Wednesday, June 29, 2011 Academic accused of misconduct


Academic accused of misconduct

Graft-buster charges former HKU head of surgery over alleged misuse of funds to pay a domestic helper, an embezzlement cover-up and false travel claims

A former head of surgery at the University of Hong Kong medical faculty has been charged with misconduct by the ICAC for misusing the university's funds to hire a domestic helper.

Professor John Wong (pictured), 70, head of the surgery department from 1982 to 2008, was also accused of covering up a subordinate's embezzlement so she could escape disciplinary action and pocket full payments from the staff provident fund when she resigned. Another charge alleges Wong cheated on overseas travel expenses through false accounting in a firm he set up.

Wong will appear in Eastern Court tomorrow to face two charges of misconduct in public office and two of false accounting, pending transfer to the District Court, a spokesman for the Independent Commission Against Corruption said.

Wong was the head of surgery when the alleged offences took place. The department set up the Skills Development Centre in 1995, with a donation from the Jockey Club, to provide medical training to all surgical specialties, medical students, interns, nurses and doctors. The centre also received public donations and Hospital Authority sponsorship. One of the misconduct charges alleges Wong authorised the use of more than HK$730,000 from the centre's bank account to pay a domestic helper - who also worked as a driver - between January 29, 2002 and January 30, 2007.

Another misconduct charge alleges Wong failed to report to the university that his subordinate had stolen more than HK$2.6 million from the centre's bank account. He then allegedly loaned money to the female subordinate to replenish the bank account and cover up the theft. The commission said he had also allowed her to resign without being investigated or disciplined by the university so that she could receive full payments from the staff provident fund worth more than HK$690,000.

The other two charges allege Wong falsified entries in the director's report and accounts of Unisurgical Limited - a company he set up in 2005 and of which he was sole shareholder and effectively director. The charges relate to the director's report and accounts for the year ending March 2006, and March 2007, in which more than HK$690,000 and HK$74,000, respectively, in overseas travel expenses were claimed.

The spokesman said the case had arisen from a corruption complaint, and the university had given full assistance to the investigation.

Wong has been released on ICAC bail pending his court appearance tomorrow.

In September 2009, the former dean of the medical faculty, Lam Siu-kum, was sentenced to more than two years in prison for inducing patients to make donations and payments of almost HK$4 million to his company.

The university reviewed financial transactions at its medical faculty after Lam's case came to light.

Saturday, June 25, 2011 Party thrives as path to progress (with 明報報道)




Party thrives as path to progress

Communism is dead or in retreat in most countries, but in China the movement just gets stronger

While communist movements in most parts of the world have long lost their appeal to the majority, the Communist Party of China says its membership now exceeds 80 million, almost matching the population of Germany.

The number of party members reached 80.27 million last year, Wang Qinfeng , deputy head of its Organisation Department, said in Beijing yesterday in the run-up to its 90th anniversary next week.

The party recruited 3.075 million new members and received more than 21.017 million registered applications last year, he said.

Some 32,000 left the party, most of them expelled. Wang did not give reasons for the expulsions but it has long been used as a penalty for misconduct and corruption by cadres.

The party has been striving to recruit young members to shed its ageing image. Last year, 43.87 million party members were aged 46 and above, accounting for 54.7 per cent of its membership. Its 14.85 million retirees outnumbered the 6.99 million industrial workers and 6.81 million government officials.

However, most new recruits are not joining for ideological reasons, but to take advantage of the greater convenience party membership affords them.

Zhao Buzhen , a 29-year-old professional who has applied for membership, said yesterday he wanted to join because it would be good for his career.

University campuses are a key recruiting ground for party members. Professor Hu Xingdou , from the Beijing Institute of Technology, said party membership used to be used as a reward for young people who excelled at university.

While membership brings convenience, party membership also has negative connotations in a system where official corruption is rife. An article in the Southern Weekly on Thursday said student cadres from Shanghai Jiao Tong University decided to launch a campaign to ask students to make their party membership public after jokes circulated on the internet saying that that many were too ashamed to admit that they were members.

Only 18.03 million, or 22.5 per cent, of the party members are women; ethnic minorities make up 5.4 million, or 6.6 per cent. The largest group is farmers, who number 24.4 million.

