August 31, 2015

History: British Governor of Hong Kong Takes a Parting Shot at Beijing


Published: October 3, 1996

HONG KONG, Oct. 2— The last governor in 157 years of British rule of Hong Kong delivered his final policy address to the colonial legislature today, combining a passionate defense of Britain's record with a denunciation of China's intentions toward the territory when its takes control next July.

Beijing has declared that the territory's elected legislature will be abolished and replaced by a body of its choosing. The legislators themselves seem unwilling to defend the institution. But in his speech today Chris Patten, the Governor, denounced China's efforts to change Hong Kong's political system.

''Britain has made clear repeatedly to Chinese leaders that it would be wrong and damaging to scrap this Council and replace it with a non-elected body,'' he told the 60 members of the Legislative Council. ''The role of this institution, its credibility and legitimacy, lies at the heart of wider doubts about the future of pluralism and freedom in Hong Kong. How can you have complete faith in the future of the rule of law if you worry about the integrity of the institution which makes the laws?''

Beijing has insisted that Mr. Patten violated agreements between Britain and China when he introduced electoral changes intended to move the territory toward a fully elected legislature. But Britain has adamantly maintained that it has adhered to all its agreements.

He also warned that the greatest threat to the territory's future was from Hong Kongers themselves.

''My anxiety,'' he said, ''is this: not that this community's autonomy would be usurped by Peking, but that it could be given away bit by bit by some people in Hong Kong. We all know that over the last couple of years we have seen decisions taken in good faith by the Government of Hong Kong appealed surreptitiously to Beijing -- decisions taken in the interests of the whole community lobbied against behind closed doors by those whose personal interests may have been adversely affected.''

Regularly in the last few years, Hong Kong's leading businessmen have gone to Beijing to meet with China's leaders. In some instances, Beijing has intruded into Hong Kong government decisions and has blocked commercial concessions.

Legislators, those critical of China's approach to Hong Kong as well as those sympathetic to Beijing, expressed unhappiness with Mr. Patten's address.

''I'm very disappointed in his attitude as far as the whole theme is concerned as posing questions on the future autonomy,'' said Allen Lee, who has often accused Mr. Patten of needlessly antagonizing Beijing.

Martin Lee, the leader of Hong Kong's Democratic Party, the territory's largest political party, maintained that Mr. Patten has left Hong Kong defenseless before China. Mr. Patten, said Mr. Lee, who is not related to Allen Lee, ''has ducked the most important issue of all, which is how would he expect the rule of law to survive in Hong Kong after the transfer of sovereignty knowing that this elected legislature will be replaced by an appointed one. We believe that the defense of democracy, which is very high on his agenda, and the defense of the rule of law, which is also very high on his agenda, cannot be achieved by mere words. It can only be done by action, which sadly is lacking.''

One of China's senior representatives here, Zhang Junsheng, the deputy director of the New China News Agency, brushed aside Mr. Patten's attack on Beijing. ''He should have learned something by now and made some self-criticism,'' said Mr. Zhang, resorting to mainland Communist jargon. ''If he could do that, we would welcome him. But he's not willing to do that.''

After Crash, China Holds Hundreds in Stock Market Crackdown

Radio Free Asia - ChinaToday, 8:45 PM

Chinese police have arrested hundreds of people including top securities officials and a financial journalist in a nationwide operation linked to the recent meltdown on the country's stock market, official media reported.

Top financial journalist Wang Xiaolu appeared on state broadcaster CCTV on Monday, "confessing" to spreading false market information.

Wang, who writes for the widely respected financial magazine Caijing, has been placed under "coercive measures" on suspicion of "fabricating and spreading fake information on securities and futures market," the state-run news agency Xinhua reported.

Wang, who was arrested at his Beijing home on Aug. 25, said he wrote an article "based on hearsay and my own subjective guesses without conducting due verifications."

"This false information caused panic and disorder in the stock market, seriously undermined market confidence, and inflicted huge losses on the country and on investors," he said.

Wang's article, which appeared in Caijing on July 20, said that the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) was considering ending interventions aimed at stabilizing share prices.

The CSRC blamed the piece for a July 27 sell-off on the Shanghai stock market, which came before the market crash this month, press freedom group Reporters San Frontieres (RSF) said.

Police are also holding CSRC official Liu Shufan under "coercive measures" on suspicion of "insider dealing, taking bribes and forging official seals," Xinhua said.

Liu "took advantage of his position to secure an approval from the securities authorities for a public company and help the growth of the company's shares," receiving bribes of several million yuan in return, and had made several million yuan from insider dealing, it said.

Citic Securities executives Xu Gang, Liu Wei, Fang Qingli and Chen Rongjie are also being held under "coercive measures" on suspicion of insider trading, Xinhua said, adding that they had also "confessed."

"Coercive measures" can refer to arrest, detention, compulsory summons for questioning, police bail, or residential surveillance and house arrest.

Netizens targeted

Meanwhile, 197 people have been rounded up in a special campaign targeting online rumors, which included tweets and messages about China's stock market, as well as recent fatal explosions in Tianjin, Beijing's ministry of public security said in a statement on its website.

"Police across China have launched an operation targeting rumor-mongering on the Internet, on microblogs and on WeChat, and have netted 197 criminals suspected of illegal rumor-mongering," the statement said.

"The criminal suspects who were discovered have expressed deep repentance over their online rumor-mongering activities, which created a mood of terror, misled society and the public, and caused serious disturbance to the orderly operation of financial markets and to public order," the statement said.

"They have called on Internet users to heed this lesson, and to abide by the law."

It said a total of 165 websites and online accounts had been closed down in the operation.

Call for release

Paris-based RSF called for Wang's immediate release.

"Suggesting that a business journalist was responsible for the spectacular fall in share prices is a denial of reality," RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said in a statement on the group's website.

"Blaming the stock market crisis on a lone reporter is beyond absurd," he said.

"We call for Wang Xiaolu’s immediate release without any charges being brought against this Caijing reporter," Deloire said.

Xie Jiaye, head of the New York-based Chinese Association of Science and Technology U.S.A., said China's tightly controlled state media had been unable to report accurate information on market movements, because it had been ordered to support the government's attempts at market intervention.

"The Chinese media has been talking up the government's market intervention measures, and so-called malicious short-selling," Xie said.

"But that is ridiculous, because the government shouldn't be intervening in the market," he said. "Markets follow their own natural laws, and they won't do what the Communist Party tells them to do."

Censoring market coverage

According to RSF, the ruling Chinese Communist Party has "gone to great lengths" to censor media and online coverage of recent turmoil on the country's stock markets.

Leading Communist Party-controlled media outlets like the People’s Daily, Xinhua and CCTV have given scant coverage to the story, while the propaganda ministry has issued directives forbidding articles or market analysis deemed to be negative, it said.

According to Xinhua, "investigations into the case are still ongoing."

On Sept. 1, 2013, China's highest judicial authorities issued a directive criminalizing online "rumor-mongering" in a move widely seen as targeting critical comments and negative news on the country's hugely popular social media sites.

