Tuesday, May 31, 2011

scmp.com: Learning curve


Learning curve

Aung San Suu Kyi believes Burma's universities will one day rejoin the ranks of establishments like HKU that encourage students to think independently and use their knowledge in the service of humanity


One of my favourite dicta is that people should not be categorised as good or evil, wise or stupid. It would be much more sensible to divide them simply into learners and non-learners. In between the two extremes would be a broad spectrum graded on the degree to which individuals are capable of correct assessment and understanding of the learning material at their disposal.

Here, of course, I'm giving a very broad definition to learning. It would involve much more than what could be acquired from any one institution or from any one formal teacher. It would mean a process of gaining such knowledge and experience as would help us to cope with the challenges that life throws at us and to find ways of enhancing our own existence, as well as that of as great a portion as possible of all the other occupants of our planet.

To put it in another way, the highest form of learning would be that which makes us caring and responsible citizens of this world, and equips us with the intellectual means necessary to translate our concerns into specific deeds.

Surely such a view of learning is in harmony with the idea of education as conceived in the motto of Hong Kong University - Wisdom and Virtue. One hundred years of furnishing the world with young people who have been provided with the capacity to think independently, to express those thoughts cogently, and to use them for the betterment of our world is an achievement of which this university can be justly proud. The hopes of its founding fathers have been more than realised.

At the foundation-laying ceremony, Sir Frederick Lugard hoped that the graduates of the University of Hong Kong would exert an influence which will be immeasurable in the future among the 400 million of China's population. Little could he have envisaged such an institution as this one of today, internationally renowned and one that attracts students from all over the world, who will one day exert an ever-widening influence on the future of more than just one country.

As I contemplate the achievements of Hong Kong University, I am filled with deep admiration and also, it has to be admitted, with wistfulness. Whenever I consider the educational progress that has been made in other countries, I think with sadness of the deplorable state of education in my own.

There was a time when educational standards and institutions in Burma were viewed with respect and envy by many countries in Asia and elsewhere. Rangoon University, 10 years younger than Hong Kong University, is the outcome of the amalgam of Rangoon College and Judson College, the Baptist college. The university rapidly became the breeding ground not only of bright young intellectuals, but also of dedicated nationalists determined to free their country from colonial rule. As academic standards grew robustly and gained the recognition of long-established institutions in the Western world, so the patriotic fervour of the students gained new momentum.

Rangoon University became the vanguard of movements demanding equality and justice and, eventually, these movements were supported and joined by students from Mandalay University, and from schools all over the country.

The close link between political movements and universities became an established tradition in Burma. When the country fell under military rule, students were among the first protesters calling for the restoration of democratic rights. As authoritarian rule tightened its grip on the country, the position of universities as institutions aimed at fostering freedom of thought, expression and association was steadily eroded.

Yet, after more than two decades of totalitarian governance, it was again the students of Rangoon University who led the movement to free the country from military administration. This was the famous public uprising of 1988.

Now, more than 20 years on, the aims of democracy and human rights, for which many students sacrificed liberty and life, have not yet been realised. In the meantime, the standard of education at all levels has fallen and Burma is a country crying out for the potential of its people, especially its young people, to be realised.

I might mention here that many leaders of the 1988 student movement still remain in prison today, serving unbelievably long sentences.

Education should be available to all, not just to a privileged few. Education should foster values that will promote human dignity and guide human progress in a positive direction. Education should be a true learning process, not a machine for churning out meek, obedient people incapable of reasoning why justice and liberty should not be the birthright of all human beings.

I congratulate the University of Hong Kong on its achievements on the human front as well as its solid academic credentials, which have made it one of the most respected institutions in Asia. I look forward to a closer co-operation with both the faculty of the university, as well as with the student body.

I am confident that the day will come when we in Burma will be able to enjoy the fruits of real education and to share them with the rest of the world. This will be the day when wisdom and virtue will triumph.

Aung San Suu Kyi is a Burmese opposition politician and a Nobel Peace Prize winner. This is an edited version of a transcript of her speech yesterday to the University of Hong Kong

Monday, May 30, 2011

scmp.com: Germany to end nuclear power


Wow~~ 哩行玩完啦!日本真係勁,唔係日本人運用刻能有問題,而係刻能技術本身有問題!

Germany to end nuclear power

Decision to phase out atomic energy by 2022 marks the start of fundamental rethink, Merkel says


Germany yesterday became the first big industrialised power to agree an end to nuclear power in the wake of the disaster in Japan, with a phasing out to be completed by 2022.

Chancellor Dr Angela Merkel said the decision, hammered out by her centre-right coalition overnight, marked the start of a fundamental rethink of energy policy in the world's number four economy. "We want the electricity of the future to be safer and at the same time reliable and affordable," Merkel said. "That means we must have a new approach to the supply network, energy efficiency, renewable energy and also long-term monitoring of the process."

The decision came as the International Energy Agency (IEA) announced that global carbon-dioxide emissions hit a record high last year, dimming the prospects of limiting the global temperature increase to an internationally agreed target of 2 degrees Celsius.

German Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen said the decision to shut down all 17 of its nuclear reactors - eight of which are currently off the electricity grid - was irreversible.

Yesterday's decision means Germany will have to find the 22 per cent of its electricity needs that were covered by nuclear power from other sources such as renewable energy, natural gas and coal-fired plants.

Nuclear opponents criticised the deal yesterday and said they would stage fresh protests next month calling for a faster phasing out.

The crisis at Japan's Fukushima facility after it was damaged by the earthquake and tsunami in March has sparked a renewed global debate about the safety of nuclear power, with opinions differing widely.

Switzerland recently announced it would not build any new nuclear stations - three were in the pipeline - and there have been similar announcements in Italy, Thailand and Malaysia.

Sweden's environment minister criticised Germany's decision, saying it failed to adequately address climate change.

The shock rise in greenhouse gas emissions represented a serious setback to the goal of preventing a temperature rise of more than 2 degrees Celsius - which scientists say is the threshold for potentially "dangerous climate change".

After a dip in 2009 caused by the global financial crisis, emissions are estimated to have climbed to a record 30.6 giga-tonnes, a 5 per cent jump from the previous record year in 2008, when levels reached 29.3Gt, the IEA said. New power plants are set to increase emissions.

Global leaders agreed a target of limiting temperature increase to 2 degrees at UN climate change talks in Cancun, Mexico last year.

"Our latest estimates are another wake-up call," Dr Fatih Birol, chief economist of the IEA, said.

"The world has edged incredibly close to the level of emissions that should not be reached until 2020 if the 2 degrees target is to be attained."

Agence France-Presse, The Guardian

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Google takes wraps off pay-by-phone system




Google takes wraps off pay-by-phone system

scmp: Surgeon let girlfriend in to watch him operate




Surgeon let girlfriend in to watch him operate


A doctor who took his girlfriend into an operating theatre to watch him perform surgery may be disciplined by Chinese University of Hong Kong and Prince of Wales Hospital.

The hospital said yesterday that Professor Alex Fan Hoi, an assistant professor in the university's department of opthalmology and visual sciences, broke the rules when he took the woman into the theatre without permission to watch him conduct an emergency corneal transplant on April 24. His girlfriend is a postgraduate student at CUHK.

There were three other medical staff members in the room.

A hospital spokeswoman said visitors were allowed into operating theatres "but only for teaching or research purposes, and after obtaining permission from both the hospital and the university".

She said the hospital was considering whether any disciplinary action should be taken and contacted Chinese University for follow-up action.

The girlfriend neither touched the patient, nor was she involved in the operation, she said.

"Medical records show that the patient was not affected in any way by her presence," she said. The patient had been discharged and was recovering well, she said.

CUHK's medical faculty said last night that it would not comment on this case or person as an investigation was continuing. "Our faculty will prudently assess and take any disciplinary action under the principle of fairness and justice," it said.

A letter had been sent to opthalmology department staff reminding them to strictly comply with the hospital and mecial faculty's protocols related to visitors in operating theatres.

The rules state that non-medical staff visiting an operating theatre shall not affect the operation procedures or patients and prior approval from the hospital or university departments concerned must be given.


Friday, May 20, 2011

scmp.com: Dood, that's one catchy iPhone app

哈哈! 搞笑八達窿doo doo apps見報!你download左未?http://itunes.apple.com/hk/app/id436310129?mt=8

Dood, that's one catchy iPhone app

Software mimics the beep of an Octopus card but developer insists it is not designed to cheat traders


The hottest iPhone app in town isn't a game or a fancy new way to play music. It's a program that produces just a single beep.

The reason for its popularity is that the noise is identical to the one made when an Octopus card is tapped on a reader.

The "dood" sound is generated when the user opens the app and presses the screen or when the phone's front camera lens is covered.

Dubbed the baat dat loong simulator from the card's Cantonese nickname, it has become one of Hong Kong's most downloaded apps since it was introduced last week.

Software company Play More, which developed the app, insists it is not designed to cheat traders.

"It's not a billing system but just a piece of software offering people a good laugh," it says, adding in a legal disclaimer that it will not bear responsibility for any loss caused.

Some users see it differently. "It can help to cheat the bus fare," one wrote in a review.

Octopus Cards said yesterday it had not received any complaints.

"If customers use Octopus for payment, the shopkeepers or bus drivers can confirm whether the payment is completed not only by the `dood' sound," a spokesman said. "They can also verify via the light signal on the Octopus readers or display at the cashier terminal or the bus driver's control panel."

Taxi and Public Light Bus Concern Group chairman Lai Ming-hung said drivers had been warned.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

scmp.com: Police give extra points for foreign languages


Police give extra points for foreign languages

Applicants for jobs as constables to get higher marks if they can speak and write in various tongues, in a push by the force to reach out to ethnic communities


New applicants for jobs as police constables will get extra marks for using foreign languages other than English in a move seen as part of efforts by the force to engage ethnic minorities after the fatal shooting of a Nepali street sleeper two years ago.

