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Considering a real estate purchase? These tips could help you make a sound investment

If Hong Kong’s famously sky-high property prices are forcing you to look to investing in overseas real estate, be sure to understand what’s stopping you from considering purchasing in the city.

Christopher Dillon gave tips on real estate ownership at home and abroad. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC Christopher Dillon gave tips on real estate ownership at home and abroad. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC

That was the advice from Christopher Dillon, author of the Landed series of real estate books, when he appeared at the June 28 club lunch. Dillon cited a recent report by US planning consultancy Demographia which judged the city as the least affordable in the world having found that the median property price in Hong Kong is now 19.4 times the median income.

But he added: “Before you write off your city as too expensive do some research: investigate your options in terms of size, age and location, and ability to repay a mortgage. With this information you’ll be able to recognise and act on a bargain and take advantage of a market dip should one of these occur.”

In terms of buying overseas, Dillon’s advice was “do your homework” before you decide on a purchase by spending time in the area, look at the weather and amenities, read the local newspapers, talk to local people, rent on weekends during different times of the year.

Another factor to be considered, Dillon said, was lifestyle: if you smoke cannabis or are gay places like Singapore – which has strict anti-drug laws; and Malaysia, where gay sex remains illegal; would not be the ideal choice.

Check whether foreign nationals can own land, as opposed to only the buildings that sit on the land, he said.

“Can somebody with your passport own property? In Thailand, for example, if you’re not a Thai national you cannot own land. You can own a building but not the land underneath it. The same holds true of the Philippines,“ Dillon said.

Hidden costs will also present challenges to investors. For example, he said, if you buy a home in Phuket there’s a very good chance you’ll have to pay extra for water due to a chronic water shortage.

And those lured by bargain off-the-plan investments – where the buyer pays a deposit on a property before it’s even built, having secured it at lower-than-market cost – need to be aware of the risks of late or unfinished delivery. In some cases, developers have gone out of business part way through projects.

“Buy from a reputable agent who is representing an established builder,” Dillon advised.

One market that does appear attractive is Japan, which actively encourages foreigners to buy and not only allows them to own land, but also charges the same tax as permanent residents.

Watch Christopher Dillon’s talk for more tips on real estate ownership at home and abroad. Contact [email protected] for your free 127-point Buyer’s Checklist.

Hong Kong must do more to embrace diversity, says panel in LGBT discussion

Hong Kong has a long way to go before it can call itself an inclusive city that doesn’t discriminate against the LGBT community.

That was the consensus of panel members following a screening of the film Codebreaker, a documentary about the life of Alan Turing – a renowned World War II codebreaker and father of the modern computer – and his persecution as a homosexual, which ultimately led to his early death by suicide.

The event on June 27 was hosted by Andrew Heyn, the British Consul-General to Hong Kong and Macao, who was joined by the film’s producer, Patrick Sammon; LGBT campaigner and founder of Faith in Love Foundation, Gigi Chao; award-winning biographer and author, Nigel Collett; and Fern Ngai, CEO of Community Business.

Left to right: Moderator Jodi Schneider, Codebreaker producer Patrick Sammon, LGBT rights campaigner Gigi Chao; CEO of Community Business, Fern Ngai; and award-winning biographer and author, Nigel Collett. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC Left to right: Moderator Jodi Schneider, Codebreaker producer Patrick Sammon, LGBT rights campaigner Gigi Chao; CEO of Community Business, Fern Ngai; and award-winning biographer and author, Nigel Collett. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC

In the week following the Hong Kong Public Libraries’ decision to hide 10 children’s books featuring same-sex parents from public view, the panel discussed the challenges facing the LGBT community in Hong Kong.

Gigi Chao, left, and Fern Ngai, right, spoke of Hong Kong's shortcomings on LGBT-related issues. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC Gigi Chao, left, and Fern Ngai, right, spoke of Hong Kong’s shortcomings on LGBT-related issues. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC

While they all agreed that multinational organisations were leading the way in addressing equality issues, Chao said in some cases it was a case of just “ticking the boxes”. Chao, Vice Chairman and Senior Consultant, Cheuk Nang Holdings; said more needed to be done to try to “reach the grassroots” in order to change mindsets and to destroy the myth that gay people are predators.

Ngai called for smaller companies to embrace diversity: “When you have people that bring different experiences to solving a problem, or designing a new product, you’re going to have much better success,” she said.

