Thursday, 27 October 2016

Two Throw their Hats into Chief Executive Race

Woo Kwok-hing talked to the media today about running for chief executive
The process of running for chief executive of Hong Kong is typically a tightly scripted affairs -- particularly if you have the blessing of Beijing.

But in the case of retired judge Woo Kwok-hing, he doesn't seem to care and believes his professional track record makes him a good candidate, as he had no political baggage and no scandals to be exposed.

He made the announcement yesterday which was a surprise to many, and then he held a 90-minute press conference today.

Unlike other previous candidates who make these formal announcements in five-star hotels or the Convention and Exhibition Centre, Woo instead chose a meeting room in the modest Duke of Windsor Social Service Building in Wan Chai.

And he didn't have an entourage of public relations staff, but two women from a PR firm, and his son and daughter-in-law who came to support him.

Woo criticized CY Leung for dividing Hong Kong society
During the press conference he answered wide-ranging questions from incumbent Leung Chun-ying's problems national security issues.

Woo's first target? Leung. "I don't think Mr CY Leung has been able to address public grievances and halt the division of our society to ensure that Hong Kong's best overall interests are served."

He also said it "really doesn't look good" that Leung put his own name as a plaintiff in the recent legal bid to disqualify two localists, Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching, who insulted China, when the justice secretary alone should be in charge.

When asked about what Beijing thought of him running, Woo admitted that he had disclosed his plans to someone in the liaison office -- though not chief Zhang Xiaoming -- and had yet to hear back.

"The message I got from people who had contacts on the mainland told me that the central government had 'no response'," he said. "But this doesn't mean they had 'no comment'."

While he didn't disclose his platform, Woo said political reform was his top and only priority because failure to make progress in the past 19 years had plunged Hong Kong into division and conflict.

Regina Ip confirmed she would run for CE too
"When political reform is resolved, everything else will become easy," he said. Housing, a major issue taken up seriously by the chief executive, was "less important", Woo said.

Probably triggered by Woo's shock announcement, New People's Party leader Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee confirmed today on Commercial Radio that she is interested in the top job too, though she won't formalize her candidacy until after the 1,200 election committee assembles in December.

She said while Woo may be strongly experienced in law, he may not know much about the economy, livelihood issues and housing.

As a result, she plans to make housing and land the top issues in her campaign.

Ip also made a dig at supposed front runner, Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah, saying he hadn't accomplished much in the past decade.

The claws are out!

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

The Paralysis in Legco Continues

Shielded by pan-democrats, Yau Wai-ching and Sixtus Leung enter Legco
There was more drama at the Legislative Council this morning. It's so strange how things can change so much within two years.

To start, surrounding Legco were thousands of protestors, pro-Beijing ones who denounced Youngspiration localist lawmakers Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching for saying their oaths wrong two weeks ago.

Pro-Beijing protesters demand Leung and Yau resign
They chanted slogans, waved Chinese flags and had placards saying Leung and Yau should resign.

When they were first sworn in on October 12, Leung and Yau had said "the People's Republic of Chee-na" instead of "China" which the pro-establishment says is a variation of the derogatory term "Shina" used by Japan during World War II.

Legco President Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen voided their oaths and so they were going to try to take them again last week, but the pro-establishment walked out of the Legislative Council chamber so there wasn't enough quorum.

Then last night Andrew Leung made a U-turn and decided to wait until the court decides on the judicial review of his decision on allowing Sixtus Leung and Yau to re-take their oaths.

Andrew Leung abruptly adjourned the meeting again this week
He seems to have caved into his pro-Beijing colleagues' and Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's demands, but Andrew Leung claims he is following protocol. However at this moment, the way things are headed in Legco, there is no precedence.

This morning there was even a notice on the door to the chamber saying Sixtus Leung and Yau should not be allowed into the chamber.

However, in a dramatic fashion, some pan-democrats shielded the pair, escorting them in, surrounded by the media, who spilled into the chamber. Sixtus Leung and Yau had hoped that by entering the chamber they would have a chance of being sworn in.

