Monday, 10 January 2011

Hong Kong's news 10 January

Monday's edition of Hong Kong's news is generally more entertaning than the other days because the whole weekend is packed into it. As mentioned before, there is not a MASSIVE amount that goes on in this city, purely due to the fact that it is small and has a population of only 7 million people - and has virtually no gory crime (which is 60% of news in South Africa). So here is today's edition. Enjoy:

Exchange rates:
R1=HK$1.13 (Hong Kong dollar)
R1=CNY0.97 (Chinese yuan)

On Friday Legco (HK's parliament) will vote on whether the city should bid to host the 2023 Asia Games which is expected to cost the city HK$6 billion. It is expected the bid will fail though as the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reckons that it contacted enough lawmakers (30 required in a sitting of 60 (the chairman, Mr Donald Tsang Yam-kuen does not vote) who will vote against the proposal. Tsang - who is pro Hong Kong hosting the event - has gone to great lengths to assure Legco and the public that no major budgets will be affected. He said to the SCMP: "The cost of hosting the Asia Games will have no impact on government spending in areas such as education, welfare and healthcare". Well, it seems as though Mr Tsang will have an extra HK$6 billion to throw in the direction of them budgets.

Hong Kong is the world's most expensive place to trade stocks because of added and hidden fees, says ITG, an independent global broker, and this adds up to costing about a third more than what it would cost you in London or New York. For uniformity, these numbers exclude fees levied by exchanges and any taxes which vary from country to country. Lawmakers are currently debating a bill to rein in price-fixing and market power abuse which, they expect, will make the market more competitive.

As with nanny-states and tax-grabbing where any opportunity is seen, Hong Kong is due to raise the tax on cigarettes again this year hiding behing the excuse of saving everyone's health. Since they do fuck all about the air quality here, that excuse is about as effective as a piece of dental floss is at holding up scaffolding. 47% of 382 Hong Kongers asked in a survey have said they will turn to illegal cigarettes. In 2009 the tax was raised 50%. What utter kak.

USA Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, is currently meeting with Chinese officials regarding the mass expansion of their army. This worries him because, from what I can see, he thinks that only the USA should be allowed to have craploads of guns and bombs and things. Last week it was reported that China's first stealth jet, the J-20, was being tested, something Gates had gone on record saying he didn't expect until 2020 (although this is when it is expected that China will be able to mass-produce the plane). The results of this chit-chat will make some very interesting reading, particularly regarding who (the USA) will do what (back off) to assuage who (China).

China's high speed rail growth is exceeding the supply of high-quality fly ash - a substance used to strengthen the tracks and give them life for up to 100 years. The suppply of this that China can create is around 100km of rail per year, and this year alone, it is expected to lay down 4500km of track. Unfortunately there are not many other substances that can take the place of high-quality fly ash, but low-quality fly ash is the next best, and it's shit... so safety concerns are springing up all over the place.

Of all items stolen on public transport in Paris, over half are iPhones.

Thailand's "red shirts", bedonnered by the army after massive and violent protests last year are back now that the protest ban in Bangkok has been lifted . The protestors have admitted that they have learnt their lessons and will protest more peacefully and effectively from now on. These are the chaps who support Thaksin Shinawatra, the bloke who owned Manchester City before these in-chargers who happen to think that Roberto Mancini is a good manager.

There is absolutely nothing of interest on the Hong Kong sports scene. Nothing at all.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Hong Kong's news - 6 January

In the second edition of Hong Kong's news this year I shall explain to you why I changed the name of this series of posts yet again. I am not reporting merely on news about Hong Kong, but news relevant to the city - which is why there is always a lot of news regarding China. As usual, I shall be looking at the South China Morning Post, Hong Kong's top-selling English newspaper, for important events which make the residents of this city happy, angsty or sad.

Bear in mind that there are only 7 million people who live here, a parliament of 60 people running the show and not a hell of a lot of space, so there aren't news events every day here like there are in SA, the UK, the USA or China.

So, here we go with today's relevant newses:

Big shit uncovered by the media: the South China Morning Post busted a construction company last month of dumping rubbish on farmland. Due to the lack of space in this city, dumping is a strictly controlled activity and comanies get in huge kak if they don't do it properly. Chinachem, the company responsible has fired the subcontractor which dealt with its waste and will now deposit all into government controlled disposal sites which are far more staunchly regulated.

