Month: December 2018

Hong Kong’s grave marine plastic pollution long left untackled, Greenpeace statistics show

HONG KONG-POLLLUTION-SOCIETY
Cleaning operatives are sweeping a beach in Lung Kwu Tan, NW New Territories, flooded with plastic debris.

Hong Kong’s waters and shorelines have increasingly become a magnet for plastic wastes which Greenpeace says could underlie health risks and inflict “irreversible harm” to the region’s subtropical marine ecosystem.

The survey by the environment group’s flagship, Rainbow Warrior, counted plastics in Hong Kong’s waters as part of a global project to research marine pollution.

The group said they had found a total of 8,212 plastic pieces ranging from 1.01 to 4.75 millimetres at 18 sites in water away from the coast in the research carried out in January this year, almost 20 times more than what they found in the adjacent East China Sea.

The group determined that there were almost four pieces of plastic per cubic metre of water in the samples taken.

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Source: Greenpeace


Greenpeace said those levels were worse than other larger territories in the region, including China, Japan and South Korea, according to the data they had found from waters in those countries.

The density of the amount of waste off Hong Kong was the equivalent to finding around 3,600 pieces of plastic debris in an Olympic-size swimming pool, said Bonnie Tang, a Greenpeace campaigner who is responsible for studying the city’s plastic pollution.

Tang said most of the plastic was broken-down fibres and polystyrene from a range of single-use items, including food containers and disposable cutlery.

“The result is shocking, especially when you take the small size of the city into account,” Tang said. “Hong Kong is a hotspot of marine plastic pollution.”

She added that the long-term danger was that toxins from waste would enter the food chain as fish and birds eat the rubbish.

The data, which is still being analysed by a team of academics for Greenpeace, comes at a time when Hong Kong is struggling to deal with the mountains of waste it produces.

The city’s landfills are reaching the saturation point next year, but there is no mainstream recycling culture.

The semi-autonomous southern Chinese city also lies at the mouth of the highly industrialised Pearl River with the potential for rubbish to wash in from there.

Greenpeace is still studying why Hong Kong’s plastic pollution problem is more severe than other countries.

But Tang attributed the marine plastic pollution to a number of factors, including waste washed down from landfills into the sea, the dumping of rubbish straight into the ocean and marine accidents in international waters nearby.

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Source: Greenpeace


“The problem is persisting with a tendency to increase,” said Christelle Not, a marine scientist at the University of Hong Kong who specialises in the city’s pollution, who added that the city’s problem was compounded by a lack of plastic recycling and poor waste management.

She also said that the plastic litter in Hong Kong waters were primarily domestic wastes and the input from the Pearl River, especially during summer when monsoon brings rains to southern China.

The HKU oceanographer could observe a plastic boom in the ocean after heavy rain or typhoon presumably transported by the wind and rain from the streets and open landfills.

A journal paper published by Dr Not and her colleagues in June last year identified the Pearl River itself and its tributaries, Xi River and Dong River, were amongst the world’s top 20 polluting rivers.

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Lincoln Fok, an environmental scientist at the Education University of Hong Kong, has been researching the city’s microplastic problem.

“Hong Kong has one of the highest mean abundances of microplastic waste in the world,” he claimed.

Last year, Dr Fok and his team found that 60 per cent of the wild flathead grey mullet fish available in local markets contained up to 43 pieces of microplastics inside their bodies.

Greenpeace is worried that if people keep disposing wastes into the ocean, plastic scraps will pile up along the food chain and thereby undermining public health because toxic substances, such as pesticide and plasticiser, can accumulate on their surfaces.

“It is impossible to scoop the plastics out of the ocean once it’s got there; you don’t need a prophecy to tell the problem will become much more intense three decades later,” Tang added.

Some shops in Hong Kong charge for plastic bags and a few individual businesses have announced they will no longer hand out single-use items such as straws.

Hong Kong Baptist University is also dedicated to eliminating plastics from the campus. Diners have to pay $1 to buy a straw or disposable takeaway box.

Hong Kong generated 15,573 tonnes of waste daily, according to the latest government figures from 2016. About 98 per cent of the rubbish went to landfills.

While nearby regions, such as Taiwan and India, have been gradually outlawing the use of disposable plastics, Greenpeace grills the Hong Kong government of “lagging behind” and urges a timeline to phase out plastics in the city.