中國 > 中國要聞 

中共黨員8000萬 去年3.2萬人「出黨」



在中共黨員中,46歲以上者共4387.4萬,佔54.7%,35歲以下的黨員1951.1萬名,佔總數的24.3%。在黨員中,工人有698.9萬名,農牧漁民2442.7萬名,黨政機關人員681.2萬名,企事業管理人員、專業人士1841.3萬名,其餘是學生、離退休人員和其他人員。王秦豐強調,除700萬工人黨員外,2400多萬名農民黨員也是中共的階級基礎,知識分子亦是工人階級一部分,因此,「我們黨的階級基礎是牢固的,堅不可摧的」。被問到去年退黨、脫黨的人數,王秦豐稱,去年「出黨」有3.2萬名,大部分是被開除的,但他未解釋開除的原因。 Pilots ignored air traffic control to avoid collision




Pilots ignored air traffic control to avoid collision

A packed Cathay Pacific jet and a Virgin Blue plane were within 19 kilometres of each other over Australia's Northern Territory when their pilots ignored faulty air traffic control instructions and took decisive actions to narrowly avoid a disaster, an official investigation revealed yesterday.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau's inquiry into the incident - involving a Melbourne-bound Airbus A330 carrying 309 passengers, and a Virgin Blue Boeing 737 with 120 passengers on board - singled out an "inadequately equipped" traffic controller for blame. The report said the controller first put the flights on a collision path and then failed to take corrective measures when the pilots alerted him to the danger.

Recognising the dire situation, the pilots on both planes ignored air traffic control instructions and swerved to their right to avoid a head-on collision. Pilots are allowed to ignore instructions from ground control only when faced with an emergency.

The report noted that the traffic controller was allowed to shorten a mandatory training course because of his previous experience with the Royal Australian Air Force, raising questions about whether such exemptions should have been given to former military servicemen.

Thursday, June 23, 2011 No cash? Pay taxi fares by flashing the plastic

600部的士將安裝信用咭收費機,Visa payWave用戶更可拍咭付款,$500元下交易無需簽名。


好wo!! 我鐘意

No cash? Pay taxi fares by flashing the plastic

The days of rooting around in your pockets for cash to pay for taxis could soon be coming to an end.

After a six-month trial, passengers will be able to pay their fares by credit card in at least 600 of Hong Kong's 18,000 cabs by the end of the year.

And the method is expected to become universal - even though drivers still prefer to be paid in cash.

Autotoll, Dah Sing Bank and Visa announced yesterday the launch of a new phase in implementing what they call the autoTAXI system.

Users of Visa payWave cards will be able to swipe their cards against a reader, much as an Octopus card is used on other forms of transport.

No signature will be required for fares of less than HK$500.

Normal Visa cards can also be used by inserting the card into a reader or swiping against the terminal.

Daniel Lai Man-keung, a driver who took part in the six-month trial, said he was pleased with the new system and said it had led to an increase in passengers. But not all drivers are as optimistic. The Urban Taxi Driver Association Joint Committee interviewed more than 1,000 drivers last year and almost all were opposed to a credit card system.

They said it would cause unnecessary hassle and lead to increased expenses. Also, they could lose cash because it would affect their practice of rounding up fares by up to 50 cents and pocketing the extra change.

A report in 2008 showed the practice could be worth, in total, more than HK$2 million a year to drivers.

Driver Lau Chung-ki said: "We want our money now and don't like it wired to us on the next business day."

And passenger Gary Bradshaw, 43 said: "I take a taxi when I need it. The payment method carries no weight in my decision-making."

But Tong Yeuk-fung, chairman of the Hong Kong Taxi and Public Light Bus Association, said he expected the payment system to become universal once passengers started choosing credit card-enabled taxis.

The taxi committee said it had ceased talks on a deal with Octopus. Shake-up for juvenile law after sex case



Shake-up for juvenile law after sex case

Reforms to be implemented as soon as possible after teenager sentenced for 'disgusting' assault on a five-year-old in hospital's children's ward

Hong Kong is preparing a landmark change in its laws that will make it possible for children under the age of 14 to be charged with rape.

The move comes after a magistrate yesterday described existing laws on juveniles and serious sex offences as "wholly and manifestly inadequate" as she sentenced a 13-year-old boy to a reformatory for a "disgusting" sexual attack on a five-year-old girl in a hospital ward.

In general, criminal liability in Hong Kong starts at the age of 10. However, at present there is a legal presumption that a boy under 14 is incapable of sexual intercourse.

Following a recommendation by the Law Reform Commission, that presumption will now be abolished.

