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Budget 2024: Government to expand cross-boundary data flow and services

    Hong Kong will expand cross-boundary data flow to help Hong Kong and mainland residents in the Greater Bay Area access public services without needing to cross the border. This month, the government announced it launched self-service kiosks in Shenzhen and Guangzhou where Hong Kong citizens can apply for more than 50 government services in Hong Kong. The kiosks aim to streamline government services, promote investment in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area and boost satisfaction for businesses operating cross-boundary, according to a Press Release from the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development Agency. Echo Lee, 21, from Guangzhou and studying in Hong Kong, said this policy is convenient but he is concerned about the leakage of personal information. Ethan Deng, 19, from Shenzhen and studying in Hong Kong, said he hadn't paid much attention to this policy before and thinks it will be more convenient to apply for documents, especially identity documents. Zong Can, 25, a cross-border worker from Shenzhen, said this policy will help bring the two places closer together, especially for residents like her who live close to Hong Kong. Denny Deng, 26, a Hong Kong resident who works in insurance, said this policy should be helpful to the exchange of enterprises between the two places as well as the development of business, which is conducive to the flow of capital between the two places. "In the future, I hope that we can use cross-border processing to solve more livelihood issues, such as driving licenses, tax, healthcare interoperability. Because Hong Kong is a place where privacy is very important, how to get the authorization of the person to communicate between the two places or successful cases will make the whole community have confidence," said Chau Man-kong, Executive Director of the School of Applied Policy Studies and Educational Futures …

Society

Budget 2024 Key Takeaways: Careful balance of revenue and deficit to continue

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: AU YEUNG Jim、AO Wei Ying VinciEdited by: Juncong SHUAI
  • 2024-02-28

Hong Kong’s Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po delivered the 2024-2025 Budget speech on Wednesday, announcing policies to strive for high-quality development while sustaining a solid economy. Top the list is the cancellations of property cooling measures, with Special Stamp Duty, Buyers’ Stamp Duty and New Residential Stamp Duty scrapped with immediate effect. For the coming fiscal year, the total government expenditure will increase by about 6.7% to HK$776.9 billion, while the total government revenue is estimated to be HK$633 billion. Chan expects that there will be a deficit of HK$48.1 billion for the year, and fiscal reserves will decrease to HK$685.1 billion. Here are the key takeaways of this year’s budget plan.  

Society

Budget 2024: Government to increase Care Service Vouchers and Digital Support for Elderly

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: MAO Anqi、LAI Uen LingEdited by: James Ezekiel Kalaw MODESTO
  • 2024-02-28

The government will increase the number of vouchers to help elderly people afford in-home care and elderly care centres as well as provide funding for the elderly to learn digital skills. However, local social workers say this fails to address many problems for the elderly. The number of Community Care Service Vouchers, which help the elderly age in place,  will increase to 11,000 at a cost of about HK$900 million, said Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po in the budget address this morning. From the second quarter of this year, the number of Residential Care Service Vouchers, which help the elderly pay for services in care centres, will increase to 5,000, involving an annual expenditure of about $1.44 billion overall. The government plans to set aside $100 million from the Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development Fund to help people aged 60 or above get equipped with digital skills and technical support. At least 50,000 elderly individuals are expected to benefit from the first round of projects, which are expected to begin at the end of 2024. Tony Fung, 30, a social worker at a district health centre in East Kowloon, said the plans mentioned this year are not in line with real problems elderly residents face. “At the centre, we are already teaching our elderly residents how to use smartphones and computers. I hope that the government can help in transforming service centres and update their services,” he said. Fung said the government should assess the waiting time for admissions into elderly care homes and increase expenditure where necessary. The average waiting time for a bedridden person to be admitted to an elderly care home takes around 18 months, Fung said. Cindy Chan, 40, is a social worker at a district health centre in East Kowloon. A 15-year veteran, she hopes …

Society

Budget 2024: Government to support STEM education with more funding to primary schools

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: NG Natasha Goa Sheng、WONG Hong NiEdited by: KONG Tsz Yuen
  • 2024-02-28

The government is going to put more money into promoting STEM education in public schools and universities in Hong Kong, the Financial Secretary said in his budget address this morning.   An additional HK$134 million for the provision of subsidies of up to HK$300,000 will be available for each publicly-funded primary school in the next two academic years, Paul Chan Mo-po said. The government will also continue to support STEM internships for university students, a program launched in 2020. Cyrus Wu, 19, an engineering student at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, said he is personally interested in internships in IT-related industries and it will be very helpful for his future career. “Introducing STEM education helps prepare students for the future. It also allows them to understand and participate in the ever-changing world and provides critical thinking skills for students,” said Li Suen Huen, 20, a university student majoring in computer science.   Fong Kin Lung, 48, a secondary school teacher of information and communication technology said, STEM education for primary school students will bring advantages. “Many secondary schools require students to have problem-solving and logical abilities. Therefore, I believe increasing the budget for primary schools’ STEM education will have positive impacts,” said Fong. Justin Lai, 22, practice teacher for two secondary schools, hopes the government will give a better guideline to use this money in the future.   “If the government or stakeholders could explain the guidelines for interdisciplinary cooperation more clearly, it would make it easier for us educators to teach STEM to my students,” he said. “The most important thing about STEM knowledge is how students can integrate knowledge from different disciplines, study, think about problems, analyze and disassemble it by themselves,” Lai said.

