Tag Archives: Hong Kong

Coronavirus update: Guangdong stays at zero

Guangdong has seen zero new infections of COVID-19 for two days in a row, the first time since it started reporting the numbers, as recoveries are steadily climbing in the province. The total infections so far are 1,347, of which 873 have left hospital, with 32 discharged on Wednesday alone, according to the Guangdong Health Commission.

In Hong Kong, six new cases testing positive yesterday were confirmed, taking the city’s total to 91. Among those, 24 patients have been discharged, adding six new recoveries today, according to the city’s Centre for Health Protection. The death toll in the GBA remained at nine.

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Tale of two cities’ housing markets

The contrast between Hong Kong and Shenzhen could not be starker than in their respective plans for subsidized, or social, housing. While Shenzhen is targeting a surge over the coming two years, putting as many as 300,000 units on the market, Hong Kong has announced it will likely be able to build no more than 13,400 units in the current year, well down from its initial target of just 18,000 for the fiscal period ending in March.

Shenzhen plans to sell 600,000 new homes between now and 2022, of which rental units will be no less than 300,000, it was announced this week. This is part of the city’s bigger urban development plan, unveiled in August last year, which will see 1.7 million new houses built by 2035, with more than 1 million being subsidized.

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‘Insurance Connect’ delays; GBA integration goes on

The eagerly awaited “Insurance Connect” scheme remains on hold, with no indication of when it might be launched. However, Hong Kong’s Insurance Authority (IA) and the central government’s China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission (CBIRC) are inching forward with cross-border initiatives to spur integration within the Greater Bay Area.

This was made apparent by comments from senior officials and executives at recent forums, in Hong Kong and Shenzhen. Most prominent of these were speeches given by IA chairman Moses Cheng Mo-chi and CBIRC Chief Counsel Liu Fushou. 

Speaking at the Asian Insurance Forum in Hong Kong on December 10, Liu said that the key would be to establish regional regulatory mechanisms for insurance institutions to operate across the GBA. “Our next step is to facilitate the set-up of insurance institutions in the GBA through various approaches, particularly to help those with the expertise and features suited for GBA development.”  

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Try harder, Xi tells Hong Kong govt

It is becoming clearer that something has shifted in Beijing’s approach to governing Hong Kong. We pointed out the beginnings of this shift last week, after CE Carrie Lam’s visit to Shanghai and Beijing, where she met President Xi Jinping and her direct report, Vice Premier Han Zheng. She came back more confident, less inclined to give middle-ground statements on the protests. We speculated that it was because the central government had reached a new consensus on Hong Kong, and a change of direction was needed: restrained passive-aggressive interventionism was out; active, overt policy guidance was in.

However, until late yesterday, it hadn’t seemed like the new approach was being timed on a stopwatch. The central government was upping the pressure to introduce national-security legislation, but no deadline had been hinted at.

Then President Xi Jinping interrupted a busy schedule on his overseas trip to comment on the situation in Hong Kong. He reiterated that he wants to see the Hong Kong government and police do whatever is necessary to put an end to the protests. It was no longer just the Hong Kong government’s most important task; it was now its most “urgent,” too.

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Mainland students flee to Shenzhen, some to campuses

As mainland students flee Hong Kong’s embattled university campuses for the safety of neighboring Shenzhen, a spotlight is being shone on the relationship between the Hong Kong universities and their affiliates across the border.

Fearing that they could become targets of the anti-government protesters who have turned their campus into a battlefield, mainland students staying at the Chinese University of Hong Kong in  Sha Tin have found themselves among the more fortunate, as the university has a Shenzhen campus that opened its doors to them from late yesterday.

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Hong Kong as regional HQ: time to move?

For those who care to look, the Hong Kong protests are exposing flaws in many assumptions about Hong Kong’s competitiveness. This is not only a short-term concern, either. As revenues come under pressure, partly due to the protests, partly due to a slowing Chinese economy, operating costs are inevitably being looked at more carefully by companies based in “Asia’s World City”. It would be surprising if only a few were considering moving or scaling back their operations here.

The question is: Can other cities in the Greater Bay Area offer compelling alternatives?

The short answer would be: Yes. But do some homework first.

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In Hong Kong, end slips further out of sight

We ended our weekend analysis of the situation in Hong Kong by urging readers to remain calm and look ahead to see how a change of approach by Beijing might play out in the coming weeks and months. We didn’t have to wait long to see this advice put sorely to the test. It would have taken a deeply rooted stoicism to remain calm in the midst of Hong Kong’s newsflow today. Another shooting by police, a man set on fire, university campuses in chaos, and teargas and stormtroopers in Central: such scenes were surely enough to have sent anyone running for the exits. SCMP has it all.

We never said that Hong Kong’s situation was likely to get better anytime soon. On the contrary, it has seemed evident for some time that what is playing out now is still the prelude to a long, drawn-out conflict that will get significantly worse before it gets better. It would be right and proper to hope for peace to prevail as soon as possible, but it would be wise to plan for worse to come.

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Visitors get a taste of Chinese online payments

Fintech Week is proving to be a global PR bonanza for Hong Kong. Local media have been buzzing for the past two days about Alipay’s decision to open its payment platform inside the Chinese mainland to foreigners, the announcement of which was clearly timed to coincide with the Hong Kong event. And Mu Changchun, the central bank’s whizzkid overseeing the imminent launch of the digital Renminbi, kept the momentum going yesterday by suggesting foreigners could use it, too.

As reported by SCMP, Mu said the central bank is working to separate the virtual currency from the banking system. “Actually it could be decoupled from traditional bank accounts,” he said during an event at Fintech Week, which is being held at the AsiaWorld-Expo. “Thus, those who don’t have bank accounts in China can still open a digital wallet and enjoy mobile payment services in China.”

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Hong Kong’s role in GBA: keep calm and carry on

Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive, has received a bag of 16 goodies from her bosses in Beijing related to Hong Kong’s role within the Greater Bay Area. And the city’s role, in case anyone was wondering, is “completely unchanged”, she says.

The shiniest of these gifts from the central government is a complete relaxation on restrictions for Hong Kong residents to buy apartments in the nine Guangdong cities of the GBA.

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Office vacancy rates rise in all GBA cities

Savills has released a report on the Greater Bay Area’s office market that shows supply is increasing at a fast pace, pushing up vacancy rates.

While Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Guangzhou remain in strong demand compared to the rest, even they are seeing rates that should be enough to keep landlords awake at night.

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