Sunday, May 26, 2013

REUTERS: Google to bankroll, build wireless networks across Africa: WSJ | Article | Technology

(Reuters) - Google Inc intends to finance, build and help operate wireless networks from sub-Saharan Africa to Southeast Asia, hoping to connect a billion or so people in emerging countries to the Internet, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.

The Internet search giant - which has for years espoused universal Web access - is employing a patchwork quilt of technologies and holding discussions with regulators from South Africa to Kenya, the WSJ cited people familiar with the strategy as saying.

Access to the vast trove of information on the Internet, and the tools to make use of it, is considered key to lifting economies up the value chain. But countries are often hampered by the vast sums needed to build infrastructure, thorny regulations or geographical terrain.

To reach its goal, Google, which benefits the more people have access to its search and other Internet services, is lobbying regulators to use airwaves reserved for television broadcasts, which at lower frequencies can pass through buildings and over longer distances, the WSJ reported.

It is also working on providing low-cost cellphones and employing balloons or blimps to transmit signals over hundreds of square miles from high altitudes.

The company has already begun several small-scale trials, including in Cape Town, South Africa, where it is using a base station in conjunction with wireless access boxes to broadcast signals over several miles, the newspaper reported.

Chief Executive Larry Page has made no secret of his plans to use his company to work toward broader, non-profit goals. Google on Friday declined to comment on its plans.

(Reporting by Edwin Chan; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)

scmp: Exco is losing its power and authority, says Legco chief

Jasper Tsang says city's troubled policy-making body has been losing power since the handover and calls for review of its make-up and function

Stuart Lau

The city's core policy-making authority, the Executive Council, has been losing power since the handover and its function and composition must reviewed, the head of the legislature has urged.

His suggestion follows last week's resignation of Exco member Barry Cheung Chun-yuen, who is being investigated by police in connection with his failed Hong Kong Mercantile Exchange. Another Exco member, Franklin Lam Fan-keung, has been on indefinite leave of absence since November after coming under investigation by the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing said Exco was not living up to its past role.

"During British rule, the Executive Council was a body with actual power. [Its members] had a strong say in front of the governor; their words carried a lot of weight," said Tsang, who sat on the executive councils of former chief executives Tung Chee-hwa and Donald Tsang Yam-kuen. "There was a rule that if the governor reached a decision contrary to the majority view in Exco, he needed to ... give specific reasons on record, which would be seen by the British government. Today, we can't see the Executive Council performing the same function," Tsang said.

Exco's website still says that if the chief executive does not accept its majority opinion, he needs to put the specific reasons on record. And the Basic Law stipulates that Exco is the body responsible for helping the chief executive make policy decisions.

Tsang noted that the number of Exco members and the ratio between officials, lawmakers and people from public life were "completely unregulated".

"The chief executive decides solely who sits on Exco and when to terminate their appointments," Tsang said.

Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, a current member, said Exco's power had "diminished in the face of a rise in de facto party politics".

"In the old days, when Exco made a decision, that was it. Because Legco was appointed, we can't expect Exco [now] to function with the same decisiveness and authority."

Professor Ma Ngok, of the Chinese University, said Exco had become a "political reward" for the chief executive's supporters, resulting in a loss of authority.

The Chief Executive's Office said Leung "is willing to listen to" views on Exco's operation.

Meanwhile, Jasper Tsang said there was no need to improve on Exco's "already stringent" rules on declaration of interests.

Barry Cheung ignored questions from reporters as he left his Repulse Bay home last night.

