Our editors will be looking ahead today to these developing stories ...
John Tsang presents his final budget
Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah (depicted here on a protester's mask) will present the government's budget for 2012-2013 to the Legislative Council. Tsang is expected to offer modest relief measures to help with the rising cost of living, including waiving property rates and granting tax rebates in what is likely to be his last budget. Another HK$6, 000 handout to permanent residents is expected to be ruled out on the grounds that global economic uncertainty demands strict fiscal discipline.
Commission rules on bourse merger
The European Commission will decide on the merger of NYSE Euronext and Deutsche Boerse AG. In a television interview in Davos last week, EU Commissioner for Competition Joaquin Almunia said 'some problems of competition will not be solved by this merger but will be aggravated', referring to fears raised by his team that the merger will monopolise derivatives trading in Europe.
Pakistan minister visits Kabul on peace mission
Pakistan's Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar (pictured) is scheduled to arrive in the Afghan capital of Kabul on a peacemaking mission. Relations between the neighbouring countries collapsed last year when Afghan President Hamid Karzai's main negotiator with the Taliban rebels was assassinated. Karzai blamed Pakistan and last month accused Islamabad of sabotaging any attempt to negotiate with the Taliban. The rebel group has now sat down to preliminary peace talks in Qatar.
Wukan votes for election committee
Wukan, the coastal village in Guangdong province that was the scene of recent protests over land sales, will elect members of a committee that will prepare for the direct election of a new village chief in March. The former village head was at the centre of accusations that land belonging to the community had been sold illegally. The election next month is part of a deal agreed with the provincial government after villagers took to the streets following the death of one of their representatives in detention.
Assange makes plea against extradition
An appeal by Julian Assange (pictured), co-founder of the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks, against his extradition to Sweden to face rape allegations begins in the Supreme Court in London. The hearing is expected to last two days, although a decision is not expected for several weeks. If the court rejects his case, the 40-year-old Australian will have exhausted all his options in Britain for avoiding extradition, but he could still make a last-ditch appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.
Merkel in Beijing for debt talks
Fresh from the latest European Union summit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel (see Focus, page A4) will visit Beijing tomorrow to hold talks with President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao on Europe's debt crisis and global monetary and currency issues. It is also expected that she will address the EU's oil embargo on Iran, which is accused of trying to develop nuclear weapons, and ask the mainland to cut oil imports from the Islamic republic. She is scheduled to give a speech on global finance issues at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, before she sets off for Guangzhou.