Reported by Gao Shan for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

China Repeals Underage Sex Law, Says All Child Sex is Rape

Radio Free Asia - ChinaToday, 9:39 PM

China's parliament has repealed a 1997 law governing sex with minors after a nationwide campaign by women's groups and rights activists, who said it watered down the crime of rape and encouraged child abuse.

The National People's Congress (NPC) standing committee issued a legislative amendment canceling the Sex Crimes Against Girls Law, which had led to the separate treatment of sexual contact with a minor from an existing rape law.

"Sexual relations with a girl under 14, regardless of whether coercion is involved, regardless of whether the perpetrator is aware that the victim is under 14, will be regarded as rape, with a mandatory heavy penalty, and a maximum penalty of death," the committee said in a directive dated Aug. 29.

Under the previous law, defendants had been able to plead ignorance of a child's age, while crimes under the law carried a maximum penalty of 15 years, leading campaigners to dub it a "golden ticket" for sexual predators.

Wu Rongrong, founder and executive director of the Hangzhou-based rights group Women Center, said the move was a necessary one.

"Under the previous crime, there was no protection for the rights of girls, because the crime of sexual activity with underage girls was considered much less serious than that of rape," Wu told RFA.

"The crime of rape should have applied all along, because this crime of sexual activity with girls was just a legitimizing excuse for rape."

Wu said many cases that should have been tried as rape were tried under the old law in recent years.

"But we know that there is extreme damage done to the victims [in these cases]," she said. "In particular, there was a case in Guizhou where the girls were very young indeed."

Dark shadow

China's tightly controlled media reported on 425 cases of child sexual abuse last year, the Hubei-based Civil Rights and Livelihood Watch group said in a report earlier this year.

Group founder Liu Feiyue, who has been among those campaigning for a change in the law, said childhood sexual abuse casts a dark shadow over the rest of a victim's life.

"The sexual abuse of children is a fundamental violation of human rights," Liu said. "We have a responsibility to express our concern about it."

He said poverty-stricken rural children who have been left behind in their hometowns by migrant worker parents are particularly at risk of abuse.

"They are often sexually abused by their teachers, but what is the school management doing about it?" Liu said. "The government also has a responsibility towards the victims of sexual abuse, who suffer great damage as a result."

"The government should set out child protection measures which can be assessed, and take a much tougher attitude," he said. "The [old law] really indulged child abusers."

Guangdong-based lawyer Chen Keyun hit out at the government for taking so long to repeal the legislation.

"This doesn't really count as progress," Chen told RFA. "The whole idea of such a crime was ridiculous from the start."

"I think they got rid of it because of certain reactions from overseas, and perhaps a certain amount of pressure from the international community," he said.

Public anger

Debate of the issue in state media has largely been focused on how the change will outlaw sex with underage prostitutes, in a country where ruling Chinese Communist Party officials and other public servants have paid large premiums to do so.

"When the criminals who had sex with underage prostitutes were government officials, the public reacted strongly to the lenient sentence instead of tougher punishment when sentenced as rape," state-run news agency Xinhua quoted Tsinghua University law professor Lao Dongyan as saying.

China has seen a string of child rape and sexual abuse cases in Hainan, Guangxi, Hunan, Guizhou, Yunnan, and Fujian provinces in recent years, sparking widespread public anger amid allegations from netizens that underage sex has fast become a "perk" expected by Chinese officials.

The families of six primary school victims in a 2013 child rape scandal in China's southern Hainan island told RFA they were angry over the light jail terms handed down to a former principal and local official convicted of the rape of the girls.

High school principal Chen Zaipeng and local official Feng Xiaosong were sentenced to 13 and 11 years' imprisonment respectively by the Hainan Provincial No.1 Intermediate People's Court on June 20, 2013 after being found guilty of raping six schoolgirls aged 11-14.

The string of scandals prompted calls from top female lawyers, rights activists and women's groups for a review of the law.

Reported by Xin Lin for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

Six in 10 Hong Kong employees unhappy with their job

A good working environment can boost employee morale. Amenities are a big part of it. Photo: HKEJ

More than six in 10 Hong Kong workers are unhappy about their job, according to a survey.

Recruitment portal JobsDB interviewed 7,278 employees in Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand between May and June this year.

The online poll found that 62 percent of respondents in Hong Kong are unhappy about their work, according to public broadcaster RTHK.

The biggest reasons are disappointing salary, poor benefits and incentives, unsatisfactory work environment, weak corporate culture and reputation and patchy relationship with colleagues and superiors.

More than 60 percent of the respondents consider a harmonious relationship with colleagues and superiors as the most important factor in a happy job.

Compared with their counterparts in other regions, Hong Kong employees are least likely seek a new employer, fearing loss of job security.

Some find the jobseeking process annoying, according to the survey.

JobsDB said employers should mention their corporate culture, salaries and benefits and promotion prospects when interviewing employees to avoid false expectations.

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Stressed-out Hongkongers seek better life in Taiwan

By Coconuts Hong Kong August 31, 2015 / 16:42 HKT

Squeezed by soaring rents, cramped living conditions, and unease over their city's political future, increasing numbers of Hongkongers are leaving to seek a better life in neighbouring Taiwan.

The island, which lies a 90-minute flight away, offers lower costs and an abundance of space – a rarity in Hong Kong, one of the world's most densely populated cities.

Carlos Cheung, 28, moved to Taiwan's central Taichung City last year to run a noodle shop there.

He says being a food vendor in Hong Kong would have been impossible, with a closet-sized space costing 10 times his current monthly rent of HKD10,000 (USD1,300).

"How many skewers of fish balls or 'fried three treasures' would I have had to sell?" said Cheung, referring to common Hong Kong street snacks.

The former luxury watch salesman was able to emigrate as a spouse to his Taiwanese wife.

"Sales here haven't been that bad, so I'm not under much pressure," he said of his shop Toi Heung Traditional Snacks.

Hong Kongers without family ties can apply for residency through investor programmes, as technical professionals in designated industries, or as entrepreneurs.

Last year a record 7,498 people from Hong Kong and neighbouring Macau obtained residency in Taiwan – the majority from Hong Kong.

Residents are increasingly worried that China is tightening its grip on the semi-autonomous city, with tensions sparking mass protests for full democracy at the end of last year.

Some see Taiwan, a self-governing democracy, as offering respite from China's grip.

- Political pressure -

Fears over China's influence are not new – an estimated 40,300 Hong Kongers left the year before the handover by Britain in 1997, but the numbers jumping ship to previously popular destinations like Canada and Australia have fallen.

Taiwan has its own difficult relationship with the mainland – since it broke away at the end of a civil war in 1949, Beijing still views the island as part of its territory, awaiting reunification.

Undeterred, Dicken Yeung, 38, moved to the island over what he saw as the increasing influence of China on Hong Kong and a deterioration in the city's autonomy.

"It's getting more and more communist," said Yeung, who worked as a schoolteacher in Hong Kong and recently moved to Yilan county, on Taiwan's east coast.

"Law enforcement is becoming more like the Chinese public security and the judiciary, while not yet interfered with, is also going in that direction."

