Though it's likely that the upcoming elections to replace the outgoing CY Leung are likely to dominate Hong Kong headlines this year, there are some other stories worth keeping track of, too. And while the controversy surrounding the announcement of the Hong Kong Palace Museum continues to escalate, here are five of the (next) biggest stories that we think will be the talk of the town in 2017.
Hong Kong hospital crisis
The city’s hospitals are currently under huge strain and struggling to meet the demand of patients. The occupancy rate in Hong Kong’s 16 public hospitals is already over 100 percent. In other words, every public hospital in the city is overcrowded. More than 7,000 patients seek non-urgent care daily and sometimes have to wait as long as 24 hours before they can see a doctor. However, the biggest issue remains the long working hours and frequent night shifts for hospital staff. The stressful working environment increases the difficulty of recruiting new health care professionals, especially when statistics released April 2016 showed nurses had the highest suicide rate (9.46 per 100,000 people) among all professions. The government has proposed inviting more doctors from the Mainland to alleviate the shortage but that proposal has been met with much consternation.
The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge
If you’ve driven on Lantau Island any time in the last two years, it’s more than likely you’ve seen this colossal project. This immense construction is finally due to open after a year’s delay in December 2017. Spanning a vast 55km, costing an estimated $83 billion and linking three major cities on the Pearl River Delta, this gargantuan enterprise will not only physically bridge the gap between both SARs and the Mainland, but it will also establish Lantau as a nexus for the region. This project also means a wealth of development for HK’s economy and tourism sector. The project promises unparallelled views of the horizon, assuming it opens on time…
This one isn’t new. Despite Hong Kong being one of the world’s financial centres, increasing poverty rates and widening income inequality are as salient as ever. The most recent figures make for grim reading: the richest 10 percent of the population earn nearly 29 times more than the poorest, almost a quarter of the city’s children live in poverty and 73,204 students only get by thanks to the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance scheme. Inflation, spiralling living expenses and an ever more expensive real estate market will only add to the strain. The government needs to take drastic measures in 2017 to close the inequality gap if further political turbulence is to be avoided.
Kai Tak Sports Hub
The old Kai Tak airport has been a vastly underused space ever since planes stopped arriving in 1998. That’s all set to change now the Home Affairs Bureau has alloted a tremendous $62.7 million to transform the area into the Kai Tak Sports Hub. Subsequently, a raft of exciting plans have been thrown about regarding the transformation. Set to feature a state of the art stadium, a gorgeous public sports ground and a separate indoor sports centre, the plans also promise a children’s park and a luscious landscaped outdoor event village. With detailed plans moving into action, the project is expected to start construction over the next 12 months. Only five years to wait for its completion…
In a controversial judgement, newly elected localists Yau Wai-ching and Baggio Leung Chung-hang (above), were disqualified from taking up their positions in the Legislative Council. Not keen to wait for a judicial review by Hong Kong’s own High Court, the central government in Beijing issued its own interpretation of the law stating that ‘no corresponding powers and functions shall be exercised… by anyone who fails to lawfully and validly take their oath’. The ruling has sparked questions about whether this means Beijing will be making further local interventions in the future. Both Yau and Leung have submitted appeals to the Court of Final Appeal, which will be decided in 2017. But in the meantime, political parties from both sides are looking to fill the vacated seats in upcoming by-elections and the city’s political infighting continues.