The greenies will love it: the environment minister, Edward Yau Tang-wah has warned that there will soon be a charge implemented for waste disposal (as in rubbish, not toilet contents) to encourage Hongkongers to recycle. This city is so rich that I would imagine it will only be poor people who will have to begin doing it. The wealthy will just pay the fee.

Even though city coffers are full and surpluses are above all expectations, no tax breaks or freebies are expected to be handed out at the budget announcement next month. An expected deficit of HK$25 billion has become a surplus of around HK$17 billion and annual predictions are aiming at a HK$60 billion surplus. (Exchange rate today: R1=HK$1.15)

In the modern age, propagnda is slightly harder than it used to be as the Chinese government found out recently. President Hu Jintao went off to visit a single mother, Gua Chinping, in Beijing on 29 December to highlight the government caring for the poor and needy - you know, like Jacob Zuma walking through Sweetwaters. Well, the broadcast of this woman in her government-subsidised flat went out on 30 December and was immediately met with controversy and outrage. Gua informed the cameras that the flat only cost her 77 yuan a month (similar flats cost between 2000 yuan and 2500 yuan (similar value to rands) and online audiences claimed she worked in the Chaoyang District traffic police. As far as the population is concerned, the entire episode was staged.

A rumour is being thrown around Beijing that a law may come into effect granting neglected elderly folks the right to sue their children if they don't visit a minimum number of times. There are 167 million Chinese people over the age of 60, so the lawyers could be kept quite busy.

A clampdown on bigamy in China has begun. The paper doesn't say how widespread this issue is, but Shanghai, Beijing and Shaanxi provinces are going to pool their records this year with the intention of having a national database by 2015. According to the ever-reliable Durex Sex Survey, only 15% of Chinese folks have extra-marital affairs which is 7 percentage points lower than the international average of 22%.

North Korea has told anyone who will isten that it is ready to talk and mend ties with the people it shot rockets at a month ago.

China's top female tennis player, Li Na, lost in straight sets to World Number 1 Caroline Wozniacki at the Hong Kong Classic last night after stuffing a 3-0 second set advantage. She lost the second set 6-3 so she duffed six consecutive games.

Ian Botham has accused Phillip Hughes of being a cheat after he appealed for a catch off Alastair Cook yesterday which the third umpire ruled not out - which has happened about 300 times in cricket in the past few years and is really a storm in a teacup (or wineglass for Beefy).

Far East fakery - that can kill.

Outside property prices (also known as the inability for poor Hongkongers to live anywhere) a major social problem in this city is the prevalence of fake medicines. While the Far East may be better known for its region-wide plethora of counterfeit DVDs and handbags, dodgy pharmaceuticals are a far more lucrative industry with up to 100 times the profit to solve erection and obesity issues than films and fashion accessories – so says the South China Morning Post (SCMP) with some facts backed up by (South Africa's) The Daily Maverick.

Unfortunately, counterfeit pharmaceuticals carry a higher risk than other fake products as they can directly or indirectly kill people, yet the sentences for the trade of both sets of goods are pretty similar. Hong Kong, usually, does not screw around when it comes to prosecution sentencing: for example, shop lifting will earn you a ten-year trip to Lantau Island, which is lovely, but not from the inside of a cell housed in one of the three city jails there.

According to the SCMP, neighbour China is a proven producer of such fakery and unfortunately, Hong Kong is a transit point (it is the third largest shipping port in the world) and destination for these. Between January and the end of November 2010 Hong Kong customs confiscated over 55 000 pieces of merchandise valued at over HK$5 million and dished out fines and sentences to 24 companies (fines ranging from HK$1000 to HK$200 000 and sentences from 30 days to 2 years). Public opinion decrees this less of a deterrent than required, as the money to be made often exceeds that of drug shipments, with less risk.

The article from which I gleaned this info also says that people affected by fake drugs will struggle to sue as the law has set up a legal minefield with everyone able to blame someone else. It’s going to be like trying to get money back from an airline who cancelled your flight who blames the airport which blames the weather who blames the CAA for deciding when planes can and can’t take off. So legal recourse to nail the people who swing you fake drugs is virtually impossible.