Exco members then and now

Some members of Chris Patten's Exco

Baroness Dunn non-executive deputy chairman, HSBC
Vincent Cheng Hoi-chuen first Chinese executive director at HSBC
Sir William Purves chairman, HSBC Holdings
Andrew Li Kwok-nang Queen's Counsel, later first post-handover chief justice

Some members of Leung Chun-ying's Exco

Barry Cheung Chun-yuen chairman, HKMEx (resigned on Friday)

明報: 曾鈺成﹕行會效遜行局應改革





昔日發言權大 港督不接納理由須記錄


李鵬飛:港督如「指揮交通」 不發言


田北俊:現今「廢廢懐」 得梁粉會出事




Thursday, May 23, 2013

scmp: H7N9 bird flu found to spread through the air

Virus can also infect pigs, say HKU researchers, who warn officials to maintain tight scrutiny even though threat seems under control

Jeanette Wang

The H7N9 bird flu virus can be transmitted not only through close contact but by airborne exposure, a team at the University of Hong Kong found after extensive laboratory experiments.

Though the virus appears to have been brought under control recently, the researchers urged the Hong Kong authorities to maintain strict surveillance, which should include not only poultry but humans and pigs.

"We also found that the virus can infect pigs, which was not previously known," said Dr Maria Zhu Huachen, a research assistant professor at HKU's School of Public Health.

There have been 131 confirmed human infections, with 36 deaths, the World Health Organisation said. All but one of the cases was on the mainland. The virus appears to have been brought under control largely due to restrictions at bird markets and there have been no new confirmed cases since May 8.

But Zhu said that although there was no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission, their study provided evidence that H7N9 was infectious and transmissible in mammals.

In the study, to be published today in the journal Science, ferrets were used to evaluate the infectivity of H7N9. It was found the virus could spread through the air, from one cage to another, albeit less efficiently.

Inoculated ferrets were infected before the appearance of most clinical symptoms. This means there may be more cases than have been detected or reported.

We also found that the virus can infect pigs, which was not previously known ... People may be transmitting the virus before they even know that they've got it

Dr Maria Zhu Huachen, HKU's School of Public Health

"People may be transmitting the virus before they even know that they've got it," Zhu said.

Additional tests using pigs, a major host of influenza viruses, showed that they could also get infected with H7N9. Zhu warned that H7N9 may combine with pig viruses to generate new variants.

On a more positive note, it was found that the virus is relatively mild.

"Most of the fatal H7N9 cases had underlying medical conditions, so there are probably some other factors that contribute to this kind of fatality," Zhu said.

To avoid H7N9 becoming endemic in poultry populations, which would create a greater opportunity for human transmission, the researchers suggested a rethink on how live poultry markets are managed.

Zhu believed the Hong Kong government had "done a very good job" in this area and should continue to do so. The government implemented a surveillance programme on local and imported poultry in 1998. It includes monitoring the live poultry supply chain, pet shops, parks and the wild bird environment.

She said the government had collaborated with HKU on intensive surveillance of both birds and pigs. Zhu added that people who regularly had close contact with live poultry or pigs should take precautions, have routine body checks and report their case immediately if they feel unwell.

View H7N9 map in a larger map

Click on each balloon for more information on individual patients infected: blue, patients infected with the H7N9 virus under treatment; red, those infected with H7N9 who have died; yellow, those who have fully recovered; and pink, those infected other types of the Influenza A virus, including H1N1.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

scmp: Chinese demand Biden apologise for 'insensitive' commencement speech

US Vice-President comments on China: “Their problems are immense, and they lack much of what we have (...) You cannot think different in a nation where you cannot breathe free; you cannot think different in a nation where you aren’t able to challenge orthodoxy, because change only comes from challenging orthodoxy."



'It was a humiliating experience. And how can a graduation speech be this political?' said a UPenn student, taking issue with Biden's comment that China cannot 'think different'

Amy Li

Chinese students and parents are demanding an apology from US Vice-President Joe Biden for "insensitive" comments, weeks after he referred to China as the nation that cannot “think different” or “breathe free” during a commencement speech at the University of Pennsylvania.

“I believe Biden should apologise over his inappropriate comments made at my commencement in the face of at least hundreds of Chinese people,” Zhang Tianpu, a graduating Wharton senior and Chinese citizen, told the South China Morning Post on Wednesday.

“It was a humiliating experience,” he said. “And how can a graduation speech be this political?”

