Skip to content

Something urgent? Call us now! (852) 3416 1711

Enduring our trails and tribulations

Hong Kong, 24 May 2023: Hiking with the Stumblers is a leisurely activity. The challenging terrain of Hong Kong’s country parks, coupled with aging limbs and much chatter, means we advance at modest speed, admiring the scenery and stopping for regular rests. Inevitably, we are occasionally required to step aside as some energetic young pups sprint through, water bottles in hand, knees and elbows pumping, barely breaking sweat. These single-minded citizens are Hong Kong’s trail runners, a focused and supremely fit group of athletes dedicated to their sport.

They are also a brassed-off bunch these days. The Trail Running Association of Hong Kong (TRAHK) is at loggerheads with the august body that oversees all types of running – whether on track, road or hillside – in our city, namely the Hong Kong Association of Athletics Affiliates (HKAAA). The former is angry that just four athletes – three men and one woman – have been selected for the World Mountain and Trail Running Championships in Austria next month when it believes 13 should be sent. TRAHK accuses its athletics overlord of “blocking the sport’s development in Hong Kong” and, showing a willingness to go the extra mile, has offered to fund additional athletes and even take over the selection process.

However, as we have witnessed recently in Anthemgate, hell hath no fury like a Hong Kong sports official whose competence is questioned. “The HKAAA requests an immediate and unreserved withdrawal of your accusations and suggestion together with an appropriate apology from you,” thunders Executive Director Dennis Ng in an emailed response to the trail runners. Once the dust has settled, we learn it will indeed be just the four athletes going to Austria – “Deeply disappointing and a wasted opportunity,” sighs TRAHK Secretary General Steve Brammar – amid a serious rift in relations between the two bodies. It seems this particular feud might, ahem, run and run.

Another foot race, of sorts, is the emigration wave that is causing companies a chronic shortage of middle managers. Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce CEO George Leung warns the talent drain has “severely crippled the operations” of local firms, with turnover rates at many exceeding 20%. “I learned that managers are now having to operate forklifts themselves,” he reveals. The Chamber wants our government to offer more incentives for professionals from mainland China and elsewhere, pointing out that competing economies are taking a more “aggressive” stance by offering tax breaks and other financial incentives.

The government’s Top Talent Pass scheme, open to individuals earning at least HK$2.5 million and graduates from the world’s top 100 universities, has been operating for six months. Some 95% of approved applications have come from the mainland. We need all the help we can get. Official figures show our city’s workforce shrank by 94,000 employees, or 2.4%, last year. A survey by human resources agency ManpowerGroup Greater China has found 85% of employers are having difficulties filling positions.

This talent shortage is here to stay, it seems, because Hong Kong’s steadily falling birth rate is creating a demographic headache for generations to come. The number of babies born has dropped consecutively over the past five years to a record low of 32,500 in 2022. This has implications not only for kindergartens but also primary and secondary schools, tertiary institutions, the workforce and, naturally, key parts of the economy.

It seems couples are not only delaying having babies, many do not want them at all. “The younger generation no longer buys the concept of carrying on the family name. They are not ‘childless’ but ‘childfree’ and see it in a positive way,” observes population health expert Professor Paul Yip. A recent report from the United Nations Population Fund shows Hong Kong has the lowest total fertility rate – the number of children a woman is expected to have over her lifetime – in the world.

If there is any consolation, neighbours Singapore, South Korea and Japan are scarcely more productive. These nations are trying to reverse their declining birth rates with financial incentives such as subsidies, allowances and, in Singapore’s case, lump sum payments – or “baby bonuses” – for each child. Such attempts receive short shrift from Hong Kong lawmaker and mother-of-two Eunice Yung, who says: “No one will decide to give birth because of a tax allowance.”

Should we be worried about where this city is heading? Definitely not, asserts Grenville Cross, Hong Kong’s first post-handover Director of Public Prosecutions and my latest guest on Law & More. Grenville points to our legal system and independent judiciary as just two of multiple reasons to be bullish about Hong Kong’s future. His thoughts, together with entertaining tales from his distinguished career, are well worth hearing.

In closing, we should note present DPP Maggie Yang still has plenty on her plate stemming from the 2019 civil unrest. Less than a third of the 10,000-plus citizens arrested have been charged thus far and there have been calls this week for the process to be accelerated. Chief Executive John Lee insists police will not set a timetable to wrap up investigations, but some lawmakers are asking if they could at least speed up just a little bit.

The Stumblers, some might surmise, are not the only ones plodding along.

Until next time, everybody!

Colin Cohen
Senior Partner
Boase Cohen & Collins

38+ years of legal experience is just a click away.

Friendly and approachable, we are ready to answer your questions and offer you sound advice.

Contact us now


News & Knowledge

Learn more about what we do and what we say. Subscribe to our newsletter to ensure you receive our updates.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Boom times for a border town?

Hong Kong, 29 November 2023: The most isolated settlement in the world is Tristan da Cunha, a group of volcanic islands in the South Atlantic Ocean. Home to around 240 hardy souls who rely on farming to sustain their slow-paced lifestyle, the only way to get there is a six-day boat trip from Cape Town. […]

Read more

Colin Cohen retains Insurance Authority role

Hong Kong, 22 November 2023: Colin Cohen will continue his regulatory role in the insurance industry after being reappointed as a member of the Insurance Authority’s Disciplinary Panel Pool (DPP). The DPP, which comprises Insurance Authority board members and other experienced professionals from the legal, financial and other sectors, is the industry’s disciplinary mechanism for […]

Read more

Arthur Chan delivers insurance law lectures

Hong Kong, 17 November 2023: Our Senior Associate Arthur Chan was invited to deliver two lectures to insurance executives this week as part of an educational programme organised by the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII). Arthur spoke about “Insurance Law: Legal Principles and Insurance Contracts” in his talks at HKUSPACE in Admiralty. He says: “We have […]

Read more

Pádraig Seif hails impact of Chief Executive

Hong Kong, 16 November 2023: Our Foreign Legal Consultant Pádraig Seif was honoured to give the vote of thanks to Chief Executive John Lee at today’s Joint Business Community Luncheon. The event, attended by hundreds of guests at the Island Shangri-La in Admiralty, is a traditional gathering in which Hong Kong’s leader provides insights into […]

Read more

Votes and quotes amid altered landscape

Hong Kong, 15 November 2023: “A week is a long time in politics.” The late Harold Wilson’s quote, made during one of the UK’s seemingly never-ending crises in the 1960s, perfectly captures the fluctuating fortunes of those in office, including the man himself. A Labour Party titan and social reformer, he served two terms as […]

Read more