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    Executive Producer:Diana Wan


    Last Sunday, the pan-democratic camp held its primaries to decide who should run in the upcoming March by-elections. Despite a lack of polling stations, facilities and money to spend on publicity, there was a high turnout that surprised even the organisers. This week, candidates from the pro-government camp have also been throwing their hats in the ring. With us in the studio to talk about that is political scientist and co-founder of Power of Democracy Joseph Cheng.

    Some observers were amused to see Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba, recently paying a bar bill with a credit card, rather than with his smartphone. Yes there he was, the founder of the online cashless payment platform Alipay, reverting to an older payment technology. Digital payment is big in mainland China, which has some 668 million active internet users and 594 million mobile internet users. Instead of forking over notes and coins, many people are making even the smallest transactions via smartphones, QR codes and cards. The PRC is now the world’s largest e-commerce market. Its digital payment market is 50 times larger than that of the United States. But while digital payment gathers momentum in China and India, people in many other places, including Hong Kong, are adapting more slowly, often due to concerns about privacy and security.

    Contact: wanyt@rthk.hk


    • Policy Address & discussion on press freedom with Keith Richburg & Chris Yeung

      Policy Address & discussion on press freedom with Keith Richburg & Chris Yeung

      On Wednesday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam delivered her second Policy Address. Her 40-minute speech highlighted several controversial policies and projects. And she doesn’t seem to mind courting controversy. “Dissatisfaction was expected”, she said, arguing that tough decisions had to be made. According to a University of Hong Kong survey, the public gave the Address only 48.5 marks, 13.9 marks fewer than her first one. Lam’s own popularity has also dropped to 47.6, an all-time low since she became Chief Executive.

      Just two weeks ago, and for the first time since the Handover, the Security Bureau used the Societies Ordinance to outlaw the Hong Kong National Party, a political group that has advocated Hong Kong independence. Secretary for Security John Lee warned that any act to destroy China’s sovereignty would cross an “untouchable red line”. However, he did not give a clear answer when asked whether people sharing the group’s views on social media or journalists reporting or interviewing its members would be breaking the law. However an indication of the government’s intentions in this matter when a prominent foreign correspondent was denied renewal of working visa. With me in the studio are Keith Richburg, formerly with the Washington Post in a number of capacities. He is now Director of Hong Kong University’s Journalism & Media Studies Centre and Chris Yeung, another veteran journalist and Chairperson of the Hong Kong Journalists’ Association to talk about the state of press freedom in Hong Kong.

    • Cardinal Joseph Zen on Vatican China Agreement & YMT fruit market

      Cardinal Joseph Zen on Vatican China Agreement & YMT fruit market

      On 22nd September, the Vatican signed a provisional agreement with the People’s Republic of China that gives the government the right to nominate bishops and the Vatican the right of veto. Beijing broke off relations with the Holy See in 1951, after accusing the church of espionage, but there are still up to 12 million Catholics in China, who either attend state-sanctioned churches or worship in so-called underground congregations. For decades, Beijing has subjected underground Catholics, clergymen, and their lawyers to prosecution, house arrest and imprisonment. Crosses on top of churches have been taken down and the churches themselves have been either placed under surveillance or been demolished. In 2016, the State Administration for Religious Affairs introduced a further 26 regulations to restrict religious practice. Last November, Christians were instructed to replace displays of Jesus, crosses and gospel passages with images of President Xi Jinping. And there is also talk of plans to rewrite the Bible with Chinese characteristics, incorporating Buddhist scripture and Confucian teachings, alongside with some rewriting of hymns. Against this background, and in the face of considerable controversy, the Vatican and the Chinese government have reached a deal that goes some way to establishing a lasting relationship. Earlier this week, I spoke with Cardinal Joseph Zen about what he thinks this means for Catholics.

      The people who make decisions for Hong Kong are pretty unsentimental when it comes to “out with the old, in with the new”. Old businesses, streets and buildings are regularly pushed out of the way for big profits. That also applies to Hong Kong’s markets. The century old Graham Street Market has been fragmented to make way for a luxury residential high-rise. The Central Market is being “preserved and revitalised” although it’s pretty unclear exactly how this will be achieved. And all that’s left of the former Wan Chai Market, a Grade III historic building, is a façade that now serves as the entrance to yet another residential property. Also facing “preservation and revitalisation” is the more than a century old Yau Ma Tei Wholesale Fruit Market, although there’s still intense discussion about what this entails.