Points will be given to candidates who demonstrate speaking and writing skills in Hindi, Urdu, Nepali, Tagalog, French, German, Japanese or Korean in tests. Other languages may be added if resources allow.

"Our target is to enhance our service by finding more suitable talent through this review," chief inspector Francis Cheung Kwok-wai, of the police's recruitment division, said.

"From previous large-scale activities, like the Olympic equestrian events and World Trade Organisation meeting, we can see that the ability to use foreign languages will help the force greatly."

A support group fighting for minorities to be allowed to join the force welcomed the move, but said it had not heard of any South Asians being hired since the handover in 1997.

"It is a symbolic step that the police have finally agreed that they need ethnic minorities," Fermi Wong Wai-fun, director of Hong Kong Unison, said.

"I am very happy that they now appreciate the language talent of these people."

Wong said the force had shown a growing awareness of the need to engage minorities, noting that it had recently hired five South Asian community liaison officers.

But even with the revised recruitment procedure very few were likely to be able to join the police because they could not pass the Chinese language requirement, Wong said.

In a further change, candidates who fail the HKCEE Chinese examination are allowed to take a more practical government standard examination in the language.

Candidates will also be asked to write reports after watching English and Chinese video clips showing the public asking police for help.

Cheung rejected suggestions that the review, effective this month, had anything to do with an increasing number of crimes involving South Asians. The police also refused to say how many applicants were from minorities or how many were working in the force now.

Nepali Dil Bahadur Limbu was shot dead by police constable Hui Ka-ki on a Ho Man Tin hillside in March 2009. A 76-day inquest found that Limbu was lawfully killed and it did not make any recommendations to prevent similar fatalities.

Wong said the case was pivotal because police had taken many initiatives to engage minorities groups since then, including holding meetings with ethnic community leaders and engaging minority youths.

A recruitment talk and preliminary selection will be held at the police cadet school in Wong Chuk Hang next Saturday.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

scmp.com: Early forced births 'child abuse', says top specialist




Early forced births 'child abuse', says top specialist

Caesarean sections before 38 weeks for non-medical reasons leave newborns requiring intensive care


Parents choosing an early Caesarean section before 38 weeks for non-medical reasons - such as to give the newborn an auspicious birthday or to set a convenient booking date for agents and doctors - are creating what one neonatal specialist calls "man-made" premature babies requiring intensive care.

Dr Chan Hin-biu, head of the neonatal intensive care unit at United Christian Hospital, said it was a kind of child abuse.

Some babies born this way suffered "wet lungs" syndrome, referring to fluid retained in their lungs. They needed at least a week of intensive care, including artificial ventilation and antibiotics treatment.

Baptist Hospital stopped early non-medical Caesarean sections in November and Union Hospital will do so from tomorrow.

The Hong Kong College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists - the specialists' training body for upholding standards - will soon require all obstetric units to spell out rules for elective Caesarean sections.

Dr Vincent Leung Tze-ching, an honorary consultant at Baptist Hospital's neonatal intensive care unit, said that since 2008, many agents bringing mainland women to the city had booked Caesarean sections for clients at 37 weeks, or even 36 weeks, for the sake of convenience.

"Those agents are trying to avoid natural births so they can better control the time the mainland mothers need to stay in Hong Kong, which means extra cost," Leung said.

Leung investigated more than 3,000 newborns at Baptist Hospital from March to June in 2009 and found babies born by Caesarean sections had four to seven times the risk of respiratory problems as natural deliveries. In the United States, the difference was only 2.2 times.

"At that time, most of the Caesarean sections at the hospital were done at 37 weeks, while most were conducted at 39 weeks in the US," he said. "Mothers should think twice before having a Caesarean section. Many parents are not aware of the risks to their babies."


Monday, May 16, 2011

scmp: China closes stem-cell gap with the West

This is a good example of how we, Chinese, do a thing.

For whatever there exists a measure or a scale, we can always strive to the top. We can win gold medals in Olympic, we can publish tons of papers on good journals, etc

But, for whatever there does NOT exist a measure or a scale, we are handicap. We can't build a good image of "made in China", we don't know how to interpret public opinion on Facebook and YouTube in our motherland, we can't handle the moral issues in stem-cell research, we have infamous history on science paper fabrication, etc.

China closes stem-cell gap with the West

Beijing's aggressive investment in a controversial branch of science pays dividends after just five years, but research fever also raises ethical concerns


China's aggressive drive to close the gap with the West in stem-cell research is paying off after five years of heavy investment in a branch of science free of the tight regulatory constraints and intense debate over moral issues that hamper experimental work elsewhere.

A decade ago, China had 37 stem-cell research papers published by reputable journals. By 2008, it was 1,116, the China Medical Tribune said. It now ranks fifth in the world in both the number of stem-cell patents filed and research papers published. And its numbers are growing faster than in any other nation.

While research into embryonic and fetal stem cells sparked public controversy in the West, Beijing is charging ahead at a full speed. The government has poured billions of yuan into the research hoping to find innovative cures to chronic and deadly illnesses such as heart disease, liver failure and Parkinson's disease. "China is aggressively investing in biomedical sciences in general, and particularly stem-cell research. Not only will it serve as a way to flex its muscle as a technological powerhouse but also a means to ultimately bring forth a knowledge-based economy," said Professor Ronald Li, director of the Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Consortium at the University of Hong Kong.