Yeung entered under a programme that gave residency to those who had TWD5 million (HKLD891,000/USD155,000) deposited in a local bank, though the scheme was later scrapped.

He says the pace of life in Taiwan is a pleasant contrast to frenzied Hong Kong.

"Life here isn't as stressful and people are kinder and very happy to help," said Yeung.

"Living costs are so low. I also really like the environment here. In Taiwan, places are designed with people in mind, unlike in Hong Kong where everything is fenced in."

Hong Kong applicants who enter Taiwan under its investor immigration programme need to make an investment of TWD6 million – real estate does not count.

That is much lower than the thresholds for similar programmes in Canada, Australia, and Britain, according to Hong Kong-based Uni Immigration Consultancy.

"Some who want to move overseas but don't have the money are considering Taiwan," said Tyson Ho, who advises clients at the agency.

"It's also much closer. Many of them go into food and beverage because it's relatively easy, even if they may not have experience running their own businesses in Hong Kong."

- 'Business isn't so good' -

For those chasing profits a move to Taiwan may not be easy – this year the economy is set for its weakest growth since 2009.

Snack vendor Ah Tong, 53, moved his business from Hong Kong to Taiwan last year after living on the island in the past – his wife is Taiwanese.

But he is feeling the pinch as the economy stagnates.

"Business isn't so good right now, for all the shops here in Shilin," he said, referring to the popular night market where he opened his store.

Ah Tong sells "ngau chap", braised beef offal, a Hong Kong street food beloved by the city.

"'Ngau chap' is something new for Taiwanese. It's not something they would eat every day," he says.

But while turnover may be slower than in Hong Kong, lower rent and labour costs mean he can afford to take his time to build his business.

What matters more is adapting the taste of his street snacks to a new market.

Ah Tong says he conducted a questionnaire to test tastebuds in Taiwan and found he had to add 40 percent more sugar to his recipe.

"They all thought it was too salty," he said. "The Taiwanese have a sweeter palate."

Words: AFP
Photo: See-ming Lee

HKU concern group raises proxy fears in key vote

Ip Kin-yuen (fourth from left) says some employees of solicitor firms have complained that their own votes have been taken by their employers. Photo: SocRec

A concern group comprising University of Hong Kong (HKU) alumni wants spot checks on voters in a planned referendum over the long-delayed appointment of a pro vice chancellor.

The group is making the move after complaints some members will be represented by proxies.  

Ming Pao Daily is reporting that some proxy votes will be exercised by pro-Beijing interests.

The referendum is being called for Sept. 1 by HKU Convocation, a statutory body of HKU alumni.

Members will vote on several proposals including a motion by the HKU Alumni Concern Group to speed up the appointment of a pro vice chancellor within 30 days.

Spokesman Ip Kin-yuen said some employees of solicitor firms have complained that their own votes have been taken by their bosses.

Ip said these employees could have been forced to give up their rights under pressure.

He urged alumni to vote in person, saying the number of ballots in questionable hands is not known.

Meanwhile, a group of pro-establishment alumni headed by Lawrence Pang is seeking proxies from other graduates to defeat the pro vice chancellor motion.

Pang said he has no idea if pro-Beijing chambers of commerce are collecting proxies from their employees.

He said his group is seeking proxies within the alumni’s personal network and that he supports voter spot checks.

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There’s still hope after genuine universal suffrage rejected

Two men walk past a wall bearing the Chinese characters for “disobedience”, part of the Occupy Central civil disobedience campaign, on Aug. 31, 2014. Photo: Reuters

Exactly a year ago today, Hong Kong people experienced one of the darkest days in their history when Beijing shut the door on their quest for genuine universal suffrage.

The resolution issued by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee on the method of choosing Hong Kong’s next leader in 2017 prompted hundreds of thousands of Hongkongers to take to the streets to register their outrage over the political reform plan.

A year after, is there still a chance for Beijing to change its mind and allow a more democratic election in Hong Kong?

For the pan-democrats, the situation seems getting worse after the Umbrella Movement ended with their demand for genuine universal suffrage still nowhere near than when they started with the 79-day protests.

It seems that the Leung Chun-ying administration has no intention of letting the civil disobedience action go unpunished. It is filing charges left and right against key figures of the pro-democracy campaign.

He still has about two years left as chief executive, and he doesn’t want his enemies to make it more difficult for him to gain a second term of office.

While CY Leung has bared his claws and fangs in dealing with the pan-democrats, Beijing’s top leaders appear to be taking a more conciliatory approach.

Feng Wei, deputy director of the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, met with key officials of the Democratic Party in Hong Kong last week, the first time that such a meeting took place since the party clinched an electoral reform deal with Beijing in 2010 after meeting with officials of the Liaison Office of the Central Government in Hong Kong.

Both sides refused to reveal what transpired during the meeting. 

Democratic Party chairwoman Emily Lau Wai-hing said that it was important for pan-democrats to have a dialogue with Beijing, and that she communicated to the Beijing official their concerns about the CY Leung administration.

She told Feng that the central government should not just listen to pro-establishment people, otherwise it would get a wrong, if biased, assessment of the situation in Hong Kong.

That’s exactly what happened last year. Beijing, by listening only to CY Leung, got a wrong reading of Hong Kong’s true sentiments as regards the electoral reform package.

As a result the misunderstanding between the authorities and the general public widened.

CY Leung was more interested in pushing his personal political agenda — namely, to implement everything Beijing wants to be done in the territory, regardless of the views of Hong Kong people, so that he can secure a second term.

In the meantime, Hongkongers become more disillusioned with the CY Leung administration.

They think of him as someone who is just interested in promoting the interests of Beijing rather than taking care of the welfare of Hong Kong people.

A clear example is the late reponse of the government to the water contamination saga. It seems that CY Leung is more interested in protecting the state-owned enterprise involved in the case than in helping those affected or likely to be affected by the crisis.

Beijing has all the resources and connections in the special administrative region to gain a clearer picture of the Hong Kong situation, but with its trusted officials in the city having their own agenda, it’s hard for the central government to make wise decisions and draw up good policies on the territory.

Against this backdrop, Beijing may need to rely more on the “other voices”, those that CY Leung considers as enemies but can actually provide inputs that will help the central government in maintaining a stable Hong Kong.

That’s probably the reason why Beijing met with key Democratic Party leaders last week: to avoid relying on a single source to assess the Hong Kong situation in the post-Occupy era.

So, it didn’t come as a surprise that veteran pro-Beijing politicians Jasper Tsang Yok-sing and Ng Hong-mun told the public that the next Hong Kong leader should come from the ranks of civil servants rather than among Beijing loyalists.

Civil servants like Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah are keen on maintaining a stable society and achieving order in the community. That’s why they make better leaders. 

Moreover, civil servants, as Hong Kong leaders, can help uphold Hong Kong’s core values in the face of Beijing’s political agenda.

That should help rebuild social harmony in the territory after the divisions wrought by the CY Leung administration.

That could be the best outcome of Beijing’s move to shut the door on a democratic electoral framework a year ago.

