Tag Archives: China

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HAD to open temporary night heat shelters

     The Home Affairs Department will open 19 temporary night heat shelters tonight (July 8) for people in need of the service.
 
     The shelters will be open from 10.30pm until 8am tomorrow.
 
     For further information, please call the department’s hotline before midnight on 2572 8427.
 
     The 19 night heat shelters are located at:
 
Hong Kong Districts:
———————
 
Central and Western –
Sai Ying Pun Community Complex Community Hall
3/F, Sai Ying Pun Community Complex,
2 High Street, Sai Ying Pun
 
Eastern –
Causeway Bay Community Centre
3/F, 7 Fook Yum Road, Causeway Bay
 
Southern –
Lei Tung Community Hall
Lei Tung Estate, Ap Lei Chau
 
Wan Chai –
Wan Chai Activities Centre
LG/F, Wan Chai Market, 258 Queen’s Road East, Wan Chai
 
Kowloon Districts:
——————
 
Kowloon City –
Hung Hom Community Hall
1/F, Kowloon City Government Offices,
42 Bailey Street, Hung Hom
 
Kwun Tong –
Lam Tin (West) Estate Community Centre
71 Kai Tin Road, Lam Tin

Sham Shui Po –
Shek Kip Mei Community Hall
G/F, Block 42, Shek Kip Mei Estate, Sham Shui Po
 
Wong Tai Sin –
Tsz Wan Shan (South) Estate Community Centre
45 Wan Wah Street, Tsz Wan Shan
 
Yau Tsim Mong –
Henry G Leong Yaumatei Community Centre
60 Public Square Street, Yau Ma Tei
 
New Territories Districts:
————————–
 
Islands –
Tung Chung Community Hall
G/F, Tung Chung Municipal Services Building,
39 Man Tung Road, Tung Chung
 
Kwai Tsing –
Kwai Shing Community Hall
Podium, Block 6, Kwai Shing West Estate, Kwai Chung
 
North –
Cheung Wah Community Hall
Cheung Wah Estate, Fanling
 
Sai Kung –
Hang Hau Community Hall
G/F, Sai Kung Tseung Kwan O Government Complex,
38 Pui Shing Road, Hang Hau, Tseung Kwan O
 
Sha Tin –
Lung Hang Estate Community Centre
Lung Hang Estate, Sha Tin
 
Tai Po –
Tai Po Community Centre
2 Heung Sze Wui Street, Tai Po
 
Tsuen Wan –
Lei Muk Shue Community Hall
G/F, Hong Shue House, Lei Muk Shue Estate, Tsuen Wan
 
Tuen Mun –
Butterfly Bay Community Centre
Butterfly Estate (near Tip Sum House), Tuen Mun
 
Yuen Long –
Long Ping Community Hall
Long Ping Estate, Yuen Long
 
Yuen Long –
Tin Yiu Community Centre
Tin Yiu Estate, Tin Shui Wai

     The temporary night heat shelters will resume their functions as either community centres or community halls in the daytime for hire by the local community and cannot continue to be open as heat shelters. People may choose to take refuge from the heat during the daytime in the common areas in any of the 21 designated community centres or community halls. Their opening hours are from 9am to 10pm. For addresses of the community centres or community halls, please browse the following webpage: www.had.gov.hk/file_manager/en/documents/public_services/emergency_services/List_CH_CC_Day_E.pdf. read more

LCQ6: Government Public Transport Fare Concession Scheme for Elderly and Eligible Persons with Disabilities

     Following is a question by the Hon Michael Tien and a reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Dr Law Chi-kwong, in the Legislative Council today (July 8):

Question:

     The Government commissioned a consultant at the end of 2018 to conduct a comprehensive review on the Government Public Transport Fare Concession Scheme for the Elderly and Eligible Persons with Disabilities (the $2 transport fare concession scheme), which is expected to be completed in the middle of this year. The Government announced in January this year that the eligible age threshold for the Scheme would be lowered from 65 to 60, and that it had requested the consultant to draw up implementation options in the review report. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether the Government has received the review report; if so, of the specific recommendations and other details in the report; whether it will make public the report; if so, of the date; if it will not, the reasons for that;

