Civil Society

Commentary from the staff of Hong Kong-based public policy think tank Civic Exchange.
From farm to fork
October 09, 2013
Hong Kong imports over 90 percent of its food supply from around the world, and China is an important source especially for fresh food. Though we might expect the government to act as gatekeepers to ensure food safety for the public, recent incidents with oilfish, Sudan dyes, malachite green etc., have all revealed that there are significant holes in our institutional framework, and that it might still be in its infancy. It also contrasts considerably with more sustainable initiatives such as “farm-to-fork”.
Living large in a Hong Kong industrial apartment
September 27, 2013
With Hong Kong’s housing prices still showing no sign of abating, it seems that government officials are looking everywhere for more land to fulfill the demand for affordable housing, including farmland, golf courses, sea reclamation and maybe even protected country parks. Everywhere, that is, except for old industrial areas. At the end of 2012, Hong Kong had about 17.1 million square metres of flatted factory space, most of it built in the 1970s and 1980s. Although only 5 percent of this was officially vacant, much of this space is in fact being underutilized or used for non-industrial purposes such as back-offices, storage spaces, and artists’ studios.
Private apartments seeming to nestle within Hong Kong's Tai Tam Country Park
September 18, 2013
Paul Chan, the Secretary for Development in Hong Kong, opened up a can of worms earlier last week by suggesting that Hong Kong should consider housing developments in country park areas. The trouble with such comments is that it is completely unfounded, and disregards the underlying purpose and benefits that country parks provide for all Hong Kong citizens. He has forgotten that country parks and other ecological protected areas in Hong Kong provide many of our essential needs?
Singapore's New Water vs Hong Kong's supply from the Dong Jiang
September 06, 2013
The early 1960s were a significant era for both Hong Kong and Singapore in terms of its water policy development. In June 1963, Hong Kong imposed its highest level of water rationing. The residents were supplied with water once every four days, and each time for a four-hour period. This rationing lasted a year. In April of the same year, Singapore had implemented 12-hourly water rationing by district zones, which quickly spread to the rest of the island.
Vehicle emissions graphic
August 15, 2013
According to annual air quality reports from Hong Kong’s Environmental Protection Department (EPD), there’s been no significant improvement in roadside emissions during the past few years. Nitrogen oxides (NOx), in particular, have been on the rise since 2008. The main culprit, according to EPD research, are LPG taxis and light buses, which account for a mere 4 percent of Hong Kong’s vehicles, but contribute up to 40 percent of roadside NOx emissions due to the malfunction and improper maintenance of vehicles emission control devices such as catalytic converters.
A contrast in Hong Kong pavements
August 02, 2013
Good city planning is a matter of simple economics. The street environment is a public good because it is non-excludable. It is also non-rivalrous, in that an individual can enjoy the street environment together without compromising another person’s use. However, a typical downside of the “commons” is that they are not often looked after and cared for like private property. Public goods like streets and roads should be properly planned and managed with different users in mind. However, one of the trends in city planning over the last decades is the excessive priority given to vehicular traffic over pedestrians in road planning.
Farm adjacent to a new town in Hong Kong's New Territories
July 19, 2013
Local farming communities has been up in arms in Hong Kong this month over the government’s latest plans to develop a new town in the north eastern end of the territory, not far from its border with Shenzhen. After three public consultations and years of planning, Paul Chan, the HKSAR Secretary for Development, announced what he describes as the ultimate plan for new towns in Kwu Tong North and Fanling North. In summary, the three proposed areas for development have been cut down to two, now with a strong focus on providing for residential housing and much less on industry and jobs.
China city air pollution
July 08, 2013
In late February 2012, the State Council of the People’s Republic of China announced a plan to revise the national ambient air quality standards, which will be implemented across the entire country on 1 January 2016. Key regions such as the Pearl River Delta and the Yangtze River Delta will implement the new standards well before 2016. One of the highlights of the announcement was the inclusion, for the first time, of standards for PM2.5 (that is, particulates with diameter of 2.5 microns or less). This is a breakthrough in air quality management in China, as tighter standards will improve the living environment and better protect public health.
June 20, 2013
Recently it was reported that some beef balls sold in Hong Kong contained no cattle DNA, but were in fact made of pork. With significant public outcries to address the irregularities, the HKSAR Government responded with plans to follow up on the false labeling claims. Nevertheless, the incident reveals that little is known about the origin and production of food that is available in Hong Kong.
Shipping in HK
June 07, 2013
It’s not been a particularly good few weeks for those of us interested in protecting public health by reducing air pollution generated from shipping. In mid-May, the International Maritime Organization’s Marine Environment Protection Committee decided to consider delaying the next round of engine standards for vessels sailing through certain Emission Control Areas (ECAs) from 2016 to 2021. In the designated ECAs in Northern Europe and North America, sulphur dioxide (SO2), which comes from dirty fuel, is the main pollutant targeted for reduction.