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Hong Kong banks turn to start-ups for tech edge

By Coconuts Hong Kong August 31, 2015 / 13:18 HKT

Hong Kong's towering skyline is dominated by major banks and investment houses – but smaller start-ups are playing an increasing role on the financial landscape. The number of "FinTech" start-ups in Hong Kong – offering technology tailored to the world of finance – is rising rapidly, taking advantage of the city's position as an industry hub and gateway to China.

From data analysis to alternative lending and investment options, nimble smaller firms with a tech edge are vying to lure consumers.

Some major players are now seeking to team up with these potential rivals as a short cut to innovation.

"I think that what you're finding with a lot of these traditional institutions is the recognition that their customers and consumers are all demanding more from them," said Adrian Seto, director of FinTech innovation at consultancy Accenture.

"They are looking for better service, quicker service, better user experience."

Banking is, Seto said, "becoming a more competitive marketplace, and all of this is driven by technology."

Some leading financial institutions have launched their own programmes to support fledgling start-ups as a way to tap in to new ideas.

"They have recognised that instead of pushing back, they should embrace the change and work with these start-ups," says Seto.

Accenture runs the FinTech Innovation Lab which sees seven start-ups from across the Asia-Pacific region come to Hong Kong for a 12-week programme, at the end of which they will present their concepts to investors and finance executives.

US finance giant Citibank and Singapore-based bank DBS have also launched similar programmes in Hong Kong.

- FinTech explosion -

Hong Kong's status as a finance hub and its connections to the Chinese market have led to an explosion of FinTech firms, according to Janos Barberis, founder of FinTech HK, an online platform which looks to help such start-ups.

"The level of activity in Hong Kong has been incredible and it is due to continue, driven by the large market opportunity within Asia," he says.

There are around 50 FinTech start-ups in Hong Kong with five or more new companies emerging each year, he adds.

"Compared to Singapore, Hong Kong's FinTech development is much more driven from the ground up, letting the market decide the best way forward," says Barberis, who adds that the increasing number of finance professionals looking for a new direction is also a boost.

Start-up founders have often broken away from a corporate background.

"They are willing to take the risk and say: 'I'm going to leave my job and build a business because the return will be better'," says Barberis.

One such firm is DemystData, which launched four years ago after founders Mark Hookey and Oliver Meyrick met at a start-up event in Hong Kong.

The company quickly analyses large sets of data to help financial institutions make better decisions on loans and other forms of credit, and has since secured several high-profile clients, including Citibank.

- Pave their own way -

But while some start-ups are keen to team up with traditional finance houses, others want to pave their own way.

"One of the duties of small, innovative firms is to pressure bigger institutions to get better quicker and faster, and also to reduce fees and reduce what they charge customers," says Mathias Helleu, executive chairman of Hong Kong-based 8 Securities.

Launched in 2011, Helleu's firm helps smaller investors choose between investments from around the world – typically only within reach of large investment houses with global operations – which 8 Securities says offers an affordable alternative to services offered by banks.

"In that particular segment, the fees charged by the banks are very, very, very, high, and I think the only way for them to cool down is to have pressure," says Helleu.

As consumers demand improved ease of use, transparency and automation, banks will need to work with the new kids on the block, says FinTech HK's Barberis.

"Finance has been using technology since the 1950s and has been one of the industries with the largest IT spending," he says.

"However, today, technology is developed by start-ups and used directly through them.

"Banks will adapt... because the stakes are too high if they don't."

Words: AFP
Photo: Mike Behnken

Plastered! Boozed up British expat rolls around topless in Hong Kong wet road markings

By Coconuts Hong Kong August 31, 2015 / 12:16 HKT

Expats are fairly well known for behaving badly in Hong Kong when inebriated, but there are degrees of bad behaviour.

There’s having a bit of puke on your shirt while you stumble home singing… and then there’s rolling around topless in wet road markings.

British expats Alice Sirrat, 22, and Emma Stubbs, 23, have become a rather embarrassing internet sensation after taking (and for some reason sharing on WhatsApp) a video of their misbehaviour in Hong Kong.

Stubbs, with white paint on her nose and makeshift bra straps smudged onto her chest begins the 16-second clip with a “grrr”, before slurring “Me and Stizza (presumably Sirrat’s super cool nickname) are in Hon…”

The camera then pans to Stizza herself, who is completely topless with white paint all over her face and breasts.

“Sozzle me, sozzle me”, she says – in a mock Chinese accent according to the Sun, but we can hardly make out the words, let alone the pronunciation.

Stizza, who apparently works in Hong Kong for a fashion brand, then jiggles her boobs up and down with her hands, just in case you hadn’t spotted them.

Determined to ruin this lovely girl’s life, the Sun contacted Stizza’s mother, who said “I had no idea. It’s obviously a shock,” after watching the video of her little angel at work.

Her brother Andrew added that it’s “entirely out of character”.

The two women have apparently been in Hong Kong for four months.

Hong Kong employers warned to allow staff the day off on Thursday or face a hefty fine

By Coconuts Hong Kong August 31, 2015 / 10:40 HKT

Hong Kong’s Labour Department has warned employers that they could face a fine of up to HKD50,000 if they do not allow their staff a day off this Thursday.

The one-off holiday was written into legislation earlier this year to mark the 70th anniversary of the “victory of the Chinese people’s war of resistance against Japanese aggression”, which is a rather self-righteous way of saying when the Japanese surrendered at the end of WWII. 

A spokesman for the Labour Department said, “Sept. 3, 2015 (Thursday) is an Statutory Holiday under the Employment Ordinance. Employers of all employees covered by the Employment Ordinance, including those of imported workers and foreign domestic helpers, irrespective of the hours of work or length of service of the employees, should arrange for the employees to take the Statutory Holiday on that day, or make alternative arrangements as specified by the law. They should also pay holiday pay to employees who have been employed under a continuous contract for three months or more before the Statutory Holiday”.

Any employer who cannot allow their staff to take the day off on Thursday must speak to employees by today to make other arrangements.

Failure to observe the holiday or provide another paid day off within the following 60 days is a prosecutable offence with a maximum penalty of HKD50,000. 

If you’re in any doubt about this very clear situation, you can consult “A Concise Guide to the Employment Ordinance” (a riveting read by all accounts), which is available at Labour Department offices online.

Print this out and pin it to your boss’ forehead today!

Photo: Chi Hang Lau

Irregularities found in allocation of district council funds

Eastern District Arts Council Ltd. is chaired by a District Council member. Photos: GovHK, HKEDAC

A social policy expert has called for stricter rules on the allocation of district council funds for community involvement projects, saying that loose regulation has led to irregularities, Ming Pao Daily reported.

Dr. Chung Kim-wah, director of the Center for Social Policy Studies at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, said a “council members’ interest comes first” mentality is prevalent in many district councils, and this is due to two factors: loose gate-keeping over the allocation of funds and the fact that most councils are controlled by the pro-establishment camp.

To guard against irregularities, council members who might have “conflict of interest” issues with regard to particular projects should be barred from participating in the fund appropriation process, Chung said.

