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April, 2012:

Job No 1 for Leung: replace Yau


Now that the Legislative Council’s environment panel has voted down funding for the proposed incinerator at Shek Kwu Chau, one of Leung Chun-ying’s first tasks as chief executive should be to remove Edward Yau Tang-wah from the position of environment minister.

The name of the Environmental Protection Department is inappropriate.

It has allowed our air quality to deteriorate and wasted millions planning a giant incinerator that would have worsened air pollution and trashed an area of unspoilt countryside.

There has been much talk about how Mr Leung needs to earn the support of the civil service and the public. Hong Kong has lacked leadership in recent years, and a leader gains support by earning respect. He must very publicly replace the under-achievers who are at present cluttering up our civil service.

This would put much needed accountability and fear of retribution into our cosseted bureaucrats and, at the same time, win instant support from the city’s frustrated citizens.

Mr Yau, in particular, has wasted years dithering over an unenforceable ban on idling engines while ignoring pollution, environmental degradation and waste disposal.

We have become a laughing stock, with stories running in the international press portraying the SAR as the world’s dirtiest financial centre, which produces more rubbish per capita than anywhere on earth.

Yau and others remind me of the department head in the British comedy television series Yes Minister: “My department is not expected to do things; we are just here to explain why things cannot be done.”

R. E. J. Bunker, Lantau

Smog set to stay for years as ozone rises


Environmentalist criticises government for blaming Guangdong and dry weather for increase in pollutant when cap on vehicle emissions will work

Olga Wong 
Apr 27, 2012

The city’s notorious smog will plague Hong Kong for years to come as the biggest pollutant contributing to it – ozone – is still on the rise.

The concentration level of ozone hit a record high of 0.058 milligram per cubic metre on average last year, according to research by the regional air quality monitoring network, a 10 per cent year-on-year increase and a 21 per cent rise since the network began its monitoring in 2006.

While the Environmental Protection Department was keen to take credit for reducing other pollutants, it blamed dry weather and rapid development in Guangdong province for the unprecedented ozone levels.

But a leading environmentalist criticised the government for shifting the blame and urged it to adopt more drastic measures to reduce ozone – a main component of photochemical smog and a pollutant that can trigger asthma. Ozone is formed through a photochemical reaction between nitrogen oxide and volatile organic compounds under sunlight.

Ozone is the only one of four pollutants monitored by the network that is on the increase. It also measures sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide, which fell 4 per cent and 7 per cent respectively last year compared with 2010. The fourth, respirable suspended particulates, remained at the same level.

Since 2006, the pollutants have been reduced by 49 per cent, 13 per cent and 14 per cent, respectively.

“The reduction is encouraging. It shows measures taken by both sides to improve air quality are working,” the department’s deputy director, Andrew Lai Chi-wah, said. But Lai blamed the accumulation of ozone on dry weather and the influence of Guangdong. “We had less rain and very high temperatures last year. We also saw a 10 per cent GDP growth in Guangdong,” he said, adding that the problem was difficult for Hong Kong to solve alone.

Dave Ho Tak-yin, a principal environmental protection officer, said the Observatory recorded 38 per cent less rainfall and 16 per cent more sunlight last year.

Ho said the problem could not be resolved quickly due to air pollution in the Pearl River Delta, adding: “The ozone spreads to Hong Kong with the monsoon.”

But Man Chi-sum, the chief executive of the environmental group Green Power, said traffic, not the weather, was the key factor in ozone levels. “Weather can be influential but it is not the most critical factor,” he said. “Hong Kong has much room to reduce ozone by cutting the level of nitrogen oxides.”

Man urged the incoming administration to impose a cap on the emissions of bus fleets, like it did for power plants, as diesel vehicles were a major source of nitrogen oxide. Other measures suggested in the past, such as electronic road pricing and setting up low-emission zones, should also be reconsidered, he said.

