Twenty-four HK tourists in mainland bus crash A bus carrying twenty-four Hong Kong holidaymakers in Yunnan crashed during a six-day trip yesterday. Tour operator Wing On Travel said one passenger suffered bruised limbs and was still in a hospital in the Chuxiong Yu Autonomous Prefecture. Some of the others suffered minor injures, and were given check-ups. The operator said the bus was travelling from Dali to Kunming and it was raining at the time of the accident. All the travellers were insured. HK ship rescues yacht skipper hit by storm in global race A Hong Kong-flagged bulk carrier rescued a 69-year-old skipper from a stricken yacht in the southern Indian Ocean on Tuesday night. Dutchman Nico Budel's yacht, Hayai, suffered irreparable damage to the keel as he was taking part in the second leg of the Portimao Global Ocean Race last Sunday. The rescue ship CSK Radiance responded to a distress call issued by Mr Budel, who was later transferred from his yacht to the 170,000-tonne bulk carrier, to be airlifted off the ship when passing Cape Town. Customs seize HK$8.8m from crime syndicate The District Court granted an application by Hong Kong customs officials to confiscate a record HK$8.8 million in crime proceeds from a pirated optical disc syndicate. The syndicate was smashed in July 2004 when customs officers seized about 50,000 pirated optical discs from its duplicating centres, storehouses and sales outlets. Two offenders, convicted of copyright and money-laundering charges, were jailed for 55 months and 37.5 months in August 2006. Welfare cases rise slightly The Comprehensive Social Security Assistance caseload in November saw an increase of 0.4 per cent, or 1,141 cases, compared to the previous month. The Social Welfare Department said the total caseload stood at 284,182 at the end of November, with a total of 475,052 recipients. Of these, the number of unemployment cases rose 1.4 per cent to 31,442, while the number of low-earning cases rose 1 per cent to 16,188. Government spending on CSSA payments last year is estimated at HK$18 billion. Productivity chief to stay Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen has reappointed Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen as chairman of the Hong Kong Productivity Council for six months from today. The government said in a statement that it was 'a special arrangement' considering the current economic situation. Mr Leung had come to the end of his tenure after taking up the position in January 2003. The government said the council was expected to continue providing professional advice and support to industry. Exchange Fund gains HK$87.5b Total assets of the Exchange Fund amounted to HK$1.42 trillion on November 30 last year, up HK$87.5 billion from the end of the previous month, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority said. This was due to an HK$87 billion increase in foreign currency assets, mainly due to the purchases of foreign currencies with Hong Kong dollars, and valuation gains on foreign currency investments. Hong Kong dollar assets increased by HK$500 million, due to an increase in the banking system balance and placements received from fiscal reserves. HK$28b surplus in November The government had a surplus of HK$28 billion in November, mainly due to profit tax collection, reducing the deficit for the first eight months of the financial year to HK$9.3 billion. Spending between April and November last year amounted to HK$171.4 billion and revenue HK$162.1 billion. A government spokesman said it was expected that the full-year deficit would be higher than the original estimate of HK$7.5 billion in view of the current economic outlook. The fiscal reserves stood at HK$483.6 billion at the end of November.