Zhang and his peers have already drafted a letter to Biden demanding an official apology. The letter has 343 signatures as of Wednesday and will be sent to the university’s president before reaching Biden's desk.

Biden’s comments, which were called "inappropriate", hugely disappointed the Chinese in his audience. They were delivered in the middle of his May 13 speech, reported by the Guardian as  “by far the funniest of the recent commencement addresses”.

But not everyone appreciated his jokes. Touching on the concern that “the Chinese are going to eat our lunch”, Biden assured his audience that they had nothing to fear.

“Their problems are immense, and they lack much of what we have,” he said, citing America’s universities, its “open and fair legal” system,  vibrant venture capital markets and innovative minds.

The key to all these, Biden argued, was the ability to “think different”, in a reference to Steve Jobs' slogan for Apple.

“You cannot think different in a nation where you cannot breathe free; you cannot think different in a nation where you aren’t able to challenge orthodoxy, because change only comes from challenging orthodoxy.”

To which Zhang argued: “Come on, my ancestors were challenging orthodoxy even before his ancestors got to America.”

Biden mentioned China a second time towards the end when he spoke of his 10-day visit to the Middle Kingdom. Of then president-to-be Xi Jinping, he said:

“He’s a strong, bright man, but he has the look of a man who is about to take on a job he’s not at all sure is going to end well. I mean that seriously."

In a post that went viral on China’s social media, Zhang interpreted Biden’s message in the following words:

“So because China is ---- up, we are well-positioned. We are well-positioned to lead the world into the 21st century, ” he wrote. ”This is what I think he was saying.”

In an e-mail sent to The Post, Zhang dismissed criticism that he was overreacting.

“After four years of sweat and toil, after four years of spending Chinese New Year without your family, and after four years of eating tasteless food, you have finally earned this day when you can proudly graduate. But you know that all is worth it because you want to learn from an advanced developed country, something you can use to contribute to your hometown. So you decide to call up all of your friends and family to fly across the Pacific Ocean to celebrate with you on this special day. Then, on your graduation day, you get up super early, happily dress up in your academic regalia, and have your friends and relatives seated in the field, cameras ready, recorders turned on, all excited.”

“And then all of sudden, the graduation speaker, who is supposed to be there to congratulate you on your achievement, says to you: you and your nation suck. Regardless of whether that statement is true, how would you feel?”

Zhang had first ranted on China’s popular social media website Renren. His post has since drawn thousands of comments, from supporters and critics.

“Biden isn’t obligated to please China,” commented a reader. “And the right reaction is to catch up with America, instead of whining about it.”

“Don’t attribute to political agenda what can easily be explained by stupidity,” another wrote.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

scmp: Andrew Li Kwok-nang wants clear timeline for talks on 2047 issues


The former chief justice and handover pioneer says talks on the future of 'one country, two systems' must start within the next two decades

Gary Cheung

The city's former top judge, who took part in a historic trip 30 ago years to Beijing for talks with the central government's leaders on Hong Kong's future, has called on settling the future of "one country, two systems" in 15 to 20 years' time.

Andrew Li Kwok-nang, who retired as chief justice in 2010, made the call when he reflected on the 30th anniversary of the "Young Professionals Delegation", which headed north to express their views on Hong Kong's future.

Li was a member of the 12-strong Hong Kong group that also comprised legislators Allen Lee Peng-fei, Selina Chow Liang Shuk-yee and barrister Martin Lee Chu-ming.

The professionals left on a six-day trip to Beijing on May 16, 1983. They asked National People's Congress vice-chairman Xi Zhongxun, father of President Xi Jinping, and the widow of former premier Zhou Enlai, Deng Yingchao, to extend Britain's lease on Hong Kong when it expired in 1997.

It was the first group to propose "Chinese sovereignty-British administration" for Hong Kong.

"Reflecting on the last 30 years, they [the young professionals] have seen the phenomenal rise of China, our motherland, as a modern nation and the reunification of Hong Kong, our homeland, with her," Li told the South China Morning Post over the weekend.

