Civil Society

Commentary from the staff of Hong Kong-based public policy think tank Civic Exchange.
Hong Kong red tide
May 28, 2014
In future, Hong Kong will not only face water challenges from a stretched resource in terms of quantity, but also from deteriorating quality. The latter issue is especially grim, since no matter from land or ocean, Hong Kong’s water sources may literally be inundated with all kinds of pollutions. “Across the country, China has a severe scarcity of safe drinking water”, noted a special report published on China Reform on Caixin Net ( (The Caixin special report). In 2010, amongst all seven major basins – including the Pearl River Basin – only 28.7 percent were found to have I-II water rating, which is considered safe for potable use.
Hong Kong public housing
April 07, 2014
Over the past year, growing pressures on housing in Hong Kong have led policy-makers to re-examine public housing policies towards well-off tenants. While everyone who enters public housing is means-tested upon application, over the years, the incomes and assets of some tenants have grown to the point where they can no longer be considered “poor”. In fact, a favorite talking-point of social commentators is to remark on just how many luxury cars can be found in public housing estate car parks. If they can afford BMWs, should they be allowed to live in public housing?
On-shore power for ships
March 10, 2014
The Environmental Protection Department of the HKSAR Government has recently released the 2012 air pollutant emission inventory. Just as with the prior three years, ship emissions remain Hong Kong’s largest source of sulphur dioxide (SO2), respirable suspended particulates (RSP or PM10) and nitrogen oxides (NOx). The contribution of ships to air pollution has prompted the Government to take action in cleaning up the shipping sector.
Zhejiang shark slaughterhouse
February 10, 2014
This past month, images of purportedly the world’s biggest slaughterhouse for endangered sharks were splashed across the broadsheets in Hong Kong, and across the globe. Wild Life Risk, an NGO based in Hong Kong, went undercover in a coastal city Zhejiang Province, China, to find that around 260 endangered species of sharks were being processed per day in a single plant.
Tai Tam Tuk Reservoir memorial
January 06, 2014
Vision enables us to look far and think beyond present circumstances. If we cannot envision, we do not know where we want to go; and we certainly would not get there. By nature, Hong Kong is a water scarce city, which makes a water vision all the more relevant. So what is Hong Kong’s water vision? Ever since the DongShen Water Supply Project helped to secure 70-80 percent of Hong Kong’s fresh water demand, innovation in developing water solutions rapidly declined.
Sai Yeung Choi Street
December 20, 2013
In Hong Kong’s congested urban core, pedestrianization would seem like the logical and obvious solution to overcrowded pavements, roadside air pollution, and pedestrian-vehicle conflict. Yet, pedestrianization has become a political no-go due to not-in-my-backyard politics. Last month, the Yau Tsim Mong District Council voted to curtail a pedestrian scheme in Mong Kok, one of the busiest shopping districts in the city.
Projection of CLP's proposed Hong Kong offshore wind farm
December 09, 2013
Charismatic Swedish statistician and “edutainer” Hans Rosling recently gave a speech where he tackled common misperceptions about global issues. He emphasized that most people overestimate the amount of effort that has been channeled into developing renewable energy and concluded: “Let’s not make a joke of solar and wind – those are the real potentials for the future, no doubt … it’s very strange that people think they are so big already, when they are really small. We haven’t even started to tap the enormous potential of solar and wind energy.”
A truly green car
November 22, 2013
We are reminded again the adverse impacts of air pollution on human health when the World Health Organization recently announced that outdoor air pollution is carcinogenic. Roadside vehicular emission is one of the major sources of air pollution in Hong Kong, yet the HKSAR Government has made little progress to date on absolute reductions of roadside emissions. Despite this, some policy changes shows promise. The new Air Quality Objective (AQO), to take effect in 2014, will be complemented by a host of other environmental initiatives that are designed to pave the way toward achieving the new AQO by 2020.
Spatial distribution of SO2 from ships around Hong Kong, 2008
November 07, 2013
Tackling air pollution must be a multi-pronged attack. Regulators and industry can reduce certain pollutants by using cleaner fuel, like sulfur dioxide and particulate matter. The Hong Kong Environmental Protection Department is in the throes of tightening regulation on locally available fuel for vessels to do just this. This diesel fuel will be mostly used for so called “local craft” – like tug boats, ferries and barges – and could be used by the larger, ocean-going vessels like container ships while at berth, if regulation demands it.
Hong Kong urban Development
October 28, 2013
Country parks were recently raised in the news media as a possible source of land supply for the Hong Kong Government’s hustle towards building a large land reserve. It took them a while but the Government eventually back-peddled on the suggestion. Many were outraged by this idea, but looking back at their track record, it should not have been surprising. For quite some time now, Hong Kong’s government has been slow, unresponsive, or at times inclined to invite development into ecological areas, instead of keeping them out.