Creeping Censorship in Hong Kong: How China Controls Sale of Sensitive Books

Exhibitors arrange books at a booth at the annual Book Fair in Hong Kong Tuesday, July 18, 2006. Over 10,000 titles and showcased by 430 exhibitors, the Hong Kong Book Fair will open from July 19 to July 24. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

Exhibitors arrange books at a booth at the annual Book Fair in Hong Kong Tuesday, July 18, 2006. Over 10,000 titles and showcased by 430 exhibitors, the Hong Kong Book Fair will open from July 19 to July 24. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

 

“Things have been changing dramatically in the last two years. Since Xi Jinping came to power, what was tolerated before is not tolerated any longer, in China or Hong Kong.”

 writes: The shop assistant is abrupt when the question comes.51fqsa-ubiL._SL250_

“We are not going to sell that one. Sorry,” he says, when asked for a copy of one of Hong Kong’s most eagerly searched-for books.

[Order Zhao Ziyang book “Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang” from Amazon.com]

And how about Zhao Ziyang’s bestselling Prisoner of the State – an explosive account of what happened behind the scenes during the pro-democracy protest of 1989 in Beijing?

“It might come back,” he says vaguely.

On the surface, there seems to be no censorship in Hong Kong. Unlike the mainland, the web is free, a wide range of newspapers is available, TV news covers demonstrations and protests, and nobody needs to apply for permission to print books.

Zhao Ziyang’s memoir, Prisoner of the State, about the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests in 1989. Photograph: Kin Cheung/AP

Zhao Ziyang’s memoir about the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests in 1989. Photograph: Kin Cheung/AP

“The pressure is on to stop Hong Kong people and mainlanders from reading unapproved books. When sales became harder, we started shipping books to individual customers in China. Nothing reached them. We tried through a courier in Shenzhen, but they stopped accepting books.”

“In 40 years, I know of only one book that has ever been stopped from distribution,” says Wong Sheung Wai, director of Greenfield Bookstore, a shop and distribution company, “and that was the Chinese translation of a guide to suicide.

“The real problem, though, is that our local government does not defend our autonomy. Rather, they lecture Hong Kong on how to behave to please the central authorities.”

“Taiwan translated it, but the Hong Kong authorities did not allow for it to be published and distributed here,” he says.

But mounting pressure from China to have greater control over what the Hong Kong public, and the Chinese tourists flocking there, read is creeping into this former British colony.

image - businessweek.com

“Even the three big chains are commercial interests, so they do try to sell what clients want. At times certain books disliked by the Chinese authorities will still be available, but hidden behind a counter, or piled up with the spine turned to the walls.”

Through a complex web of self-censorship, soft censorship and mainland economic control, bookshops and media outlets in the territory have been changing their tone or giving less coverage to topics that China deems sensitive.

[Read the full text here, at The Guardian]

A slow but steady “mainlandisation” of Hong Kong, a key factor in bringing tens of thousands of protesters to the streets during last year’s umbrella movement, has been changing the face of the publishing and book distribution industry, with fewer shops willing, or able, to sell books forbidden in China.

Rising property prices in the city mean few bookshops can afford ground-floor premises - except those backed by China’s official Liaison Office. Photograph: Jonas Gratzer/LightRocket via Getty Images

Rising property prices in the city mean few bookshops can afford ground-floor premises – except those backed by China’s official Liaison Office. Photograph: Jonas Gratzer/LightRocket via Getty Images

Booming real estate costs add to that problem.

“Readers’ numbers are going down everywhere, and nobody can afford a ground-floor bookshop unless they are backed by people with very deep pockets,” says one publishing industry insider.

“If you ask me what is the biggest problem that Hong Kong faces right now, it is the Liaison Office, and their growing involvement in Hong Kong’s affairs.”

— Alex Chow, one of the student leaders at last year’s protests

The three main local bookshop chains, with a total of 51 outlets, are controlled by the Liaison Office, Beijing’s official representation in Hong Kong, which, she adds, makes sure they only pay a nominal rent for their operations. Read the rest of this entry »


Top Hong Kong Stock? Umbrella Maker

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Hong Kong is having another umbrella moment.

First there was the umbrella movement last year when young people took to the streets to defy China’s plan for watered-down democracy. Now there is an umbrella maker that’s stunned the stock market.

“It is a bit crazy. The fundamentals do not justify the current stock price.”

— Hannah Li, strategist at UOB-Kay Hian

Jicheng Umbrella Holdings Ltd.1027.HK +13.29% is an unlikely title holder of Hong Kong’s best performing newly listed stock in 2015. At its initial public offering back in February, it received little interest with bankers pricing it at the low end of an indicated price range. But once it got trading it went through the roof, and at one stage last month it rose nearly 20-fold from its IPO price and is still up 14-fold as of Friday.