"As in other scientific disciplines, the quality of stem-cell research in China varies quite significantly. However, there are high-quality works being done and some have been published in high-profile international peer-reviewed journals. Overall, the trend is clearly on an upward trajectory."

Although the trend is encouraging, the fever for stem-cell research and treatment also has problems.

Many mainland hospitals are not waiting for clinical approval. They are offering stem-cell injections for diseases such as cerebral palsy and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, sometimes called Lou Gehrig's disease. The ballyhoo is attracting thousands of desperate foreigners ready to pay for treatments that are untested and successes are sketchy at best.

And then there is the moral issue. Unlike in the West, few people ask where those stem cells are from. Many mainland researchers and doctors profess not to know the source. But a reading of articles in mainland journals leaves little doubt that many cells are from induced abortions, harvested from fetuses aged from five weeks to six months.


scmp: HK$16,000 phone roaming bill


HK$16,000 phone roaming bill

Consumer Council calls on service providers to clarify overseas fees for smartphone users after a holidaymaker is hit with a hefty bill for a day's use and a survey shows a wide range in charges


Imagine being billed HK$16,000 for just a day of overseas data roaming.

The Hong Kong Consumer Council says that is what happened to one woman recently - and that is why you should be sure to read the fine print in your data-roaming agreement if you are planning to use your smartphone overseas.

The council unveiled a survey yesterday that showed a wide variance in data-roaming prices, depending on a service provider.

In the eight-country survey, the cost of sending a 1MB photo ranged from HK$51 to HK$307.

The council said it had seen a 60 per cent increase in complaints regarding data-roaming fees in the first three months of the year: 56 cases compared with 35 a year ago.

It demanded that Hong Kong's phone service providers clarify their conditions of service, which it said often contained incomplete or misleading explanations.

The council noted that many service providers teamed up with more than one network in an overseas area - a complication that could add unexpected charges to a phone bill. The difference could be up to HK$0.16 per KB used.

The unidentified woman who was charged HK$16,000 for just a day of data-roaming while on holiday overseas received a message confirming her data-roaming activation. She found out later that the HK$120 data roaming day-plan she thought she activated did not work in Israel and Switzerland - the two countries she visited - so her service-provider charged her the normal per 1KB rate.

"Confirmation of overseas data-roaming activation [that providers] send to users should state clearly what plan and rates are activated, to avoid misunderstanding," Consumer Council chief executive Connie Lau Yin-hing said.

"Users often didn't know they are on a certain charging rate because they are not given complete information by service providers."

The Consumer Council said some so-called "unlimited" data-roaming day passes were misleading, because restrictions on the amount and types of data use were still imposed, in line with the industry's Fair Use Policy which applies to these day passes.

The council asked service providers to amend their claims of "unlimited" usage, because usage was not  limitless.

"By saying it is `unlimited', while still having restrictions and regulations attached to the usage amount, [service providers] can be accused of misleading users," Lau said.

To address the possibility of such runaway phone bills, the Office of the Telecommunications Authority of Hong Kong (Ofta) said it urged service providers last year to set a usage cap for all data services and allow users to opt out of individual services, such as data roaming.

Ofta said users should also remember to read service contracts in detail to avoid signing up and paying for unwanted services.


  • Check charges, terms and conditions with your service provider regarding overseas data-roaming before leaving for your destination.
  • When overseas, turn off automatic data-checking to stop your phone from automatically downloading new data.
  • Go to mobile phone settings and switch network to "manual" to avoid automatic switching between providers and the extra costs that comes with it.

  • If you are using free Wi-fi at an overseas location, ensure GPRS or 3G services are switched off.
  • To avoid all possible data-roaming extra charges, buy a prepaid SIM card for the country you are going to and just use that on the trip.


scmp: City warned to act now on superbugs

City warned to act now on superbugs

A leading university researcher tells the city that it must take steps to reduce the 'alarming' number of deadly blood infections reported in hospitals


Hong Kong must act now to contain an alarming number of blood infections from deadly superbugs that are resistant to antibiotics, a leading researcher warns.

Professor Ho Pak-leung, who heads the University of Hong Kong's Centre of Infection, says a determined campaign to reduce these infections can save lives. New figures obtained by the South China Morning Post show the city's public hospitals saw 651 cases of bloodstream infections of the most well-known superbug, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in 2010.

"These figures are alarming," said Professor Ho.

"Assuming a third of the 651  died, then we have more than 200 patients that died last year, and  that's a lot. These deaths were potentially preventable," said Ho. The Hospital Authority plans to formally release the numbers this week.

Antibiotics have been the first line of defence against infection for more than 60 years but the spread of superbugs is threatening the effectiveness of these life saving drugs.