Planned incinerator would have damaged environment


Apr 26, 2012

The Environmental Protection Department must be feeling disappointed that its plans for a super-incinerator on Shek Kwu Chau have now been put on hold (“Bureau ditches HK$15b incinerator funding bid”, April 21). However, the department’s arguments have been flawed all along.

It refused to consider the more modern plasma arc technology, with almost zero emissions. It also completely missed out on one of the major benefits of any incinerator – using the energy generated to produce electricity and hot water for the local community, something that the location on Shek Kwu Chau negated.

It ignored the fact that the pollution caused by transporting rubbish to Shek Kwu Chau, and the remaining 14 per cent of toxic sludge back to landfills, would have neutralised any environmental advantage brought about by its remote location.

Department officials ignored the obvious cost and environmental benefits (less transportation equals less pollution) of utilising the already besmirched Tsang Tsui ash lagoons site.

Most shockingly of all, they completely failed to see what was wrong with placing a massive industrial facility on an unspoilt island, in an area of untouched pristine natural beauty. Once it is destroyed, it is gone forever.

In all the years of planning for this incinerator, there has been no meaningful attempt to force households to separate their waste and recycle, now standard practices in Europe and in Japan, Korea and Taiwan.

Other countries have been able to achieve substantial reductions in the amount of household waste generated and this drastically reduced the need for an incinerator.

There is no glass recycling in Hong Kong, apart from a few tiny operations. Also, no effort has been made to produce a meaningful air quality index, or cut air pollution on our streets, with the exception of introducing liquefied petroleum gas taxis.

If you can ask for HK$14 billion for one incinerator, why not come up with a concrete plan to spend public money on sponsoring the replacement of all the old polluting vehicles in Hong Kong? Or how about introducing electronic road pricing to get private cars off the roads, and pay for the replacement of old vehicles?

Sorry, Environmental Protection Department, if you want the Hong Kong people to believe that you are really committed to protection of the environment, then you are going to have to step up your game.

Bert Young, Chai Wan

Tsang exceeds the limit on excursion to Brazil

Chief executive’s junket went way over budget for senior civil servants

26 April 2012


The bill for Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen’s stay in a Brasilia hotel’s “presidential” suite exceeded the cap on his own officials’ daily expense allowance for visiting the Brazilian capital by 23 times.

The controversy over Tsang’s hotel bill gained momentum yesterday after TVB (SEHK: 0511) reported that Hong Kong’s Economic and Trade Office (ETO) in Washington had spent HK$1.6 million on two visits to prepare for Tsang’s trips and on accompanying the chief executive to Brasilia.

According to the Civil Service Bureau, the limit for civil servants’ daily overseas subsistence allowance in Brasilia is 557 Brazilian reals (HK$2,300), more than 23 times Tsang’s US$6,900 (HKD$53,820) bill for his one-night stay in the presidential suite of the Royal Tulip Brasilia Alvorada hotel earlier this month.

Tsang’s bill is also 22 times the US$317 daily lodging and meal allowance for all US civilian officials visiting Brasilia, according to the US State Department’s website.

Citing “working needs” to justify his choice of hotel, Tsang has invited the Audit Commission to probe his spending during his nine-day trip to New Zealand, Chile and Brazil.

“We followed the rules and procedures. The most important thing is we made the decisions according to working needs,” said Tsang. “I believe inviting the [Audit Commission’s director] to examine the arrangements will allow us to scrutinise the situation more objectively.”

Benjamin Tang Kwok-bun, the commission’s director, confirmed that the expenses would be examined by his office, and said the study would focus on whether the spending conformed to “the conservative and moderate principle”. He expected the probe would take a month.

Chief Executive’s Office director Professor Gabriel Leung Cheuk-wai said Tsang had not been involved in choosing the accommodation: “We did not seek approval from the chief executive on the choice of hotels. The presidential suite was needed to provide room for internal meetings, reception of guests and handling of any ad hoc events.

“The nearest ETO [to any destination to be visited by the chief executive] will do the planning for his transport and accommodation a few months or even half a year ahead of the visit,” Leung said.