Magistrate Adriana Tse, sitting in Eastern District's juvenile court, sentenced the boy to an unspecified term for indecent assault. She also called for a review of which courts should deal with children accused of serious sex offences and said boys and girls should be placed in different hospital wards.

Tse said she understood that rehabilitation was the main aim of the laws dealing with juveniles, but added: "[Now], youngsters are capable of the most heinous crimes."

In response to questions about Tse's comments, a spokesman for the Security Bureau said: "The Security Bureau is working with the Department of Justice on arrangements for amending the legislation with a view to implementing the recommendation of the Law Reform Commission as soon as possible."

The girl was molested in the children's ward of Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital in September. Her parents reported the attack to police. A medical report submitted at an earlier court hearing detailed injuries that did not rule out the possibility she had been raped.

Sentencing the boy, Tse said: "I am disgusted by this case." She said she found it shocking that boys and girls were put in the same ward until the age of 18.

"It is well known that teenagers begin to be curious with sex."

The magistrate said the boy had smirked and smiled when he talked to a probation officer and, while on bail, had committed another, less serious offence. She did not accept a mitigation report that the boy - from another Asian country - was remorseful and helpless in a new culture. "You just do whatever you like ... reform school is the only option there," she said.

The boy, dressed in a T-shirt and jeans, kept his head bowed throughout the proceedings.

Last year's Law Reform Commission report highlighted the present case, stating that the boy had been charged with indecent assault as the current presumption prevented his being charged with rape.

Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital said a review on putting boys and girls in the same ward was conducted immediately after the incident. "According to clinical and practical needs, boys and girls will be arranged in different wards as far as possible," a spokesman said, Nursing staff would also closely monitor the situation in the wards.

Law Society criminal law and procedure committee chairman Stephen Hung Wan-shun said: "The priority in sentencing any young offenders aged under 16 is rehabilitation. No matter in which court the trial of the boy takes place ... rehabilitation is still the main objective. Unless there is no other alternative, it is unlikely he will be thrown into jail." Lower age limit for sex offenders, urges magistrate




點解強姦罪要有年齡下限???? 強唔到就自然強唔到,強到就自然要判刑啦!


Lower age limit for sex offenders, urges magistrate

A magistrate on Thursday called for tougher sentences for boys who commit sexual offences â€" saying Hong Kong's current criminal law was inadequate to deal with such cases.

Magistrate Adriana Tse made the comments after sentencing a 13-year-old Korean boy to an unspecified term at a reformatory school for indecently assaulting a five-year-old girl in a hospital ward they were occupying.

The Eastern Juvenile Court earlier heard that the boy pulled off the girl's pants and then molested her when they were in the children's ward at Pamela Youde Eastern Hospital in September last year. The girl's parents later reported the incident to police.

The magistrate said she was "disgusted" by the boy's crime and that he had had been aware of the seriousness of his actions when he committed it.

She also said the punishment was inadequate because, due to limitations in the law, boys of his age could only be charged with indecent assault, despite the fact the girl had been raped.

Under present criminal law in Hong Kong, boys under the age of 14 cannot be charged with rape because the statutes presume they are physically incapable of sexual intercourse.

After the case came to light last year, the government-appointed Law Reform Commission suggested a change in the law that would see the charge of rape applicable to boys the age 10 and above.

The magistrate urged the government to revise the law by lowering this age limit. She noted there had been a number of similar cases involving young boys in recent years in Hong Kong.

Tse also suggested hospitals consider placing boys and girls in separate wards.

"I find it shocking that patients of different sexes are put together until the age of 18, but it is well known that teenagers begin to be curious with sex [before then]," she said. Number of HK millionaires jumps 33pc




Number of HK millionaires jumps 33pc

The number of millionaires in Asia-Pacific has jumped sharply to overtake Europe, a study said on Thursday â€" driven by the fast-rising super-rich population of Hong Kong.

Millionaires in Asia-Pacific became worth more collectively than their counterparts in Europe in 2009, but there are also now more of them, at 3.3 million in the region, versus 3.1 million in Europe.

The report on high-net worth individuals (HNWIs) â€" defined as anyone with investable assets of at least US$1 million â€" was issued by Merrill Lynch Global Wealth Management and consultancy firm Capgemini.

"Asia-Pacific's continued strong performance cements the region's strategic importance to every wealth management firm with global aspirations," said Michael Benz, Asia-Pacific head of Merrill Lynch Global Wealth Management.