However, he said the government tends to turn a blind eye to such cases because it relies on the district council members for support.

The government allocates more than HK$10 million (US$1.29 million) to the 18 district councils every year, which the councils appropriate for community projects handled by local organizations.

Research by Ming Pao found that quite a number of district councils allocate funds for organizations where council members are either core members or officers.

For this year alone, eight district councils allocated a combined HK$7 million for such organizations, including art and culture groups, arts councils and recreational associations.

Funds have been automatically reserved for many of these organizations, which don’t even need to submit applications to secure the financial assistance, the newspaper said.

The report cited the case of the Eastern District Arts Council, whose first vice chairperson is Fong Choi-peng. Fong also happens to be the chair of the Eastern District’s funds review committee.

Eastern District Council member Chung Shu-kun, who chairs the Eastern District Arts Council, said he is chairman of the arts council only in name with no actual power or personal interest involved.

The arts council has to take care of all its expenses, he said.

He also said all members of the district’s funds review committee are required to disclose any interest in an organization under review before funds are appropriated.

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HK group calls for commemoration of Aug 30 Liberation Day

Mourners with flowers visit the graves of soldiers killed during World War II, at the Hong Kong Liberation Day commemoration ceremony at Sai Wan War Cemetery. Photo: Reuters

A group called Watershed staged a memorial ceremony and called on Hongkongers not to forget Liberation Day and the soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the city in World War II, Apple Daily reported Monday.

Watershed, a group of graduating students from the University of Hong Kong, held the ceremony Sunday at the Sai Wan War Cemetery in Chai Wan.

No government officials attended, but more than a hundred citizens showed up in support.

After the change of sovereignty in 1997, the government cancelled the public holiday that used to mark Liberation Day.

Representatives of HKOR Benevolent Association Ltd., formed by retired Chinese soldiers, and more than a dozen retired British soldiers took part in the ceremony Sunday, laying flowers at the monument to Commonwealth and allied troops.

Student representatives from the Hong Kong University Students’ Union (HKUSU) and the Baptist University Students’ Union also took part.

On Aug. 30, 1945, British Admiral Cecil Harcourt’s fleet entered Victoria Harbour and resumed sovereignty over Hong Kong, which had been captured by the Japanese.

HKOR Benevolent chairman Roger Ching Yuen-ki said the contribution of the British, Canadian, British-Chinese and other foreign soldiers to the defence of Hong Kong during the war was being played down by the government.

After 1997, retired soldiers have usually gone abroad to take part in activities to mark Liberation Day, Ching said.

HKUSU chairman Billy Fung Jing-en said it is important for Hongkongers to gain a thorough understanding of the history of their city.

The government is deliberately trying to wipe out a part of Hong Kong’s history for political reasons, Fung said.

He said he was taking part to mourn the university students who lost their lives in the defense of Hong Kong.

Watershed spokesman Lee Kai-dik said Liberation Day on Aug. 30 and the official Victory Day on Sept. 3 can co-exist, as they are both associated with the war against the Japanese during World War II.

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Liver transplant patient semi-comatose after medical blunder

Lee (inset), with his wife, remains at the intensive care unit of Queen Mary Hospital after his liver transplant was stopped. Photos: HKEJ, Metro Daily

A male patient is in critical condition at the Queen Mary Hospital after his liver transplant surgery was halted halfway through last week when a tumor was discovered in the donor’s kidney, Metro Daily reported on Monday.

The 46-year-old patient, surnamed Lee, was diagnosed with cirrhosis and hepatic failure in January, and was told that a liver was available for transplant.

His wife said they were thrilled that an organ transplant could be done right away and gave their consent for the operation.

Lee’s surgery took place on Aug. 26 but it was stopped after the Prince of Wales Hospital found there was a tumor in the organ donor’s right kidney.

The doctors at Queen Mary Hospital decided to stop the surgery right in the middle of the procedure because of the likelihood that tumor could also develop in the donated liver, although the possibility of cancer growth is low.

The patient’s condition turned worse that night. He suffered from serious bleeding and plunged into a semi-comatose state that required his immediate resuscitation.

According to his wife, Lee’s liver and gall bladder had been separated before the surgery was discontinued.

Tests also showed that bacteria had infected the patient’s blood, and he had to undergo daily hemodialysis.

The wife said she is worried that her husband’s other organs might be affected as a result of the infection.

She admitted that she has lost her faith in the ability of doctors at Queen Mary Hospital to perform another operation on her husband.

Still, she is hoping that someone with “O+” blood type would consider donating a portion of their liver for her husband.

Doctors said the patient’s chance of survival could reach 70 percent following a successful liver transplant.

Dr. Albert Chan Chi-yan, a professor at the Department of Surgery of the University of Hong Kong, said the next 24 to 72 hours would be crucial for the patient, who he said needs a liver transplant within the week.

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G4S worker forgets to close ATM door after replenishing cash

G4S has suffered another embarrassment after a worker left an ATM door half-open after replenishing the machine with banknotes. Photos: Headline Daily,

G4S Cash Solutions (Hong Kong) Ltd., (G4S), a security company that provides cash management services for banks and retailers, has found itself again in an embarrassing position due to a goof-up by one of its workers.

According to Headline Daily, a G4S worker who serviced an automatic teller machine (ATM) of Bank of China (BOC) in Yau Ma Tei on Saturday forgot to close the machine’s door after completing his work.

A bank customer spotted the open ATM machine and alerted the police. Fortunately for the bank, there hasn’t been any theft of cash from the machine.

G4S later fixed the problem and the ATM was restarted.

The company was quoted as saying that the staffer in question has been suspended from duty with immediate effect, and that further disciplinary action could be taken after an investigation is completed.

It was around 11pm when an ATM user saw that the door at the base of the ATM half open. 

A BOC spokesperson confirmed that G4S staff did not lock up the ATM door after replenishing cash notes. 

G4S, which said it was apologetic for the mistake, has had a history of blunders with its security services. The most glaring was a cash spill of over HK$15 million on Gloucester Road in Wan Chai last Christmas.

That cash spill saw members of the public scooping up banknotes from the middle of the road. The incident eventually led to several people being prosecuted and sentenced to jail for theft.

On Feb. 8, a G4S security guard left his fully loaded Remington shotgun by a cash machine in Shek Kip Mei’s Nam Shan Estate.

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Hong Kong’s Empty Sloganeering Takes Center Stage in HKU Dispute

by James Tam

The Nanfang Aug 31, 11:13 PM

Hong Kong “politics” has decomposed into a tiny repertoire of elemental clichés. Nonetheless, they can cause disproportional disruptions when deployed vociferously by ardent sloganeers with singular determination. By far the most overworked slogan is — of course —  freedom and democracy. It’s become licence to do practically anything without consequence. Well, freedom is pointless if fettered by legal constraints, isn’t it? Other banners in the arsenal include, in order of perceived popularity, social justice; freedom of press/speech/expression, academic freedom, and a few other simplistic beauties.