The Environment Bureau replied to our enquiry that it was looking into a proposal to control single-use plastic tableware.

They felt they were “on par with other nearby regions” in tackling marine pollution.

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“The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department has been monitoring closely the performance of cleansing contractors and conducting regular inspections as well as surprise checks,” the bureau said in their statement when asked what measures the government had taken to address the increasing issue.

The investigation team conducted an online survey between December 1 and December 7, receiving 485 responses in total.

There is a slight correlation between the awareness of harm due to microplastics and the consumption of plastic products. The result shows that middle-aged people are more aware of their plastic consumption than younger generations.

Besides, one in three respondents claimed they did not know what microplastics was.

Hong Kong’s biggest recent pollution scandal came in August last year when its water and beaches became thick with globs of palm oil that came from a 1,000-tonne spillage.

In 2012, 168 tonnes of plastic pallets tipped out from a Chinese cargo ship into the city’s waters during Typhoon Vicente.

Several local and Macanese media also reported some pallets then had spread to beaches in south-eastern Macau.

Images of Hong Kong’s plastic clogged beaches have become more common with volunteer groups periodically trying to clear them.

“More and more actions are taken to limit plastic usage and all these are good but I personally think that they are still too few to start to make a real change,” said Dr Not.

“Hong Kong cannot afford to delay in ridding its shorelines of plastics,” said Tang.

Timeline

Tournament needed for future development of Hong Kong‘s esports industry

Reported by Erica Chin, Kobie Li, Elly Wu

Hong Kong esports athlete, Lo Tsz-kin won a gold medal at the Asian Games 2018. However, since esports are not recognised as an official sport in Hong Kong, he is not eligible to receive the $400,000 cash award as other gold medalists under Athlete Incentive Award Scheme.

Hong Kong’s esports industry has been developing slowly compared to other countries, experts say hosting mature tournaments is the key for the industry’s future development.

Hong Kong has a large amount of highly skilled players, yet the industry had started late and the development of the local esports industry is slow when compared to other regional countries which started around the same time as us like Japan and Vietnam, said Marbles So, manager of Kowloon Estadium, a company which provides practice venue and management for professional esports players.

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Mr. So said that development of Hong Kong’s esports industry remains slow among countries which had started around the same time.

According to a report by Cyberport published in 2017, Hong Kong has more than 300,000 esports players. Professional esports teams have been set up by esports management companies such as Kowloon Estadium and Hong Kong Esports Limited.

Many professional esports players, however, opted for developing their career outside of Hong Kong, mainly in mainland China and Taiwan. In 2012, Hong Kong League of Legends (LoL) player Lau Wai-kin, who goes by Toyz, had won the Season 2 World Championship with his Taiwan-based team, Taipei Assassins.

The Hong Kong government has been supportive of esports in recent years. In 2017, the government funded $35 million in the Hong Kong Esports Festival, the first esports and music festival organised by the Tourism Board.

Acknowledging “tremendous potential” in the industry, Financial Secretary Paul Chan announced in the 2018 budget that the Hong Kong government will allocate $100 million to Cyberport for its development of an arcade for esports competitions and digital entertainment.

Still, compared to the global esports industry, Hong Kong’s is a late bloomer.

Global esports industry has been blooming

Zoom out to view the entire timeline

International esports competitions had started as early as 2000 in South Korea with the commencement of The World Cyber Game Challenge, which included games like StarCraft and FIFA 2000. Other countries including the United States, Germany, Singapore and China has been hosting numerous international tournaments.

According to market research firm Newzoo, esports revenue had increased 4.5 times from around USD$200 million in 2014 to more than USD$900 million. Global revenue has been predicted to reach more than USD$1600 million in 2021.

The largest portion of esports income comes from sponsorships and advertising, which in combined accounts for over 60% of the industry’s total income, according to Newzoo.
Among the different games, the game with the largest combined prize pools among the top 100 tournaments is Dota 2, a multiplayer online battle game in which two teams of five players battle against opposing team to occupy others base and defending their own on a map.

The country with the most esports players on the top 500 highest prize earning player is South Korea, with 99 players; followed by the United States with 98 players; and then by China with 79 players. However, only one player from Hong Kong, Lau Wai Kin Toyz, reached the list by winning the LoL Season 2 World Championship with his Taiwanese team.