“It is a bit crazy,” said Hannah Li, strategist at UOB-Kay Hian. “The fundamentals do not justify the current stock price.”

The rally means the company is worth 9.1 billion Hong Kong dollars ($1.17 billion), and is trading at a price-earnings ratio of 100, far higher than the 11.2 for the average of stocks in the Hang Seng index.

[Read the full text here, at WSJ – China Real Time Report]

Exactly why investors are so keen on an umbrella maker to give it a sky high valuation is puzzling, while its shareholder structure looks even more bizarre. The Securities and Futures Commission, Hong Kong’s market regulator, issued a warning Thursday to investors that just 17 shareholders hold over 99% of the company’s shares (the major shareholder owns 75% of the company). This means a buyer could easily push the stock up substantially as there’s so few owners of the shares.

Ms. Li said while Jicheng’s business is in good shape, the small number of shares held by public shareholders is a major reason for the rally. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Chinese Police Discover 51 Migrants Packed Into Six-Seater Van 在移民面包车

If you thought your commute to work was bad, spare a thought for these Chinese construction workers.

The migrants were on their way to a building site in Guiyang, Guizhou province, on Sunday when a police officer spotted their slow-moving vehicle swaying in the traffic.

Standing room only: 49 people found packed into the back of a minibus along with the driver and one lucky seated passenger

Upon closer inspection, he was astonished to find dozens of people crammed into the back of the six-seater minibus. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] ‘Seen By My Eyes’ Time Lapse Documentary by Hong Kong Independent Photographer Francis So 我所看見的美麗香港

This time-lapse documentary caapturing scenes around Hong Kong, at Kowloon Peak, Yuen Long, Sai Kung, Tai Mo Shan, Po Toi, has swept four awards at a photography contest in Portugal, including top prize in the mountain view.

Francis So

More…


U.S. Concerned China Manipulating Online Traffic For Cyberattacks On U.S. Sites

A man wears a mask of the Anonymous hacker group as he and other people take part in a protest for the cause of late Chinese dissident Li Wangyang in Hong Kong on June 10, 2012. Li, 62, who spent 22 years in jail for his role in the Tiananmen democracy protests died in allegedly suspicious circumstances in his hospital ward in central China's Hunan province on June 6 by his sister and brother-in-law.  AFP PHOTO / Philippe Lopez        (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/GettyImages)

[CBSDC]


Suzanne Sataline: What Happened to Hong Kong’s Pro-Democracy Movement?

Sit In Protest Continues In Hong Kong Despite Chief Executive's Calls To Withdraw

Still riven over strategy, tactics, and core values, many now consider the 2014 protests a failure

HONG KONG – Suzanne Sataline writes: The activists from last year’s massive democracy occupation have splintered. Nowhere is this clearer than on college campuses represented by the Hong Kong Federation of Students, one of the architects of the fall 2014 pro-democracy protests that roiled the Chinese territory. Students at three local universities have voted to quit the league of university students; more vote drives are underway. Critics, some swayed by rising nativist anger, say student leaders’ insistence on passive resistance at the height of the protests doomed the push for open elections for the city’s chief executive, instead of a slate of candidates pre-vetted by Beijing. As the wounded student group tries to shore up its membership, its allies worry that the loss of a united student front will push the already anemic pro-democracy camp closer to irrelevance.

“Today, many participants from last year’s occupation consider the movement a failure. After all, the strike did not achieve its stated goals of toppling the chief executive, C.Y. Leung, or jettisoning the election system in which 1,600 business and trade groups chose him. In fact, the campaign won no material concessions.”

Since February, students at three local universities have voted to leave the federation; balloting at another campus is underway and more drives are expected. The results could re-shape the future of the Hong Kong protest movement, just as the city’s government is debating a new elections law. It would, for the first time, let citizens cast ballots for the chief executive, albeit only among candidates that pass muster with Beijing.

People listened to talks between student leaders and senior government officials as they were broadcast live at a protest site in the Mong Kok district of Hong Kong, Oct. 21, 2014. PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

People listened to talks between student leaders and senior government officials as they were broadcast live at a protest site in the Mong Kok district of Hong Kong, Oct. 21, 2014. PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

The division among democracy protesters began shortly after police fired teargas at demonstrators in September 2014, during discussions under the tarpaulins shielding protest camps from the rain. Many protesters blamed the federation for being opaque, passive, and shackled to the city’s old guard liberals – the so-called pan-democrats. Some in the sit-in chided the federation’s leaders for taking no action when the government refused to negotiate, and for the student leaders’ “greater-China bias,” a focus on bringing democracy to the nation, rather than addressing Hong Kong concerns.