TVB reported that the Washington ETO paid two site visits, in October and March, spending HK$760,000 on flights alone. Five of the office’s eight staff members took part in the October visit, while seven went on the trip in March.

Lawmaker Leung Yiu-chung said taxpayers’ money had been “wasted” on Tsang’s excursion to Brazil.

“Would Donald Tsang please stop dreaming of being the president,” Leung said. He also feared any review by Tang, the audit commissioner, would be too late and only forward-looking, allowing Tsang to leave office unscathed when his term ends on June 30.

Tanya Chan from the Civic Party also doubted whether it had been necessary for ETO staff to make the two site visits to Brasilia.

Wong Kwok-hing, lawmaker from the Federation of Trade Unions, said the Independent Review Committee for the Prevention and Handling of Potential Conflicts of Interests should draw up guidelines for the chief executive’s overseas trips.

The panel, headed by former Chief Justice Andrew Li Kwok-nang, has been set up to examine the rules of behaviour for top officials after a conflict-of-interest row erupted over Tsang’s alleged acceptance of favours from tycoon friends.

However, New People’s Party chief Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee said such guidelines would be unnecessary. “It is the job of the Chief Executive’s Office to draw up a guideline with reference to the current strict rules regulating civil servants.”

Labour Party chairman Lee Cheuk-yan also agreed that any guidelines were the Chief Executive Office’s responsibility. “Donald Tsang has been a civil servant for so many years. Does he not know that public servants have to be careful?”

A spokeswoman for the review committee said it had “noted media interest in this matter”.


Description: Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen has asked the Audit Commission to take a closer look at his travel expenses.

Description: Harry's view

Hong Kong signs tax treaty with Malaysia wow!

Clear the Air says: Wong’s noodles in Sze Wan Shan welcomes this treaty !
Ma Loi Sai Ah bindo aah ?

Meanwhile how about the filthy air here ?

Hong Kong (HKSAR) – The Financial Secretary, Mr John C Tsang, today
(April 25) signed in Kuala Lumpur an agreement with Malaysia for the
avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of fiscal evasion with
respect to taxes on income on behalf of the Hong Kong Special
Administrative Region Government. The Malaysian Minister of Finance II,
Dato’ Seri Ahmad Husni Mohamad Hanadzlah, signed on behalf of his

This is the 24th comprehensive agreement for the avoidance of double
taxation (CDTA) concluded by Hong Kong with its trading partners, coming
after those with Belgium, Thailand, the Mainland of China, Luxembourg,
Vietnam, Brunei, the Netherlands, Indonesia, Hungary, Kuwait, Austria,
the United Kingdom, Ireland, Liechtenstein, France, Japan, New Zealand,
Portugal, Spain, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Malta and Jersey.

Welcoming the agreement, Mr Tsang said it will further strengthen the
bilateral relationship by encouraging the flow of investment and talent
between Hong Kong and Malaysia.

In the absence of a CDTA, the profits of Hong Kong companies doing
business through a permanent establishment, such as a sales outlet, in
Malaysia may be taxed in both places if the income is Hong Kong sourced.
Under the agreement, double taxation will be avoided in that any
Malaysian tax paid by the companies will be allowed as credit against the
tax payable in Hong Kong in respect of the income, subject to the
provisions of the tax laws of Hong Kong.

In the absence of a CDTA, Hong Kong residents receiving interest from
Malaysia are subject to Malaysian withholding tax, which is currently at
15 per cent.

Under the agreement, such withholding tax rate will be capped at 10 per
cent. The interest withholding tax rate will be further reduced to 0 per
cent if the interest is paid or credited to the HKSAR Government, the
Hong Kong Monetary Authority, etc. The Malaysian withholding tax on
royalties, currently at 10 per cent, will be capped at 8 per cent.

The Malaysian withholding tax on fees for technical services, currently
at 10 per cent, will be capped at 5 per cent.