(This is where I get to smile and brag now.) On 30 July last year, Mandy de Waal, writing for The Daily Maverick put together a piece about a Nigerian innovation through a company called mPedigree which helped patients to differentiate between fake medicines and real ones using an SMS-based system. While this may not nail perpetrators, forcibly stop the influx of fake medicines or offer compensation to victims, it does offer means to prevent false drugs from being ingested – thereby removing the problem entirely, should the solution be spread far enough and wide enough. If this SMS system is spreads successfully, everyone should be able to check their medicines against it and the market should therefore disrupt the success and profitability of illegitimate medication. The success of this system in Nigeria got to the point where now all medicine sold in the country must comply with this system. de Waal’s article says that it is now spreading into neighbouring countries with Ghana looking like the next to adopt it.

Goodbye fake medicine.

It’s nice to see Africa a step ahead, eh?

South China Morning Post: Action on fake medicine does not go far enough (paywall)

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Hong Kong's news 5 January

After a disruptive month where I have been flitting around the world at my own bankrupting expense, it's about time I get stuck back into good old Hong Kong affairs, so here is your first edition of Hong Kong news in 2011, courtesy of the South China Morning Post (paywall).

This is the lead picture on the front page. Hurlworthy.

It is indeed what you think. This pic was taken of a beach in New Zealand. Those shadows are sharks. Between the bathers and the shore. Vom.

Onto news:

Hong Kong officials are struggling to stave off an imminent waste disposal crisis. Basically, there is no space in this city to throw away the rubbish. A few months ago Legco (HK's parliament) decided to reduce the size of one of the parks to develop a waste disposal site, but this was overturned without a new solution being mooted (well done, greenies). So more stuff is being thrown away by Hongkongers with nowhere for it to go. In a city with no space, that's problematic.

Hong Kong has a new police chief called Andy Tsang Wai-hung. This appointment is notable because he actually has a long and respected career as an investigative officer. Weird how sometimes is it experts in the field, rather than politicians, who are elected to top jobs. The appointment needs to be ratified by Beijing but this is expected to be a formality.

China's new stealth fighter jet, the J-20 will undergo test flights within the next few days in Chengdu, if weather permits. This is earlier than the Western World expected (much like the conquering of the economic world by China - do no politicians read the newspaper?), with US Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, going on record previously saying that China would have "no fifth-generation [military] aircraft by 2020". Although it is expected to take at least ten years until China can mass-produce the plane.

2000 university students were asked to select China's top cultural symbol. The top five picked were Chinese characters (as in writing) which was voted number one, followed by (in random order) Confucius, calligraphy, the national flag and the Great Wall.

The Chinese economic planning agency has outlawed "price-fixing by monopolies" - so now we have yet another country in which these laws will be ignored. The words used in the SCMP seem to indicate a distaste for big business. Saying "monopolies" in that glib quote I used above seems to be incorrect - they should have said "businesses" or "industry-leading companies" methinks. The language indicates bias.

If you wonder whether the shitfest over the Victory Mosque built at Ground Zero was the type of ridiculous incident that only went on in the West, think again. Confucianists who live in the former philosopher's home town of Qufu are up in arms because a Christian church is being built there, allegedly disrespecting/insulting Mr Confucius. Confusianists insist that if a temple of their own was built in Jerusalem, Mecca or the Vatican the local governments and people would not allow it. Truly conservative religious people... well there's not much to pick between them, is there?

Iran has invited a whole lot of countries around the world - including China - to come and inspect its nuclear sites (which it insists are for energy and not weaponry) before a meeting with the UN Security Council next month. From what this article says, it looks as if the USA, Britain, France and Germany have not received invitations. (Probable reasons include the fact that the USA and Iran don't smaak each other for shit, Britain agrees with everything the USA does, France hates burkhas and Angela Merkel refuses to wear one.)

Australians affected by the flooding in Queensland are being warned to stay out of the ubiquitous water for reasons other than being swept away: snakes and crocodiles which usually inhabit the river outside the city have been swept into it. As if normal flooding doesn't cause enough problems. More rain is expected tonight.

A swimming pool and sports track (which I take to mean athletics) in Wan Chai will be moved for the new high-speed rail between Hong Kong and the closest Chinese city of note: Shenzhen. The government says that these will be rebuilt but I would like to see where in Hong Kong the leftover space for these two facilities is.

Mitchell Johnson, the Australian cricketer, is pissed at the UDRS (Umpire Decision Referral System) because Alistair Cook, caught at mid-on after skying a shot off Michael Beer was given not out after the TV umpire reversed the decision because Beer had bowled a no-ball. Yes, Johnson hates the system because a player was correctly given not out. Huge failing of the system, isn't it? Idiot.