Freedom and democracy, having worked overtime during Occupy Central, is taking a break. Academic freedom has taken centre stage, with the University of Hong Kong (HKU) as backdrop.

To make a long and boring story short, HKU is recruiting a Pro Vice-Chancellor (PVC) to be in charge of Human Resources and Finance. He reports to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (DVC). Interestingly, this position is also vacant. Realistic cynics say no self-respecting academic would touch it with a twenty-foot pole. The only (only!) candidate for the PVC job is Dean of Law Mr. Johannes Chan. He’s a Mister, not Doctor. Unlike 99 percent of modern-day academics, including private tutors for secondary school students (refer to mini-bus advertisements), he doesn’t have a Ph D degree. Perhaps that had freed him from the tedium of academic duties, and given him the time and energy to help found the Civic Party, a local political party comprising mainly lawyers who regard the law as something they toy with for a fee. In addition, under Mr. Chan’s management was one Mr. Benny Tai Yiu-ting, who made himself well-known by occupying Central in Wan Chai. He allegedly misappropriated academic funds for his misplaced occupation. Tai might still face disciplinary action, though that seems unlikely because whatever he did was in the name of freedom and democracy.

Now, in my humble opinion, not having a Ph D degree is no big deal. Einstein didn’t have one. But he was quite good in research and figuring things out, wasn’t he? Anyway, the Council knows its sole candidate for PVC is kind of controversial, especially as the boss to whom he should report is currently non-existent. What does one do when something’s kind of controversial these days? Nothing! So the august University Council wisely dithers. Then one fine day in July, a group of students, egged on by core members of the Civic Party, barged into a Council meeting to demand action. The student leader, in front of television cameras, later demonstrated publicly he had no idea how members of the University Council, which he held in the deepest contempt, are appointed. But that’s beside the point.

All those cultural revolutionary theatrics can be Googled, with due distortions and omissions one way or the other, by Free Press journalists. I’m more interested in the sloganeering in this incident, for personal academic interest. Slogans are now the single most powerful political tool in Hong Kong, rendering rational debates laughably old-fashioned, without an audience.Slogans are now the single most powerful political tool in Hong Kong, rendering rational debates laughably old-fashioned, without an audience. Used effectively, a simple slogan can magically change colours right in front of your eyes, turning black into white into black. Look, Hong Kong is ranked No.1 in the Human Freedom Index, but the cry for freedom and democracy remains the Mother of all Slogans, so there you go.

One of the key slogans in the HKU fiasco is academic freedom. What has academic freedom to do with the administrative details and politics of appointing a PVC? God knows. Furthermore, HKU is not particularly academic according to measurable parameters either. Even within tiny Hong Kong, its research performance is reportedly way below that of the University of Science and Technology.

If we indulge a little further in analysis, HKU becomes even more enigmatic. Most institutions exist for a purpose. Barbershops cut hair. Massage parlours give massages. Their performance is monitored by something external and objective, such as market acceptance of service or output, and profitability, as judged by greedy shareholders. A university’s output is research and graduates. Being a public institution, its operation is supervised by a governing body — the University Council.

Hong Kong’s research achievement is a world unknown, therefore not worth mentioning.

Many have pointed out that the output of HKU — useful and employable graduates such as those produced by “academically unfree” mainland universities who have helped to build things like the Beidou Satellite System, high speed rail, quantum communication, Ebola inoculant etc. etc. — has slipped alarmingly. But such accusations cannot be easily quantified, especially when graduates are supported by Papa and Mama, and invisible in unemployment figures.

Therefore, the Council remains the only nominal check and balance. If the Council’s decisions, whenever unwelcome by some teachers and students, are deemed a violation of “academic freedom,” HKU would be given a free and unaccountable hand to do whatever it pleases, including doing absolutely nothing. It’d become a publicly-funded black box, fully autonomous within the autonomous Hong Kong SAR. Wow.

Perhaps the next step in this “cultural revolution” would be for private companies to refuse disclosure of company accounts to the taxman, citing commercial secrets and the free-market principles? Well, why not. Relevance is becoming irrelevant in our brave new world.

I feel extremely fortunate that as retiree, I no longer pay tax.

The post Hong Kong’s Empty Sloganeering Takes Center Stage in HKU Dispute appeared first on The Nanfang.

China Clamps Down Before ‘Victory Day’ Parade

By Jenny LiEpoch Times and Leo TimmEpoch Times | August 30, 2015

Last Updated: August 30, 2015 9:21 pm

Chinese troops practice marching ahead of a Sept. 3 military parade at a camp on the outskirts of Beijing, Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015. China is ramping up publicity for its upcoming World War II military parade that will feature 12,000 soldiers and 500 pieces of military equipment, but officials still aren't saying which other countries are taking part in the spectacle. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

A Chinese tank leaves after rehearsals ahead of the Sept. 3 military parade to commemorate the end of World War II in Beijing on Aug. 23, 2015. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

An upcoming military parade celebrating the 70th anniversary of China’s victory over Japan in World War II, scheduled for Sept. 3 in Beijing, will feature over 10,000 troops marching in goosestep down Beijing’s central causeways. Tanks, artillery, and ballistic missile launchers will join them, under a blue sky patrolled by jet fighters and made free of smog thanks to draconian civil measures implemented this August specially for the event.  

Forces from Russia, Cuba, Mexico, and a few other countries will also attend.

Authorities in the Chinese capital and surrounding provinces have spared little effort preparing for the event. But the measures taken to ensure clear skies and maximum security have drawn criticism for the heavy-handed constraints they place on local residents and business.

Auto traffic, flight bookings, retail, and industrial production have all been curtailed.

MORE:China Uses Models to Pose as Troops for Big Military Parade

Commenting on the excessive regulations, one netizen said it was as though “the Japanese devils had come to town” rather being than a celebration.  

Controlling for Blue Skies

While Victory Day on Sept. 3 is already a national holiday, Sept. 4 and 5 have also been declared holidays this year, with work resuming on Sept. 6, a Saturday, state-run Xinhua reported.

Dozens of main streets that run through core of Beijing around Tiananmen Square are being closed down for the exclusive use of the parade, as reported by state-run China News Service. At the same time, authorities in six provinces surrounding Beijing are clamping down on traffic and industry to create smog-free skies. The exercise has been termed Military March Blue by regime mouthpieces.  

A report by Henan Province’s state-run Yingxiang Net reported that starting Aug. 20, authorities in Beijing and the provinces of Hebei, Tianjin, Shanxi, Shandong, Inner Mongolia, and Henan, would limit the use of motor vehicles to certain days depending on one’s license plate number.

Beijing officials mandated that the provinces, which contain hundreds of millions of people, reduce their carbon emissions by 40 percent starting Aug. 28, Yingxiang Net reported. Aside from traffic controls, manufacturing, and processing industries have been cut sharply. In Hebei Province, with over 70 million people, local authorities have banned outdoor cooking from Aug. 28 to Sept. 4.

In Henan Province, Yingxiang Net reported 180,000 substandard cars have been prohibited from the streets altogether for the better part of August.