(2) given that the Government has had eight years of experience in implementing the $2 transport fare concession scheme, why the initiative of merely lowering the age threshold cannot be implemented immediately but has to wait for the consultant to put forward implementation options; whether there is a definite implementation date for the initiative; and

(3) whether, prior to the implementation of the initiative, it will consider taking other measures to reduce the transport expenses of persons aged between 60 and 64, e.g. allowing them to use the Elder Octopus for enjoying the elderly fare concessions?

Reply:

Acting President,
     
     Since the Government Public Transport Fare Concession Scheme for the Elderly and Eligible Persons with Disabilities (the Scheme) was introduced in 2012, the number of eligible elderly persons has increased from 980,000 to 1.32 million in 2019, representing an increase of about 35 per cent. Having considered the trend of an ageing population in Hong Kong, the Government expects the number of eligible elderly to rise further to more than 1.75 million by 2025. At the same time, the recurrent expenditure for reimbursing public transport operators under the Scheme reached $1,300 million in 2019/20, or 5.7 times over 2012. The recurrent expenditure is expected to increase substantially to about $3,000 million in 2025/26. Taking into account the proposal to lower the eligible age of the Scheme to 60, the number of eligible persons in 2025 will increase by about 620,000 and on this basis, the estimated recurrent expenditure required is expected to be as high as $7,000 million in 2025/26.

     The estimated government expenditure mentioned above has not covered the proposal from relevant industries of extending the Scheme to red minibuses and other modes of public transport. At the same time, as the number of beneficiaries continues to rise, public expenditure will increase substantially. Hence, the Government needs to consider seriously effective measures to prevent abuses of the Scheme in order to ensure that public funds are used properly. All these factors will affect each other and are included in the review of the Scheme by the consultant commissioned by the Government. The consultant has completed a public consultation and is in the process of compiling the final report. The Government will carefully consider the analysis and recommendations of the consultant’s report, in particular the implementation arrangements and financial commitment of the optimisation proposals.

     In respect of Member’s detailed questions, our reply is as follows:

(1) The Government engaged a consultancy firm in 2018 to conduct a comprehensive review of the effectiveness and sustainability of the Scheme and carry out in-depth studies on relevant areas including whether other public transport modes should be covered, whether eligibility criteria of beneficiaries under the Scheme should be adjusted, how abuses can be prevented effectively, application of new technologies, etc. The consultancy firm is also required to assess the feasibility and long-term financial impact of proposed recommendations. The consultant has completed the public consultation and collected views of the industry, and is now compiling the final report. The Government will carefully consider the analysis and recommendations set out the consultant’s report and assess the implementation arrangements and financial commitment of the Government. The final report will be made public. 

(2) and (3) Following the announcement by the Chief Executive in January 2020 of the Government’s proposal to lower the age eligibility of the Scheme from 65 to 60, the Labour and Welfare Bureau and the Transport Department have immediately requested the consultant to accord priority to studying practical options to implement the proposal in the comprehensive review of the Scheme being conducted. In fact, during the consultation exercise for the review of the Scheme, the consultant has listened to and collected a number of improvement proposals from the industry and the public. As I have briefly mentioned earlier in this reply, the lowering of age eligibility and the addition of more public transport modes will have a significant impact on the financial commitment of the Government in the face of the general trend of an ageing population in Hong Kong. Upon receipt of the consultant’s report, it is necessary for the Government to consider carefully the feasibility, detailed arrangements, timing of implementation, financial assessment and so on of the improvement measures proposed in the report. If the eligible age is lowered to 60 before a decision on how other public transport modes could be admitted to the Scheme, public transport modes that have not been included in the Scheme may lose a large number of passengers and face financial difficulty. According to available information, in 2018, a total of 3.6 million anonymous Elder Octopus cards or personalised Octopus cards for elderly aged 65 or above were issued and had been used within past three years and the number of cards increases by about 0.3 million per year, whilst there were only 1.27 million elderly aged 65 or above in 2018 and the annual increase of elderly reaching 65 is only around 50,000. Failure to prevent abuse effectively will cause substantial waste of public money. 