Watch the panel discussion below. You can watch Codebreaker at www.turingfilm.com

Wall Exhibition- Looking Back: Hong Kong 1967 Riots

THE FOREIGN CORRESPONDENTS’ CLUB, HONG KONG
Wall Exhibition
Looking Back: Hong Kong 1967 Riots
Photos Provided Courtesy of
Hong Kong Information Services Department,
SCMP, Hugh Van Es
Venue: Main Bar
Exhibition dates: April 21 – May 14, 2017
Non-members are welcome from 10am-12 noon & 3pm-5:30pm daily.
Please feel free to register at the Concierge before visiting.
The exhibition is located at Main Bar
No entry to anyone aged under 18 years or inappropriately dressed (e.g. no singlets)
Address: North Block, 2 Lower Albert Road, Central, Hong Kong
Tel: 2521 1511

 

Trump and Kim summit was yet more symbolism over substance, says inter-Korean affairs expert

The declaration signed by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump has much symbolism but no substance and brings the DPRK no closer to denuclearisation, says inter-Korean affairs expert Dr Robert Kelly.

Dr Robert Kelly gave fascinating insights into North Korea and Kim Jong-un's historic summit with US President Donald Trump. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC Dr Robert Kelly gave fascinating insights into North Korea and Kim Jong-un’s historic summit with US President Donald Trump. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC

The historic summit in Singapore on June 12 produced a “nothing burger” despite the “Trumpian exaggerated rhetoric” that followed, declaring “the nuclear threat is over”, according to Kelly, associate professor in political science at Pusan National University.

In fact, America has effectively exited the process of peace in the Korean peninsula and “dumped it in (South Korean) President Moon’s lap”, he said.

In a lively talk at the FCC on June 21, Kelly shared his frank and often amusing analysis on the much-hyped meeting between the two leaders. He described the declaration, in which Kim committed to complete denuclearisation and Trump pledged security guarantees for the country, as “all talk”.

A closer look at the contents of the declaration shows that the pledges are nothing new, said Kelly.

“It’s all talk and actually when you look at it in print, there’s nothing we haven’t seen before,” he said, adding that the declaration was similar to those made by North Korea in 1993, 2000, 2005 and 2007.

He pointed out there were no actionable items, no detailed information such as how many missiles North Korea has and where they are, and no timetable. This was “low hanging fruit” and America “got nothing back from the North Koreans”, Kelly said.

“Are the North Koreans going to give up something that is genuinely positively costly to them?” he asked, citing closing gulags and showing missiles being dismantled as examples of real concessions from the DPRK.

Kelly added that his concern was that Trump, who has been nominated for the Nobel Peace prize by his biggest Republican supporters in the House of Representatives, was driven not by the prospect of peace and prosperity for North Korea, but by his desire to set himself apart from his predecessors. Trump also needs the deal for political purposes, he said, as the elections approach.

The club lunch kicked off by showing the Hollywood-style trailer President Trump played to Kim Jong-un at the Singapore summit (watch it below).

Kelly said he thought the video was “Trump the real estate developer” rather than Trump the president, and that it was probably produced because the president did no preparation prior to the meeting and “needed something to fill in the time”.

Answering a question about North Korea and reports that it had once been the world’s biggest currency counterfeiter, Kelly described the country as “an Orwellian gangster fiefdom” that has been referred to by some as the Soprano State, and the Walter White of Asia – a reference to the meth-producing character in the TV series Breaking Bad.

Kevin Egan: Friends, colleagues and students remember the legal eagle ‘so generous of heart’

Kevin Egan, the FCC’s 2nd Vice President, died on Sunday night following a battle with cancer. He was 70, writes Jane Moir.

Kevin Egan, a life member of the FCC and a long-standing board member. Photo: ©2018 Robin Moyer Kevin Egan, a life member of the FCC and a long-standing board member. Photo: ©2018 Robin Moyer

Fellow members, friends and colleagues paid tribute to Egan as a tenacious criminal advocate with a big heart whose legal skirmishes kept local newspapers in business over the years.

FCC President Florence de Changy led tributes to Egan, saying: “Kevin was one of these larger than life characters who would enter the Main Bar as he probably entered the Court room, with both panache and focus, always ready for a good argument and/or a nice drink.

“Kevin joined the Club in 1980 and served on the Board of Governors for 21 years on and off since 1993. Board Governors were all looking forward to working with him as second V-P and Secretary of the Club. The FCC will miss him very much and will remember him fondly.”

Born in Australia, the head of Baskerville Chambers joined the Bar in Queensland in 1972. He arrived in Hong Kong more than 35 years ago after serving as Director of Public Prosecutions in Papua New Guinea where he prosecuted justice minister Nahau Rooney for contempt.

Egan worked as a prosecutor in Hong Kong’s then Legal Department, serving as deputy principal Crown Counsel before being admitted to the Hong Kong Bar in 1990. He found himself in the dock shortly after, battling ICAC charges that he furnished corrupt ex-prosecutor Warwick Reid with a gun and aided his bolt from Hong Kong.

