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Hong Kong excluded from Index of Economic Freedom, Singapore climbs as top

Hong Kong was excluded for the first time by an influential index that ranks the freedom of the world’s economies while the city’s official and scholar said the move was based on “political bias” and would not affect the economic development of Hong Kong. Hong Kong and Macau were removed from The Heritage Foundation's 2021 Index of Economic Freedom released on Thursday. Before that, the city was ranked as the world’s freest economies for 25 years straight before 2020 when it was taken over by Singapore, which also topped the list this year. "Developments in Hong Kong and Macau in recent years have demonstrated unambiguously that the policies are ultimately controlled from Beijing,” said Heritage Foundation in its report. The Washington-based research and educational institution said classifying Hong Kong and Macau economies under China was a reflection of Beijing’s “ultimate control” over the cities. Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po said the move made by The Heritage Foundation was unjustified. During a webinar organised by the South China Morning Post, Mr Chan said, “It seems to me when they arrived at that decision, it must have been clouded by their ideological inclination and political bias.”  A Hong Kong Government spokesperson said Heritage Foundation’s ranking is ill-conceived in the press release yesterday. "We take strong exception to the Foundation's claim that Hong Kong's economic policies are 'ultimately controlled from Beijing,” Hong Kong government spokesperson added in the press release. The Heritage Foundation’s ranking cannot be valid, because it was evaluated from a different perspective, it should not be generalised as a whole, said Dr Chong Tai-Leung, the director of Economics and Executive Director of Lau Chor Tak Institute of Global Economics and Finance of the Chinese University of Hong Kong. The Fraser Institute of Canada ranked Hong Kong as the world’s freest …


New covid rule requiring dedicated table cleaning staff leaves small restaurants short handed

All eateries have to assign dedicated staff members to clear and disinfect used tables and eating utensils starting from Thursday. Small restaurants say the new requirement makes them short-handed. The measure was introduced after a Covid-19 outbreak at a Chinese restaurant in K11 Musea shopping mall in Tsim Sha Tsui that involved a “superspreader,” infecting more than 50 people.  Eateries are also required to meet new ventilation regulations of at least six air changes per hour. Yeung Ho-yin, the owner of a cart noodle eatery, said he was short-handed after moving a staff member from helping with ordering to clearing tables. “We have a lot of take-away orders, so it was quite busy,” said Mr Yeung.  Staff members sometimes had to clear seats in front of customers who were eating to let other guests in, Mr Yeung said, which he found “less appropriate.” Wong Kit-lung, who runs 39 chain Chinese restaurants under the LH Group, was among the first restaurateurs to create the position “Table Clearing Commissioner” last July.  “Unless there is only one or two staff, it is actually achievable. We are just separating the work from staff members’ duties,” said Mr Wong. Eateries can provide safety vests for staff specialising in clearing tables to make them distinguishable, Mr Wong said, adding that employees should educate all staff about hygiene.   

Health & Environment

Hong Kong authorities probe death of 63-year-old after receiving COVID-19 jab

The death of a 63-year-old man on Sunday after receiving a Covid-19 vaccine will be investigated, the Department of Health said today in a press conference at Queen Elizabeth Hospital. The man complained of shortness of breath two days after receiving the Sinovac vaccine at the Kwun Chung Sports Center in Jordan on Feb. 26. He went to the hospital at 1:30am Sunday and was diagnosed with bronchitis.His condition deteriorated, and he died at 6am after failed resuscitation attempts by healthcare workers,according to a press release by Queen Elizabeth Hospital.  “At the moment, the causal relationship with the vaccination cannot be ascertained,” the health department said in a statement. A hospital spokesperson said that the man was suffering from underlying diseases. “Patients with severely allergic reactions to vaccines and uncontrolled chronic diseases should not be vaccinated, or consult family doctors or medical staff,” Dr Ronald Lam Man-kin, controller of the Center for Health Protection, said at the press conference. As of Mar 2, 18,000 people have reserved spots for the first and second doses of a vaccine. More than 254,000 people have registered for vaccinations since the start of the drive on Feb 23.      


Australia passes media law forcing tech giants Facebook and Google to pay news publishers

Digital platforms including Facebook and Google will now have to pay Australian news publishers, under a new law, the world’s first, passed by Australia on Feb. 25.   Under the News Media Bargaining Code, tech firms are obligated to pay news companies if they have an annual income exceeding AU$150,000 (HK$905,585), a move seen to mostly benefit Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, which owns most of Australia’s major newspapers.   If tech companies do not pay, then they will be fined  AU$10 million (HK$60.1 million) or 10% of the annual turnover of the digital platform.  The code also allows news companies to negotiate payments with tech firms over the next three months. If they do not reach an agreement by that time, arbitrators from the Australian Communications and Media Authority, a government statutory body, would make the final decision on the payment. "For every $100 of online advertising spend, $53 goes to Google, $28 goes to Facebook, and $19 goes to other participants," said Josh Frydenberg, the Treasurer of the Australian government at a press conference.  Facebook suspended hundreds of pages from Australian news outlets, personal blogs and government departments on Feb. 18 following the amendment proposal.  The social media giant said in a statement in August last year that it will stop people from sharing local and international news if the law is passed.  “Assuming this draft code becomes law, we will reluctantly stop allowing publishers and people in Australia from sharing local and international news on Facebook and Instagram,” the statement said.  The platform also said in a statement that the code “fundamentally misunderstands the relationship” between its platform and publishers who use it to share news.   Facebook accepted the code after last-minute changes to the bill, which included a three-month negotiation period with an additional two months for mediation between …