The authority refused to provide the number of deaths of MRSA blood-infection patients, but a document found on the authority's website shows that in 2008, nearly 39 per cent of Hospital Authority patients with MRSA blood infections died within 30 days. The number of infections has steadily declined since 2007, but hospitals have fallen short of the authority's stated reduction goals and remain far behind countries such as Britain.

The Hospital Authority wants to reduce infection rates to 0.1258 cases per 1,000 acute patient days - a 34 per cent reduction from 2007 levels. But according to the data, the infection rate has dropped only 12 per cent since 2007.

In the first year, the 15 hospitals that handle acute cases saw a 10 per cent decline in the rate of infection, which is calculated on the number of patient days per year, and the number of blood infections dropped from 813 to 778.

But in the three years since, improvements have been much slower.

"From 2007 to 2008, you can say the baseline is higher. That's why improvement is easier and the efforts are more obviously shown when you first implement. To sustain these efforts is harder," said Dr Dominic Tsang, the Hospital Authority's chief infection control officer.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

scmp: Banned mainland books on shortlist for HK prize

Banned mainland books on shortlist for HK prize

Inclusion of dissident writer's critique of Premier Wen Jiabao fascinates net users across the border

Tanna Chong 
May 16, 2011
A Hong Kong book prize organised by government departments has triggered debate among mainland web users over its eyebrow-raising shortlist.

Publications the mainland banned, including China's Best Actor: Wen Jiabao and a memoir of veteran mainland Aids activist Dr Gao Yaojie , are among 22 shortlisted for the fourth annual Hong Kong Book Prize, organised by RTHK and the Leisure and Cultural Services Department.

While it is not the first time books restricted on the mainland have been included, adjudicators who compiled the shortlist see an increasing social and political awareness among Hong Kong readers.

Members of the panel, comprising 17 academics, cultural critics and social-policy workers, said they were happy to have the event turned into a platform for what one called the "export and reimport" to the mainland of prohibited information.

"I picked the critique of Wen for the list and I think it reflects the freedom of publication in Hong Kong," said Dr Hung Ching-tin, a member of the panel and a research fellow with the Hong Kong Institute of Education. "Hong Kong has preserved its unique value in transferring knowledge, which could be politically sensitive, to mainland citizens. It is sort of a knowledge export and re-import process."

In the book on Wen - widely available in Hong Kong - dissident writer Yu Jie lambasts the premier for hypocrisy over democratic values.

Mainland users of social networking site Twitter were fascinated that the book was included in an event organised by government bodies.

Hung said there were more political publications in this year's list, which helped maintain an information flow to the mainland.

"This chimes with an increasingly popular activity among mainland tourists: buying books banned by Beijing in Hong Kong as souvenirs," he said.

Another adjudicator, Dr Wong Chi-ching, said the list "reflected the intellectual development of society".

Friday, May 13, 2011

scmp.com: Anger at PCCW's HK$100-a-year recreation club


Anger at PCCW's HK$100-a-year recreation club


A row has broken out over why mega-rich telecoms giant PCCW has been allowed to pay just HK$100-a-year in rent for a recreation club - for the exclusive use of its staff - on prime real estate in Causeway Bay for three decades.

Lawmakers are angry over why a private firm can be granted such favourable terms on a prime site.

The PCCW Recreation Club in Caroline Hill Road, boasts a mini-soccer pitch and a two-storey concrete structure containing a gym, restaurant, lounge and a barbecue site.

PCCW said the special leasing arrangement can be traced back to the British colonial era when the city's biggest telecoms company was known as Cable and Wireless.

Land Registry documents dated from 1981 show that the club, opposite the Po Leung Kuk on Caroline Hill Road, has been occupied by PCCW for at least 30 years.

The government had a plan to reclaim the site for redevelopment, but it has not been implemented.

Yesterday afternoon, a banner hoisted next to the outdoor soccer pitch declares that the staff organisation is celebrating its 60th anniversary. If one is closely associated with a PCCW employee, it costs HK$80 a year to book the club's facilities, which include a mahjong room, and table tennis and snooker facilities.

At a Legislative Council home affairs panel meeting yesterday, lawmaker Wong Kwok-hing said the lease was unacceptable. "How can a private company enjoy such a privilege? It is not a [social] group. Nor is it a sports association or a religious association."

The Home Affairs Bureau said yesterday that the site had been leased out under the private recreational leases arrangement, which have been criticised as favouring private clubs and certain elite groups.

A government spokeswoman said the club had a temporary lease that was renewed every three months. Officials said 73 premises were operating under this mechanism, including the Hong Kong Golf Club and Hong Kong Country Club.

As first reported by the South China Morning Post almost a year ago, many of these leases require operators to allow outside groups to use their amenities for recreational activities for a certain number of hours a week.

A staff member at PCCW said renting out facilities to outside groups had been rare, if not non-existent. He said only PCCW employees can join the club.

Legislator Lee Wing-tat said officials should consider an overhaul of private recreational leases as "land should be used by the masses".

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

scmp.com: HSBC unveils plan to cut annual costs by US$3.5b


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HSBC unveils plan to cut annual costs by US$3.5b

Bank cutbacks won't hit HK, mainland

Enoch Yiu in London and Lulu Chen
Updated on May 12, 2011

HSBC has embarked on a multibillion-dollar cost-cutting plan as part
of a strategy to jettison loss- making businesses and lift its
beleaguered share price.