He emerged victorious, but again crossed swords with anti-corruption enforcers in 2006 when he was jailed for perverting the course of justice. In 2009, Hong Kong’s highest court quashed the conviction but only after he had served jail time. During his stint in Stanley Prison, Egan described being ‘put to work’ by inmates, drafting appeals with the aid of a photographic memory of Hong Kong ordinances.

Personal victories aside, Egan championed both glitterati and impecunious alike, adjusting his fees accordingly. After a hard day at the Bar he would take up residence at his second home, establishing himself as a life member of the FCC and a long-standing board member.

A canny raconteur, fellow board members remember him fondly for his pragmatic approach to Club politics. “He was one of my favorite board members,” says former FCC president Tom Mitchell, Beijing bureau chief for the Financial Times.

“I always trusted his gruff, no-nonsense legal advice, which was extremely valuable to the club. I also found him a great ally in my never-ending struggle to contain the board meetings to my usual 90-minute target. Like me, Kevin had no patience for the odd member of the board who greatly enjoyed the sound of his or her own voice and was happy to spend 2+ hours of their Saturday morning locked up in a board meeting.”

I have never met a Counsel so generous of heart. He would structure his fees depending on the client. He would say to me his father would say ‘one day it’s a lamb shank the next day a bone’. He would always take up a cause for an underdog.

Former President Tara Joseph commented: “Kevin will be sorely missed. I will always glance over at the back right hand corner of the Main Bar and look for him as he had such a steady presence there, surrounded by fellow barristers or watching the sports on TV.

“In the years I served on the board I took a special delight in seeing what T-shirt Kevin would rock up in to Saturday board meetings. On weekdays Kevin was usually in a characteristic conservative suit. On Saturdays she showed up in T-shirts advertising heavy metal rock bands. I think it cheered him up on a Saturday morning. Kevin loved the FCC. It was clearly a second home.”

Those who worked with Egan recall his Robin Hood approach to briefs. “I have never met a Counsel so generous of heart. He would structure his fees depending on the client. He would say to me his father would say ‘one day it’s a lamb shank the next day a bone’. He would always take up a cause for an underdog,” says solicitor Kevin Steel.

“His success rate at court was second to none when the bullets were fed to him by a well-prepared team. There are literally thousands of clients who have their liberty because of Kevin’s dedication to his craft and his hard-working ethic.

“To me he was as Senior as any counsel could be without the letters SC. Fearless in defending his clients, a challenge to a solicitor who would sometimes have to rein in the sheer exuberance.

He will be sorely missed by all of the legal community but his legacy is in the HK law reports. Just type in Kevin Egan and it’s plain to see.”

Egan’s former pupils remember him as a breath of fresh air in a rigid profession. Pupils who turned up on their first day in traditional barrister attire were instantly chastised for non-adherence to his dress code of obligatory jeans and T-shirt.

The barrister had a strict ‘KISS’ principle, his succinct style putting even the most nervous client at ease. “He was welcoming and helpful to his pupils and junior members of the Bar,” says former pupil Shaphan Marwah. “Kevin took pride in being a fearless advocate. He was feared and respected.”

Egan was horse racing enthusiast and keen shooter. When once asked by an Australian newspaper what kept him in Hong Kong, he replied: “The lifestyle, the money and to be honest, the tax regime.”

Former SCMP court reporter Charlotte Parsons noted: “No-one can ever accuse him of having a dull life. It is hard to imagine the FCC without him.”

A more in-depth tribute to Kevin Egan will appear in the October-December edition of The Correspondent. In the meantime, please send us your memories and anecdotes of Kevin – [email protected]

Kevin was a force to be reckoned with and the mere mention of his name would bring fear to his opponents in court. Some years ago I asked Kevin if he could represent me in a civil action against a Malaysian company. He agreed saying : “I don’t normally do civil cases, but I’m a bloody good litigator.” I instructed my solicitors to proceed with Kevin at the helm, but did not like my choice of a criminal lawyer. They notified the defence accordingly and they gave up immediately when hearing that Kevin was to be my representative. Such was the power of his name. Vale Kevin.

Mark Pinkstone


Kev did not normally take breakfast at the Club before going to court but he did on Monday, 12 June 2006. While he didn’t expect a guilty verdict from Judge Fung he told me he was prepared to have to play the long game. It turned out to be a little longer than expected – Kev had expected it would take 4 weeks for his bail and when I saw him in Stanley 6 weeks later he said it was all getting a little tedious. Whatever fears might have been running through his mind at that point, he was nothing but courageous and an example to us all of calm, fortitude and realism. He was no different when I saw him with Bonnie returning on the bus to Happy Valley from a visit to the Queen Mary Hospital only weeks before he died and I have no doubt he is resting in peace. God bless you, Kev.

