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Hong Kong drops from top 30 most-livable cities, survey says

[HONG KONG] Hong Kong has dropped out of the world's top 30 most-livable cities because of poor air quality and social unrest caused by the Occupy Central movement, according to consulting firm ECA International.

The city's livability ranking fell 16 spots to the 33rd, one of the steepest slides in the survey, while another Asian financial hub, Singapore, topped the list for the 16th straight year, according to a report posted on ECA's website on Thursday.

While Hong Kong remains highly ranked, "Air quality remains a lot poorer there than many other parts of the region," the report cited Lee Quane, ECA International's regional director for Asia, as saying.

"In addition, Hong Kong's socio-political score worsened this year as a result of the unprecedented unrest there in recent months and the restrictions placed on movement."

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Pro-democracy protesters occupied swathes of the city in the last quarter, clashing with police and obstructing traffic in Hong Kong's biggest political crisis since its return to China's rule in 1997. While pollution levels showed slight improvement last year, they still fell short of standards from the World Health Organization, according to the report by Clean Air Network Ltd, an environment monitoring group.

In Asia, Hong Kong ranks sixth for livability, behind Singapore and the Japanese cities of Osaka, Nagoya, Tokyo and Yokohama, according to ECA's annual survey.

"We are confident that the international community regards Hong Kong highly as one of the most favored cities in terms of attracting businesses and talent," the government's Information Services Department said in an e-mailed response to a request for comment.

It cited the World Bank's latest assessment, which rated Hong Kong as the third easiest place to do business globally, as one of the examples that "have vividly reflected the attractiveness of our free and open economy in the global arena."

Shanghai, ranked 110th globally, is mainland China's most livable city followed by Beijing, which is ranked 122th globally. Southwestern metropolis Chongqing and southern city Shenzhen saw the most improvement over the year.

Quane cited improvements in "housing, goods and services, recreation, healthcare" for the ascendancy of the Chinese cities on ECA's ranking list, while noting that improvements have been tempered by "problems associated with the country's rapid growth including pollution, infrastructure, corruption and food safety."

Australian cities were featured heavily in the top 10 places in the ranking. Adelaide and Sydney were tied in second spot, followed by Osaka, Brisbane, Wellington, Canberra, Copenhagen, Denmark, Nagoya and Perth.

The ECA's livability assessment of 450 major world cities is based on measurements including air quality, infrastructure, healthcare, education, leisure facilities, personal safety and political tensions.