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Trade unions call for government help despite drop in job loss figures

  • 2021-06-17

Hong Kong’s unemployment rate has dropped from 6.4% between February and April 2021 to 6.0% between March and May 2021. The underemployment rate also dropped to 3.3% and 2.8% respectively during the same periods, according to government figures released today. But the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions (HKFTU) urged the government to provide more aid such as unemployment benefits and temporary positions as soon as possible. The HKFTU interviewed 540 people between June 7 and 16. More than 60% of the respondents were unemployed or underemployed. In addition, a drop in income was also common among the respondents, with 80% of them having less income than the same period last year. Dennis Leung Tsz-wing, deputy director of the Vocational Training Committee of the HKFTU, said that the catering, service and entertainment industries were the most affected by the pandemic. "The survey shows that the unemployment situation is very serious. They are either laid off or unemployed because of COVID-19," Mr Leung said. Bella, a salesperson working at a luxury brand store in Harbour City in Tsim Sha Tsui, preferred to be known by her first name only. She told The Young Reporter that she had to take five days of unpaid leave last year. She hoped that the government could provide higher unemployment benefits. She said that the epidemic and travel restrictions have caused sales to fall sharply. Many sales workers are unable to meet their companies’ targets and are forced to take unpaid leave and some have even lost their jobs. Michael Luk Chung-hung, a Legislative councillor and member of the HKFTU, urged the government to provide a half-year cash allowance for workers who have either lost their jobs or have been furloughed. He wanted the benefits to be extended to those who are underemployed or are forced …

Hong Kong Baptist University’s new president plans “personalised pathways” for students

  • 2021-06-17
  • The Young Reporter
  • By: LI Chak Ho Samuel、WANG Yichun、Shameel IbrahimEdited by: Shameel Ibrahim
  • 2021-06-17

      Professor Alexander Wai talked to The Young Reporter about his new job and his plan to lead the university towards change Alexander Ping-Kong Wai assumed office as president of Hong Kong Baptist University on Feb 1. In his interview with The Young Reporter, he emphasised the importance of embracing change in university education, and the challenges posed by the social environment the pandemic and more. Hardship of students and graduates under the pandemic Prof Wai is the first university president to assume office in Hong Kong since the COVID-19 outbreak. He said it’s tough for graduates to find jobs but disagreed that companies are unwilling to hire them because of the social unrest in 2019. “I’ve heard that some corporations said they would not hire our students. I don’t believe that. To me that’s not a big concern. The concern is actually the economy,” said Prof Wai. He added that the low vaccination rate in Hong Kong is to blame for the economic slowdown. On university life during the pandemic, Prof. Wai recognised the challenges of mixed- mode teaching. Students can be on campus for classes, but face-to-face activities are limited. “I would like my students to be able to adapt to changes and tolerate differences. (The pandemic) is unpleasant of course. But we can make the best of it,” said Prof Wai. Personalised Pathway of Study in the planning Since late January, Prof Wai has been hinting that an “important project” was underway at HKBU. In the Planning Exercise Proposal which will be put forward to the government, HKBU will include what Prof Wai described as “personalised pathways” of study. If approved, students will be able to design personalised study plans aimed at achieving specific goals, distinct from academic programmes currently offered. “Students who know they …

Health & Environment

China ministry: Taishan nuclear plant running safely, stably

The Taishan nuclear power plant in Guangdong Province has been operating safely and stably, and no abnormality in the surrounding environment has been observed, China's Ministry of Ecology and Environment said in a statement released today.   According to CNN on Monday, the US government assessed a report of a leak at the Taishan nuclear plant and that China’s nuclear safety authority was raising the acceptable limits for radiation detection outside the power plant.   The statement from the ministry said China’s National Nuclear Safety Administration did not raise the acceptable limits for radiation detection outside, and it claimed CNN’s report was misleading.    Under scrutiny was the increase of the coolant in the primary circuit reactor of plant number one during the unit’s operation. The ministry said this activity was still within the range for stable running as regulated by the technical standard of the nuclear power plant operation.   It was estimated that five fuel rod claddings were damaged. This is less than 0.01% of the total fuel rods and much lower than the maximum assumed damages in the design of the fuel assembly, the ministry added.   After attending the Legislative Council meeting today, Hong Kong’s Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu told reporters that the operation of the Taishan nuclear plant is within all the requirements regarding nuclear power safety and of no indication of any effect on the environment.    Mr. Lee added that the release of information about the Taishan nuclear plant operation will be in accordance with international standards.    “So far, what we have been informed up to now is (regarding the operation of Taishan Nuclear Power Plant), there were only two incidents which are classified as zero events,” Mr. Lee said. “In other words, they do not affect in any way …