Provincial authorities in Shandong have ordered that air pollution be cut by 30 percent, according to a Aug. 5 report by state-run Dazhong Net. Between Aug. 28 and Sept. 4, a total of 2,831 of various companies in Shandong will cease operations.

Excessive Measures

Expatriate Chinese commentator Chang Ping wrote that the suspension of nearly 9,000 northern Chinese companies is like “adding hail to snow” for an already struggling economy.

Similar measures were implemented last November during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Beijing, bringing about a “rarely-seen blue sky, the so-called APEC Blue,” state-run People’s Daily Net reported. The regulations reportedly cost businesses and workers billions of dollars.

The Internet is also receiving more scrutiny. On Aug. 25, a user called “Beidaijin” explained in a blog post that due to increased efforts by Chinese cybersecurity agents, access to VPNs and other censorship-circumvention techniques would be curtailed during the Victory Day celebration period.  

MORE:China Is Building a Database on Americans Using Its Domestic Spy Program

Ostensibly to ensure security during the event, regime authorities have instituted a “real-name” registration system for parcel delivery in western China’s Xinjiang region, which is home to China’s Uyghur Muslim minority ethnic group. According to Radio Free Asia, a postal worker in the regional capital of Urumqi confirmed the policy and revealed that parts of Tibet have suspended postal service altogether.

Chang Ping wrote that the “real-name” registration system, required of Chinese citizens who wish to use the Internet or purchase ordinary items such as kitchen knives and cold medicine, was now extended even to restaurant meals, ostensibly to increase security during the parade rehearsals.

“The local police station required diners to show their identification cards, register their ID numbers, full names, and mobile telephone numbers before placing an order,” he wrote. “The idea of a real-name registration for ordering a meal is a joke no more.”

Thousands of Hong Kong civil servants to be handed HK$17,500 a month extra with no questions asked

Allowance perk that gives about HK$17,500 a month to civil servants on top of their salary was handed to only 85 in 2005. Now it's 4,000


PUBLISHED : Monday, 31 August, 2015, 3:44am

UPDATED : Monday, 31 August, 2015, 1:08pm

Civil servants may soon be able to receive this substantial allowance for a maximum of 10 years. Photo: Nora Tam

A generous government allowance paid to some of Hong Kong's top-ranking civil servants without requiring them to account for the money has come under scrutiny as the cost to taxpayers looks set to exceed HK$1 billion annually by next year.

The Non-Accountable Cash Allowance (NCA) is an expenditure that attracts little attention when the government opens its books every year, but with the ballooning total on track to be more than HK$1.1 billion in less than a year, questions have been asked as to whether it is sustainable.

The NCA was introduced by the government in June 2000 to replace previous housing benefit allowances because it provided "flexibility for staff".

"The NCA is fully non-accountable and is not tied to any housing expenses," a Civil Service Bureau spokeswoman told the South China Morning Post.

Read more: Bill for standard working hours in Hong Kong could hit HK$10 billion, says committee report

Former civil service minister Joseph Wong Wing-ping countered that the size of an allowance alone did not warrant it being reined in or re-evaluated. Photo: AFP

Read more: No one happy as Hong Kong minimum wage raised to HK$32.5 today

But Andrew Shuen Pak-man, interim executive director of the Lion Rock Institute, a public policy think tank, said: "It is accounting trickery to make people think government size isn't growing and public servant pay is under control. But this is growing and nothing is sustainable at this growth rate."

The allowance will cost the government an estimated HK$839 million in 2015-16, according to the 2015 budget, up 33 per cent on the HK$629 million spent in the previous year.

Every year since 2006 the allowance has grown by more than a third - at that rate the figure will exceed HK$1.1 billion in the next financial year.

In 2015, 4,000 of Hong Kong's more than 170,000 civil servants are expected to receive the allowance which averages out at about HK$17,500 each month, or more than the average Hong Kong salary. It is paid in addition to the civil servants' regular salary. Only 85 civil servants qualified for the allowance in 2005.

According to the Civil Service Bureau spokeswoman, government employees who earn more than HK$60,000 a month automatically qualify for the allowance, while those earning less than HK$60,000 receive it based on a quota system and years of continuous service.

The spokeswoman said civil servants could receive the allowance for a maximum of 10 years.

"Due to the increasing number of officers attaining eligibility for the scheme through salary progression, promotion and new appointment, the number of recipients for the NCA and its expenditure have increased over the years," she explained.

"The rates of the non-accountable cash allowance were drawn up by reference to the rates of other civil service benefit schemes for home purchase."

But Shuen said while he was sympathetic to the government's need to attract high-quality candidates with large salaries, more transparency was necessary regarding such allowances.

Former civil service minister Joseph Wong Wing-ping countered that the size of an allowance alone did not warrant it being reined in or re-evaluated.

"You can look at this from an egalitarian viewpoint but that's not how the government runs the civil service," he said.

Wong pointed out that the entire civil service pay package was approved by the legislature, including allowances, meaning the allowance was growing within its approved mechanism.

Patients forced to wait up to 24 months for new drugs to be approved in Hong Kong, as experts call for simpler system

Experts say there is a need to simplify the drug approval procedure, which can take 18 to 24 months compared with 60 days in Singapore


PUBLISHED : Monday, 31 August, 2015, 4:29am

UPDATED : Monday, 31 August, 2015, 9:08am

It can take around 18 to 24 months for Hong Kong authorities to recognise a new drug. Illustration: Henry Wong

Hong Kong's medical standards are considered to be among the best in the world. Yet, doctors and patients lament one problem that can only get worse - outdated drug regulation procedures.

Patients wait far longer to gain access to innovative medicine than those in many other medical hubs because the drug regulation regime here is still based on old, rigid protocols.

A University of Hong Kong thesis published in 2013 pointed out, for example, that it takes around 18 to 24 months for the local authorities to recognise a new drug - when the same medicine can be approved in just 60 days in Singapore.

Drug approval in Hong Kong is greatly dependent on whether a product has been given the go-ahead by international health authorities and advanced countries or regions such as the European Union (EU), and by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Read more: Anguish of Hong Kong father with rare blood disease who can only be treated by drugs costing HK$4 million a year

While experts suggested a more relaxed approval system is needed, they said the culture of relying heavily on the publicly funded health care system is also partly to blame as the government is under pressure to be costeffective in using taxpayers' money to fund new and expensive drugs.

They believed a voluntary health insurance scheme proposed by the government to correct the imbalance between demand for public and private hospital services would offer hope in correcting the inflexible pharmaceutical registration system.

"The local authority tends to approve a new drug only after both the EU and FDA give it the green light," said Dr Stephen Chan Lam, assistant professor of oncology at Chinese University.

Read more: Drug makers urged to share the cost of providing costly medicine in Hong Kong

"In other Asian places such as Singapore and Taiwan, the authorities only require either one of the two approvals from these watchdogs before they decide to give the green light to a new drug. Sometimes they will not bother to wait for international approval if they think the study is strong enough."

Chan said Hong Kong has a reputation for being slow and conservative in approving new drugs, often taking a few years, especially compared to other affluent Asian places.