Among the top 100 tournaments with the largest prize pools, most final rounds took place in the United States, China, South Korea, and others in Europe and the Philippines. However, Hong Kong has not organised large international tournaments which made it to the list as of yet.

Why does Hong Kong need tournament?

All of our interviewees emphasized that having a Hong Kong esports tournament is the key to develop local esports industry. Mature tournaments will attract investments for esports clubs, hence more local companies will have resources to organize regular esports events and competitions in Hong Kong, said Eric Yeung, president of the Hong Kong Esports Association.

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Eric Yeung agrees that Hong Kong has a lot of potential to organise international esports tournaments.

A professional esports team require a lot of support for players, for example, massagist, psychologist, data analyst and fitness as well as strategic coach. Esports team managers are responsible for these kinds of backup support because players are highly focused on competitions for almost four to five hours, it consumes both physical and mental energy, said Marbles So.

 

Let's be social.

Yet, esports companies are more willing and likely to stay in countries with more tournaments to provide services and training for players, so many Hong Kong players have chosen to develop their career outside of Hong Kong such as Taiwan or mainland China which have more comprehensive tournament systems, said Mr. So.

Players are the most valuable assets of local esports industry, said Marbles. Many Hong Kong players ranked among the top and they will be more willing to stay in Hong Kong team when there is a tournament here, he added.

Mr. Yeung agrees that Hong Kong has its own advantages in building a mature tournament system. Hong Kong is highly accessible for players from different countries because nationals from most countries including the United States, South Korea and most European countries can enter Hong Kong visa-free.

“Hong Kong is capable of organizing high-quality international competitions,” Mr. So echoed with Mr. Yeung, adding that comprehensive infrastructures and social facilities in Hong Kong also attract international players to join the competition.

Despite all the advantages, Hong Kong still faces limitations. Esports is a fan economy, its development depends on the number of supporters which is linked to the number of sponsorships and investments. However, the population of Hong Kong is too small to support the local development and it is hard to reach international fans due to language barriers, said Mr. Yeung.

The cost of organizing events and developing esports teams is very high in Hong Kong. This also hinders the development of local industry, said Mr. So. In Southeast Asian countries, esports is a popular and decent industry because they can earn a lot from the prizes and sponsorships when compared to their average salary. But when it comes to Hong Kong, the basic salary alone is not enough to support a professional esports player, he added.

When tournaments are organised in Hong Kong, it brings talents, investments and recognition of esports to Hong Kong and creates a positive ecosystem for the local industry, Mr. So said.

As for now, Hong Kong still lacks esports management talent which is important to the international events, siad Mr. Yeung. Yet, HKU Space is now providing esport management course for students to learn about the history of esport, events and club management as well as eco system of esport, he added.  

“We are now discussing with our counterparts in Macau about the future development of a tournament system, we hope that tournaments can be organised in Hong Kong as soon as possible,” said Mr. So.

Women in esports

In recent years, more and more female players have gotten involved in video games and played an important role in esports because their fine appearances can attract more audience and make game shows more entertaining, Mr. So said.

In 2016, the first all-female professional esports team, PandaCute was founded. They compete mainly in League of Legends, a multiplayer online battle game that has attracted more than 100 million players a month.

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PandaCute has won several female-only tournaments in the region since their establishment. 

However, the prizes won by male and female players have a big difference. The highest prizes won by a female player is US$290,000 ($2.62 million), while the highest prizes won by a male player is US$4 million ($31.2 million). At the same time, only one female player has gotten on the list of top 500 prize-winning players worldwide.

The female-only tournaments

“Esports are unisex,” said Mr. Yeung, despite the esports industry being male-dominated now, there will be more and more female players joining the industry.

“Separating gender in a tournament is negatively stereotyping female players,” said Sleepyz Ho Wai-luen, a new member of PandaCute, the all-female professional esports team.

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Sleepyz Ho Wai-luen was a semi-finalist in the StarCraft 2 tournament in World Electronic Sports Games 2018.

“The female-only tournaments makes female players eye candy instead of professional players,” said Mr. Lo, the gold medalist of Hearthstone in the Asian Games 2018. He believes that female players have different advantages than male players as they are more sensitive.