Former C.E. says HK “wasted years” in Greater Bay Area

  • 2021-06-15

Former Hong Kong chief executive, Leung Chun-ying has urged students in Hong Kong to be involved in the planning of the Greater Bay area. Speaking at the 2021 China Conference: Hong Kong, Mr. Leung said the city has already wasted years of opportunities because of endless filibustering in Legco, social unrest and the pandemic,    “The window of opportunities for Hong Kong will not be open forever,” Mr. Leung said.    The Conference focuses on economic development in the GBA and Hong Kong and has drawn participants from both sides.   “The good opportunity is about short distances between cities and a comparatively large market,” said Davon Hui Jun-git, founder of a Hong Kong technology startup who developed business both in Hong Kong and Dongguan. He said at the conference that his company attracted many new customers after winning the 2020 Qianhai Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao-Taiwan Youth Innovation and Entrepreneurship competition. “We don't even have enough products to actually meet the huge customer demand,” he added.   Hendrick Sin, who founded CMGE, China’s biggest publisher of mobile games, advised new startups in Hong Kong to understand policies in the GBA in order to maximise the support they need. “I think there are lots of office spaces, apartments, tax subsidies to support you,”   However, some Hong Kong entrepreneurs find it difficult to do business in the mainland because of differences in market size, customers’ behaviors and other aspects between Hong Kong and the mainland.   Milktea Wong, a local university student said in a phone interview that she is willing to work in the mainland because there are more job opportunities than in Hong Kong.   But she is concerned about welfare issues in the mainland, such as healthcare insurance. She hoped the government can help to ensure the welfare of Hongkongers …

Society

Trade Unions call for protection for workers of food delivery platforms

Delivery workers of digital food delivery platforms are not guaranteed a minimum wage and do not have reasonable work injury compensation, the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions said in a press conference today. The HKFTU asks the government to reexamine the employment status of gig workers, including delivery workers of digital platforms. All three major digital food delivery platforms, Foodpanda, Deliveroo and UberEats, recruit delivery workers under self-employed contracts.  “The platforms use algorithmic management to control the actions and quality of service when they are in fact the employers of the deliverers,” said legislator Micheal Luk Chung-hung, who worked as a deliverer for a few hours. Mr. Luk said in other countries and regions, governments recognize delivery workers as employees of the digital platforms and are not considered self-employed. In Taiwan, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration of the Ministry of Labour confirmed in October 2019 that workers of six food delivery platforms, including Foodpanda and Uber Eats, were employees.  In Spain, the legislation was passed in March 2021 that recognised delivery platform couriers as employees, in line with a Supreme Court judgement that confirmed a deliverer of Glove, a digital food delivery platform, was an employee. “Although we have questioned the (Hong Kong) government about this issue, they have always responded by claiming there are 'no statistics, no research and no policies at the moment’,” Mr. Luk said. He pointed out that the most significant drawback for self-employed deliverers is that they are not entitled to reasonable compensation for work injuries since the digital platforms do not need to provide labour insurance for them.  “All three major platforms in Hong Kong provide accidental insurance for deliverers,” Mr. Luk “but the coverage and the insured amount are far worse than labour insurance.” Comparing the insurance provided by the three …

HKU students repaint Swire Bridge to mark June 4

  • 2021-06-11

Students at the University of Hong Kong repainted a pro-democracy message on Swire Bridge this afternoon to commemorate the Tiananmen Square incident. The president of HKU's student union, Kwok Wing-ho, said the event aimed to mourn the deaths, remember the truth in history and educate students about the history of Swire Bridge.   “In an era when speaking truth is considered as breaking (the) law, persistence is essential as telling the truth is absolutely justified and correct,” he said. The message “souls of martyrs shall forever linger despite the brutal massacre; spark of democracy shall forever glow for the demise of evils” was scorched on the bridge by the chairperson of the Swire Hall Students’ Association in 1989. Participant Mr Yung, who refused to disclose his full name, said repainting of Swire Bridge is a conventional event of the college’s student union.    “No matter how the democratic environment is, persisting with the convention of the student union is needed,” Mr Yung added. Participant Mr Chan, who only gave his surname, hoped the repainting will remind others and to remember the crackdown.    “Democratic movements in any place in the world are worthwhile to support,” a participant who only wanted to be identified as Mr Chik said. “It is apparently natural to support democratic movements in nearby areas.”   During the event, there were some passersby taking photos of the students. Mr Chik said he felt pressured to be photographed by unidentified persons when he was painting.   The student union will never organize illegal activities, Mr Kwok said. 