"It has been my good fortune to have lived through these historic times and to have been given the opportunity to serve and to participate in the successful implementation of 'one country, two systems'."

Li went on to say that in about 15 to 20 years' time, the future of Hong Kong after 2047 would have to be discussed and settled.

The former top judge pointed to the fact that a 25-year mortgage taken out in 2022 will expire in 2047.

"Our next generation of leaders will have to shoulder this responsibility," Li said. "I am optimistic that as long as all concerned appreciate that one country as well as two systems are integral parts of the formula, we can continue after 2047 to maintain our own separate system based on respect for human dignity, with our own core values and our freedoms."

As the years eat into the 50-year lifespan of "one country, two systems" - already almost a third of the time has gone and the halfway mark is in a decade - there are many questions that have yet to be answered. Some academics and specialists say these questions need to be resolved now, particularly for issues stretching beyond 2047, such as property ownership.

Li told law undergraduates at the University of Hong Kong in November that the future of "one country, two systems" would have to be discussed and settled well before the end of the 50 years in 2047, probably around 2030.

But he did not elaborate on which aspects would have to be settled at the time. Late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping promised in the early 1980s that Hong Kong's economic system and civil liberties would remain unchanged for 50 years after the handover in 1997.

Allen Lee, who headed the delegation in 1983, is organising a reunion dinner in early July.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

scmp: Hong Kong universities raise fees by up to 20pc for non-local students


Inflation, stronger yuan blamed for increases that some fear will deter mainland students

Shirley Zhao

Hong Kong's eight government-funded universities have raised tuition fees by as much as 20 per cent for non-local students this year, attributing it to inflation and a stronger yuan.

Chinese University, the University of Science and Technology and City University have all increased the cost of their undergraduate programmes for non-locals from HK$100,000 to HK$120,000 per year.

"Costs have gone up due to inflation and the appreciation of the yuan," said Chouk Yin, of the mainland and external affairs office at City University. "The adjustment is to ensure the quality of our education."

The University of Hong Kong will charge non-local undergraduates HK$135,000 a year - a rise of HK$16,000. Polytechnic University, Lingnan University and Baptist University have lifted their fees to HK$110,000 from HK$100,000. The Hong Kong Institute of Education now charges HK$100,000 a year, an increase of 17.6 per cent.

Fees for local students will remain the same.

There are more than 10,000 non-local students at the eight universities, including almost 6,000 undergraduates. About 77 per cent are from the mainland, according to the University Grants Committee (UGC), a panel that advises the government.

Despite the fee increase, HKU's Melanie Wan said she was confident the university would remain attractive to mainland students.

"Over the years, HKU has attracted top students from the mainland because of its high-quality education and internationalised campus," she said. "Scholarships are available for outstanding students, and there is financial aid to support those in need."

HKU took in 360 mainland undergraduates last year, up from about 300 in previous years. The university said the increase was a one-off and due to the change in the university system last year which extended undergraduate programmes from three years to four years. She said this year the number would return to around 300.

Duan Bing of Dongfang International Centre for Educational Exchange, a mainland education consultancy, believed higher tuition fees would not put off mainland students.

"Our company has formed a team for the Hong Kong market," Duan said. "This shows how strong the demand is."

But some observers took the view it would dent demand.

"The increase in tuition will definitely affect non-local students' willingness to come to Hong Kong," said Professor Chung Yue-ping of Chinese University. But "local universities can create more scholarships, provide subsidies for living and allow students to take certain paid jobs to lessen the impact", he added.

Wang Siqing, a Guangzhou resident whose 17-year-old son is in his second year of high school, said he wanted to send the boy to a university in Hong Kong so that he could develop "international horizons and critical thinking" skills.

"Of course it'll be even better if he can get a scholarship," he said. "But if he doesn't, I'm willing and able to afford his tuition."

The cost of educating an undergraduate student in a government-funded programme last year was HK$233,000, according to the UGC.