Bail applications for 47 political activists under review for more than 20 hours

  • 2021-03-02

47 democratic politicians charged with conspiracy to commit subversion have waited for more than 20 hours as the West Kowloon Magistracy continues to consider their application for bail. As of 5 pm, 20 of them have yet to learn of the outcome. Lawyers of the defendants have asked for further details of the charges put forward by the prosecutors. But the prosecution side refused, saying they will produce evidence later in the trial. Dozens of people lined up outside West Kowloon Magistrates’ Court at 7 am, hoping to hear the proceedings. Some supporters of the 47 defendants arrived with banners.  “I also came to court yesterday. I stayed till 3 am last night nearby after the police chased us away. I don’t understand how an internal election breaches or threatens national security,” said Ms Chan who refused to give her full name. Alexandra Wong, also known as “Grandma Wong” came to West Kowloon Magistrates’ Court  both days to support the 47 democrat activists. She unfurled a British flag and yelled, “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong” outside the court building. She pledged to wait outside the court until the hearing is over.  More than 50 police were on guard outside the court.  Consideration for bail was suspended at 2 am last night after several politicians fell ill. Clarisse Yeung Suet-Ying, Leung Kwok-Hung, Roy Tam Hoi-Pong and Mike Lam were sent to hospital after 12 hours of hearing yesterday.   

Supporters shout banned slogans as pro-democracy defendants face trial

  • 2021-03-01

Hundreds of people dressed in black shouted slogans outside Western Magistracy today as 47 pro-democracy activists faced “conspiracy to commit subversion” charges. They belted out slogans such as "five demands, not one less," "no rioters, only tyranny," and "liberate Hong Kong, revolutions of our times," all of which were used during the 2019 protest but have since been outlawed under the national security law.    The defendants inside faced charges in connection with participation in the primary elections held last July, ahead of the Legislative Council polls.  “The DAB [and] pro-Beijing parties organised the primary election too. It is very common in Hong Kong and other places, how can that be a crime?” said Emily Lau, a former legislator. “I didn’t feel lucky at all for not participating in the primary election. I prefer to be one of the 47 arrested,” said Herber Chow, a pro-democracy activist as well as the CEO of the children clothing brand, ChickeeDuck. “It’s the most ridiculous case in Hong Kong. We should be here to witness history,” Mr Chow told The Young Reporter. He said some of those in the trial were his high school friends. A 64-year-old woman, Alexandra Wong held a British flag outside the court building. “I hope the whole world will stand together with us for freedom. One dream, one world,”  she said. Among those waiting was 89-year-old Catholic cardinal, Joseph Zen. Like hundreds of others, he was unable to get into the building. Trade unionists and members of the Civic Party held up the three finger salute in support of pro-democracy protesters in Myanmar. A large number of police vans lined the street. Officers held up the purple flag this afternoon to warn the crowd that their slogans were in contravention of the national security law. They also raised the blue …


Court charges 47 pro-democracy figures with "conspiracy to commit subversion” under national security law

47 people from the pro-democracy camp attended a hearing at West Kowloon Magistrates Court today in connection with their participation in holding primary polls ahead of the planned Legislative Council election last year. They face charges of "conspiracy to commit subversion" under the National Security Law. Former lawmaker Claudia Mo Man-ching, convener of Civil Human Rights Front Jimmy Sham Tsz-kit and others sitting on the bench waved at those in the dock, including Gwyneth Ho Kwai-lam and Lam Cheuk Ting. Before the hearing began, one of the accused, Ms Ho stood up and shouted that she had not met her lawyer. The first defendant, former legal academic, Benny Tai, 56, was accused of promoting “an agenda to obtain a controlling majority” in the Legislative Council. The prosecution argued that Tai’s '35+' campaign aimed to paralyse the government by getting Legco to indiscriminately refuse to pass the budget and ultimately to cause the dissolution of the Council and the resignation of the Chief Executive. Tai’s “mutual destruction” agenda, the prosecution said, was a conspiracy to “seriously interfere in, disrupt or undermine the performance of duties and functions of the government”. Mr Tai, along with ex-lawmaker Au Nok-hin and members of the now-disbanded group, People for Democracy including Chiu Ka-yin Andrew, Chung Kam-lun and Ng Gordon Ching-hang, allegedly conspired with the rest of the defendants who participated in the primaries. More than 600,000 people voted in the primaries held last July, but the Legislative Council election was postponed for a year because of the Covid pandemic. The police also alleged that Gordon Ng, 41, initiated a 'Say No to Primary Dodgers' movement, which directed readers of their articles to vote in favour of their stance in the primaries. The defendants’ activities such as crowdfunding, nomination and holding press conferences are cited as …


