Friday, 20 January 2017

Hong Kong Getting More Depressed

Hong Kong seems to have more depressed people since about three years ago
There are concerns there may be a growing number of depressed people in Hong Kong. According to a survey by the Mental Health Association of Hong Kong -- a non-profit group funded largely by the government -- says around 5.5 percent of 2,351 people show signs of clinical depression, almost double the number in 2014.

In addition, 9.1 percent of respondents scored a medium level on the depression index, which means they should be monitored for depression, up 8.6 percent in 2014.

Ching Chi-kong, an assistant director of the association, believes people had an outlet to voice their frustrations during the 79-day Occupy protests.

The 2014 Occupy protests allowed people to let off steam
"At that time, people had somewhere to express their anger and they may have hoped for change," he said. "If we think we lost something, we will get depressed more easily."

Another factor, suggests Dr Benjamin Lai, psychiatrist and chairman of the association, is the economic downturn that could contribute to "a high chance of depressive symptoms".

But look more closely at the survey results and 35.8 percent of respondents did no exercise for at least 30 minutes during the week, and only 18.1 percent did so only once a week.

"We need a balance in life, so it's not just about money or work," Ching said.

The Hospital Authority estimates about 1.7 million people suffer from various mental illnesses, but wait times for mental health treatment were the longest of all public health services. This is partly because there aren't enough trained psychiatrists and psychologists in the public sector.

Exercise is a good way to relieve depression and stress
The economic downturn has made it harder for people in Hong Kong. There are constant fears of being made redundant because companies are concerned about their bottom line, and there are fewer opportunities for people because some may be holding onto whatever work they have even though they may not be happy in the position.

No wonder so many don't have time for exercise, but just some movement for 30 minutes a day would alleviate some of the stress and rush of endorphins could people feel a bit better about themselves and manage their stress better.

It's tense times in Hong Kong -- for pretty much this entire year. We can't feel sorry for ourselves, or commiserate -- there's no time really. We have to have that can-do attitude and keep pushing forward.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Finally Mr Moustache in the Race

John Tsang formally announcing his bid to become the next chief executive
Former Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah is the fourth and probably last candidate to run for Hong Kong's next chief executive.

He finally made his announcement this afternoon in Central, against a backdrop that included the words "trust", "unity" and "hope".

"If there is no trust, if Hong Kong people are not united, our young people will not have hope in our future," he said, adding that the qualities were important for the city to progress.

He said there were many people in the city who were thinking of emigrating, and this concern inspired him to run for chief executive.

Tsang believes CY Leung is on the right track on housing
Tsang described himself as a good listener, willing to reach all walks of life. And he said "inclusion" is a core value of Hong Kong.

"I'm not here alone," he said. "I'm sending an invitation to all 7.45 million Hong Kong people so that together we can make Hong Kong a better place."

He added, "Hong Kong never speaks with one tongue. Hong Kong does not just served the business sector or the labour sector."

However, he seems to agree with current Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying in finding land to build more housing. Leung's policy address yesterday hinted at exploring the possibility of building low-cost housing in country parks that led to heavy criticism from environmentalists.

But while Tsang claims to be a listener, he emphasized he would not interested in those advocating Hong Kong independence -- probably a prerequisite from Beijing.

"They flatly do not know what Hong Kong is, because China has forever been the core of Hong Kong people's identity," he said.

Who will be the better candidate, Lam or Tsang?
"A great city has a strong country [behind it]. Without Britain, there would not have been London. Without the United States, there would not have been New York. Hong Kong can become better because it is embracing a great motherland."

Yikes. Tsang really is laying it on thick.

But here we go -- the race is on. It'll be interesting to see if Carrie Cheng Yuet-ngor will win the hearts and minds of young people, while Tsang's more liberal attitudes may not inspire confidence in the older generation. He also has a bizarre track record of greatly underestimating government revenues in the annual tax budget.