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Lo Tsz-kin represented Hong Kong in the Asian Games 2018 and won the gold medal in the Hearthstone tournament.

The ranking of some female players in the Taiwan server of League of Legends is not lower than male players. Hong Kong has potential female players that can compete with male players.

Still, the female-only tournament would attract more potential female players because the public can know more about female esports, Mr. Yeung added.

The effectiveness of Hong Kong public libraries is diminishing

Photo by edwin.11 on flickr.com

Reported by Ng Uen Man Florence, Wan Tsz Wing & Kwong Ka Yu

 

In spite of a steady increase of registered readers of Hong Kong public library, both numbers in of visitors and books lent are lessening. As we all know, the main function of a library is to open for books lent. In other words, the reducing number of books lent reflects that the effectiveness of Hong Kong public libraries is weakening because people no longer borrow books from public libraries constantly. Among 82 public libraries in the city, 80 of them are facing a significant decrease of visitors. The whole picture might possibly relevant to a brand new reading habit – Ebook.

Overall visitors of local public library declined annually

Currently, the capability of public libraries in Hong Kong is uncertain. Statistics from the press releases informed that the number of visitors of Hong Kong public libraries is continuously decreased.

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The trend of the numbers of visitors keeps transforming. There were 42 million visitors in 2011 and has dropped down to 34 million in 2017. This phenomenon has unceasingly declined for 6 years. Meanwhile, compared with 2011, it has decreased about 8 million visitors total in 2017.  

 

The total amount of visitors from 2015 to 2018 for each of the library (INCLUDING mobile libraries) CLICK ON A DOT TO GET DETAILS, OR ZOOM TO SEE MORE LIBRARIES AROUND YOU

The total number of visitors of public libraries within this 3 years dropped continuously. There are only 2 libraries among 82 having a rising number of visits per year. They are Yuen Chau Kok library in Sha Tin and Fanling South library in North District which are newer libraries operated since 2016. The total visiting number of them skyrocketed to 8693.3% and 41.9% respectively.

Readers tend to buy books instead of borrowing it

The number of registered readers and the number of books lent from public libraries in Hong Kong is not positively related.

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According to the statistic from LCQ5 and the report of reviewing the Expenditure Budget for both 2017-18 and 2018-19, 8.8% of registered readers has been increased from 4.09 million to 4.45 million throughout the year 2012 to 2016  while 11.3% of the books lent from public libraries has been dropped gradually from 55.45 million in 2012 to 49.19 million in 2016, showing a downtrend apparently.

Since borrowing books are mainly the usage of public libraries to Hong Kong citizens, the increasing number of readers registered has not helped boost the number of books lent but has indicated that neither correlations nor positive relationships have existed between the number of registered readers and the number of books lent. Simultaneously, it also reveals that the lifting number of registered readers cannot enhance the declining effectiveness of Hong Kong public libraries.

The declining number of books lent can be explained by the source for citizens to get the books they want to read. According to the research on dweller’s reading habit conducted by Hong Kong Publish Federation between January to March, 50.4% of the interviewees prefer to buy books whereas 32.4% of the interviewees choose to borrow books from public libraries. People are more likely to own the books than borrow it from the library because they can reread the content without any limits.  

row of books in shelf
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

“Although I go to the public library twice a week, I go there only for doing revision instead of borrowing books from it”, said Mr. Lam, who is a 16-year-old secondary school student.

Being asked about the reading habit, Lam expressed, “I always read books or articles on the internet because it is more convenient.” Considering the research done by Hong Kong Publishing Professionals Society this year, 63.9% of respondents read online through their electronic gadgets, like smartphones, tablets, and computers, which has increased 4% compared with the data in 2017. Alternatively, questionnaires carried out by APM, the flagship shopping mall under Sun Hung Kai Properties examined that, 60% of the interviewees spend at least an hour or above each week to read online. There are 3 factors attract those interviewees to read online: free entry, portable and getting rid of time or location limit.

“The government should put more effort on the promotion,” said Mrs. Chan, 50, a housewife who frequently visits public libraries. She emphasized that even though the government has organized activities and reading programmes for children and youth, it still cannot raise the rate of lending books.