Chief executive Stuart Gulliver, who took office in January, unveiled
plans yesterday to reduce costs by US$3.5 billion a year by 2013. They
include leaving non-profitable markets such as Russia's retail banking
business, disposing of the non-core US credit card business and
reducing a global workforce of 296,000.

Gulliver said the bank's operations in Hong Kong, the mainland and
other emerging markets would continue to expand and would not be
affected by the cost-cutting.

HSBC chiefs hope the measures will be welcomed by investors who
believe its share price will be boosted by making the bank leaner.
"HSBC's share price has been sidelined by peers for the past 11 years
despite the bank having a lot of growth potential and coping with the
global financial crisis well," Gulliver said.

Its shares closed at HK$82.85 yesterday. They fell to HK$33 in 2009,
when HSBC announced a big rights issue. Before the global financial
crisis, the share price was HK$140.

"HSBC has good profitability but we are struggling to tell our story
to investors due to our complex structure," Gulliver said after
presenting the new plan in London.

He and chairman Douglas Flint invited more than 100 people, including
representatives of the top 20 HSBC shareholders, analysts and credit
rating agencies, to the bank's London office to attend a marathon
"strategy day". The bank hosted a similar strategy day in 2007.

Gulliver said he wanted the day to become an annual event to give key
investors and analysts direct contact with management. "We have set
these cost-cutting targets as well as the business development targets
so the investors can assess our performance every year."

Gulliver repeated several times that the cost-cutting was not a
criticism of former management. "[Former chief executive Michael]
Geoghegan and other former managers have had to cope with the
financial crisis during the past few years," he said.

The market was not initially impressed by the new strategy. The bank's
share price dropped 0.7 per cent to 651.6 pence in London, its lowest
point since Friday.

"Everyone has been waiting for the strategy day for so long, but there
were no pleasant surprises," said Phillip Capital Management director
Louis Wong Wai-kit, who described the presentation as an anti-climax.

Several analysts asked whether HSBC was focusing too much on
cost-cutting and not enough on boosting revenue. But Gulliver said the
bank would boost revenue by developing its Hong Kong, mainland and
emerging-markets operations.

"We are not going to become an emerging-market bank but we will
develop in these markets," he said. "We believe 19 of the top 30
economies in 2050 will be from those currently deemed emerging
markets, such as China, India, Brazil, Mexico and Turkey."

The bank will exit or sell unprofitable businesses and focus its
retail banking business on Britain and Hong Kong, where Gulliver said
operations were very profitable and had growth potential. "The
internationalisation of the yuan is going to bring substantial growth
for Hong Kong and the global trade finance business," he said. "We
will defend our leadership position in Hong Kong at all costs. You
have to accept that this is our heartland."

Flint said the bank would not need to raise capital, although its plan
to list on the Shanghai exchange would allow it to raise funds for its
mainland and overseas expansion.

Gulliver said the US credit card business might be sold. While
profitable, it "has just been completely non-strategic to the group",
he said.

Still, HSBC would not withdraw from the market in the US because it
was the world's largest economy, he said. It would adjust its branch
network there to concentrate on trade finance.

scmp.com: Growing wealth gap shows how HK is a city divided



Growing wealth gap shows how HK is a city divided

Richest district is three times better off than the poorest


The wealth gap divides not only individuals and families but also parts of the city, with a family in the richest district earning three times as much as one in the poorest.

Wong Tai Sin was the poorest area last year, with average family income of HK$19,300 a month, up HK$500 from a year earlier. Central and Western, meanwhile, overtook Wan Chai to become the richest with HK$60,800 a month, up HK$11,600.

Professor Paul Yip Siu-fai, of the University of Hong Kong's department of social work and social administration, was not surprised.

"It is normal that low-income families aggregate in several districts. That is Hong Kong. There is also a large variation in income even within the same district," he said.

Property agents said the surge in household income for residents in Central and Western was due to construction of the MTR West Island Line, expected by 2014.

Anthony Wong Ka-lam, a senior sales manager with Hong Kong Property Services, said there were 40 per cent fewer housing vacancies in Central and Western last year than in 2009 as better-off people moved in to take advantage of the new line.

"Those who move into the Western district are usually middle-class families with children. The transport will be more convenient and it is known as a district with elite schools," he said.

Patrick Fung Kim-chiu, a sales director at Midland Realty, said the new MTR line had also sped up urban renewal in the district, with more housing available in the past few years.

Sze Lai-shan, of the Society for Community Organisation, said the disparity was due to poor job hunting assistance and vocational training at district level. "Last year's economy was good, but the basic level residents could benefit from was very little. Even if they had a small pay rise, it could not compensate for the inflation rate," she said.

Cheung Kwok-wai, 56, who earns HK$11,000 a month as a security officer, is not eligible for most social welfare. He had a rise of HK$100 last year. He lives alone in a 150 sq ft flat in Sham Shui Po, the city's second poorest district.