     Noting the public’s interest in the Scheme and the expectation to lower the age eligibility to 60 as soon as possible, the Government has undertaken to make public the consultant’s report and give detailed accounts of its decision and implementation timetable after the review is completed. read more

Singapore-headquartered corporate service provider establishes foothold in Hong Kong (with photos)

     â€‹Singapore-headquartered corporate service provider 3E Accounting opened its Hong Kong office today (July 8), tapping the continuous growth in demand for corporate services among newly set up companies in the city.
      
     The office is located in downtown Central and offers a series of professional services including company incorporation, accounting, tax, immigration and compliance services for start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Founder and Chartered Accountant Mr Lawrence Chai said that he is confident that the number of foreign investors setting up a base or presence here will continue to grow in the long term given Hong Kong’s unique economic and geographic advantage in relation to Mainland China’s development.
      
     Mr Chai said, “Hong Kong is an international finance and business hub offering access to the global markets. It is also an important gateway to the Mainland with pivotal roles in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area and the Belt and Road Initiative. The city has strong appeal to foreign companies as a strategic springboard to tap business opportunities in the world and China, which provides 3E Accounting ample business opportunities not found elsewhere.”
      
     He added, “The opening of the Hong Kong office will expand our service offerings to our clients, many of whom are keen to invest and incorporate their business in Hong Kong. It is our long-term business strategy to channel our expertise to support our clients’ overseas growth and expansion.”
      
     Associate Director-General of Investment Promotion Dr Jimmy Chiang said, “We welcome the opening of 3E Accounting in Hong Kong, which will add a premium choice for SMEs and entrepreneurs who value quality corporate services to support their operations in Hong Kong. Let me wish 3E Accounting and all their clients every success in their business in Hong Kong and beyond.”
      
About 3E Accounting
      
     Established in 2011, 3E Accounting provides affordable corporate services to start-ups and SMEs. Its mission is to offer the three Es – efficiency, effectiveness and economy – in complete suite of services that address all aspects of professional services including company incorporation, accounting, tax, immigration and compliance services and ongoing administration for every business entity. For more information, please visit www.3ecpa.com.hk.
      
About Invest Hong Kong
      
     Invest Hong Kong is the department of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government responsible for attracting foreign direct investment and supporting overseas and Mainland businesses to set up or expand in Hong Kong. It provides free advice and customised services for overseas and Mainland companies. For more information, please visit www.investhk.gov.hk.
      
     For event photos, please visit www.flickr.com/photos/investhk/albums/72157714986279861.

Photo  Photo  
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LCQ3: Demand-side management measures for the property market

     Following is a question by the Hon Jimmy Ng and a reply by the Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury, Mr Christopher Hui, in the Legislative Council today (July 8):
 
Question:
 
     Owing to the economic downturn in Hong Kong, various trades are now facing tremendous operating pressure, and the banks also tend to be more prudent in commercial lending. Some owners of enterprises intend to sell their properties to meet cash flow needs. However, the various demand-side management measures for the property market (commonly referred to as “harsh measures”) have greatly increased the difficulty in cashing out. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
 
(1) as it is learnt that the Singapore Government intends to relax its demand-side management measures for the property market to attract international capital to invest in Singapore, thereby boosting its economy, whether the authorities have assessed this situation and considered, before this major competitor in the Asian region launches the relevant measures, lowering the rates of ad valorem stamp duty to the previous levels to enhance Hong Kong’s competitiveness; and
 