John Brewer


 

FCC Hong Kong confirms passing of 2nd Vice President Kevin Barry H. Egan

The FCC’s 2nd Vice President, Kevin Egan.

It is with great sadness that the Foreign Correspondents’ Club confirms the unexpected passing of our legendary 2nd Vice President, long-standing Governor and great friend Kevin Egan yesterday.

Kevin had suffered some ill health recently but appeared back to his usual energetic and humorous self; he was working full time on court work in his successful barrister’s practice and on Club matters having recently been elected as 2nd Vice President. So this has come as a great shock to his family, friends and to all of us at the FCC who will greatly miss him.

We would request that the privacy of Kevin’s family and friends be observed at this difficult time. Details of Kevin’s funeral and memorial events will be circulated as soon as they are available. Kevin would no doubt have wanted us to celebrate his life in style and we fully intend to honour those wishes.

 

June 18, 2018

Hong Kong will never have genuine democracy, but city can slow down the march towards authoritarianism – Benny Tai

It is the duty of every Hongkonger to defend the rule of law from the encroachment of authoritarian rule of law, said Benny Tai, warning that Beijing continues to move the “political red line” as it attempts to stamp out dissent.

Kenneth Chan, left, and Benny Tai discuss the erosion of Hong Kong's freedoms. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC Kenneth Chan, left, and Benny Tai discuss the erosion of Hong Kong’s freedoms. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC

The co-founder of the 2014 Occupy Central movement which saw thousands bring the centre of Hong Kong to a standstill for two weeks as they demanded democracy, said the city would never have genuine democracy, but added: “I can still see hope. My hope is on the civil society in Hong Kong… I hope that we can slow down the process of authoritarianism in Hong Kong.”

Tai, an associate professor at Hong Kong University, was speaking at a debate alongside Kenneth Chan, former LegCo member for the Civic Party and associate professor of political science at Baptist University of Hong Kong. FCC President Florence de Changy told the sold-out June 12 club lunch that representatives from pro-Beijing camps, including Regina Ip and Holden Chow, were also invited to the debate on whether Hong Kong’s freedoms were under threat, but they had said they were not available.

The strategy of the Communist Party of China (CCP) was to authoritarianise Hong Kong by twisting the rule of law and legal procedures, Tai said. Responding to a question about the recent six-year jail term handed out to localist Edward Leung for his involvement in the Mong Kok riots, Tai said the sentence demonstrated an “over-emphasis on social order”.

He said: “Under the spirit of our common law system, judges have space to consider what was the reason behind the destruction of social order and the defendants’ intentions in terms of the law. I want to ask whether it would be wise to use the law to suppress all this dissatisfaction with the existing order, without dealing with the reasons why the people are rising up. If this is not addressed, then I can foresee there may be more conflicts in the future.”

Chan spoke of the pressures faced by universities in the city as they try to win funding from donors who are often pro-establishment. He admitted that Baptist University donors had threatened to “turn the tap off” because its students “were not behaving” politically.

He talked of the threat to academics’ jobs due to their social and political activism, adding that nobody should be removed from their positions for this reason. He added: “Looking forward I’m afraid I have to sound a little pessimistic because of the chilling effects coming down on each one of us.”

Chan described Hong Kong as a city where “increasingly you have to not look unpatriotic” before declaring: “Welcome to 1984, though this is 2018.”

Minimum Spending Requirement: an Update

Dear fellow members,

Further to the FCC’s announcement on November 1 of the introduction of a HK$300
a month minimum spending requirement in January, members have given us feedback and suggestions that were carefully reviewed during our last Board meeting.

The board of governors has decided that as many members frequently travel, the spending requirement will be levied and collected quarterly (in March, June, September and December). This means for example, if from January through March, you spend HK$800, there will be an additional HK$100 charge to your bill for March.

As mentioned before, you can also meet the minimum spending requirement by buying take-away wine.

On behalf of the board of governors, thank you for your understanding and we look forward to your continued support of the club.

Yours sincerely,

Florence de Changy
FCC President

 

Update: Introduction of a Minimum Spending Requirement

20 November 2017
Dear fellow members,
Further to the FCC’s announcement on November 1 of the introduction of a HK$300 a month minimum spending requirement in January, members have given us feedback and suggestions that were carefully reviewed during our last Board meeting.

The board of governors has decided that as many members frequently travel, the spending requirement will be levied and collected quarterly (in March, June, September and December). This means for example, if from January through March, you spend HK$800, there will be an additional HK$100 charge to your bill for March.

As mentioned before, you can also meet the minimum spending requirement by buying take-away wine.

On behalf of the board of governors, thank you for your understanding and we look forward to your continued support of the club.

Yours sincerely,
Florence de Changy
FCC President

 

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