"Now the world's second-biggest HNWI market in terms of population and wealth, it is more pertinent than ever for the wealth management industry to keep enhancing their service to this diverse region," he added.

The region is now second to North America, with 3.4 million millionaires.

The growth in Asia was led by the number of millionaires in Hong Kong, which grew 33.3 per cent last year to 101,300 people, compared with 76,000 in 2009 â€" the second straight year in which the city's super-rich population grew the most.

The rocketing number of millionaires in Hong Kong was due to a healthy economy as well as gains in the equities and real estate markets, said the report.

The report also noted the fast growth of Indian millionaires, where India's HNWI population became the world's twelfth largest last year, its highest every placing.

Asia, which has emerged quickly from the global recession, has produced some of the world's richest people including India's business tycoon Mukesh Ambani and Hong Kong's Li Ka-shing, nicknamed "Superman" for his business prowess.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011 At least 44 killed in Russian plane crash


... 除Boeing, Airbus外其他機咪亂坐!

At least 44 killed in Russian plane crash

At least 44 people were killed when a passenger plane broke up and caught fire on coming into land in heavy fog in north-western Russia, an Emergency Ministry spokeswoman said on Tuesday.

The Tupolev-134 plane, carrying 52 people including nine crew, crashed near a road about 1km from the runway at the Besovets airport outside the northern city of Petrozavodsk about 11.40pm local time on Monday (3.40am HK time on Tuesday).

"The preliminary information is that 44 people were killed," spokeswoman Irina Andriyanova said by telephone. "Eight people were injured and seven of them are in a very grave condition."

The Internet news website, which posted a full list of the passengers, said a 10-year-old boy named Anton had survived the crash but gave no details about his condition.

"We took a child to the local hospital â€" the child was in a very grave condition," a medical worker told a local television crew at the scene. She said a total of five people were taken to hospital.

A video made by a witness on her mobile phone, and filmed by the television crew, showed flames soaring from the wreckage into the night sky near where the plane crashed, in the region of Kareliya about 700km north-west of Moscow.

"Everything was on fire," a witness who declined to give his name told the television crew. A photographer at the scene saw charred wreckage from the plane and dozens of emergency workers and firemen.

The crash comes on the eve of the Paris Air Show which Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is due to attend.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who has swapped his Tupolev for a French-made executive jet, in April criticised flaws in domestically-built planes and the nation's poor safety record.

One of the most high-profile Tupolev air disasters in recent times occurred in April last year when Polish President Lech Kaczynski's official Tupolev Tu-154 plane crashed near Smolensk airport in western Russia, killing 96 people including Kaczynski, his wife and a large number of senior officials.

The Tu-134 plane that crashed was operated by the private company RusAir and was travelling from Moscow's Domodedovo airport. RusAir, which specialises in charter flights, declined immediate comment.

Most of the passengers were Russian but a Swedish national was also on the aircraft, Interfax news agency said.

The Tuploev-134 is a Soviet aircraft whose maiden flight was in 1967. It was unclear when the plane which crashed was made.

The aircraft's black boxes have been recovered.

Monday, June 20, 2011 Bosses use social media to narrow the field



其實....privacy setting真係咁難用咩.......

Bosses use social media to narrow the field

Survey finds 71pc of Hong Kong managers use Facebook and LinkedIn to screen job candidates

Is Facebook killing your career? A new survey by finance and accounting recruiter Robert Half has found that up to 71 per cent of managers in Hong Kong take a peek at job applicants' online profiles to help them decide who to hire.

Hong Kong managers are more likely to check profiles on Facebook and LinkedIn, compared with those in Singapore (50 per cent) and Australia (36 per cent).

This was because the city was more obsessed with reputation, said Andrew Morris, Greater China managing director for Robert Half.

"Stature and image is very important in Hong Kong," he said. "People play a big bearing from a social aspect of standing and status, so those sorts of things when they are being hired are very important."

Morris said the trend for checking online profiles was growing as sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn become more popular.

"People have their game face on during the interview process so part of the [hiring] technique is to have as much background information as possible before you hire them," Morris said.

"What [managers] are trying to do is find out what types of things someone will put up there, what they would disclose about themselves that their potential employer does not know."

His advice to jobseekers was to keep two Facebook accounts - one for work and one for play.

"It's important to manage your online reputation and be aware of the image you project. You never know who might be reviewing your profile," he said.