(2) as some business operators have suggested that even if the Government does not immediately “withdraw the harsh measures” in one go for fear of affecting the opportunities for members of the public to buy their own homes, it should at least implement the following three measures: (i) gradually lowering the ad valorem stamp duty rate from the current 15 per cent to the previous levels; (ii) revising the arrangement under which a person, who replaces his/her property by acquiring a new residential property before disposing of his/her only original residential property, is required to pay the stamp duty first before they may apply for refund for the stamp duty paid; and (iii) “withdrawing the harsh measures” for non-residential property transactions, whether the authorities will implement these measures; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
 
Reply:
 
Acting President,
 
     One of the important objectives of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government’s housing policies is to maintain the healthy development of the property market. Over the past few years, in light of the actual situation of the local property market, the Government has adopted a two-pronged approach by striving to increase both land and housing supply to meet demand, and introducing several rounds of demand-side management measures to combat short-term speculative activities and reduce investment and external demands. These measures aim to prevent further exuberance in the property market which may pose significant risks to our macroeconomic and financial stability, to ensure the healthy development of the property market, and to accord priority to home ownership needs of Hong Kong permanent residents amidst the prevailing tight housing supply. When formulating policies related to the property market, different countries and regions put in place appropriate measures based on their local economic and property market conditions as well as their own policy considerations.
 
     The Hon Ng suggested that lowering the rates of stamp duty on property might help attract foreign investments and enhance Hong Kong’s competitiveness. The Government reckons that investors will consider a wide range of factors when identifying a location to set up business, including business environment and opportunities, tax regime and tax rates, and cost of operation. Given the actual situation of Hong Kong’s property market at present, demand-side management measures can ensure the healthy development of the property market, which is conducive to a stable business environment, thus maintaining Hong Kong’s competitiveness as an international financial and business centre.
 
     The Government understands that enterprises may face greater cash flow pressure under the current economic conditions. In this year’s Budget and under the two rounds of Anti-epidemic Fund, the Government has launched a series of relief measures totalling over $280 billion to alleviate the financial burden of enterprises. These include the launch of the Special 100% Loan Guarantee for small and medium enterprises and the Employment Support Scheme for eligible enterprises to ease their cash flow difficulties.
 
     In consultation with the Transport and Housing Bureau, my consolidated reply to the two parts of the question raised by the Hon Ng is as follows:
 
     In considering whether stamp duty rates concerning residential properties should be adjusted, the Government must carefully take into account the impact of relevant arrangements on the property market as a whole. Owing to global and local factors, the residential property market has turned quieter since the second half of 2019. Property prices, though retreated slightly, have shown signs of rebound recently. Overall property prices remain at a level beyond the affordability of the general public. The home purchase affordability ratio (Note) in the first quarter of 2020 still stayed at a high level of 73 per cent, well above the 20-year long-term average of 45 per cent from 2000 to 2019.
 
     Any move to relax demand-side management measures or to lower stamp duty rates may be speculated by the market as a signal for adjustments to the Government’s policies on the property market. It may also stimulate demand for local residential properties from some citizens, and lead to a counter-productive result of pushing up property prices when the current housing supply still lags behind demand. Therefore, the Government must act prudently.
 
     For non-residential properties, the Government’s objective of introducing the doubled ad valorem stamp duty is to forestall the spread of the overheating in the residential property market to the non-residential property market. Although the prices of non-residential properties have been trending downwards since 2019, they still stood at relatively high levels. The Government will continue to monitor the market situation closely.
 
     Under the existing mechanism, if a Hong Kong permanent resident acquires a new residential property to replace his/her only original residential property, he/she has to pay the relevant stamp duty first and claim partial refund of the stamp duty paid after disposing of the original property. The Government acknowledges that the arrangement may increase the acquisition costs for persons replacing their residential properties. However, if the relevant requirements are relaxed, it may invite some owners without genuine intention to dispose of their original properties to, under the guise of property replacement, defer payment of stamp duty or hold more than one residential property for a longer period with a view to making profits. This is at variance with the policy intent of introducing demand-side management measures and goes against taking care of the practical needs of Hong Kong permanent residents in replacing their properties.
 
