HONG KONG, August 24 -- Hong Kong kicks off its 12th straight weekend of anti-government protests with an approved march in Kwun Tong.
It is taking a tense turn as demonstrators again resort to blocking roads, while earlier, residents engaged MTR staff in a stand-off over suspended train services. More than a thousand people showed up in the industrial district, calling for the full withdrawal of the now-shelved extradition bill and demanding an explanation over a plan to set up "smart lamp posts" along roads. The devices measure traffic conditions, weather and other data, but critics say they infringe upon privacy. The march follows a plan in the morning to cripple transport links to the airport, but that protest action failed to take off because of low numbers. The Kwun Tong procession will head from Tsun Yip Street to Zero Carbon Building in Kowloon Bay, and marks the latest in nearly three months of demonstrations that have rocked the city. The political crisis was sparked by the hated extradition bill, which would have allowed the transfer of fugitives to jurisdictions with which Hong Kong has no such agreement, including mainland China.
BEIJING, August 23 -- The family of a worker at the UK consulate in Hong Kong has rejected a "fake" report by Chinese state media that he was detained in the mainland for visiting prostitutes.
Mr Simon Cheng disappeared after visiting the city of Shenzhen from the semi-autonomous city on Aug 8, and the Foreign Office in London said both British officials and relatives have been unable to speak to him since. The Global Times, a tabloid state-run newspaper, said he had been detained for "soliciting prostitutes", citing police in Shenzhen, which lies on the China-Hong Kong border. But a Facebook page run by Mr Cheng's family dismissed the report. "This is a made-up crime of soliciting prostitution, everyone should see it's a joke," the comment said. Beijing confirmed on Wednesday that an employee of the British consulate had been "placed in administrative detention for 15 days as punishment" by police in Shenzhen for breaking a public security law. "Let me clarify, this employee is a Hong Kong citizen, he's not a UK citizen, which is also saying he's a Chinese person," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said. According to the Global Times, Mr Cheng could be detained for up to 15 days and fined up to 5,000 yuan ($977) for the alleged crime. In an editorial on Friday, the tabloid said it was at Mr Cheng's request that police did not contact his family and that "thanks to the British foreign ministry and media, which have been hyping it, the case is now fully exposed".
Mr Cheng was in the process of returning via high-speed train on Aug 8 and sent messages to his girlfriend as he was about to go through customs. He has not been seen or heard from since. The family said it had hired a lawyer in Shenzhen who had been unable to find or speak to the detained man. Police in Shenzhen did not reply to AFP's request for comment. A spokesman for the British Foreign Office said in a statement on Thursday that it was continuing "to urgently seek further information about Simon's case". The incident comes as relations between Britain and China have become strained over what Beijing calls London's "interference" in pro-democracy protests that have wracked Hong Kong for three months. China promised to respect the freedoms in the semi-autonomous territory after its handover from Britain in 1997 - including freedom of speech, unfettered access to the Internet and an independent judiciary - but protesters say these rights are being eroded. Chinese authorities have increased their inspections at the border since the protests, including checking the phones and devices of some passengers for photos of the demonstrations. Beijing has faced criticism in the past for detaining foreign nationals amid ongoing diplomatic spats, and for accusing dissidents or activists of sex crimes.
HONG KONG, August 23 -- Hong Kong’s protest movement began as opposition to a now-suspended extradition bill but evolved into a direct challenge to the city’s government and calls for full democracy.
Beyond their immediate demands, many young protesters, express fears for the future - anxiety that reflects broader uncertainty over China’s promise to Britain to maintain the freewheeling city’s way of life for 50 years. That 50-year period runs out in 2047.
WHY THE FEAR?