    • Banning of HK National Party, discussion with Johnson Yeung of HK Civil Hub, interview with George Papandreou & tribute to Charles Kao

      Banning of HK National Party, discussion with Johnson Yeung of HK Civil Hub, interview with George Papandreou & tribute to Charles Kao

      There were many major political battles between the British and Chinese governments before the Handover. The last governor Chris Patten wanted to implement a more fairly representative electoral system and new human rights-related laws to bring the territory in line with the United Nations’ human rights standards. That included making major amendments to the Societies Ordinance and the Public Order Ordinance in July 1992 and July 1995 to ensure civil liberties. However, many of the then government’s initiatives failed to survive the transition. They were reversed by the Provisional Legislative Council selected by the People’s Republic of China in 1997. That’s proved useful for the current government. On Monday, for the first time since the Handover, the Secretary for Security John Lee used the Societies Ordinance to issue an immediate ban on a local political group.

      Friday marks the four-year anniversary of the street protests that initiated the Umbrella Movement. With me in the studio is Johnson Yeung, Executive Council member of the newly formed civil society group, Hong Kong Civil Hub to talk about civil movement in Hong Kong.

      On the 20th August, the so-called Troika of the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund released Greece from the terms under which it had lent the country bailout funds of €289 billion. Theoretically that meant the end of eight years of depression and externally imposed austerity. Greece’s prime minister Alexis Tsipras has said the country is “once again becoming a normal country, regaining its political and financial independence.” But there’s still a long way to go, and the Greek people are still paying the political and economic cost of the global financial crisis that began with the collapse of Lehman Brothers a decade ago. George Papandreou comes from a long political dynasty. His father and grandfathers both served as the country’s prime ministers. Shortly after the financial crisis, he took on the thorny task of being the country’s 182nd Prime Minister. To a country that already had a high unemployment rate, Papandreou introduced austerity measures that caused massive nationwide strikes and protests. In November 2011, he stepped down as prime minister. But he has been angling for a comeback, and set up a new party, Movement of Democratic Socialists. He was in Hong Kong two weeks ago, and I caught up with him.

      Charles Kao, scientist, educator and electrical engineer died last Sunday at 84. Known as the “Father of fibre-optic communications”, in the 1960s he played a critical role developing the optical fibres on which the internet and much modern communication is built. In 2009, Kao was awarded a joint Nobel Prize in Physics. He was a much respected vice chancellor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong for nine years from 1987. In 2002, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, a diagnosis that led to him and his wife Gwen Kao setting up a foundation to raise public awareness about the disease.

    • Typhoon Mangkhut aftermath & tree management with Jim Chi-yung & Gavin Coates

      Typhoon Mangkhut aftermath & tree management with Jim Chi-yung & Gavin Coates

      Hello and welcome to The Pulse. Even before it hit, there was every indication Typhoon Mangkhut was going to be intense and it was.
      It’s the strongest typhoon ever recorded in Hong Kong. Winds with maximum sustained speeds of 250km/h wreaked havoc. And then there was the flooding: Typhoon Mangkhut brought the highest storm surge on record as sea waters rose up to 3.9 meters above normal levels. In terms of human casualties, Hong Kong got off lightly. But there was a lot of damage, for which the government seemed ill-prepared. The following day, although classes were suspended and despite widespread destruction that severely disrupted public transportation systems. Workers were forced to make long and tiring treks as they tried to get back to work.

      Welcome back. In the immediate aftermath of Typhoon Mangkhut, roads were strewn with foliage, broken glass and other debris. Many of the transport problems on Monday were caused by trees that toppled and blocked roads. The government says that around 15,000 trees had fallen. It may be inevitable that trees will be affected by a typhoon, but the sheer number that fell this time suggests there’s something wrong with the way Hong Kong is planting and looking after them. With me in the studio are Jim Chi-yung, Research Chair Professor of Geography & Environmental Science at The Education University of Hong Kong and Gavin Coates, a Senior Lecturer in Hong Kong University’s Division of Landscape Architecture.

    • Forum on land supply: Housing - A Crisis in Land Supply?

      Forum on land supply: Housing - A Crisis in Land Supply?

      Hello and welcome to a new series of The Pulse. And, appropriately we are devoting this first programme to one of the biggest issues of the day ¡V how to find enough land to meet Hong Kong¡¦s housing needs.

      In April, the Task Force on Land Supply launched a five-month public consultation. It offered the public 18 options for ways of freeing up land over the next ten years. The consultation is ending soon. And fortunately we have with us today some of the most knowledgeable people on this subject. On the platform we have Stanley Wong, Chairman of the Taskforce on Land Supply, Marco Wu, Former Chairman of the Hong Kong Housing Society, James Tien, Honorary Chairman of the Liberal Party, Albert Lai, who is the convenor of the Professional Commons policy committee and Ryan Ip, a Senior Researcher at the Our Hong Kong Foundation.

