HONG KONG, September 4 -- Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam on Wednesday formally withdrew a contentious extradition Bill following months of protests.
"The government will formally withdraw the Bill in order to fully allay public concerns," she said in a pre-recorded address in Cantonese and English that was carried by all major broadcasters in Hong Kong. Mrs Lam said a motion to withdraw with be tabled when the Legislative Council reconvenes. Although Mrs Lam had previously suspended the Bill – saying it was “dead” – her move did little to appease demonstrators, who continued protesting and expanded their demands to include calls for greater democratic freedom. Without the Bill’s formal withdrawal, it could be reintroduced in a matter of days. This essentially responds to one of five demands protesters have asked for. The others are: the retraction of the word “riot” to describe rallies; the release of all arrested demonstrators; an independent inquiry into the police; and the right for Hong Kong people to democratically choose their own leaders. While she ruled out setting up an independent commission to look into the events that have led to recent mass protests, she said that the Independent Police Complaints Commission will be reinforced by former director of education Helen Yu and senior lawyer Paul Lam. The government will also meet with various stakeholders and members of the public in a bid to address the various social issues she said.
"After more than two months of social unrest, it's obvious to many that the discontentment extends far beyond the (extradition) Bill," Mrs Lam added. The announcement follows a meeting with pro-establishment political figures, the South China Morning Post newspaper and other media reported, citing people they did not identify. The gathering included local legislators and the city's representatives to national legislative bodies. The meeting follows a weekend of demonstrations that saw some of the fiercest clashes between protesters and riot police. Activists have lobbed petrol bombs and set bonfires in the streets, while police officers fired tear gas, rubber bullets and pepper spray, making more than 1,100 arrests since early June. Hong Kong stocks jumped, led by property developers, after news reports said Mrs Lam will formally withdraw the extradition Bill that has sparked months of protests. The benchmark Hang Seng Index surged as much as 3.9 per cent before paring gains to 3.4 per cent at 3.06pm local time. The turmoil that followed Mrs Lam's attempt to introduce the ill-fated Bill - including mass marches that drew more than 1 million people and protests that shut the city's busy airport - have turned into the biggest crisis for Beijing's rule over the former British colony since it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
HONG KONG, August 26 -- Hong Kong stocks dived more than 3 per cent in the first few minutes of business on Monday.
Caused by United States President Donald Trump ramped up his trade row with China and the city was hit by fresh violent protests over the weekend. The Hang Seng Index plummeted 3.27 per cent, or 857.33 points, to 25,322 at the open. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index sank 1.6 per cent, or 46.41 points, to 2,851.02, and the Shenzhen Composite Index, which tracks stocks on China's second exchange, shed 1.96 per cent, or 30.87 points, to 1,547.83.
HONG KONG, August 26 -- China sent the strongest warning yet of using troops on Hong Kong's streets, where Beijing says protests have turned into a "Colour Revolution", with water cannons and tear gas fired in skirmishes between police and demonstrators in the 12th straight weekend of unrest.
"It's not only the China central government's authority but also its responsibility to intervene when riots take place in Hong Kong," the state-run Xinhua News Agency said on Sunday (Aug 25) in a commentary, recalling comments by former top leader Deng Xiaoping that Beijing has to act under such circumstances. United States President Donald Trump said on Aug 13 that reports from US intelligence agencies show the Chinese government is moving troops to its border with Hong Kong. A day earlier, Global Times, a Chinese tabloid run by the People's Daily, reported that the Chinese People's Armed Police were assembling in Shenzhen ahead of "apparent large-scale exercises", where "numerous" armoured personnel carriers, trucks and other vehicles of the paramilitary force were seen heading towards Hong Kong's neighbouring city. In Sunday's commentary, Xinhua said Hong Kong's protests have turned into a Colour Revolution aimed at overturning the Special Administrative Region's constitutional institutions, a signal it was ready to take further action. Previously, Chinese officials described the protests as having some characteristics of a "Colour Revolution". Protesters' violent acts have pushed Hong Kong to an extremely dangerous edge, the city's government said in a statement after a day full of violent clashes between demonstrators and the police, where an officer fired warning shots in the air.