According to the enclosure provided by the council meeting in 2016, people searching for books on the internet is increasing from 19 million times in 2012 to 24 million times in 2015. “Teenagers tend to read books on the internet, it is efficient and convenience undoubtedly. The government can take advantage of it and offer more ebooks on public libraries in order to tailor-make for the youth.” suggested by Chan.

“Read Smart” is a new concept recommended by foreign countries in recent years. They attempt to explore a new trend which is the combination of technology and reading. Hong Kong can also make use of it and provide more assistance to electronic readings.

New towns fail to be self-contained as planned, government data shows

Over 60% of workers who live in “self-contained” communities travel back and forth for work every day; decentralising job opportunities is the way to go

Reported by Caroline Kwok, Holly Chik and Michelle Ng

Gloria Liu is one of the 218,000 some new town residents who commute to schools outside where they live every day.

The 21-year-old student at the University of Hong Kong has been living in Ma On Shan since she was born. She has never studied in the new town where she has lived since kindergarten.

 

According to Google Maps, the commute time from Ma On Shan to HKU can take up to 1 hour 35 minutes, 5 minutes longer than the flight time from Hong Kong to Kaohsiung, Taiwan.

During peak hour, it takes the long-time new town resident 90 to 120 minutes to travel to the university.

According to MTR’s train trip planner, it takes about 55 minutes to travel from Man On Shan Station to HKU station with four interchanges.

If Ms. Liu opts to work outside of the new town after she graduates, she will join the other 2.2 million Hongkongers who commute to work across districts every day, which is equivalent to about 60% of Hong Kong’s working population. Half of these 2.2 million people live in new towns.

Since 1973, the Hong Kong government has been developing new towns with an aim “to provide a balanced and self-contained community as far as possible in terms of the provision of infrastructure and community facilities.”

 

According to the Civil Engineering and Development Department, there are 12 new towns in Hong Kong: Tuen Mun, Sha Tin, Tseung Kwan O, Kwai Chung, Tsuen Wan, Tin Shui Wai, Tai Po, Fanling/ Sheung Shui, Ma On Shan, Tsing Yi, Yuen Long and North Lantau.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s 2018 policy also showed this long-established tradition of trying to move people, jobs and schools to remote locations such as the Kwu Tung North and Fanling North New Development Areas and artificial islands in the “Lantau Tomorrow” proposal.

The Planning Department also said in an email reply that these new development areas “are in various stages of development and will constitute a new wave of smart and livable new town development.”

However, government statistics showed its vision for providing “an organised, efficient and desirable place for the community to live and work in” by building new towns failed. Most new town residents do not work or study in the same area where they live.

According to the 2016 Population By-census, all 12 new towns in the city have at least 55% of its population work outside areas where they live and only less than 22%, on average, of its population work in the same district.

 

The same phenomenon is not as fierce with students living in new towns. On average, over half of the students study in the same district where they live, with Ma On Shan and Tsing Yi being the exceptions.

The high percentage of the cross-district working phenomenon is caused by over centralised job opportunities in Hong Kong, explained Loong Tsz-wai, Senior Community Relations Manager of Clean Air Network.

“The metropolis areas in Hong Kong are providing about 75% of job opportunities which is very unsatisfactory. The simplest [way to solve the problem] is to diversify workplaces and it has to start with the government,” he added.

Click the button for subtitles

Mr. Loong also said another cause for over-centralised job opportunities is that the government focuses too much on creating jobs from planning.

“A lot of the times, jobs do not come from planning. It’s from organic development. Job types from organic development are also more diversified,” he said. “What the government needs to do is to preserve this kind of organic development with policies by spotting the latest employment trends.”

Mr. Loong said working across districts is a normal phenomenon to a certain extent but the problem with cross-district working is that it’s too much of a one-way flow.

“Everybody is commuting to work from north to south in the morning and everybody is going home from south to north. That’s the problem,” Mr. Loong said.

 

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On October 16, four major lines of the MTR, including Tsuen Wan Line, Island Line, Kwun Tong Line and Tseung Kwan O Line had the worse-ever six-hour-long breakdown.

On 16 October, 2018 morning, Hong Kong’s major public transport system, the MTR, experienced an unprecedented six-hour service breakdown during rush hours due to signal failure.