    • Liu Xia in Germany, 709 anniversary & interview with Bernard Chan

      Liu Xia in Germany, 709 anniversary & interview with Bernard Chan

      Some good news for those who have long been worried about the well-being of Liu Xia, the widow of the dissident and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo. This week she was finally allowed and go to Germany after eight years of what amounts to house arrest. Her release came a day before Chinese Premier Li Keqiang signed a commercial deal with Germany worth some 20 billion euros. Chinese officials deny a connection between these two events but the deal is also timely as a trade war between China and the United States moves from warm to hot.

      We also talked to Bernard Chan, Convenor of the Non-official Members of the Executive Council, will be with us to talk about a whole lot things including housing policy, land supply and the current state of Hong Kong politics.

      The flight to freedom of Liu Xia wasn’t the only good news this week. There was also very good news from Thailand where the coach and all members of the Wild Boars schoolboy football team were rescued from a cave after a complex and dangerous operation. They had been trapped for 17 days by sudden flooding in the Tham Luang caved in Chiang Rai. The search and three-day rescue mission involved Thai Navy Seals and diving experts from many countries. This extraordinary undertaking captivated world attention and saw offers of help pouring in from home and abroad. . Sadly, a former Thai navy SEAL, Saman Gunan, who’d volunteered to join the rescue, died while delivering air tanks. We’ll leave you with images of the rescue.

      And that’s it from us for this week and in fact for this series. We’ll take a short summer break and will be back taking The Pulse of Hong Kong in mid-September. See you then.

    • Same-sex dependant visa: QT case & 21st HKSAR through the eyes of 2 HKUSU presidents

      Same-sex dependant visa: QT case & 21st HKSAR through the eyes of 2 HKUSU presidents

      The latest study by Hong Kong University’s Centre for Comparative and Public Law and Chinese University suggest that over half of Hong Kong people now support same-sex marriage. That’s a big increase from the 38% in a similar 2013 study. 69% also said there should be a law against discrimination based on sexual orientation. The administration however shows no sign of wanting to change the laws. On Wednesday though, the government suffered a defeat in the Court of Final Appeal which made a landmark ruling on the eligibility of a lesbian couple for a dependant visa. With me are solicitor Michael Vidler and Peter Reading, Legal Counsel for the Equal Opportunities Commission.

      Two weeks ago, the Central-government-backed Ta Kung Pao newspaper said that the annual July 1st march should be banned because it calls for an end to one-party rule in China, opposes the central and Hong Kong governments, and “violates the law and the constitution”. The police were also making things difficult this year, telling the organisers, The Civil Human Rights Front, that they would only allow the march to begin at small area of the lawn in Victoria Park. They warned of possible arrests if protesters tried to join later on the route. This year’s turnout was at a three-year low. The organiser said around 50,000 took part. And it wasn’t just the July 1st march that saw low numbers. Since the Umbrella movement ended in 2014, other political protests have also seen reduced participation.

      On Tuesday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam lost her temper at the weekly media session after the Exco meeting. She appeared to be saying that answering questions in English was a waste of time. Then late at night, she issued a statement to apologise for causing “confusion” with her remarks. We’ll leave you with that and see you next week, when, with apologies to Mrs Lam we will still be broadcasting in English. Goodbye.

    • New housing measures: discussion with Lau Ping-cheung & Fred Li & land supply consultation

      New housing measures: discussion with Lau Ping-cheung & Fred Li & land supply consultation

      Hello and welcome to The Pulse. Sunday is the 21st anniversary of the establishment of the Hong Kong SAR. It is also a moment for Hongkongers and the central government to take stock of Chief Executive, Carrie Lam’s first year in office. Some of that report card should focus on how well or badly she has dealt with Hong Kong’s ongoing housing crisis. This week, a step was taken. After weeks of talking about imposing a tax on vacant properties, on Friday the government announced several measures aimed at tackling housing problems. With us in the studio are members of the Long Term Housing Strategy Steering Committee, Lau Ping-cheung and Fred Li to talk about the new measures.

      Hong Kong’s birth rate has gone down, but our population is still growing, thanks in part to the daily quota of 150 allowed to settle here from the mainland. 830,000 mainland residents have arrived since the Handover and that number’s expected to reach 1.93 million by 2021. The quota’s controlled by the central government. The Chief Executive says it’s irrelevant to our housing issues. She’d rather look for another 1,200 hectares of land to meet estimated need for the next three decades. Hence the setting up of a Task Force on Land Supply in April, and a currently running five-month public consultation. Some critics, even in the administration, say that even now the government is underestimating how much we’re going to need. Others argue that it’s also underestimating the land already available … from sources on which the government seems unwilling to draw.