The fears are twofold. Firstly, many Hong Kong people have watched what they see as Beijing’s tightening grip on their city, from the detention of booksellers by mainland security agents to the expulsion of a foreign journalist, the jailing of young activists, sweeping legal interpretations by Beijing on city matters, and curbs on electoral freedom. Many say the extradition bill - which would have put Hong Kong people at the mercy of China’s Communist Party-controlled courts - was merely the latest in a string of erosion's. But their fears also reflect uncertainty over Hong Kong’s future that is written into the Basic Law, the mini-constitution that has guided Hong Kong’s relations with Beijing since the handover from British rule in 1997. The document enshrines rights and freedoms - including freedom of speech, assembly and an independent judiciary - inherent in the “one country, two systems” formula that underpinned agreement between Beijing and London. Those freedoms remain far greater than those that exist on the mainland, where the Communist Party ultimately controls many aspects of society, including the media and the courts.
Article 5 of the Basic Law states that China’s “socialist system and policies” shall not be practised in Hong Kong and “the previous capitalist system and way of life shall remain unchanged for 50 years”. Just as British colonial Hong Kong was famously described by the Eurasian writer Han Suyin as existing on “borrowed time in a borrowed place”, the clock to 2047 is ticking.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER 2047?
No one knows. Talking to officials, scholars, business people and protesters, there is uncertainty about the broad principles and the impact on specifics, such as property leases and the judiciary. Some believe much will depend on how Beijing views the city at the time, and what political changes unfold across China over the next 28 years. “Of course, it’s vague but it is clear that after 50 years mainland policy can change. They don’t have to change but they can change,” said Simon Young, a professor at the University of Hong Kong Law School. “They would no longer be beholden by Article 5 and the Joint Declaration,” he said, referring to another agreement with Britain. The city’s government has said little on Hong Kong after 2047. Its constitutional affairs bureau said in 2016 the Basic Law had no expiry date. “The country’s sovereignty over Hong Kong will not change 50 years after Hong Kong’s return to the Motherland, nor will the country change its basic policies towards Hong Kong after 50 years,” then bureau undersecretary Ronald Chan said at the time. A bureau spokeswoman affirmed that reply to Reuters this week. “There is no question of the expiry of the Basic Law in 2047 as the PRC (People’s Republic of China) will not change its basic policies to Hong Kong, i.e. one country, two systems.” Despite the protests, Ip Kwok-him, a veteran pro-establishment politician who sits on Hong Kong’s Executive Council, its top policy advisory body, said he believed Beijing still wanted to extend the formula beyond 2047. “In my interactions with China’s leaders, I could sense this position,” said Ip, who is also a delegate to China’s parliament, the National People’s Congress. The central government’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office did not respond to questions from Reuters on the issue. Many in Hong Kong remain far more skeptical, fearing that Hong Kong will be absorbed into China’s system and its freedoms, already under threat, will evaporate.
WHAT IMPACT ON THE PROTESTS?
As protests enter their 12th week, it is clear the question of 2047 is becoming more pertinent. Young protesters’ increasing focus on issues like democratic reform - promised in the Basic Law - highlights a desire to protect Hong Kong’s freedoms in the years ahead. As thousands of activists shut down Hong Kong’s airport last week, a sign hung above them in the arrivals’ hall: “Let the future be created”.
BEIJING, August 22 -- China is hopeful that US President Donald Trump can “honour” his earlier hands-off stance on Hong Kong, although the Commerce Ministry spokesman neglected to mention the latest statement from the American leader linking the trade talks between Washington and Beijing with the anti-government protests in the city.
China is hopeful that US President Donald Trump can “honour” his earlier hands-off stance on Hong Kong, although the Commerce Ministry spokesman neglected to mention the latest statement from the American leader linking the trade talks between Washington and Beijing with the anti-government protests in the city. Trump had been distancing himself from the tensions until earlier this week saying that trade talks with China would be hampered if Beijing used violent means to crack down on the ongoing protests in Hong Kong similar to those employed against pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989.Trump said that if a similar crackdown happened in Hong Kong, “there’d be tremendous political sentiment not to do something”, referring to trade negotiations between China and the United States. “It does put pressure on the trade deal. If they do something negative, it puts pressure,” he added. “We noticed that President Trump had said that Hong Kong is part of China and [China and Hong Kong] can sort it out on their own. We hope the US side can honor these words,” said Commerce Ministry spokesman Gao Feng on Thursday.