[Read the full text here, at Foreign Policy]

Today, many participants from last year’s occupation consider the movement a failure. After all, the strike did not achieve its stated goals of toppling the chief executive, C.Y. Leung, or jettisoning the election system in which 1,600 business and trade groups chose him. In fact, the campaign won no material concessions. The federation had kicked off the protest with a week-long class boycott, and has become an easy target for those disappointed. “Students felt betrayed by the federation,” said Leonard Sheung-fung Tang, a political science student leading the campaign to end federation ties at City University. The federation has lost the trust of students, and if it urged people to stand up to the police again, Tang said, most students wouldn’t listen.

A pro-democracy protester sits on a barricade at a protest site in the Mongkok district of Hong Kong on October 26, 2014. Four weeks after tens of thousands of Hong Kongers took to the streets demanding free leadership elections for the semi-autonomous Chinese city, weary demonstrators remain encamped across several major roads.   AFP PHOTO / Philippe LopezPHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images

A pro-democracy protester sits on a barricade at a protest site in the Mongkok district of Hong Kong on October 26, 2014. Four weeks after tens of thousands of Hong Kongers took to the streets demanding free leadership elections for the semi-autonomous Chinese city, weary demonstrators remain encamped across several major roads. AFP PHOTO / Philippe LopezPHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images

Throughout the protest, student federation leaders preached non-violence even as they faced withering criticism for that tactic – especially online and on social media — as a more radical faction grew in prominence, if not number. Months after police cleared the democracy encampments, several veterans of the occupation urged people to join rallies to protect Hong Kong against a mainland incursion. Hundreds of angry people attacked mainland visitors and confronted police.  Read the rest of this entry »


FTCA Act Update: Supreme Court Eases Rules To Sue Federal Government For Malpractice

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The justices, voting 5-4, ruled in two cases the deadlines for filing such lawsuits can be extended if plaintiffs tried their best to comply or simply failed to learn about important information before a deadline.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court on Wednesday made it easier for people to sue the federal government for negligence, in a decision that could affect military veterans with claims of medical malpractice.

“One case stemmed from a fatal traffic accident on Interstate 10 in Phoenix in which a car passed through a safety barrier into oncoming traffic. The plaintiff, Marlene June, represents the child of one of two people killed in the crash.”

The justices, voting 5-4, ruled in two cases the deadlines for filing such lawsuits can be extended if plaintiffs tried their best to comply or simply failed to learn about important information before a deadline.

“June claimed that the Federal Highway Administration made her wait more than two years before she was allowed to depose officials and uncover evidence that the barrier had failed a crash test.”

Justice Elena Kagan wrote the majority opinion that combined the cases and upheld rulings by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that said the deadlines were somewhat flexible under the federal law that deals with lawsuits against the government.

White-House-w-Fence

The Obama administration argued that Congress intended the deadlines to be firm and that the government should not leave itself open to old claims indefinitely.

“The other case involved a Hong Kong woman who sued the Immigration and Naturalization Service after she was detained in Oregon, strip-searched and deported.”

But Kagan said Congress did not clearly indicate it wanted those deadlines to be iron-clad when it passed the Federal Tort Claims Act. “The time limits in the FTCA are just time limits, nothing more,” Kagan wrote. Judges have discretion to extend the deadlines, she said. Read the rest of this entry »


Hong Kong Election Reform Plan Compliations

HK-election

Hong Kong’s electoral reform proposal can at times resemble a complicated math problem.

Real Time China‘s Isabella Steger writes: On Wednesday, the government unveiled an updated package for the 2017 chief executive election following a second round of public consultation. The gist of it? The government says their reform package now makes it easier for people to participate in the election. The opposition says in reality, the vote is still one rigged in favor of pro-Beijing candidates.

The government has repeatedly said that Beijing’s Aug. 31 decision that any candidate running in the election must be pre-screened by a nominating committee cannot be amended. The decision, simply referred to as “831” in Hong Kong, sparked last year’s Occupy protests.

People listened to talks between student leaders and senior government officials as they were broadcast live at a protest site in the Mong Kok district of Hong Kong, Oct. 21, 2014. PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

People listened to talks between student leaders and senior government officials as they were broadcast live at a protest site in the Mong Kok district of Hong Kong, Oct. 21, 2014. PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

“The government says their reform package now makes it easier for people to participate in the election. The opposition says in reality, the vote is still one rigged in favor of pro-Beijing candidates.”

But the government has hinted that tweaks could be possible within the nomination process. And that’s what the Hong Kong public got in the form of concessions on Wednesday.

Under the current electoral system, a nominating committee of 1,200, heavily stacked in favor of pro-Beijing and pro-business interests, nominates candidates for the chief executive position. A candidate requires one-eighth of votes, or support from 150 members of the committee, to be nominated. Read the rest of this entry »


Beijing is Restricting How Often Residents of Neighboring Shenzhen Can Enter Hong Kong

Hong-Kong-train-station

China Reduces Mainlander Visits to Hong Kong

Isabella Steger writes: Can a tweak to a visa arrangement for mainland Chinese tourists coming to Hong Kong help ease tensions between the two places?