But Andrew Leung immediately told the pair to leave, but they refused, and so he adjourned the meeting.

Excuse me -- as a taxpayer and voter, I'd like to know when will this insane fiasco ever end?

The pair already acknowledge their mistake and all of us would like the people we elected to get on with business.

How long do we have to wait for this pair to be sworn in?
The political grandstanding, particularly from the pro-establishment side is ridiculous. At the same time the pan-democrats are in uncomfortable territory -- they want to support the process of Sixtus Leung and Yau getting sworn in, but not necessarily what they stand for.

But they all called for Andrew Leung to step down, claiming he was incompetent as Legco President, and besides, his paperwork seems dodgy too.

No doubt Sixtus Leung and Yau were childish about what they did two weeks ago, but they have probably grown up intensely in that time and realize that they did go too far, and that Legco really means business.

But at the same time they see people more than twice their age throwing tantrums in Legco which makes you wonder -- who's taking the high road here?

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Truly Minimalist Living

Can you imagine living in a space slightly larger than this parking spot?
Last week we talked about some really tiny flats. There's more.

Swire's Star Studios on Wing Fung Street has studio flats are only 142 square feet.

That's 10 sq ft bigger than a standard private car parking space, according to the Planning Department.

Swire has units at Wing Fung Street that are 142 sq ft
The development, adjacent to Three Pacific Place in Wan Chai, has 120 units, six of them 142 sq ft, and 60 percent of them ranging from 206 to 240 sq ft, the largest ones are 490 sq ft.

These flats will be smaller than AVA62 in Jordan that currently has the smallest flats on the market at 152 sq ft.

"Hongkongers have to sacrifice their living quality as the sky high property prices and rents have gone beyond the reach of the general public," says Pang Shui-kee, managing director of SK Pang Surveyors.

Peggy Chan, local director of Hong Kong residential at JLL, estimated the monthly rent would be about HK$90 per sq ft, which meant the tiniest flats would cost HK$12,780 per month.

But before your jaw drops further, Swire's development, that will be available in the fourth quarter, will probably be in demand because it is located in between Wan Chai and Admiralty, near restaurants, public transport and Central.

At least there are lots of restaurants downstairs to choose from
It's amazing how much developers/landlords are asking for in terms of rent, but we also have to wonder how you live in such a small space? Obviously a bed is a priority, but then what else? Where do you put all your stuff? Sounds like hard core minimalist living.

But more importantly, at what point will the tiny size of the flat be considered inhumane?

Monday, 24 October 2016

Two More MTR Stops

Passengers crowded into the new stations to check them out
Hong Kong now has two more MTR stops on the Kwun Tong or green line.

It used to start or end at Yau Ma Tei, but now Whampoa and Ho Man Tin have been added.

The two stops were supposed to open last August, but there were engineering problems, space constraints and limited construction hours to avoid disturbing residents.

A map on the train showing the new MTR stops
However, the over one year delay didn't deter excited commuters who were ready to ride the train at 6.10am yesterday, a Sunday morning.

Even before the shutters were barely raised, over 100 people rushed into Whampoa station and cheered as the train pulled away from the station.

However seconds later the train came to a sharp halt and Adi Lau Tin-shing, operations director at the MTR explained that with any new system, new equipment and operation, there will be teething problems that have to be resolved.

But the people on the new train didn't seem to mind -- they were just too excited to have consistent transportation in their neighbourhood, or they are MTR diehard fans.

Some people were really, really excited to be on the first train
Already 108,000 people used the new stations up until 5pm yesterday, but the station is designed for some 146,000 passengers a day.

It is hoped the new stations will relieve traffic congestion in Hung Hom district, while Ho Man Tin station will become the biggest interchange station on the MTR network as it will eventually connect with the Sha Tin to Central line.

While it's exciting to see more areas becoming easily accessible, it's also the sad reality they are becoming more gentrified too...