Protests have taken place in Hong Kong since June 9, sparked by demands for the city’s government to withdraw an unpopular extradition bill that would have allowed the transfer of suspects to mainland China. Protests have continued in the city for over 11 weeks despite Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam stating that the bill “is dead”. The stance from China’s Commerce Ministry is in line with China’s Foreign Ministry and state media as Beijing is opposed to linking the situation in Hong Kong with the talks over the ongoing trade war. Earlier on Wednesday, Trump added that “I don’t view it as leverage. I hope Hong Kong works out in a very humane way. I don’t view it as leverage or non-leverage. I hope it works out in a humane way. And I think that President Xi Jinping has the ability to make sure that happens”. Gao said China’s negotiating team has maintained contact with their American counterparts, with Vice-Premier Liu He believed to have taken part in a scheduled phone call with US trade representative Robert Lighthizer and US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin last week.
HONG KONG, August 22 -- Hong Kong stocks are poised for their worst quarter since 2015 and corporate earnings are unlikely to save them.
After a sell-off erased more than US$600 billion from the city’s equities, attractive valuations stood as a potential bright spot. But those multiples don’t look so good when analysts keep slashing their profit forecasts for 2019. Their call for an average 19 per cent slump in operating income would be the biggest contraction for Hang Seng Index companies since the global financial crisis, data compiled by Bloomberg show. While a protracted US-China trade war and a weak yuan are to blame for a big chunk of the profit reductions, the latest cuts reveal a deeper issue. With Hong Kong’s slowing economy buckling under the pressure of 11 straight weeks of protests, demand for everything from bank loans to utility gas may be jeopardized. “The third quarter could be even worse given the local political situation and the trade war escalation,” said Jackson Wong, asset management director at Amber Hill Capital. “Potential downside surprises have not been fully reflected in share prices.” Shares of utilities provider Hong Kong and China Gas fell 5.3 per cent on Wednesday after it posted disappointing results and said the local business environment is “full of challenges.” Political unrest in Hong Kong may dampen its sales to the hospitality industry as people opt to cook at home rather than dine out, analysts at Daiwa Securities Group say. The threat from the trade war and weeks of local unrest has been apparent in the property market, as well as hotel occupancy and retail sales. CK Asset Holdings, whose shares fell to lowest since January 2017 last week, postponed a luxury residential project because of the protests. HSBC Holdings and BOC Hong Kong Holdings have lost about 9 per cent this month as investors become increasingly concerned about capital flight.
HONG KONG, August 21 -- Hong Kong protesters will rally for the release of a British consulate worker whose family said was detained during a recent visit to mainland China, as near-daily demonstrations continue in the financial hub.
The "Save Simon Cheng" event is scheduled to take place on Wednesday (Aug 21) evening at the UK Consulate General in central Hong Kong. Mr Cheng, 28, was revealed to be missing on Tuesday after failing to return from an Aug 8 meeting in the border city of Shenzhen, and has not contacted his family since. There has been no public confirmation about the Cheng incident from China, which could potentially address it at a daily foreign ministry briefing on Wednesday afternoon in Beijing. Britain's foreign office said on Tuesday that it was "extremely concerned" by the report and was seeking information from the authorities in Hong Kong and the southern Chinese province of Guangdong, which includes Shenzhen. A spokesman for the Hong Kong Immigration Department and a spokesman for the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Guangdong said they had no additional information on Mr Cheng's situation on Wednesday. Hong Kong police said on Tuesday that a missing person investigation was underway and that they were in close touch with Chinese authorities.
HONG KONG, August 20 -- Hong Kong government leader Carrie Lam on Tuesday called for continued dialogue with citizens but is still refusing to address protesters' demands to fully withdraw a controversial extradition bill, two days after more than a million people took to the streets in a peaceful demonstration.
