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15 June 2012

New probe of Li Wangyang’s death launched

The papers in prominent coverage, with three in their leads, reported that Hunan public security bureau announced yesterday that a task force was set up to investigate into the death of Mainland activist Li Wangyang in response to suspicions raised by people and the media outside the province about the death.

The news, released by the HK China News Agency yesterday afternoon which quoted a spokesman for the Hunan public security bureau, indicated that the authorities no longer considered the death of Mr Li a suicide as first reported, or accidental as was later claimed, the papers observed.

Liaison Office deputy director Li Gang said the office had noted the concerns expressed by the HK community and the media on the incident, confirming that the office had reflected HK people’s views to the Central People’s Government.

Speaking in the Legislative Council’s Q&A session yesterday, Chief Executive Donald Tsang said he understood the views of HK people and he also thought that the case was suspicious. He held that under the « One Country, Two Systems » principle, the most important responsibility for the Special Administrative Region Chief Executive was to safeguard the freedoms of speech and expression of HK people.

Chief Executive-elect C Y Leung broke his silence to say that he shared the feelings of fellow citizens about the issue and would reflect HK people’s views.

Chief Executive concludes seven years of governance, admits shortcomings

The papers in extensive coverage, with three in their leads, reported that Chief Executive Donald Tsang attended his final Legislative Council Q&A session yesterday, with many playing up the point that Mr Tsang admitted misjudgements in administration and policy formulation.

While saying that he had implemented 169 of the 173 election pledges made, Mr Tsang admitted that he had failed to narrow the widening wealth gap which had led to social grievances. He acknowledged that he had not been decisive in forming housing policies to tackle high property prices and address people’s housing needs.

The Chief Executive also said he had underestimated the political consequences and complicated issues related to the expansion of the accountability system, which was a watershed for his popularity.

He urged legislators not to mix up the political appointment system with the Chief Executive-elect C Y Leung’s proposed restructuring plan, hoping that they would endorse the revamp proposal so that the new cabinet could be sworn in together on July 1.

In response to repeated calls for his resignation, Mr Tsang reiterated that he would not step down as he had to finish his work before his term ended to ensure a seamless transition.

Wong Kam-sing on greener living

The South China Morning Post and Ming Pao in inside-page leads carried an interview with architect Wong Kam-sing, the tipped next Secretary for the Environment, with the South China Morning Post highlighting his remarks that better mortgage terms and government fee concessions could be provided for buyers of properties that met environmental standards.

As a founding member of the HK Green Building Council, Mr Wong said he initiated talks with local banks on providing green mortgages more than a year ago and believed they would begin to bear fruit in the next two years.

To tackle environmental issues, he called for a 20-year master plan to put forth targets, timetables and resource allocation covering four areas, namely air quality, solid waste, countryside conservation and water quality.

Mr Wong said the Government should take the lead by saving energy, suggesting that the energy consumption data of GH be made public. He added that buildings and housing estates should be encouraged to follow suit in a bid to arouse public awareness in energy saving.

Former Central Government Offices West Wing to be demolished for redevelopment

Sing Tao Daily in its lead and nine papers in their inside-page leads reported that the Government had made a final decision to demolish the West Wing of the former Central Government Offices for redevelopment amid objections from local and overseas conservation groups.

Insisting that the redevelopment was necessary, Secretary for Development Carrie Lam said a build-operate-transfer mode would be adopted under which the Government would retain the ownership of the West Wing site while a developer would build and operate an office tower in situ for up to 30 years.

The Government would test the market’s interest in the project before calling for tenders next year, Mrs Lam added.

Believing what the Government was doing was in line with mainstream views, Mrs Lam said the alert issued by the International Scientific Committee on Twentieth Century Heritage on the West Wing was unfair as the information provided by the Government Hill Concern Group to the body was superficial and selective.

More Mainland support measures for HK expected

The papers in good coverage, with a few in their inside and financial page leads, quoted sources from the senior management of the People’s Bank of China in Beijing as saying that new initiatives in support of further development of HK’s economy were set to be announced to coincide with President Hu Jintao’s visit to the city on July 1.

Song Xiangyan, a deputy director in the People’s Bank of China ‘s international department, was quoted as saying that the central bank and other Mainland financial officials were working on measures that would improve HK’s economy, without providing details.

These measures were expected to further boost the city’s role as an offshore RMB trading centre, sources noted, adding that the potential new initiatives were likely to include increasing the daily cap of RMB 20,000 that individuals could convert, as well as lifting the ceiling of RMB 80,000 a day on remittances to the Mainland.

In a related development, the HK Monetary Authority was moving to introduce measures to boost RMB business. These would include a RMB liquidity facility to offer one-week RMB loans to 135 banks in exchange for collateral such as government bonds.

Another HK Monetary Authority new measure was the introduction of a new liquidity-ratio requirement which allowed banks to classify more of their RMB assets as being liquid.

Meanwhile, Vice-minister of Commerce Gao Hucheng said supplementary agreements on Closer Economic Partnership Agreement would be signed by the Mainland and HK this year covering the finance, business and service industries, Sing Tao Daily and the HK Economic Journal reported.