Pop Mart wins as blind box mania sweeps through Chinese youths

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Zhu Zijin Cora 朱子槿、Zhou Yichen Gloria 周奕辰Edited by: Zhu Zijin Cora 朱子槿
  • 2021-02-27

Anna Wang Kai-cen, a 27-year-old wealth manager, is one of the beneficiaries in China’s mystery or blind box craze by snapping up the toys and shares of Pop Mart International Group Ltd. (9992), the most famous blind box retailer in China. "I first entered the Pop Mart shop in Beijing two years ago, just out of curiosity why my friends bought so many of their toys," said Ms Wang. Twenty minutes later, she got her own toy, a vinyl doll dressed in a yellow suit with big blue eyes called Molly. Since then, apart from buying toys, Ms Wang started to pay attention to the designer toymaker and seller behind, Pop Mart, which went public in Hong Kong on Dec. 11 last year. The young wealth manager is among hundreds of thousands of investors betting their money on this Chinese largest designer toymaker, setting eyes on the behind “new economy” growth opportunities.  Within one day after IPO,  Ms Wang earned more than HK$70,000 by selling her some 2,000 new shares of Pop Mart, thanks to the blind box mania, which is taking over China by storm. Shares of Pop Mart jumped to a high of HK$89.60 in December, more than doubling its initial public offering price of HK$38.50, boosting the total market value of the company to more than HK$120 billion. The stock closed at HK$89.9 on Friday. "Of course I know its toys are popular among us young generation, but I didn’t expect their stocks are also that popular in public," Ms Wang said.  The "first blind box stock" Pop Mart is famous for its blind box selling strategy. Customers will not know what the toy looks like until they unpack it, sharing the same nature with toys in a capsule called Gashapon, or “niu dan'' in Hong Kong.  …


Hong Kong district councillors required to pledge allegiance to government or face a 5-year election ban

Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Erick Tsang announced that District Councillors may be required to pledge allegiance to the government, under a proposed amendment to the Public Offices (Candidacy and Taking Up Offices) (Miscellaneous) Ordinance.  Violators will be barred from running for office for five years.  Mr Tsang introduced a list of rules that disallow district councillors from running for office. The behaviours that are not allowed include committing acts which endanger national security such as refusing to recognise China’s sovereignty over Hong Kong, involving foreign government interference in the city and advocating for “Hong Kong independence” among others.  “I believe that, if according to the list, the individuals are sincere in upholding the Basic Law and swearing allegiance to the SAR government, they won’t have to be worried,” Mr Tsang said. Under Article 6 of the national security law, residents “who stand for election or assume public office shall confirm in writing or take an oath to uphold the Basic Law.” The ordinance also contains a clause that will remove any councillor who is “declared or decided” to have failed to fulfill the requirements of bearing allegiance to the city.  The first reading of the bill will commence on March 17. The second and third reading will be decided in the second quarter of 2021, according to the  LegCo document.  “If they disqualify a councillor, who came from the election, actually they are not only disqualifying us, but also disqualifying the citizens,” said Wong Tin-yan, a district councillor for the Lai King constituency.  The district councillors are also required to sing the national anthem of China as part of the proposed oath-taking requirement. Mr. Tsang said that four incumbent pro-democracy district council members --  Lester Shum, Tiffany Yuen, Tat Cheng and Fergus Leung --  would be expelled from …


HKBU cancels World Press Photo exhibition prematurely

The World Press Photo exhibition, scheduled to open on Mar. 1, was cancelled prematurely by its host Hong Kong Baptist University. On Thursday, four days before the opening, HKBU released a statement saying that now was “not an appropriate time” to hold the exhibition due to “consideration to campus safety and security” and “the need to maintain pandemic control.” Senior Lecturer and Director of International Journalism concentration at HKBU, Robin Ewing, said, “The university management made the decision not to hold the exhibition for safety reasons. We are disappointed that our students and the people of Hong Kong will not be able to see the exhibition in person. It’s a real shame that the current political climate doesn’t allow for such a compelling global work of visual journalism to be shown. ” Ms Ewing is a faculty advisor to The Young Reporter. Organizers of the exhibition had planned to implement pandemic-control measures, including the mandation of mask-wearing, completion of a health declaration, temperature screening and limited entrants for social distancing. The Netherlands Consulate General in Hong Kong that funded the exhibition was “disappointed” about its cancellation.  “The exhibition bears testament to the important work photojournalists do all over the world in bringing us the stories that matter,” the Consulate General said on Facebook. “In these uncertain times, it reminds us that a free and independent press is vital for maintaining stable and resilient societies.” Users on Twitter speculated the cancellation was due to exhibition photos of the Hong Kong pro-democracy protests in 2019. Dot Dot News, a pro-Beijing online propaganda site based in Hong Kong, published an article on Feb. 22, saying that the exhibition would “display photos taken during the period of ‘black violence’ a year ago that aimed to beautify rioters and provoke anti-police sentiment.”  The article specifically …