HONG KONG, August 25 -- Protesters left the northern district of Tsuen Wan, where police had earlier deployed two water cannon, at first during dispersal operations, regrouping in the working class district of Sham Shui Po on Sunday night.
Amid heavy rain, scores of protesters with umbrellas shouting "hak seh wui", or "triads", at riot police gathered to disperse the crowd. Earlier, police deployed two vehicles equipped with water cannons on the streets of Tsuen Wan, a town in the New Territories area close to the Chinese border. The vehicles slowly cruised down streets and directed their water cannons at makeshift barricades as police cleared roads after protesters retreated southward, and most had dispersed by about 7.30pm (local time). This came as multiple rounds of tear gas were fired to clear protesters, following an approved protest march earlier in the day. But as protesters dispersed, a splinter group targeted several shops in Yi Pei Square in Tsuen Wan, the site of clashes between pro-democracy protesters and government supporters, trashing several shops including a restaurant and a mahjong parlour. Shortly after 8pm, at least three officers drew their service revolvers on a group of protesters who had attacked them, resulting in a standoff at a nearby building with reporters unhappy that a gun had been pointed at them. Riot police were brought to reinforce the officers. A uniformed officer had fired a warning shot during the encounter, a senior police officer told journalists at the scene but did not go into further details citing the need for further investigation.
Earlier in the day, groups of demonstrators occupied the streets in Tsuen Wan with barricades made of dismantled roadside fences, bamboo poles, water-filled barriers, traffic cones and dustbins near Tsuen Wan Park, the official end point of the march that started at Kwai Chung Sports Ground. One water-cannon vehicle was used to clear the barricades on Tai Ho Road, which was not occupied by protesters, according to local TV footage. In a statement, police said the situation in Tsuen Wan had escalated, with protesters hurling bricks and aiming strong laser beams at officers. The police appealed to people in the area to leave immediately.
HONG KONG, August 25 -- Hong Kong police on Sunday said they arrested 29 people after clashes overnight, in which volleys of tear gas were fired to break up anti-government protests and as the Asian financial hub braced for further demonstrations in the day.
Aged between 17 and 52, the suspects - 19 men and 10 women - were arrested for offences including the possession of offensive weapons and assault of police officers, police said in a statement. Those arrested included the organiser of Saturday's march, Mr Ventus Lau, public broadcaster RTHK reported. The force also strongly condemned protesters for "breaching public peace" on Saturday. On Sunday, transport to the city's international airport appeared normal, despite protesters' plans for a day-long "stress test" of transport in the aviation hub. Another protest was planned for Sunday in the working class district of Tsuen Wan, while demonstrators also plan a city-wide strike and class boycotts at universities in coming weeks. Hong Kong's metro operator MTR said on Sunday that a number of stations on the Tsuen Wan line would be closed from 1.30pm, RTHK reported. The Kwai Fong and Tsuen Wan stations on the Tsuen Wan line as well as the Tsuen Wan West station on the West Rail line would be temporarily closed.
Activists on Saturday threw petrol bombs and bricks in the gritty industrial area of Kwun Tong, a densely populated area of the Chinese territory on the east of the Kowloon peninsula. Four MTR subway stations were closed due to the protests. Police used tear gas after some protesters threw Molotov cocktails and bricks and others tore up "smart" lamp posts equipped with surveillance cameras. Others had set up roadblocks with bamboo scaffolding. It was the first use of tear gas in more than a week after a series of mostly peaceful demonstrations in the former British colony. Strongly condemning the "vandalistic and violent acts of radical protesters" on Saturday, the Hong Kong government said in a statement that the police would strictly follow up on all the illegal acts. It also appealed to the protesters to stop the violence so that order can be restored in society as soon as possible.
FIGHT FOR DEMOCRACY
The protests, which started over a now-suspended extradition Bill and have evolved into demands for greater democracy, have roiled Hong Kong for three months. Demonstrators' demands include an independent inquiry into what they describe as police brutality, a full withdrawal of the extradition Bill, and universal suffrage. The wider calls for democracy have plunged the city into an unprecedented crisis posing a direct challenge for Communist Party leaders in Beijing. Demonstrators say they are fighting the erosion of the "one country, two systems" arrangement that enshrines a high degree of autonomy for Hong Kong since it was handed back from British to Chinese rule in 1997.
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.