      Last Sunday, the people of Turkey cast their votes in snap presidential and parliamentary elections. President Recep Erdogan, who has been in power for more than 15 years, called for early elections in mid-April, 18 months earlier than planned. After 99% of the votes had been counted he had already won a 52.54% share of the national vote. It gives him increased executive powers to appoint high level government officials and senior judges, to dissolve parliament, issue executive decrees, and impose a state of emergency. Lucky citizens. We’ll leave you with images of the elections. See you next week. Goodbye.

    • The potential legislation on electronic cigarettes and interview with Alex Chow

      The potential legislation on electronic cigarettes and interview with Alex Chow

      Repercussions continue following the Umbrella Movement and protests advocating localism which took place in the past four years – Edward Leung and some of his colleagues are now sitting in jail having been given long sentences earlier this month, other activists have been barred from standing for election – more trials are pending and new laws to limit both protests and freedom of expression are in the pipeline. An editorial in the pro-government Ta Kung Pao newspaper this week, for example, called for a ban on the annual 1 July protests on grounds that they conflict with the Basic Law.
      Does this mean that not only did the moment fail but that activists are too demoralised to carry on? Earlier this week we spoke to Alex Chow, one the movement’s more prominent leaders who has found another way looking at protest. More on that later.

      But first, this week the government announced that it was considering legislation to regulate the sale of electronic cigarettes. This has been met with strong opposition from the medical profession and anti-smoking advocates who point out that just three years ago the government was planning to simply ban the sale of e-cigarettes. With us to discuss the issue is Kwok Ka-ki, who is a doctor and Civil Party legislator.

      The severe prison sentences given to Edward Leung, the former leader of Hong Kong Indigenous and others found guilty of rioting in Mong Kok, after the Umbrella protests sent a sharp reminder that anti-government protests can come with a heavy price. Meanwhile the level of protest in Hong Kong has clearly gone down. Does this mean that democracy advocates are either too dermoralised or indeed too scared to carry on? One person who’s been thinking a lot about this is Alex Chow, the former Secretary General of the Hong Kong Federation of Students and was among the most high profile leaders of the Umbrella Movement.

      Finally, to another kind of disruption, we’ll leave you with images of the mayhem and u-turns caused by Donald Trump’s immigration policies…
      There will however be no u-turns at The Pulse, at least until next week – so see you then- Goodbye.

    • Sha Tin to Central Link Scandal: discussion with Miriam Lau & the plight of Green Sea Turtles

      Sha Tin to Central Link Scandal: discussion with Miriam Lau & the plight of Green Sea Turtles

      Late on Thursday night the government got its way as legislators, by 40 to 20 votes, gave the green light to a border checkpoint that will see mainland laws enforced in the heart of Hong Kong at the West Kowloon Express Rail terminus. A variety of … let’s say “interesting” … tactics had been used including evicting legislators, refusing to let them attend the following meeting (in apparent contravention of Legco rules), capping debate time, and barring some lawmakers from speaking,
      But that’s far from the only controversy that infrastructural projects like the Express Rail Link, the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge, and the Sha Tin to Central Link have been facing. There’s also the issue of construction inadequacies, as in the case of Hong Kong’s most expensive internal rail project to date, the HK$97 billion 17-kilometre Sha Tin to Central Link. With us to discuss the issue is Miriam Lau, former chairman of Legco's Panel on Transport.

      Two years ago, the University of Hong Kong released the first comprehensive study on Hong Kong’s marine biodiversity. It revealed that 5,943 marine species have been found within an area of just about 1,651 square kilometres. That’s not a huge area, but it hosts more than a quarter of all the marine species recorded in China. We have more hard corals than the whole Caribbean Sea, and more mangrove tree species than East Africa. Despite that less than 2% of our marine area is designated as marine parks, and even that designation provides only limited protection. And one of the creatures at risk, thanks to encroachment on the sea and plastic pollution, is the Green Sea Turtle.

      Well, arguments over who has the biggest nuclear button, at least for now, on Tuesday, the U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un met in Singapore. The two leaders were all smiles, patting each other on the back while Mr Trump enjoined photographers to make them “look nice and handsome and thin.” They issued a statement that they plan to work towards the “denuclearisation” of Pyongyang, although no timetable was given. Meanwhile Mr Trump agreed to U.S-South Korea joint military exercises.