"I hope (Sunday's peaceful march) is the beginning of the society returning to tranquility and staying away from violence," Lam told reporters ahead of her weekly Cabinet meeting. "We are willing to talk to the people who joined the largely peaceful rally, in hopes of narrowing our differences and finding a way out." But instead of answering to demands, including the full withdrawal of the bill that would allow fugitive transfer to mainland China and the setting up of an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality, Lam said a probe carried out by the Independent Police Complaints Council will be prolonged and dialogue with "all walks of life" will be held soon. A report by the Council is expected within six months. "I can give you this very clear commitment at the political level that the bill is dead. There is no plan to revive this bill especially in light of the public concerns," Lam said, in response to questions about her reluctance to withdraw the bill.
Anthony Neoh, who heads the Council and the only government-sanctioned probe, said in a South China Morning Post report that the current impasse requires a political solution that could start with the formal withdrawal of the bill, and having a commission of inquiry at a later stage. Millions of people have taken to the streets since June in opposition to the bill, including Sunday's rally and march that organizers said drew 1.7 million people. Lam's decision to suspend the bill's legislative process and later calling it "dead," failed to quell public anger. The protesters' demands have widened to include a probe of allegations of police using excessive force on demonstrators, giving pardons to arrested protesters and democratic political reform.
TORONTO, August 20 -- Convoys of Chinese patriots in Ferraris and other high-end sports cars have been revving up pro-Beijing demonstrations in Canada, home to tens of thousands of Chinese millionaire migrants.
Drivers of luxury sports cars – which also included McLarens, Porsches and Aston Martins – waved Chinese flags, gunned their engines and honked their horns to cheers from pro-China demonstrators in Vancouver and Toronto, who were facing off against groups supporting the Hong Kong protest movement. In Vancouver, at the busy intersection of Broadway and Cambie Street, hundreds of rival demonstrators had gathered on Saturday afternoon at a major subway station. Protester Kevin Huang Yi Shuen, who supported the Hong Kong camp, watched as the sports cars repeatedly buzzed the protest scene. He said the scene was a big-money “power play” and “a way of showing force”. One black Ferrari 458 had a Chinese flag covering its bonnet, while the passenger waved another on a three-metre flagpole. It followed a black McLaren 570 with a smaller flag hanging out the window of the driver, who covered his face with his hand. A second group, whose cars included a matt-black convertible Ferrari, drew the attention of police, who spoke to the drivers after they repeatedly honked their horns. Huang said a police officer on a motorcycle chased after another car as it pulled away from the busy intersection, dragster style. Huang, executive director of the non-profit Hua Foundation, which is based in Chinatown and works with Asian diaspora youth, said he doubted if the motorists did their cause any good, if the goal was to convince undecided Canadians to support the pro-China camp.
Meanwhile, in Toronto, a protest near the Old City Hall also attracted a line of supercar drivers waving Chinese flags and revving loudly. “Worst Fast & Furious movie ever,” said Stephen Punwasi on Twitter, sharing a video of the scene. Lindsay Brown, a Vancouver based community activist who was visiting Toronto, watched a white BMW M6 gun its engines on Bay Street, creating “the most unbelievable din”. The young driver pumped his fist as his passenger waved a Chinese flag. “The mood was pretty aggressive … The [Chinese] nationalists reacted enthusiastically to the revving – you can hear them whooping and whistling in response,” she said.
Canada has attracted huge numbers of Chinese millionaires, under the now-defunct federal immigrant investor programme (IIP) and the still-running Quebec Immigrant Investor Programme (QIIP). Most participants of both schemes who stay in Canada end up living in Vancouver or Toronto. But many others leave the country after obtaining citizenship, federal data shows. The QIIP has an annual application limit of 1,900 families, with the Chinese quota capped at 1,235. Current figures are unavailable, but 65 per cent of the 55,000 arrivals under the QIIP from 2002 to 2012 were Chinese. When the federal IIP shut down in 2014, there was a backlog of 45,000 mainland Chinese applicants and family members in the queue, out of a worldwide total of about 60,000. The IIP and QIIP were for many years the world’s most popular wealth migration vehicles. By 2014, about 200,000 millionaires and family members had moved to Canada under the two schemes.
SAN FRANCISCO, August 20 -- Twitter and Facebook said on Monday (Aug 19) they had dismantled a state-backed information operation originating in mainland China that sought to undermine protests in Hong Kong.