Society

Budget 2024: Hong Kong to Assess Talent Visas while Nurturing Local Talents

The Hong Kong government will put more effort into nurturing local talents while also reviewing existing talent schemes to ensure their effectiveness. The government will organise a summit and a conference in May, aiming at promoting the flow of talent in the Greater Bay Area. More than 140,000 applications have been received under the various talent admission schemes, of which more than 100,000 have been approved in the past year, said Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po in his budget address today. The Top Talent Scheme, launched in 2022, allows people with incomes higher than HK$2.5 million or degrees from eligible universities to apply for residency without employment. This added an estimated HK$34 billion to the economy, equivalent to 1.2% of Hong Kong's GDP, Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu said in a public address in February.  Chan said that 60% of immigrant talents were married, and most of them have brought their families to Hong Kong.   Lilian Bao, 42, a former executive of a Beijing-based internet company who emigrated to Hong Kong under the talent scheme, now lives with her daughter in Hung Hom. “I immigrated to Hong Kong for my daughter's future education,” she said. “I want her to enjoy a more international, diverse and independent learning and living experience here.” Some doubt the long-term effectiveness of the talent schemes. Some applicants have not complied with the time frame for coming to Hong Kong and securing employment after receiving approval, said legislator Adrian Ho in a Legco meeting in January. Ho also said that some say the scheme is relatively lenient in the work experience requirement and the vetting and approval criteria, making it possible for some people to exploit the scheme to immigrate to Hong Kong.  “There are rumours that individual applicants have only come to Hong Kong for …

Society

Technology for Change Asia : new initiatives to make Hong Kong a “smarter city”

An artificial intelligence Supercomputing Centre and a Digital Policy Office will be established in Hong Kong in phases starting this year, along with more than 100 digital government initiatives to be launched. These initiatives were highlighted by the Secretary for Innovation, Technology and Industry, Dong Sun, in his opening speech of the 4th annual Technology for Change Asia event held yesterday, which hosted 300 solution-oriented leaders from across the world. According to Sun, AI technology is “ charting the way” in the process of technological revolution and industry transformation in a new era for Hong Kong. “The AI Supercomputing Centre will help build a resilient digital economy and a Hong Kong that is more welcoming to international investors, which will bring huge economic benefits and allow us to have a ‘Smart City’,” Sun said. “The future is all about AI”  “‘Smart City’ means that it can decide which specific problems can be solved by specific technologies,” said Atsuko Okuda, regional director of International Telecommunication Union. “The use of AI technology could contribute to productivity and help improve market efficiency,”said Tom Standage, deputy editor for The Economist. One of the examples is KUDO, the international sponsor for the event, which provides real-time translation. “What we do is enable attendees to watch full text of speeches and panel discussions content in their mother language,” said Nick Blake, head of sales at KUDO Asia-Pacific district. “Thanks to AI, we can translate more than 200 languages for meetings, training and  many other situations in Hong Kong from now on.” However, using AI as an ancillary tool for “Smart City” faces potential risks, according to Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia . “AI can convey biased or deceptive information," said Wales. "If Hong Kong wants to build a ‘Smart City’ with the help of AI, it …

Society

World’s First Hydrogen-powered Bus Hits the Road

Hong Kong’s first hydrogen-powered double-decker bus hit the road on Sunday, marking Citybus’ s first operation of zero-emission vehicles. The bus, running on Route 20, embarked on its first journey at 11 am from Kai Tak and arrived at  Cheung Sha Wan Terminal in around 40 minutes. The services ended at 8 pm. “The new hydrogen-powered bus has opened a new page of Hong Kong’s transportation development,” said Anson Li, the operations officer of Route 20.  The bus will operate six to eight trips  per day along Route 20 on the “Waterloo Road Line” through Kowloon City during its initial month, then gradually expanding the services to Routes 20A and 22M. The bus operated from and refueled at Hong Kong’s first hydrogen refueling station in the West Kowloon Depot. Li said the hydrogen-powered bus can be fully charged in only 10 to 20 minutes, much faster compared to the two to three hours required by an electric bus.   Over a hundred bus enthusiasts gathered to experience the rides. Among them, Lee Wan, 23, captured the moments of the last bus returning to the Kai Tak Terminal.   After the ride,  Wan said that the hydrogen bus was  more comfortable, as it ran more smoothly and was quieter. Citybus spent HK$ 8 million on producing the hydrogen double-decker bus, which emits only water after transforming the fuel into electricity to power the vehicle. “To me, I think the production costs are too high. It's well worth being rolled out on a large scale if the price can be lowered as the technology improves,” Wan said. Citybus launched the first electric double-decker bus in 2021. The company pledged to operate a complete fleet of zero-emission buses by 2045.      

