7 stories that changed Hong Kong in 2010
Political reforms: Breakthrough or betrayal?
After three protracted days of debate, city lawmakers voted in June to pass a package of reforms that make the majority of Hong Kong’s current half-elected, half-appointed governing body directly electable, starting in 2012.
The plan, which also expanded the size of the committee that selects the city’s chief executive, spotlighted the struggle between those seeking gradual change, who viewed it as a milestone, and those demanding radical reform, who viewed it as a sellout.
Quantitative easing hard on dollar
With interest rates incapable of dropping lower, the U.S. Federal Reserve in November unloaded the first of US$900 billion on the economy.
The Fed’s quantitative easing weakened the Hong Kong dollar, stimulating speculation in the local housing market, which was already priced 50 percent higher than the previous year.
Within weeks, Hong Kong’s government imposed stamp duties up to 15 percent for properties sold within two years of purchase to stave off an anticipated housing bubble.
'In a nutshell, I do not find him to be truthful'
The High Court ruled in February that Tony Chan, feng shui advisor and purported lover of billionaire Nina Wang, forged his late companion’s will in order to seize her estate.
Judge Lam Man-hon said: "In a nutshell, I do not find him to be truthful."
The decision not only freed Wang’s assets to support the charitable research stipulated in her previous will, it resulted in the arrest of the disgraced feng shui master the following day, striking a blow to the credibility of a profession already besieged by claims of fraud.
Hong Kong defines 'minimum'
A growing schism between rich and poor prompted the Legislative Counsel (LegCo) in July to approve Hong Kong’s first-ever minimum wage.
After weeks of debate and months of consultation, a commission tasked with setting the wage settled in November on HK$28 (US$3.60), halfway between what labor groups were seeking and what business leaders suggested was sufficient.
The move, however, doesn’t benefit the city’s quarter of a million household workers, mostly Filipinos and Indonesians against whom critics say the bill wrongly discriminates.
Smog, exasperation rates highest ever
Roadside smog during the six months ending March was the worst ever, igniting a record rate of Hong Kongers -- 25 percent -- to consider leaving the city.
The smog figures reflected a sevenfold increase over 1999 in the percentage of time that “very high” or “severe” smog levels were reached.
In May, LegCo unanimously passed a non-binding motion to improve air quality, which has yet to yield more than another similar motion put forth earlier this month.
Cantonese fights two-front war
Cantonese protesters concerned about the long-term prospects of their heritage amid the systemized spread of Mandarin staged parallel protests in Hong Kong and Guangzhou in August.
Precipitated by a local proposal demanding more Mandarin content on television, the demonstration forged ahead in Guangzhou -- ground zero for Cantonese culture -- but was quickly dampened by police.
The scene was very different in Hong Kong, where 200 demonstrators -- many believed to be part of the culturally capricious “post-1980s” contingent -- marched unabated from Wan Chai to Central.
It takes 25 hours to get to Beijing
In January, LegCo approved HK66.9 billion (US$8.6 billion) in funding for the Hong Kong portion of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong high-speed rail link.
The decision came after 25 hours of heated debate and amid clashes outside between police and pro-democracy protestors, who viewed the move as a steamrolling maneuver by the mainland.
The plan, projected to wrap in 2015, links Hong Kong with China’s high-speed rail network, and promises to cut travel time to Guangzhou in half.
Bus standoff meets bloody end
In August, a daylong bus siege in the Philippine capital of Manila ended in the murders of eight members of a Hong Kong tour group and the death of their hijacker, a disgraced former senior police inspector demanding reinstatement.
Protestors seeking accountability for what they believed were botched negotiations by local police marched on Hong Kong’s Philippine consulate in the wake of the slayings, which rocked a populace unaccustomed to violent crime.