     The Government will, as always, keep watch on the market conditions and take timely and appropriate measures in response to market changes by making reference to a series of indicators, including property prices, the home purchase affordability ratio, transaction volume and supply of properties, and local and global economic changes, with a view to ensuring the healthy development of the property market.
 
Note: Home purchase affordability ratio refers to the ratio of mortgage payment for a 45-square metre flat to median income of households (excluding those living in public housing), at the prevailing mortgage rate for a tenure of 20 years. read more

LCQ15: Police officers giving evidence in court proceeding

     Following is a question by Hon Jeremy Tam and a written reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr John Lee, in the Legislative Council today (July 8):
    
Question:
 
     It has been reported that recently, during the trial of a case of assault on a police officer, a Magistrate stated that the police officer who gave evidence was not an honest and reliable witness, and thus acquitted the defendant of the charge. On the other hand, according to section 31 of the Crimes Ordinance (Cap. 200), any person lawfully sworn as a witness in a judicial proceeding who makes a false statement shall be guilty of perjury. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
 
(1)  of the number of police officers in the past five years who were regarded by the courts as not being honest and reliable witnesses, together with the rationale of the courts;
 
(2)  of the number of police officers referred to in (1) who were subject to disciplinary actions upon investigations, and set out one by one the misconduct involved and the disciplinary actions imposed on them;
 
(3)  of the number of police officers who were prosecuted in the past five years for allegedly giving false evidence and, among them, the number of officers convicted and the punishments imposed on them;
 
(4)  of the measures put in place to ensure that police officers collect evidence honestly during criminal investigations and give evidence honestly in court proceedings;
 
(5)  of the number of police officers, who had been regarded by the courts as not being honest and reliable witnesses, giving evidence in the past five years in other cases;
 
(6)  whether it will set up, for the reference of the courts, a database on cases involving police officers being regarded by the courts as not honest and reliable witnesses, and prohibit the police officers concerned from giving evidence in other cases; and
 
(7)  given that during the recent trials of a number of criminal cases in relation to social incidents, the Department of Justice (DoJ) applied to the courts for the issue of anonymity orders in respect of those police officers who gave evidence, whether DoJ will adopt the following practice: in the event that a police officer who gave evidence has been regarded by the court as not being an honest and reliable witness, DoJ will, on account of public interest, consider applying to the court for revoking the relevant anonymity order?
 
Reply:

President,
 
     In the case of a criminal trial, the court’s refusal to accept the evidence of a prosecution witness could be due to different reasons, for instance, the court is unable to be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt as to the truth or veracity of the witness’ evidence. Hence, it does not necessarily follow that the witness is not honest and reliable, nor should the witness be considered as having made a false statement. This point must be clarified to avoid the public being misled.
 
     Having consulted the Judiciary and the Department of Justice, the reply to the various parts of the question is as follows:
 
(1), (2), (3) and (5) Neither the Government nor the Judiciary keep records of the number of police officers being considered by the courts as not honest and reliable witnesses in the past five years (2015 to 2019). The Police also do not keep record of the number of police officers who have been considered by the courts as not an honest and reliable witness and testify for other cases during the same period.
 
     In the past five years, no police officer has been prosecuted for perjury under section 31 of the Crimes Ordinance (Cap. 200). Over these five years, disciplinary actions were taken against two officers whose credibility of evidence was questioned by the court. The Police Force issued a minor offence report to one of the officers in 2016; whilst the other officer was given a punishment of “Reprimand” in 2019 subsequent to disciplinary proceedings.
 