Society

Wong Tai Sin Lantern Festival Fun Fair returns after four-year hiatus

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: LI Sin Tung、MAO AnqiEdited by: James Ezekiel Kalaw MODESTO
  • 2024-02-23

The first day of the Wong Tai Sin Lantern Festival Fun Fair has resumed after a four-year hiatus due to the pandemic. Buzzing with noise and a lively atmosphere, the highlight of day one was the return of crowds of visitors at the night-time event. Visitors immersed themselves in the festivities, taking pictures and eating snacks bought from the stall. According to the Wong Tai Sin District Council, around 50 exhibitors participated in the fair, including food vendors, craft stalls and decoration stands. The Wong Tai Sin Lantern Festival Fun Fair is one of the events under Night Vibes Hong Kong, a series of projects using night markets as a means to promote the post-pandemic economy by the government. The Fair will be held from Feb. 23 to 25.

Society

First international racketlon tournament in HK a hit with local players

Hong Kong hosted its first international racketlon tournament last weekend, with players saying they hope the sport will catch on in the city. Racketlon is a combination of four racket sports: table tennis, badminton, squash and tennis. They are played in consecutive order in a single match, with each carrying up to 21 points. Those who obtain the highest cumulative points win. “Laying groundwork through this first competition, this sport could spread across Asia,” said Steven Cheng, Chairman of the Hong Kong Racketlon Association and director of the tournament. International racketlon tournaments had been held in Thailand, Poland, Spain and the United Kingdom. “Hong Kong is the best place in the world for racketlon,” said Stephanie Chung, 33, who won the women’s singles. “Within a 15 minute drive, I can probably find six to 10 places to play all four racket sports. That’s extremely rare.” Chung said that in New York City, she had to drive for an hour and still could not find a real badminton court. “I have a feeling Hong Kong has the potential to become the No.1 racketlon place in the world,” Chung added. Cheng said that the government could provide more venues for future racketlon tournaments. “This year, there are players from 17 countries, which I think helped promote Hong Kong as an international city,” said Cheng. “We hope that the government could allocate more resources to us, allow racketlon tournaments to be held yearly.” One of the difficulties promoting racketlon is that not everyone knows how to play all four sports, said Esther Ma, founder of Harvest Sky Sport Education and Management Company and the leading public relations personnel for the tournament. “Squash is becoming very popular now, and a lot of kids are doing very well in squash, but badminton is more underrepresented, …

Society

Voting for Hong Kong Sports Stars Awards starts

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: ZHANG Yiping、CHEN Yik NamEdited by: James Ezekiel Kalaw MODESTO
  • 2024-02-18

Reported by Zoey Zhang and Nansen Chen Yik-nam Public voting for the Hong Kong Sports Stars Awards, the city's most prestigious awards for local athletes, started Friday and lasts until March 17. Over 200 nominated athletes gathered at Olympian City on Saturday, calling out to the public for votes. A total of 118 athletes and sports teams were nominated by 54 National Sports Associations, according to the Sports Federation and Olympic Committee of Hong Kong. Hong Kong athletes achieved impressive results on the world stage in 2023. Local athletes bagged 53 medals at the recent Asian Games in Hangzhou, including eight gold, 16 silver and 29 bronze medals, ranking 12th among all countries and regions. There has been a 20% increase in the number of nominees compared to the previous year when 96 athletes were nominated, Edgar Yang Joe-tsi, Honorary Secretary General of the federation, said at the press conference. The four categories of awards this year are for men, women, sports combination and team only sport. “We will be happy if we get it, but everyone deserves the reward,” said Joy Hwang Join, a member of the Cheerleading Federation of Hong Kong, who was nominated for the second time since 2022. “We are nervous and scared but happy to be here,” said her teammate Akira Escudero Takato. “For us, it's our second nomination. For Max, it's his third nomination, the first being back in 2004,” said Kenny Chan Ka-kin, referring to cycle-ball teammate Max Ho Wing-tai. “Last year, we ranked third in online voting. We hope to get the first place this year, to a higher level, even the second is acceptable,” said Ho. Winners are determined by votes from a judging panel made up of seven representatives from different associations, which counts for 50% of the score, as …