Ex-Chief Secretary Tang Slams Land Supply Panel

March 8, 2019

NewsStandOnline.Net (8-March-2019): Former chief secretary and financial secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen said he does not agree with the approach used by a government-appointed expert panel to consult the public over options to increase land supply and he therefore disapproves of its conclusions.

The Task Force on Land Supply, which was appointed by Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor last year to come up with suggestions on how to boost land supply in order to address Hong Kong’s housing woes, submitted a final report to the government at the end of 2018 after conducting a five-month public engagement exercise between April 26 and Sept. 26.

A total of eight options, including three short- to medium-term ones and five medium- to long-term solutions, were suggested in the report.

The report was, as the 30-member expert panel’s chairman Stanley Wong Yuen-fai said, formed on the basis of extensive public participation and integrated with land supply strategies.

Asked by media what he thinks of Lam’s housing policies, Tang criticized the expert panel for not taking any position on the issue.

Tang was attending the “Two Sessions” in Beijing as he is a member of the national committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, China’s top political advisory body.

He said he did not consider the “big debate” to be a good way to obtain recommendations on how to increase land supply for housing, noting that it was nothing but a way to shirk responsibility.

Ex-Chief Secretary Tang Slams Land Supply Panel

Citing his experience as a former official of the SAR government, Tand said the administration in the past had a preconceived position on an issue before seeking public opinions, and therefore a public consultation was just conducted to listen to the voices of more people in society.

Tang compared Wong’s approach in the public consultation process to that seen in a cha chaan teng, the Hong Kong-style diner, where a waiter takes an order from a customer and serves food and drinks such as milk tea, with the amount of sugar and cream to be put in totally based on the customer’s preference.

The expert panel’s report is like an order sheet seen in a cha chaan teng, Tang said, adding that the public consultations he had led when he was in government did not turn out that way.

The former senior official also noted that he is not in favor of clawing back part of the land from the Fanling Golf Course and is very disappointed that the expert panel did not recommend the use of the periphery of country parks to increase land supply.

Asked whether the chief executive should be held responsible for the expert panel’s report since the “big debate” was part of her platform, Tang said he still has high regard for Lam.

The report was only a small thing as far as Lam’s governance is concerned, he added.  Tang did not directly respond to asked twice whether Lam will have his support if she seeks a second term.

On whether constitutional reform should be reactivated, he said the administration should focus on how to improve people’s livelihood and put aside the issue of constitutional reform.

Primary School Teacher Jumps To Her Death

March 7, 2019

NewsStandOnline.Net (7-March-2019): A 48-year-old female teacher plunged to her death from a building of a primary school in Tin Shui Wai where she worked.

The teacher surnamed Lam was found dead shortly after 7 a.m. yesterday on the campus of Tung Wah Group of Hospitals’ (TWGHs) Leo Tung-hai Lee Primary School.

She was suspected to have taken her own life. Police found nothing suspicious after arriving at the scene. They found no note left by her.

The case was listed as a person falling from a height. Post-mortem examinations will be conducted to ascertain the cause of her death.

As the incident took place at a time when pupils were having classes, the school administration forbade them to go downstairs during recess and asked their teachers to make arrangements for pupils who needed to go to the toilet.

A member of Lam’s family said that before the incident, Lam had told her that she was under a great deal of stress at work and that the principal allegedly often made unreasonable demands.

Primary School Teacher Jumps To Her Death

TWGHs said through its corporate communications branch that the group and the school were saddened by the tragic incident and extended their deepest condolences to the family of the deceased.

The school has formed a crisis team to follow up on the incident as well as help pupils and teaching staff who may need counseling from educational psychologists and social workers.  It will also set up a task force to look into the issues involved in the incident.

Education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen, who is also vice president of the Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union, said schools should find ways to improve their staffing.

He noted that many teachers normally give up to 30 classes a week, and are also required to handle other tasks such as attending meetings and writing reports.

The Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers chairman Wong Kam-leung called on the Education Bureau to allocate more resources to help teachers deal with their emotional issues.

Uber Launches Flash Service Despite Early Setback

March 6, 2019

NewsStandOnline.Net (6-March-2019): Uber’s Hong Kong unit yesterday launched a new taxi-partnership service in the city even as a partner pulled out at the last minute, reportedly under pressure from other taxi service operators.

With the “Uber Flash” service, passengers will be matched with nearby taxis or an UberX vehicle, with transactions settled through the app.  If the project succeeds, it would mark significant cooperation between Uber and the local taxis, something surprising given the outright hostility that local taxi groups had long exhibited toward the US-based ride-hailing giant.

In a sign that things won’t be easy, Uber Flash faced a hiccup even before it got off the ground, as Tin Shing Motors, the only firm known to have signed up on the new service, backed away at the last minute.  At the launch ceremony, there was no representative from Tin Shing Motors.  At the event, Emilie Potvin, Uber’s head of public policy for North Asia, told the media that the new service is ready to use regardless of Tin Shing’s backtracking.

“We respect Tin Shing’s decision not to partner with us. Our product does not rely on one company,” she said. “Our product is one that is available today. There are drivers on the platform at the moment.”  Users can now tap on the “Flash” feature on the Uber App to access both taxis and UberX vehicles, with fares and payments settled through the app, and the cost of the trip is the same between Flash and the UberX service.

By entering the drop-off point and selecting Flash service, the user will see a fare estimate, including toll fees. After the ride, the fare agreed upon before the journey will be charged automatically to the user’s credit card.  Besides, users matched with a taxi will be able to use all existing features with the Uber app, including upfront pricing, live GPS location sharing, estimated time to destination (ETD), split fare, in-app communication, lost & found reporting, etc.

Uber Launches Flash Service Despite Early Setback

Uber’s mutual rating system and customer support infrastructure will also remain in effect.  According to Potvin, some individual tax owners have signed up for the service, though she declined to go into numbers.

The executive described the firm’s latest initiative as a chance to prove to taxi drivers that Uber’s technology can enhance their business. In other comments, she said the car-sharing service will continue to negotiate with the industry.

Critics are concerned about Uber Flash’s legality as it allows the taxis to charge passengers with flexible fares, instead of following the fare meter. It is understood that under existing legislation, taxis can also provide scheduled chartered services operating as a “hire-as-a-whole”, with fares negotiated between the taxis and passengers.

Under section 38 of the Road Traffic (Public Service Vehicles) Regulations, Chapter 374D, the registered owner of a public transport vehicle, including a taxi, may hire the vehicle to any person at a rate of hire based on the time during which the vehicle is hired, with or without additional charge in respect of the mileage travelled by the vehicle while it is so hired, or on such other terms as may be agreed with the hirer.

Shortly before the launch, about three dozen taxi groups protested against the ride-hailing platform, saying it is hurting their livelihoods and that authorities should take action to stop it operating in the city. A representative of the groups also branded Tin Shing “a traitor” for partnering with Uber on the new service.

Uber has launched similar taxi-partnerships in Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Thailand and Singapore.