"If you're putting something out there in the public domain and it's searchable, then you've got to be happy and satisfied that it's information that you want out there. If not, put privacy settings on."

More than 1,600 professionals in the human resources, finance and accounting industries were included in the survey, including 410 professionals in Hong Kong.



  • Profile picture: include one because it adds legitimacy to your page, but keep it professional.
  • Respect the wall: self-censor your posts. Otherwise, use e-mail or private messaging.
  • Take "no" for an answer: if someone does not accept your friend request, don't ask again.
  • Keep it focused: don't post trivial updates. Do your friends need to know when you've added a sheep to FarmVille?
  • Avoid venting: this is not the place for negative comments or office gossip. Chances are someone who shouldn't see it, will.

Sunday, June 19, 2011 S Korean soldiers fire on airliner


DU! 低B!! A320都認唔到???!! 北韓係咪宅國宅到咁到呀?!!! 人地飛緊條正常航道,每日600架次飛,咁都開火,係咪白痴黎架!!!

仲要用步槍射十幾公里,DU LE! 有無玩過rainbow 6架!!!!!

S Korean soldiers fire on airliner

Investigations begin after two Marine Corps troops shoot 99 rounds from their automatic rifles at an Asiana passenger jet from China descending to Seoul

Investigations are under way into how two South Korean soldiers came to open fire on a passenger jet from China approaching Seoul on Friday morning, reportedly mistaking it for an invading North Korean plane.

South Korea's Marine Corps and Asiana Airlines confirmed the incident, which saw the soldiers fire 99 rounds from their K-2 automatic rifles as the plane descended towards Incheon airport on a flight from Chengdu soon after 4am. No bullets hit the Airbus A320, which was carrying 119 passengers.

The incident comes amid rising tensions between North and South Korea, with Seoul deploying missiles on its fortified border capable of striking Pyongyang and the North scrapping all contacts with the government in Seoul. The two countries have remained technically at war since the Korean conflict ended with an armistice in 1953.

The soldiers were based at a guard post on Gyodong Island, 1.7 kilometres south of the North Korean coast. The plane was flying southeast over Jumun Island, 12 kilometres to the south - a route used by 600 aircraft per day - when the soldiers opened fire.

"The firing continued for about 10 minutes but the plane was too far off the rifles' range and it did not receive any damage," an unnamed Marine Corps official told South Korea's Yonhap news agency. "When the plane appeared over Jumun Island, soldiers mistook it as a North Korean military aircraft and fired."

Air traffic controllers reported that the plane was on a normal course at the time.

Asiana spokesman Jason Kim confirmed the Marine Corps had opened fire after misidentifying the plane. Hong Kong Asiana officials could not be reached for comment last night but flights to and from Seoul were operating normally. Fourteen scheduled return flights operate between Hong Kong and Seoul each week.

South Korean Defence Ministry officials have yet to comment. But the Yonhap news agency said the soldiers gave an initial report 10 minutes after the incident. It is not known if any action will be taken against them.

The incident comes three months after Defence Minister Kim Kwan-jin told frontline troops that if North Koreans attack, they must strike back immediately without waiting for orders from top commanders. "Don't ask your commanders whether to fire back or not. Take actions first and then report afterwards," Kim was quoted as saying in March.

The South remains on heightened alert after two deadly attacks by the North last year. In March, 46 South Korean sailors were killed when a North Korean torpedo sank a South Korean naval ship - an attack still denied by Pyongyang. And four people died in November when several barrages of North Korean artillery shells slammed into a township on the South Korean border island of Yeonpyeong.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse, Associated Press

Saturday, June 18, 2011 HOS may be renewed after warning



HOS may be renewed after warning

Tsang said to be rethinking the mothballed subsidised scheme after visiting Beijing leader sounds caution

The government is under growing pressure to resume building Home Ownership Scheme flats after Beijing's Hong Kong affairs chief warned openly that the shortage of housing for people in need could turn into a political problem.

Wang Guangya , director of the State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO), singled out housing as an urgent issue on which the government should take action during his duty visit to the city last week.

Since then, local officials have been sending out signals of forthcoming measures, with the revival of the HOS an option. Under the old scheme, the government built flats for sale at subsidised prices to families priced out of the private market.

Yesterday, two Chinese-language newspapers, Hong Kong Economic Times and Apple Daily, cited unnamed government officials as telling them that Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen was seriously considering resuming the scheme - a proposal that major political parties and even some Executive Council members have been pushing for.