"We sandwich-class workers have always been the most pathetic sector in Hong Kong. Earning HK$10,000 a month is not bad in Hong Kong, but everything has become expensive," he said.

Cheung pays rent of HK$2,500 a month, a quarter of his salary, and also pays several hundred dollars for water and electricity bills. He spends more than HK$3,000 on food and another HK$2,000 on other shopping. His employer provides him with transport.

"Everyone in the sandwich class wants to own his property. But I only have HK$2,000 to HK$3,000 left a month, how can I buy a flat?" he asked.

He wants to apply for public housing but single people must earn less than HK$9,200 a month to be eligible. "Maybe I can be eligible after I retire in nine years."

He wants the government to restore the Home Ownership Scheme and provide more public housing.

"The government always stresses that they are serving the public. But I cannot see any welfare that can benefit me," he said.

scmp.com: Middle class feels the pinch on wages




Middle class feels the pinch on wages
Wealth gap widest in 20 years as rich get richer

Simpson Cheung
Updated on May 11, 2011

Hong Kong's rich got richer over the past five years and even the poor
made more. But for people in the middle, it was not so good.

Middle-income earners - shut out of the private housing market by
sky-high prices but earning too much to qualify for government
assistance - were squeezed even harder, government statistics show.

Their incomes rose the least of the three groups between 2006 and last
year, as the wealth gap became the widest in 20 years - and worst in
the world, according to an international standard.

While the highest and the lowest earners both had increases of more
than a sixth, incomes in the middle rose a little more than half that,
the government figures show.

People in the middle are miserable and frustrated, said Professor Paul
Yip Siu-fai, of the University of Hong Kong's department of social
work and social administration and a member of the government's
Central Policy Unit. "The government always uses GDP per capita to
measure average income, but that does not reveal the problem of uneven
wealth distribution," he said.

Yip said the latest figures, obtained by the South China Morning Post,
further showed the city was at risk of turning into a so-called
M-shaped society, with swelling numbers of rich and poor people and a
diminishing middle class.

Average earnings of the bottom 10 per cent of employees rose 15.56 per
cent between 2006 and last year, from HK$4,500 to HK$5,200 a month.
Even after inflation, there was still a steady annual growth of 2 per
cent, except in 2009 amid the global financial downturn.

The top 10 per cent brought home 15.48 per cent more in five years,
from HK$57,500 to HK$66,400 a month.

Those in the middle gained just 7.84 per cent in the five years, from
HK$10,200 to HK$11,000 a month.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong's Gini coefficient - which measures income
inequality on a scale of 0 to 1, where 0 is perfect equality and 1 is
perfect inequality - rose from 0.518 in 1996 to 0.525 in 2001, and
stood at 0.533 in 2006, the most recent year for which data is
available. The figure showed that wealth disparity in the city was the
most serious in the world.

Figures for family incomes, a different measure than for individuals,
also show a widening income gap.

The median household income of the top-earning 10 per cent of the
population last year was HK$77,000 a month - up HK$7,000 in five
years, according to the Census and Statistics Department.

The poorest 10 per cent of families became even poorer, living on
HK$3,000 a month, HK$100 less than in 2006. Families in the
middleincome bracket brought home HK$500 more a month last year, from
HK$15,000 in 2006 to HK$15,500.

The top household incomes averaged 25.7 times the lowest last year -
the highest in 20 years.

Yip attributed the "M-shape" problem to the government's employment
policy and accused the city's biggest employer of taking the lead in
outsourcing its jobs to contractors, who paid low wages and pulled
down the average employment earnings.

But Nelson Chow Wing-sun, chair professor of the university department
and member of the steering committee of the government-business
Community Care Fund, said there was a need to consider the statistics
for a longer period before concluding Hong Kong was an M-shaped

He also said the widening income gap was not "as serious as we imagine".

Monday, May 9, 2011

scmp.com: Officials' warning means bun scramble on streets

Officials' warning means bun scramble on streets

What's a bun festival without buns? Some attending today's Cheung Chau Bun Festival might find out.

The annual festival's two official bakeries cut back dramatically on their production of buns stamped with peace messages after the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department warned against the shops' longtime practice of stamping the buns outside their premises.

One of the two bun-makers reacted to the government "reminder" by closing the shop from Saturday until today. The other cut its bun production by 30 per cent.

"There will be a shortage of buns for sure, which is such a shame because the buns symbolise blessing and peace - a centrepiece for the festival," Cheung Chau Bun Festival Committee chairman Yung Chi-ming said.

"What the government did was unnecessary and disappointing."

For more than 20 years, the bakers have made special white buns with different fillings and a big "peace" stamp in Chinese characters on each one. Sold for just four days each year, the buns carried religious and cultural significance, Yung said.

"Of course I'm worried about the lack of buns," Yung said. "It's how people take part in the festival."

The Kwok Kam Kee Cake Shop would make buns to fill advance orders, but would not sell buns to the public today, an employee said.

The other bakery, Grand Plaza Cake Shop, said it made about 108,000 buns for last year's festival but because of the government's warning and lack of space, was making 32,400 fewer this year.