Under the CDTA, Hong Kong airlines operating flights to Malaysia will be
taxed at Hong Kong’s corporation tax rate (which is lower than that of
Malaysia). Profits from international shipping transport earned by Hong
Kong residents that arise in Malaysia, which are currently subject to tax
there, will not be taxed in Malaysia under the agreement.

The Hong Kong/Malaysia CDTA has incorporated the latest Organisation for
Economic Co-operation and Development standard on exchange of

The Hong Kong/Malaysia CDTA will come into force after the completion of
ratification procedures on both sides. In the case of Hong Kong, an order
is required to be made by the Chief Executive in Council under the Inland
Revenue Ordinance.

The order is subject to negative vetting by the Legislative Council.

Hong Kong is actively seeking to expand its network of CDTAs with major
trading and investment partners. Where CDTA discussions with some
jurisdictions cannot be started for the time being, Hong Kong will seek
to conclude limited double taxation avoidance arrangements for airline
and shipping income with relevant partners. So far, 27 avoidance of
double taxation agreements on airline income, six agreements on shipping
income and two agreements on airline and shipping income have been

Details of the Hong Kong/Malaysia CDTA will be available on the Inland
Revenue Department’s website


Registration and Licensing of Vehicles by Class of Vehicles

table41a Page 3-11 Totals Franchised and Public buses in Hong Kong as at end March 2012

Download PDF : table41a

Explaining Hong Kong’s rising temperatures


Apr 25, 2012

I refer to the article by Wyss Yim (“Hot? Blame the urban heat island”, April 1).

To enable your readers to better understand the issue on the urban heat island effect in Hong Kong and the roles of carbon dioxide and water vapour in global climate change, we would like to provide the following information.

As the Observatory headquarters is situated in the heart of Kowloon, where significant development has taken place over the past half century, the long-term temperature increase over the last 125 years or so can be attributed to both global warming and local urbanisation.

We recently further studied the headquarters’ temperatures utilising, as reference, the long-term data of Macau and air temperature data at higher altitudes above Hong Kong which are less affected by the urbanisation effect.

The results suggest that the two factors mentioned above have roughly contributed equally to the observed warming in the past few decades.

While the higher annual mean temperature at the headquarters, compared with Waglan Island, may be partly attributable to the urbanisation effect, the year-to-year fluctuation in the temperature difference between the two sites is more complicated, being affected by other factors including oceanic effects.

Water vapour is a condensable greenhouse gas which cycles through the atmosphere quickly (the water cycle) and its concentration adjusts to global temperatures.

Generally speaking, a warmer atmosphere can hold more water vapour. With warming on a macro scale induced by the increase in the concentration of non-condensing and long-lasting greenhouse gases (for example, carbon dioxide and methane), the atmosphere is able to absorb more water vapour which will further intensify the greenhouse effect, forming a positive feedback loop.

Therefore, although the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is lower than that of the water vapour, carbon dioxide (together with other non-condensing greenhouse gases) is a principal controlling factor affecting the earth’s climate.

Thus, the rapid increase in the concentration of human-induced greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is considered by scientists and policymakers to be one of the most serious problems that mankind has to face, not only now but for generations to come.

T. C. Lee, for director of the Hong Kong Observatory

Dirty buses off the road in four years


Three operators get 10-year franchises in exchange for replacing 700 old vehicles, but action groups call for more fare concessions
Joyce Ng
Apr 25, 2012

Three bus companies are expected to replace 700 polluting buses, offer more fare concessions and make space for foldable bicycles after being granted new 10-year franchises by the government.

But critics say the renewal conditions do not go far enough in demanding cleaner vehicles and more concessions for elderly passengers and long-distance commuters.

The new franchises are for New World First, on Hong Kong Island, some cross-harbour routes and routes from the island to Tseung Kwan O; Long Win, on routes from the airport to the New Territories; and Citybus, for its airport and North Lantau bus network.

They will begin when the existing agreements expire in May and July next year.

“The renewal was made after a public consultation and rounds of discussion,” Secretary for Transport and Housing Eva Cheng said yesterday after the Executive Council approved the renewal. “The government’s main consideration was whether the bus companies could provide efficient services.”