The reports were in line with Tsang's remarks at a Legislative Council question-and-answer session last month, in which he said the government would study the proposal and lay out initiatives to help people acquire homes in his final policy address in October.

Asked whether the government would resume construction of HOS flats, Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah said: "I believe Mr Tsang will give an answer later."

Donald Tsang, who is on a nine-day duty visit in Australia that ends on Thursday, said on television there last Friday that home prices in Hong Kong were "quite frightening" and pledged his administration would do more to slow the market down.

A government spokesman noted that the chief executive had promised to deal with the housing issue in his upcoming policy address, but said: "This must be considered along with problems with land supply."

Kennedy Wong Ying-ho, a member of the Housing Society who supports the revival of the HOS, said the idea had not been put onto the society's agenda.

"Don't expect too much," he said. "It can well be Donald Tsang's gesture to boost his popularity before his term ends. We haven't even found all the sites for the My Home Purchase Plan since its announcement last year. How can the present government relaunch the HOS in a year's time? It takes years and you don't know if the next chief executive will support the HOS."

The Democratic Party threatened to move a motion of no confidence in Tsang if he did not announce in the policy address a resumption in building HOS flats. "This will be one of our major demands in the July 1march," said Lee Wing-tat, chairman of the Legco housing panel. "If the administration continues to ignore people's voices, public anger will grow. It is Donald Tsang's last chance."

The panel's deputy chairman, Wong Kwok-hing, said he hoped the government would announce the revival of the HOS as soon as possible. He referred to Wang's comment that Macau was moving faster in building affordable housing. "Wang's remarks have certainly given the chief executive some pressure. It is very rare for the HKMAO to compare Hong Kong openly with Macau."

The 26-year scheme ended in 2002 to reverse a property slump.

Friday, June 3, 2011 Tax blow for HK staff on mainland



Tax blow for HK staff on mainland

With foreign employees having to pay into a social security fund from July 1, industry chiefs fear the extra burden will force out thousands of companies

A policy that requires overseas employees on the mainland to pay up to 22 per cent of their wages into the country's social security fund threatens to drive thousands of companies and professionals out of business.

The deputy chairman of the Federation of Hong Kong Industries, Stanley Lau Chin-ho, described it yesterday as the last straw for manufacturers already struggling with rising prices, soaring wage bills, a strong yuan and chronic power and labour shortages.

It comes into effect on July 1.

"If manufacturers are lucky, they may be able to pass some of the extra costs to customers," Lau said, but it would be survival of the fittest.

Under the Social Insurance Law passed last October, all overseas people who have worked on the mainland for more than six months will have to pay social security insurance.

While details of the regulations are still being worked out, officials have made it clear that only foreign nationals whose countries have signed bilateral social insurance agreements with the mainland will be exempted. Only Germany and South Korea have signed such treaties with Beijing. Hong Kong has no such arrangement and to do so would require the city to change its Mandatory Provident Fund policy to exclude mainland workers.

A spokesman for the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau said it was not responsible for negotiating such an agreement and had no idea which department would handle such a task.

Alex Fong Chi-wai, chief executive of the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce, said it had submitted its members' concerns to the mainland authorities but had not received a reply.

The Chinese General Chamber of Commerce said it was consulting members for their opinions.

"If the law is broadly applied, this will raise the operation costs of all foreign nationals, including Hong Kong people working on the mainland," Fong said. "We hope the regulation will contain a special waiver."

The new law was formulated six years ago as Beijing took steps to establish a social security network. It was first tested in Guangdong on a voluntary basis. Now Beijing wants to make it compulsory and extend it to the rest of the country.

It is estimated there are 600,000 foreign workers on the mainland. This does not include the 200,000 Hongkongers.

Anyone evading the payment risks a hefty fine of up to three times the due contributions.

Overseas workers would be eligible for payments after contributing to the scheme for over 15 years. They could also arrange for their children to inherit their pension accounts

Alex Pun Wing-kit, a 31-year-old civil engineer from Hong Kong who will be posted to Nanjing in November, said the new policy would force him to rethink his job.

"I'm not happy to see a significant portion taken out of my pocket after already contributing to Hong Kong's retirement pension. It's unlikely that I will work on the mainland permanently. I don't know when and how much I am getting back in return after all of the money is taken out," Pun said.