"It is often the case that a new drug that we have been waiting for for years has long become standard medicine for people in those places," Chan said.

The slow and prolonged approval process could harm patients and increase the fatality rate due to the inaccessibility of more appropriate medicine. This has been particularly true for patients with rare diseases, for which medicine is often very expensive.

One such patient now suffering the consequences is Steve Chan, a 39-year-old who has a rare blood disease which afflicts around one in every million people. He cannot receive a new treatment for his condition as public hospitals are still waiting for approval for an expensive drug which is nevertheless available abroad.

The father of two faces a life-threatening situation every day as he is only receiving supportive care and frequent blood transfusions, which cannot cure him.

According to the Department of Health, there is a three-step procedure for a manufacturer to apply for approval for a new drug in the city. First, the application is evaluated by the department's Drug Office, which will proceed with the submission only after the product has obtained two certificates of pharmaceutical product from a selection of countries and regions such as Europe, the US and Japan.

The submission is then passed to a group of scientists under the Pharmacy and Poisons Board, which conducts just five meetings a year to consider the registration of new drugs. The board will then submit the application to the Legislative Council for final approval.

In 2013, the University of Hong Kong's public health department published a thesis by Kitty Chan Tsz-ki suggesting that it usually took 18 to 24 months to go through the three-step procedure before a proposal is presented to Legco.

But before a drug is offered at public hospitals, it is subject to another evaluation by the Hospital Authority, which will then decide whether to include it as free standard treatment or as a self-funded option for patients.

The paper, which was the first to evaluate the local drug regulation system alongside that of other countries, concluded that the local system was "relatively simple and stubborn" compared to other places.

It reported that Singapore could register a new drug in just 60 days and had the largest resources for researching and developing new medicine among all Association of Southeast Asian Nations countries.

In Hong Kong, only around 20 to 50 new drugs are registered in the city every year, according to Health Department data, compared to around 100 in Singapore. The thesis said there was a need for Hong Kong to speed up the process and make the system more flexible while balancing it against the safety of the new treatment.

Professor Thach Thuan- Quoc, who supervised the study, said it should be sufficient for the local authorities to consider approving a new drug if it gains recognition from just one international authority, instead of the two now required.

William Chui Chun-ming, president of the Society of Hospital Pharmacists, while acknowledging it is taking too long before patients can access new drugs, suggested the delay might be due to the economics of the health care system.

It was understandable, he said, for the government to be cautious in approving potentially expensive new drugs for use in public hospitals, as the city relies heavily on the publicly funded health care sector.

"It is the government's responsibility to consider the cost and benefits of certain new drugs, especially if they are very expensive, as they are managing taxpayers' money," said Dr Stephen Chan.

"In Singapore, there is less concern for the government as patients are usually covered by medical insurance."

Hospital Authority director of cluster services Dr Cheung Wai-lun agreed, noting that some expensive drugs are not much better than cheaper ones that may cost around HK$10 a dose.

"From an ethical viewpoint, doctors have to protect the rights of patients. If two drugs are similar, why don't they choose a cheaper one?" Cheung asked.

Still, it is probably true that Hong Kong has yet to find the right formula in juggling the need to be cost-effective, ensuring patient safety and guaranteeing timely access to effective medication.

Decomposing 'whale shark' five metres long found off Cheung Chau in Hong Kong with nylon rope around its tail


PUBLISHED : Monday, 31 August, 2015, 7:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 31 August, 2015, 9:31am
Watch: Whale shark found in Cheung Chau with rope around its tail
The decomposing body of a suspected whale shark, a rare species in local waters, was found off the Cheung Chau coast.
The five-metre creature was spotted about 50 metres off the island by Cheung Chau resident Dan Carew. He reported the sighting to the police shortly before 7pm yesterday.
The marine police later located the decomposing body near a coastal area off Cheung Chau Peak Road West.
Carew told the media he saw the shark floating off the sea at sunset and immediately left his home to check it. It was later washed closer to the coast.
Carew said there was a nylon rope around its tail.
After studying the pictures and a video provided by Carew, the Ocean Park Conservation Foundation said it was a whale shark, characterised by its square head and pectoral fins.
Move the arrow to view the approximate location where the shark was found
A spokeswoman said the foundation could not tell how it died and would try to learn more from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department.
“It’s very likely a shark, and possibly a whale shark … but you have to take a look at it closely before you can confirm that,” said Dr Samuel Hung Ka-yiu, chairman of the Dolphin Conservation Society.
He said the largest known extant fish species was rare in local waters, although there had been occasional sightings.
On July 20, a five-metre whale shark was spotted in the sea off Tung Lung Chau in Sai Kung by a local fisherman. It later disappeared.
In July 2012, multiple sightings of a suspected whale shark were reported in Lamma, Stanley and Sai Kung. Hung said the local waters were not a good feeding ground for whale sharks, which were more common in nearby regions.
“They are not harmful at all. You can say they are one of the most docile sharks,” Hung said.

Hong Kong’s education minister shifts stance on lead-in-water tests at schools



PUBLISHED : Monday, 31 August, 2015, 7:00am

UPDATED : Monday, 31 August, 2015, 7:00am

Education minister Eddie Ng says schools can test water for lead content as long as they follow proper procedures. Photo: Dickson Lee

Hong Kong’s education authorities have in effect made a U-turn over whether schools should conduct tests on their own for lead levels in tap water amid the growing lead-in-water scare.

Secretary for Education Eddie Ng Hak-kim said yesterday that it did not object to schools conducting their own tests as long as they followed proper procedures.

His statement contrasted with that made by permanent secretary for education Marion Lai Chan Chi-kuen, who said in a radio interview on Friday that “we do not particularly encourage [schools to test water on their own] because the queue is very long [for testing of samples]”.

In a report on Saturday, the Chinese-language Ming Pao Daily News quoted the bureau as giving the same line in response to its inquiry.

The bureau’s stance drew fiecre public criticism, with the Professional Teachers’ Union calling the bureau irresponsible.

Ng said yesterday: “We have never opposed schools conducting water tests on their own … But we [reminded schools in a notice] that when they test water, they need to follow the proper procedures.

“Otherwise, the results will not be representative and all their efforts will be wasted.”

Otherwise, the results will not be representative and all their efforts will be wasted


Ng said the government believed the top priority was to arrange for the bulk purchase of water filters for schools and kindergartens.

The government earlier announced that public schools and those operating under direct subsidy schemes built in or after 2005 would have filters installed.

Meanwhile, the first batch of 50 residents on Lower Ngau Tau Kok Estate – one of the 10 public housing estates affected by the lead-in-water crisis – were scheduled for blood tests yesterday at Hong Kong Sanatorium and Hospital in Happy Valley.

The hospital is among six private hospitals joining the government’s blood-testing programme to help cut the long queue of people waiting for tests. The first private hospital to offer the service was Union Hospital in Tai Wai.

Four other private hospitals which will join later are Baptist Hospital in Kowloon Tong, St Teresa’s in Kowloon City, St Paul’s in Causeway Bay and Adventist Hospital.

Additional reporting by Elizabeth Cheung