Even when commuters opt for other means of transportation, the long queues outside bus stations and taxi stops took hours to digest.

In Ma On Shan, where nearly 100,000 students and workers travel daily to places outside the new town to study and work, District Councillor Lee Chi Wing said the main problem for their community is the lack of public transport.

“[There are] not enough car parks and traffic jam happened daily, and [there are] not enough bus and minibus services to other districts,” Mr. Lee added.

He thinks the government should start to develop commercial zones and change the usage of industrial buildings in Fo Tan and Shek Mun to provide residents with more job opportunities.

Yet long travelling time has never deterred Ms. Liu’s family from living in Ma On Shan.

Compared to travelling time, methods of transportation is more important, she said. For instance, whether both buses and trains are available.

“Still, I will consider the accessibility to major districts such as Mong Kok and Central,” Ms. Liu added.

“We moved once only and it’s within Ma On Shan. We stayed in the same area because of the nature and well-planned cities like swimming pool, park and library,” Ms. Liu explained. “Good town planning and living facilities are definitely a bonus [for] a family.”

Nevertheless, some new town residents find it convenient to live in new towns despite having to work outside their communities because they are close to major hubs in the city.

Winnie Choi, who has been living in the Tseung Kwan O new town for more than three years, said she moved into the new town because the location is close to her workplace in Kwun Tong and her daughters’ school.

“The time needed to go to work is not long (about 25 minutes), so it’s not inconvenient for me,” she said.

A North Lantau new town resident who works in the Hong Kong International Airport, which is about 45 minutes away, also feels the same.

“The airport is close to my dwelling. It is convenient to go to work,” said Yuki Choi, who has lived in the new town for 14 years.

But she has also traveled far for school. She has studied at the Hong Kong Design Institute in Tiu Keng Leng which would take her up to 90 minutes to two hours to get to from Tung Chung.

Yeung Hiu Tung, Ms. Liu’s mother, who works in Sha Tin which is 30 minutes away from her residence, recognises the benefit she has when her workplace is close to home.

Traveling time can be saved; we can rest more or work overtime more and still come home early, Ms. Yeung said.

“I think I am lucky because not everyone can work and live closely like I do,” she said.

 

Working population by New Town, Place of Work, Year and Sex (By-Census, 2016)

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1CnPMCzhYBx5sgt5DyaTx3H03_pk796VT/view?usp=sharing

Persons Attending Full-time Courses in Educational Institutions in Hong Kong by New town, Place of Study and Year (By-Census, 2016)

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1nOpW0yrpx6XuZkoW2762UR8gN94IUt6y/view?usp=sharing

Social Impact—How Celebrities Earn A lot in Greater China?

Story background 

China’s highest-paid actress Fan Bingbing disappeared for a while this summer following accusations of tax evasion. An apology for breaking the law appeared on her social media account, and Fan has been ordered to pay 884 million yuan (786 million HKD) to avoid criminal prosecution.  

Continue reading “Social Impact—How Celebrities Earn A lot in Greater China?”

Hong Kong’s Open Secret

By Jay Raju Ganglani, Mathew Wong, Akane Nakasuji         

It’s no secret that the environment and pollution are two of the most important, but neglected areas of Hong Kong’s society today.

Continue reading “Hong Kong’s Open Secret”

Overuse of Plastic Disposable Tableware in Hong Kong

A video of a sea turtle with a plastic straw lodged in its nostril went viral last year and it shows that plastic waste will cause serious pollution problems to our environment.

Continue reading “Overuse of Plastic Disposable Tableware in Hong Kong”

Total Ban to E-Cigarettes and Other New Tobacco Products in Hong Kong – Data explained

Reported by Kwok Yau Wai, Chan Man Yi and Fung Chi Man

(Featured Image from Creative Commons: https://www.ecigclick.co.uk/)

According to the Policy Address 2018 (published in October 2018), Carrie Lam , the Chief Executive of the HKSAR Government, has made a total ban to e-cigarettes and other new tobacco products. However, as claimed by the proposal from the Hong Kong government in June 2018, e-cigarettes and other new tobacco alternatives would be regulated in the same way as conventional smoking products.

Continue reading “Total Ban to E-Cigarettes and Other New Tobacco Products in Hong Kong – Data explained”