"I'd seriously look into staying in Hong Kong if I have to bear the extra social security burden myself."

It will be employers, however, who will bear the brunt of the new law with contributions for their overseas employees on the mainland. In some cases it could amount to 40 per cent of workers' salaries.

David Hui Cheung-wing, who runs factories in Guangdong, said that since 2005 they had already been asked to pay the equivalent of 20 per cent of their Hong Kong workers' monthly salaries into local social security funds. He said politicians in the city seemed to know little about it.

"About a year ago, I asked Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai [NPC Standing Committee member] about the rule, and she said it had not been passed yet," Hui said. "But authorities have been charging me for years. This is puzzling."

Hui said he had to pay an additional HK$1.2 million a month for the insurance funds.

Many employers are expected to transfer the extra costs to their employees, possibly leading to more labour strife and office rebellions.

Tsui Li, managing director of a Hong Kong-based logistics firm with six branches on the mainland and two Japanese staff working in its Shanghai office, said the new regulation would significantly drive up operational costs.

"I'm quite angry to hear this as no concrete details have been released, except one line of ambiguous regulation," said Tsui, whose company had tried preparing for the law six months ago but was unsure where to start.

"I'm quite angry to hear this. Mainland government officials are shifting the responsibility of providing social security for its people to corporations. It is not fair for businesses to shoulder that much."

She said her foreign staff would not be able to make use of local public medical services anyway even after contributing to social insurance due to language barriers.

"With the law coming into effect at such short notice, we are worried that the work visas of our foreign staff might not be extended all of a sudden after July."

Joe Leung Cho-bun, professor of social administration at The University of Hong Kong, said the mainland's pension rate was one of the highest in the world and it was a concern that the system was solely operated by the government without an independent monitoring body.

He said other jurisdictions around the world, such as the United States, Singapore and Hong Kong, required foreign workers to contribute to social insurance or retirement provident funds.

But Leung said the system on the mainland was extremely complicated and also lacked transparency. "Contributions made by corporations and the labour force today are being pooled to subsidise retiring workers. The government may run out of money to cover workers' retirement pensions in the future."

But the mainland authorities regard the new law as a move to help foreign workers there.

Lu Xuejing , a social security expert at Capital University of Economics and Business, told China Daily that although the government's move would increase the burden on employers, bosses should take the chance to realise that it was their responsibility to pay social security for everyone they employed, no matter where they were from.

Lu said the rule would also help foreign workers from developing countries who were not covered by expatriate packages to access subsidised local medical services.

Additional reporting by Adrian Wan

Thursday, June 2, 2011 Stuck in peak-hour traffic? Just call out 'giddyup'



Stuck in peak-hour traffic? Just call out 'giddyup'

More than 1,500 people in 19 mainland cities will ride horses to work over the next week to mark World Environment Day on Sunday.

The participants will saddle up for their morning's commuting along planned routes in cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin , Hangzhou , Chengdu and Qingdao .

Wu Gangfang , founder of the Horseman Union website and publicity director of the Chinese Equestrian Association, said it was a good way to get through heavy traffic in rush hours. "We're not trying to convince people to ride horses every day," Wu said. "We're simply trying to spread an environmentally friendly concept and another way of healthy living at a time when many people suffer health problems from working long hours and from a lack of exercise."

There was no law forbidding people from riding horses on public roads. "The horses have been very well trained and won't get nervous if they hear cars honking," he said.

One of the participants, Shou Mingyu , 43, an employee at a local TV station in Zhuji , Zhejiang , said he has been riding his horse on city roads for four years.

"I ride my horse, an Inner Mongolian breed, two or three times a week when I go to work, visit friends and dine in restaurants," he said. "It's convenient and quicker than being stuck in a traffic jam." And he did not have to worry about drink-driving after dining with his friends.

Chang Youde , species programme officer at the WWF's Beijing office, said it was a fresh idea to raise public awareness about a low-carbon lifestyle. "But in practice it might be quite unrealistic," Chang said, "as some of the riders may have to go through city centres where traffic is already very chaotic." Plans for airport expansion unveiled


Plans for airport expansion unveiled

Airport Authority to consult public on third runway

The Airport Authority said on Thursday it would consult the public on its Airport Master Plan for Chek Lap Kok â€" a blueprint that includes an option to add a third runway.

In the 20-year development schedule, the authority said a third runway could enable Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) to maintain the city's position as a leading global aviation hub beyond 2030.

