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”.
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.
BANGKOK, August 20 -- In July, at the Bangkok Asean Film Festival, Vietnamese movie The Third Wife was honored with a Special Mention prize, with the jury noting its meticulous craftsmanship, strong acting and confident directing.
In the movie set in rural Vietnam in the late 19th century, a young girl becomes the third wife of a wealthy land-owner. There are sex scenes and sequences showing child-birth. But while the film has been well-received overseas, including winning a prize at Toronto International Film Festival 2018, it has been yanked out of cinemas in Vietnam. Audiences, reported Vietnam News, are shocked that the character is played by Nguyen Phuong Tra My, who was then only 13 years old. Citizens have blasted Vietnamese film-maker Ash Mayfair over her casting decision. My's mother was also slammed for allowing her daughter to be involved, with some detractors wondering if she was blinded by the pursuit of fame and money. The VnExpress portal cited child protection experts as saying that the sex scenes could have a psychological effect on a young actress. Mayfair told the Hollywood Reporter: "We didn't do anything wrong and we broke no law. They can't attack us on those grounds so there have been attempts to smear the ethics of the actress' mother, publishing her personal details online and saying she had sold her daughter for money."
Defending the subject matter in her film, she said: "These questions are open for debate and I have no problem with that. We talk about women's rights and we are very critical about patriarchal traditions that have been in the country for centuries." My was reportedly selected after the director auditioned more than 900 candidates. My, who is now 15 and was said to have convinced her parents that she could perform the role, is upset that the movie cannot be seen by Vietnamese, even as it has drawn applause elsewhere. Hollywood trade publication Variety, in its review of the film, said: "In May (portrayed by My) and in Ha and Xuan (the other two wives), there are all the women and girls of the past who've been ignored, abused, forced into competition with one another, made to endure a degradation of spirit and a commodification of body so complete it should have resulted in their annihilation, like silkworms steaming alive inside their cocoons". "But with The Third Wife, new talent Mayfair reclaims just a few of those silvery strands from the neglect of history and weaves them into a film so sensuous we can lose ourselves in it, but so vividly real we might also be able to find ourselves there." Vietnam's censors have reportedly asked Mayfair to submit an edited version of the movie for screening clearance.
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.
SHENZHEN, August 19 -- China’s hi-tech capital just over the border from Hong Kong that was the original site for the country’s reform and opening-up experiment 40 years ago – will become a new special economic zone to carry out bolder reforms as a model for other Chinese cities.
The first I was in Shenzhen it was in 1999. Shenzhen was as every other province city. It was crowded, with narrow streets, like the old Hong Kong. But the first plan of Beijing to modernize the city was already in progress. A new airport and skyscrapers were already build. The base was there. But now Beijing unveiled a detailed plan for wide-ranging reforms to be implemented in Shenzhen, including in the legal, financial, medical and social sectors, according to a report by state broadcaster CCTV. Under the plan, Shenzhen would become a model of “high-quality development, an example of law and order and civilization, as well as societal satisfaction and sustainability”. The goals were to make the city a leader in terms of innovation, public service and environmental protection by 2025, the report said. The plan also aimed to make Shenzhen competitive in the world in terms of comprehensive economic abilities by 2035, and a global “benchmark” for competitiveness, innovation and influence by the middle of the century. International organisations and big companies would be encouraged to set up branches or headquarters in the city, and it would be allowed to “make flexible changes to laws, regulations and local ordinances according to authorization and based on Shenzhen’s need for reform and innovation”. Political change would also be allowed, with the guidance of the ruling Communist Party. According to the report, the plan would “expand people’s orderly political participation under the guidance of the party” while improving the work of the National People’s Congress, China’s legislature. Special emphasis would also be placed on integrating Hong Kong and Macau into the Greater Bay Area scheme, which aims to link those cities with Shenzhen and eight others in Guangdong in an economic and business hub. That would include promoting connections between Shenzhen’s financial market and those in Hong Kong and Macau, as well as expanding financial regulation and the portfolio of financial products available to trade bonds and foreign exchange.
The report stressed that a “big data” center for the Greater Bay Area would be located in Shenzhen. People from Hong Kong who lived or worked in Shenzhen would be granted residential status, with new cultural activities launched in Shenzhen in coordination with Hong Kong and Macau, “enriching compatriots in Hong Kong and Macau’s sense of belonging and cohesion”. The report was released amid unprecedented tension in Hong Kong, with anti-government protests taking place for the eleventh consecutive week. The mass protests, and the violence that has accompanied them, have raised questions over whether Beijing might downgrade Hong Kong’s place in the Greater Bay Area plan. Guo Wanda, executive vice-president of the Shenzhen-based China Development Institute, said Shenzhen had been exploring reforms in various economic areas. “For example, in the Qianhai Bay Free Trade Port Zone, it has already explored [reforms in] foreign exchange management and cross-border financing, including financial cooperation between Shenzhen and Hong Kong, so it’s not odd what the report says about having an open economy,” he said. Guo noted that the report mentioned development of a “legal business environment” that would be considered first-rate internationally, which would require emphasis on building a city based on the rule of law.
It's amazing that a plan that was started 20 years ago is still in progress, but with drastic consequences for the people of Hong Kong. The protests are not only against the Extradition Law. No, there is much more to fight for.
TAIPEI, August 18 -- Taiwan is speeding up the processing of applications of people from Hong Kong who want to move to the island after seeing a sharp rise in requests since the start of the protests two months ago.
The island – a self-governing democracy – has been one of the most popular destinations for those looking to leave the city amid growing concerns for its future. While President Tsai Ing-wen has called for the authorities to provide swift assistance for those seeking to relocate, immigration specialists have advised that it is better to apply through existing channels rather than seek political asylum. According to Taiwan’s National Immigration Agency, the number of Hong Kong people applying to come to the island has nearly doubled in the past 10 years, from 3,677 in 2009 to 6,556 in 2018. In 2009, fewer than 100 people were given residency, but last year that number had risen sharply to 1,267. As of August 11 this year, 2,027 Hong Kong people had applied to live or stay in Taiwan and 1,935 of these applications had been approved – up 14.3 and 14 per cent respectively on the same period last year.
HONG KONG, August 18 -- A heavy downpour fell on tens of thousands of people who have turned up at Victoria Park on Sunday (Aug 18) afternoon for a rally, in the city's 11th consecutive weekend of demonstrations against a controversial extradition Bill.
Undeterred by the rain, the protesters opened up their umbrellas and continued with their protest, with some spilling onto roads near the park. For the first time, police banned the Civil Human Rights Front from holding a march and only allowed it to organise a static rally in the park that can accommodate some 100,000 people. The Front has billed the gathering at Victoria Park as a "peaceful, rational and non-violent" rally. By 2pm, the park was packed with people, mostly clad in black and some with young children in tow. The rally participants chanted, "Hong Kong yahn, gah yau” in Cantonese, or "Hong Kong people, keep it up", as well as "Free Hong Kong, democracy now" in English.
Among those who turned up for the rally was pro-democracy group Demosisto’s Isaac Cheng, 19, who was giving out flyers asking people to boycott classes when the new school term starts in September. When asked if the massive number of arrests have impacted on students’ determination to carry on protesting when the new school term starts, Mr Cheng told The Straits Times that there has been some impact as the frontline protesters have already been subject to violence by the riot police. But he believes this has little effect on the student protesters whom he said will press on.