A spokesman for the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department said last week it had issued "reminders" to the bun-makers after receiving eight complaints in three weeks. The spokesman said the department's officers had not seen either bun-maker violating the law.

Kwok Yu-chuen of the Grand Plaza Cake Shop in Praya Road said: "We received the warning on May 5 - when the government told us to make sure all production procedures were indoors. We only had a few days, and a lot of buns to make."

Kwok said the government warning had caused problems partly because it came so late. "It's hard because we have so little space. We usually stamp the buns outside here - which we've been doing for so many years," Kwok said, pointing to a covered area just outside the front of the shop.

Yung said: "What [the government] did was not good - not good for business, not good for the whole atmosphere of the festival."

The buns have traditionally been attached to towers for the festival highlight, the bun-scrambling competition, but have been replaced by plastic ones for hygiene reasons.

The festival committee will be handing out free buns for blessing-seekers today at 9am - buns made before the department's hygiene warning.

The day-long festival will start with a unicorn and kung fu performance at 10.30am followed by the festival parade at 2pm. Parade participants will spoof current issues, including this year's HK$6,000 government handout and the plan to build a waste incinerator on Shek Kwu Chau. The bun-scrambling competition will take place at midnight.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

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Friday, May 6, 2011

scmp.com: HK a bastion of unhappiness? That's rich



hm.... 或者是因為競爭力本來就得來不易吧,要生活更好,首先就是要不安於現況@@

HK a bastion of unhappiness? That's rich


If happiness is a measure of economic success, as China's 12th five-year plan affirms, we could be in trouble.

Hongkongers, while rich, are among the least happy in the nation, according to an annual study by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences - the central government's top think tank. The city was named the most competitive in China for the sixth year in a row, but it dropped 73 places to 271st out of 294 cities on an index measuring people's happiness.

The annual survey covers the mainland, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. It assesses cities' happiness by measuring residents' confidence in their future, their living conditions, environment and hygiene, employment and social welfare.

Shijiazhuang , capital of Hebei province and the base for the Sanlu Group - blamed for the melamine-adulterated milk scandal in 2008 that saw 300,000 babies fall ill and several die - ranked first for happiness. Beijing is also in the top 10, together with a number of less well-known medium-sized cities.

Surprisingly, scenic Suzhou and Hangzhou - known in Chinese culture as "paradise on earth" are even more unhappy than Hong Kong - ranked 276th and 289th, respectively. Popular holiday destination Guilin ranks 291st.

The report notes Hong Kong is facing a widening gap between the rich and poor that could undermine social stability.

Dr Li Pang-kwong, director of the public governance programme at Lingnan University, said: "Hong Kong's low ranking in the happiness index is in line with the growing discontent over the unequal distribution of wealth."

Chen Wenling, a central government official from Shijiazhuang who announced the findings, admitted many people may not agree with the index. "Every time I return to Shijiazhuang, I hear complaints," she said at a press conference in Beijing yesterday.

The 12th five-year plan seeks to shift economic strategy from one focused on rising output to one centred on people's happiness.

scmp.com: Environmentalists divided over 'hideous' Mid-Levels slope

這則新聞相信絕對不會在其他報章上成為頭條!I like scmp!!!!!

Environmentalists divided over 'hideous' Mid-Levels slope


A Mid-Levels slope that has recently undergone work intended to beautify it has instead been described as hideous by its neighbours.

The slope, in Stubbs Road, originally sprayed with concrete, has been coated with a product called Elegant Stone designed to make it look like the granite rocks that abound in Hong Kong.

"The results are terrible," Melanie Moore, a spokeswoman for the Lung Fu Shan Environmental Concern Group.

"The public has been asking the government to use natural vegetation for years," the Peak resident said, describing the appearance as hideous.

Not all environmentalists agree with Moore. Conservancy Association chief executive Ken So Kwok-yin, a tree specialist who researches natural vegetation on slopes, said beauty was in the eye of the beholder and engineers had to decide whether a slope was suitable for vegetation.

So said some slopes were too steep for natural vegetation and it could be difficult for engineers to solidify their structure after removing the original concrete surface.

"It is difficult to judge if a slope is beautiful or not," So said. "Whether it can be covered with vegetation depends on engineers' calculations. It involves safety issues as well."

Slope works in Mid-Levels and country parks have been a controversial topic among green groups and concern groups, who are oppose the artificial approach adopted by the government.

The Stubbs Road site, near Adventist Hospital, is one of 15 where Elegant Stone is being tried in Hong Kong. The Civil Engineering and Development Department said the gradient, from 70 to 80 degrees, was too steep for vegetation.

"However, to maximize the greening opportunities, climbers and creepers have been planted at the crest of the slope," a spokeswoman said, adding that the same technique had been tried on a slope along Lai King Hill Road.

She said the department had consulted the incorporated owners of the nearby residential developments and the Adventist Hospital, but had received no adverse comments.

The spokeswoman said the coating was just a few millimetres thick and was suitable for areas with space constraints. The work was completed in September at a cost of HK$290,000.

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