It said air traffic demand had been increasing on the back of strong economic growth in Asia. Hong Kong therefore had to find ways to increase the capacity of the airport â€" because current facilities were expected to be saturated by 2020.

The authority said building a new runway would cost about HK$136.2 billion. The project would involve reclamation of about 650 hectares of land, along with building a new terminal, and airfield and facilities to service the new runway. The cost of this was estimated at HK$86.2 billion last year.

The authority said the cost difference had arisen because the latest estimates took inflation projections into account.

Authority statistics show around 307,000 flights used the airport in 2010, carrying 50.9 billion passengers and 4.1 million tonnes of cargo.

The plan would enable the airport to handle a maximum of 620,000 flights a year, and meet forecast annual passenger and cargo throughput of about 97 million and 8.9 million tonnes, respectively, the authority said.

Another option included in the plan would be to upgrade the airport's existing two runways, at a cost of HK$42.5 billion, to meet projected demand in the medium term.

This approach would allow the airport to handle 420,000 flights a year, with annual passenger and cargo throughput increased to 74 million and six million tonnes, respectively, the authority said.

Authority chairman Marvin Cheung Kin-tung said the expansion was linked to the continued development of Hong Kong as a thriving financial centre.

"With Asia Pacific â€" and in particular the mainland â€" increasingly driving global and regional economic growth, air traffic demand has been experiencing strong growth in the past decade," he said.

"The current two-runway system is forecast to be saturated by around 2020, and beyond that, HKIA will not be able to meet additional demand. This could irrevocably harm Hong Kong's position as a global aviation hub," he said.

A three-month public consultation would begin on Friday, the authority said.

Hong Kong became the world's busiest cargo hub last year, overtaking Memphis in the US. This was on the back of strong growth in the mainland, especially in the Pearl River Delta region.

The airport ranked third worldwide in numbers of international passengers flown last year, after London and Paris, aviation industry statistics showed.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011 urged on 'cancer phones'



Action urged on 'cancer phones'

WHO report that mobiles may be carcinogenic spurs calls for more government research in Hong Kong

The government must carry out more research on the link between mobile phones and cancer so that people can make informed choices, according to a cancer specialist and the man who introduced the first smartphone to Hong Kong.

Their calls come a day after a World Health Organisation report was released saying mobile phones were "possibly carcinogenic to humans", causing an increased risk of brain cancer. The report carries major implications for Hong Kong, where the mobile phone penetration rate is one of the highest in the world at 193.2 per cent - and many people own more than one phone.

Official figures from the Office of the Telecommunications Authority (Ofta) show there are more than 13.7 million mobile phone subscribers, with about half signed up to internet services through smartphones.

The report from the WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) was based on an analysis of scientific articles on mobile phone use and cancer. One of the studies showed that radiofrequency electromagnetic fields, such as those emitted by mobile phones, caused a 40 per cent higher risk of glioma, a type of brain cancer, in heavy users (30 minutes a day for 10 years).

While the group said the data was "limited" and "inadequate", there was enough evidence to show "some risk" between cellphones and cancer.

IARC director Christopher Wild advised people to use hands-free devices or to text. "One of the interesting outcomes ... is that [the report] identifies gaps in the knowledge on a certain research area," he said.

The Health Department and Ofta were unable to say if they had conducted studies on, or planned to research, this area. An Ofta spokeswoman said it took steps to "ensure that the telecommunications devices we use, including mobile phones, are `safe' and their use does not have an adverse effect on human bodies".

A department spokesman said "further investigation of long-term mobile phone use and brain cancer risk is merited" and it "will continue to monitor new findings and developments". But Francis Fong Po-kiu, president of the Hong Kong Information Technology Federation, said this was not good enough. "If they have enough resources, yes they should do more research. There are two authorities that can do this - Ofta and the Consumer Council.

"If they want to do this, they should include a health body because it's not easy and it takes a long time - maybe five to 10 years," said Fong, who introduced the XDA smartphone to the city in 2002.

Dr Samuel Chiu Kwok-wing, a cancer specialist at Hong Kong Baptist Hospital, said brain cancers occurring on the side that people used their mobile phones was a "real fact that we need to believe".

"But there is no definite causal relationship," he said, between the types of waves from mobile phones causing damage to human DNA which causes cancer.

"We definitely need more data and research to make such conclusions" and researchers should look at changing habits and the ages of mobile users as well as new types of handsets, he said.