The operators agreed to replace a total of 700 buses with buses meeting the latest Euro V emissions standards by 2016. Many buses in the fleets have reached the end of their expected 17-year life cycle.

Cheng said the operators had also committed to letting passengers bring foldable bicycles on board and to incorporating barrier-free access and elderly-friendly features.

They will offer an additional 60 fare concession schemes, ranging from 30 cents to HK$24.90, on top of the existing ones, including 27 new discounts for passengers interchanging between different bus routes and 27 new section fares for people travelling shorter distances on long-distance bus routes. Some Hong Kong buses charge a flat fare regardless of the distance travelled.

At present, 116 interchange discounts are available and there are section fares for 112 routes.

Cheng said the concessions would benefit an extra 8,000 passengers, especially airport workers and residents of Tung Chung, Hong Kong Island and Tseung Kwan O.

But Coalition to Monitor Public Transport and Utilities spokesman Richard Tsoi Yiu-cheong said the fare concessions were inadequate.

“Obviously the government did not seize the renewal opportunity to make more demands on bus companies to improve their services,” he said. “At least they should charge the elderly and the disabled a much lower fee.”

At present, elderly passengers are charged half price except on weekends, when they pay a flat HK$2 fare. But Tsoi said they should travel free or be charged one or two dollars like their mainland counterparts.

Helen Choy Shuk-yi, general manager of the Clean Air Network, said the dirty, old buses would be replaced too slowly. “The government lacks the determination to improve roadside air,” she said.

Choy said the three companies had 751 buses that were due to be replaced by 2018, meaning the new replacement requirement would only bring forward the replacement date by two years.

Martin Turner, of the Cycling Alliance, welcomed the provision for folding bicycles. But he urged the operators to allow cyclists to take the folded bikes on board without having to put them in bags or strap them up.

Hung Wing-tat, a transport specialist at Polytechnic University, called for the new administration, which takes office in July, to review the bus fare pricing mechanism and make it more transparent.

The three companies welcomed the arrangements.

Tsang stayed in US$6,900 presidential suite


Joyce Ng
Apr 25, 2012

Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen has sparked another controversy over his conduct, with his office admitting that he stayed in a US$6,900 hotel presidential suite during an official visit to Brazil this month.

The one-night stay in Brazil’s capital, Brasilia, was chosen by the Chief Executive’s Office and paid by taxpayers, the office said last night.

“The so-called presidential suite is just a name, coming in different standards in different hotels,” a spokesman said. He said no rules governed the type of accommodation the Hong Kong chief executive could stay in during official trips.

The office said it was not the usual practice to consult Tsang (pictured) before booking any overseas accommodation. It did not say if it consulted him in this case.

The hotel, Royal Tulip Brasilia Alvorada, was centrally located in a safe area and was experienced in hosting state leaders, the spokesman said. “Other suites in that hotel were too small to meet practical needs, such as holding internal meetings and receiving local representatives.”

The use of the 360-square-metre suite, with private access, a main living room, a balcony and a meeting room, avoided the need to rent a conference room in the hotel, he said.

But according to a government website, Tsang had met local representatives elsewhere in the city.

Premier Wen Jiabao , in his 2003 visit to Hong Kong during Sars, refused to stay in a presidential suite and chose a cheaper room in the Grand Hyatt hotel in Wan Chai.

Since April last year, Tsang has spent HK$4.2 million in nine official visits, excluding Brazil. He has been besieged by a series of conflict-of-interest rows since February over alleged favours from tycoon friends.

The spokesman said that at the next stop, in Sao Paulo, Tsang stayed at Renaissance Sao Paulo Hotel, paying US$1,250 for one night. The office opted for the second most expensive room, the Mayflower Suite, instead of the presidential suite.

Professor Ma Ngok, a political scientist at Chinese University, called the luxurious accommodation “over the top”. “He seems to be ignoring public opinion after all the controversies and in this sensitive period.”