Twitter said it suspended 936 accounts and the operations appeared to be a coordinated state-backed effort originating in China. It said these accounts were just the most active portions of this campaign and that a "larger, spammy network" of approximately 200,000 accounts had been proactively suspended before they were substantially active. Facebook said it had removed accounts and pages from a small network after a tip from Twitter. It said that its investigation found links to individuals associated with the Chinese government. Social media companies are under pressure to stem illicit political influence campaigns online ahead of the US election in November 2020. A 22-month US investigation concluded Russia interfered in a "sweeping and systematic fashion" in the 2016 US election to help Donald Trump win the presidency. The Chinese embassy in Washington and the US State Department were not immediately available to comment. The Hong Kong protests, which have presented one of the biggest challenges for Chinese President Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012, began in June as opposition to a now-suspended bill that would allow suspects to be extradited to mainland China for trial in Communist Party-controlled courts. They have since swelled into wider calls for democracy. Twitter in a blog post said the accounts undermined the legitimacy and political positions of the protest movement in Hong Kong.
Examples of posts provided by Twitter included a tweet from a user with photos of protesters storming Hong Kong's Legislative Council building, which asked: "Are these people who smashed the Legco crazy or taking benefits from the bad guys? It's a complete violent behavior, we don't want you radical people in Hong Kong. Just get out of here!" In examples provided by Facebook, one post called the protesters "Hong Kong cockroaches" and claimed that they"refused to show their faces". In a separate statement, Twitter said it was updating its advertising policy and would not accept advertising from state-controlled news media entities going forward. Twitter told Reuters the advertising change was not related to the suspended accounts. In the past week, China’s official Xinhua news agency and state broadcaster China Global Television Network (CGTN) paid to promote videos that portrayed the protests as violent and said Hong Kong citizens wanted the demonstrations to end, according to Twitter’s Ads Transparency Centre. Twitter said it did not have data on how much revenue it generates from state-controlled media advertising. Many countries including the United States do not have clear standards on state media’s purchase of online advertising. Total digital ad spending in Hong Kong will grow 11 per cent to reach US$786.1 million in 2019, according to projections by US digital market data analyst eMarketer.
Alphabet's YouTube video service told Reuters in June that state-owned media companies maintained the same privileges as any other user, including the ability to run ads in accordance with its rules. YouTube did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday on whether it had detected inauthentic content related to protests in Hong Kong. In a tweet on Sunday, China’s influential state-run tabloid, The Global Times, hailed the response of Chinese “netizens” to the protests, saying: “Chinese netizens’ power! Amid escalating protests in Hong Kong, Chinese netizens on Saturday swept Facebook and Instagram to denounce secessionist posts and show support for Hong Kong police.” About 98 per cent of social network users in Hong Kong, or 4.7 million people, will log into Facebook at least once a month in 2019, according to eMarketer projections, while 9.4 per cent of social network users will use Twitter.
WASHINGTON, August 19 -- U.S. President Donald Trump warned China on Sunday a suppression by force of Hong Kong protestors like the military crackdown on the pro-democracy movement at Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989 would harm bilateral trade talks.
"I think it would be very hard to deal if they do violence. I mean, if it's another Tiananmen Square...it's a very hard thing to do," Trump told reporters in New Jersey, referring to the crackdown that is believed to have killed hundreds of people, mostly students, when armed troops were deployed to clear the square. The world's two largest economies have been engaged in a tit-for-tat tariff war. Organizers said some 1.7 million people took to the streets in Hong Kong on Sunday, calling for full withdrawal of a now-suspended bill that would have allowed fugitive transfers to mainland China as well as an independent probe into alleged police violence. The protest, the biggest since a June 16 rally in which organizers said 2 million took part, represented Hong Kong citizens' strong frustration with Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who has refused to accept their requests. Another rally may be held on Aug. 31. The Chinese leadership led by President Xi Jinping has stationed the People's Armed Police Force, a paramilitary force, in Shenzhen across the mainland border with armored vehicles seen gathering in recent days at a stadium.