Society

Educated Immigrants Leaving Hong Kong, Research finds

University-educated mainland immigrants aren’t staying, according to research from Hong Kong Baptist University released today. Between 2007 and 2011, 40.2% of the tens of thousands of new immigrants to Hong Kong held a bachelor’s degree, but a third of them left before 2016, according to the report. “The number continues to drop,” Yuk-Shing Cheng, Head of the Department of Economics at HKBU who led the research team, said in a press conference today. “Immigrants with higher education have a higher mobility,” Lai-shan Sze, the Deputy Director of Society of Community Organisation, a local NGO that sponsored the research, said in the press conference, “They will stay if they can blend in, but leave if they cannot.”  Although the government has policies to bring talent into the city, it has failed to retain them, the report said. Prof Cheng said the government should focus on the coming generations as the research shows second and third generations have a positive impact on Hong Kong. Younger new immigrants are more likely to go to university in Hong Kong, according to the report. Around 45% of new immigrants who came to Hong Kong before age nine obtained bachelor degrees. The number drops for older immigrants. New immigrant Mandy Dai’s son, 32, is now an accountant in Hong Kong with a university degree, but it was a struggle for her to get him here, she said in the press conference.  Ms Dai, who is from the mainland, married a Hong Kong man, but it took 11 years for her to be allowed to move to the city. Her son, who gained residency in Hong Kong, attended school in the mainland until he was 11 while they waited for her one-way permit, she said. “The one-way permit system can be better allocated,” Hongliang Zhang, Associate Professor …

Politics

District councillors’ “unprecedented actions” a severe challenge to government, says Carrie Lam

Some “unprecedented actions” by the current batch of district councillors have brought severe challenges to the government, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said this morning. While she was not specific about what those “actions” were, she said the Home Affairs Department would take appropriate “reactions”, including keeping an eye on funding to the councils, councillors’ remuneration and their offices, which were paid for by the government, she said.  Mrs Lam’s remarks came after the HAD issued warning letters on June 4 to some district councillors who had distributed candles and posted contents related to the anniversary of the suppression of the student-led democracy movement in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989. In the letter, HAD says it has received complaints alleging that some district council members have conducted activities which are unrelated to their duties, damaged community harmony and possibly breached the laws of Hong Kong. “These activities include, but are not limited to, distributing materials and conducting publicity to encourage and facilitate members of the public to participate in unauthorised public assemblies,” says the letter. But Ramon Yuen Hoi-man, a Sham Shui Po district council member and one of the recipients of the HAD letter, has described the chief executive’s characterisation of the councillors’ actions as “absurd”. A member of the Democratic Party, Yuen distributed candles to residents in Cheung Sha Wan on June 3 and 4.  He told The Young Reporter in a phone interview that the distributed candles did not involve public money, and he did not see how it would clash with his work as a district councillor. “Whether I am a councillor or not, I would still distribute the candles to the public,” he said. Yuen also posted the lyrics of the song “The Flower of Freedom” on his Facebook page.  The song …

Photo Essay

Colorful art exhibition livens up Hong Kong’s harbourfront

More than 45,000 colourful streamers flutter over Central as part of a two-week exhibition by local and international designers along the harbourfront. Seven installations are placed along the walking path from the Causeway Bay typhoon shelter to Central for the “transFORM” exhibition curated by Design District Hong Kong. Artists were inspired by Chinese garden design and the Tai Hang traditional fire dragon dance originally created to ward off plague, according to the exhibition website. Five of the installations are open with two still under construction.                                       

Politics

Willing to “pay the price,” says Hong Kong’s Tiananmen vigil organizer just hours before arrest

Chow Hang-tung told The Young Reporter yesterday that she was willing to pay the price for lighting a candle to mark today’s anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown. She was arrested this morning before she got the chance. Police arrested Ms Chow, vice-chairwoman of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, on suspicion of advertising or publicising an unauthorized assembly. She made a Facebook post last Saturday saying she would continue to keep the promise she has been keeping for 32 years to light a candle in a place where everybody can see. Police said she used social media to advertise or publicise a public meeting that had been prohibited, after banning this year’s vigil on Covid-19 grounds. Police banned the vigil for the first time last year for the same reason, but many, including Ms Chow, entered the basketball court at Victoria Park to light a candle for the victims of the crackdown. Ms Chow was charged with illegal assembly and inciting others in 2020. She said she expected to go to jail and would get prepared. The Hong Kong Alliance has been holding a candlelight vigil in Victoria Park for decades to commemorate the People’s Liberation Army crackdown on a student-led movement in Tiananmen Square, Beijing on June 4, 1989. “This is originally done by hundreds of thousands in Hong Kong every year. I am just being who I have been,” she told The Young Reporter. “We cannot get used to or allow them to swipe away the truth of June 4.” Hong Kong Alliance closed its June 4th Museum on Wednesday after the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department made an inspection based on a complaint that it did not have a license. Chris Fu, who tried to visit the museum after its …