even thought about committing suicide.” Beijing has been sticking to the "dynamic zero tolerance" strategy for Covid. That means even a few positive cases would trigger a lockdown followed by large-scale testing.  During the lockdown, no one can travel and delivery services are limited. Chronically ill patients like Liu Tian face difficulties purchasing medications. They turn to local community staff, volunteers, and netizens for help. Cheng Yulong, 51, has diabetes. “My blood sugar level kept rising, and I was really desperate. I cannot solely rely on the blood sugar-lowering medications because they are not as effective as insulin,” he said. When the lockdown started in Changchun in early March, he had to stay at the construction site where he had been working for almost 30 days, but he only carried a limited amount of insulin.  The insulin Cheng needed was sold out in the nearby pharmacies. He sought help from community …