(4) Section 10 of the Police Force Ordinance (Cap. 232) stipulates that the Police has a statutory responsibility to prevent and detect crimes and offences. During case investigations, and for the purpose of crime prevention and detection, the Police will request for information related to crime investigation from relevant persons or organisations if necessary. In accordance with relevant legal requirements, if needed, the Police will also apply for a search warrant from the court for entering premises and searching for, taking possession of or detaining relevant articles, such as seizing documents or information as evidence. Same as all other witnesses who testify during court hearings, a police officer shall give sworn evidence which he is satisfied to be true and accurate in court. In accordance with Chapter 45 of the Police General Orders, prosecution witnesses (including police officers) are allowed to refresh their memories of what occurred from records (for example, their own statements, etc.). However, they should not have a pre-trial discussion of the evidence. In particular, police officers should not hold a meeting before the trial to look at each other’s notebooks or statements, or to discuss the evidence of the case. Nevertheless, police officers may follow the accepted practices of: (i) pooling their re-collections of events when making their notebook entries, either at the time of or shortly after those events when facts are fresh in their minds; (ii) at the time of (i), signing each other’s notebooks to indicate that these are true and that they agree with the records made; and (iii) later, before giving evidence, refreshing their memories individually from the records made.
 
     In addition, a witness (including a police officer) must not speak to another witness who has not yet given evidence. Any communication or conversation on case-related or evidence-related topic amongst witnesses is strictly prohibited.
 
     A witness wilfully committing perjury in court and a witness being considered by a judge as not giving credible testimonies can be two different situations. There are existing legal and administrative mechanisms to deal with these situations.
 
     In respect of wilful perjury, under section 31 of the Crimes Ordinance (Cap. 200), if any person lawfully sworn as a witness, either generally or in a particular judicial proceeding, wilfully makes a statement in any judicial proceeding which is material in that proceeding and which he knows to be false or does not believe to be true, he shall be guilty of perjury and shall be liable on conviction upon indictment to imprisonment for seven years and to a fine.
 
     If the court considers that there is prima facie evidence suggesting perjury by a witness (including a police officer), the court may refer the case to the Department of Justice for follow-up. The Police will co-operate and handle the matter seriously. Subject to the investigation results, the officer concerned may be liable to criminal responsibility and also subject to disciplinary actions.
 
     If any person considers he or she is being affected by police misconduct and lodges a complaint, the Complaints Against Police Office shall handle it in a fair and impartial manner according to established procedures, and shall then report to the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) and submit an investigation report to the IPCC in accordance with the Independent Police Complaints Council Ordinance (Cap. 604).
 
(6) and (7) As a matter of general principle, according to the Indictment Rules (Cap. 221C), the description or designation in an indictment of the accused person, or of any other person referred to therein, shall be such as is reasonably sufficient to identify him, without necessarily stating his correct name or his abode, style, degree or occupation. This principle applies to charge sheets used in the Magistrates’ Courts and the District Court.
 
  The Statement on the Treatment of Victims and the Witnesses released by the Department of Justice stipulates that victims and witnesses are entitled to have their rights to privacy and confidentiality respected. In this regard, the Department of Justice will take into account the circumstances of the cases and consider on a case-by-case basis as to whether the names of victims and witnesses should be revealed. No generalisation should be made in this respect.
 
     Article 87 of the Basic Law gives to any accused the right to a fair trial. The Prosecution Code (the Code) issued by the Department of Justice stipulates that one of the guarantees of fairness is the full and timely disclosure to the defence of all relevant or possibly relevant material (or material information – and not confined to admissible evidence) available or known to the prosecution, whether it assists in the proof of the prosecution case or not.
 
     The Government has no plan to set up a database regarding the situation mentioned in Part (6) of the question.
 
     As for prosecution, paragraph 12.3(c) of the Code stipulates that materials to be disclosed by the prosecution include known discreditable conduct of a prosecution witness (including disciplinary records) that may reasonably affect his or her credibility. The Department of Justice will comply with the duty of disclosure to ensure the protection of an accused’s right to a fair trial. These information can assist the court in determining the reliability of the testimonies given by the witness. read more