Perhaps his temporary successor Paul Chan Mo-po will do a better job?

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

"Explosive Shopping" Evaporates in Japan

Mainlanders aren't snapping up as many products as they used to in Japan
Hong Kong isn't seeing as many big shoppers from the mainland, and it looks like the same is happening in Japan.

Mainlanders used to clear shelves there of all kind of products, from chocolates to toilet seats, a phenomenon the Japanese called bakugai, or "explosive shopping".

How come we in Hong Kong didn't come up with a term like that?

Like Hong Kong, Japan is seeing steady numbers of tourists from China, but they are more careful about where they spend their money. Last year they were the biggest spenders, splashing out about 227,800 yen per person (US$2,008), but that figure was down 18.9 percent from a year earlier.

Japanese toilet seats used to be a popular item for the Chinese
Visitors from Hong Kong spent even less, plunging 23.6 percent year on year.

"I would not say that the decline in spending by Chinese tourists has been 'dramatic', but it has come down quite a lot," says Martin Schulz, senior economist with the Fujitsu Research Institute.

"There are two primary reasons for this, the first of which is that the yen has become stronger and that has an immediate cost impact on tourists," he said.

"... the products Chinese tourists were buying in the Ginza -- the big suitcases, the heated toilet seats, the brand name cosmetics -- are all available in China now."

He also suggested Chinese travellers who have been to Japan before are going further afield in Japan, to places where there are fewer shopping opportunities, and are actually more interested in services, which Schulz says is good for high-end restaurants and hotels.

Mainlanders don't buy as much cosmetics as they used to
The only way there will be a second wave of bakugai is when the yen weakens again to the point where more Chinese visitors will be enticed to come to the Land of the Rising Sun, but he's not so optimistic.

Service staff are probably relieved at not having to deal with such a deluge of customers, but their bosses might be annoyed they didn't capitalize enough on bakugai.

Ditto could be said for Hong Kong...

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

China is Open for Business

Chinese President Xi Jinping addresses the World Economic Forum in Davos
Xi Jinping is the first Chinese President to address the World Economic Forum, and today he used the platform to take the high road, making the case for globalization in a time when the UK will implement Brexit and President-Elect Donald Trump advocates isolationism.

In his speech, Xi promised to improve market access for foreign companies, and said China has no intention of devaluing the yuan or launching a currency war.

He said protectionism had to be opposed and the finger-pointing stopped.

"Those who push for protectionism are shutting themselves inside a dark house. They have escaped the rain and clouds outside, but also missed the light and air," he said. "A trade war will only lead to suffering on both sides."

Xi says China is open to foreign companies... really?
Since his predecessor Hu Jintao's leadership, China has been protectionist too, making it harder and harder for foreign companies to do business in the Middle Kingdom. And with the further media suppression on foreign journalists and outlets, people on the outside find it harder to get the information they need to objectively assess the situation.

So if Xi really does keep his word, it will be interesting to see China open its doors for more business -- but are companies willing to pay higher wages for labour? And will this still be cheap manufacturing, or something higher up the manufacturing chain?

In addition, Xi said there was no point in blaming globalization to the Syrian refugee crisis or the 2008 financial crisis. He said there was "no justification for wiping out economic globalization all together".

How does the Syrian refugee crisis have anything to do with globalization, when it's a civil war in the country?

What kind of president will Donald Trump be?
Nevertheless, it seems Xi is keen to stimulate his country's economy -- apparently it grew just over 6 percent in 2016 -- and perhaps get rid of its overproduction.

As the inauguration of Trump drawer closer, many are trying to come to terms with the new normal in Washington. Will he continue to see it as one big reality show in the White House, or will he really take the job seriously and help those who voted him into office?

Xi is probably looking on horrified at having to deal with a man who makes knee-jerk pronouncements that may or may not have substance. However, he is probably impressed by how Trump handles press conferences by shutting reporters down...