“The change was prompted by a marked increase in public anger in recent months against parallel traders. Protests have broken out in areas of Hong Kong near the border with the mainland, such as Tuen Mun, Sheung Shui and Yuen Long.”

On Monday, Hong Kong chief executive Leung Chun-ying confirmed a long-anticipated move by Beijing to address the influx of mainland visitors to Hong Kong in recent years. The move is aimed specifically at those who come from neighboring Shenzhen to Hong Kong to engage in so-called parallel trading, the practice of buying goods ranging from toiletries to food in Hong Kong to resell at a higher price on the mainland.

“Residents of these towns complain that parallel traders drive up the prices of goods and rents, pushing out small businesses serving locals.” 

According to the new arrangement, Shenzhen residents applying for an individual visitor visa to Hong Kong will only be allowed to enter the city once a week, rather than multiple times. The change is effective Monday. Residents of these towns complain that parallel traders drive up the prices of goods and rents, pushing out small businesses serving locals.

“Since 2009, Shenzhen permanent residents have been allowed to apply for one-year, multiple entry visas to Hong Kong…”

The change was prompted by a marked increase in public anger in recent months against parallel traders. Protests have broken out in areas of Hong Kong near the border with the mainland, such as Tuen Mun, Sheung Shui and Yuen Long. Read the rest of this entry »


Picasso Painting ‘Les Femmes d’Alger’ Poised for Record Sale Unveiled in Hong Kong

picasso-HK

Picasso masterpiece “Les Femmes d’Alger” went on show for the first time in Hong Kong Wednesday ahead of an auction where it is tipped to smash the world record price for a painting.

The 1955 piece depicts women in a harem and is the final work in a 15-painting series which pays homage to the 19th century artist Delacroix, who Picasso admired.

“It’s one of the great Picassos, period, and it’s one of the last great Picassos that has been in private hands. In terms of Picasso’s quality, it’s at the absolutely top end. It’s an extremely important piece.”

— Derek Gillman, chairman of Christie’s impressionist and modern art department

It is billed to fetch an estimated $140 million when it goes on sale at Christie’s in New York in May — but the auction house says the price could well go higher.

The current world record for any painting sold at auction is for Francis Bacon’s “Three Studies of Lucian Freud“, which sold for $142 million in 2013, also at Christie’s in New York.

“There aren’t that many museums that can afford works at that level… Increasingly, works that might in the past have gone into museum collections have gone into private collections.”

“It’s one of the great Picassos, period, and it’s one of the last great Picassos that has been in private hands,” Derek Gillman, chairman of Christie’s impressionist and modern art department, told AFP.

“In terms of Picasso’s quality, it’s at the absolutely top end. It’s an extremely important piece,” he said.

The painting was unveiled as part of a preview at Christie’s in Hong Kong ahead of the New York sale and it will also go on show in London later this month.

The piece is inspired by a Delacroix painting of a similar name.

It is also a stylistic tribute to Picasso’s friend and great rival, Henri Matisse, who died five weeks before Picasso began the series. Read the rest of this entry »


Occupy Hong Kong: Six Months Later

isabella-HK

One of the most memorable sights of the Admiralty site during Occupy was the study room, built of wood and decked out with furniture, lights and Wi-Fi.

Isabella Steger writes: Six months have passed since the outbreak of the pro-democracy Occupy protests in Hong Kong, and a small but determined group of activists wants to make sure their struggle isn’t forgotten.

On the sidewalks by the legislative chamber and government offices in Admiralty, a collection of tents has remained since police cleared the site in December. It was here on Sep. 26 that students scaled a wall to try to enter Civic Square, a place that had been sealed off by the government. Two days later, tens of thousands poured into the main roads, prompting police to use tear gas, on a day now remembered as “928” by activists.

[Read the full text here, at the Wall Street Journal]

Over the weekend, crowds turned out at the encampment, and to a second protest site in Mong Kok, to observe the anniversary of the protests. There were seminars on democracy and photo and art exhibitions to commemorate the date.

Students gather at a recreated version of the study room that was one of the highlights of the Occupy Hong Kong protests. Isabella Steger/The Wall Street Journal

Students gather at a recreated version of the study room that was one of the highlights of the Occupy Hong Kong protests. Isabella Steger/The Wall Street Journal

The tents have been growing in number, from about 70 in December to over a hundred now, stretching back out on to the side of the main thoroughfare on Harcourt Road. Some of the more permanent occupants are familiar faces to the protesters, such as Bob Kraft, an American pastor. Others drop in and out.

One of the most memorable sights of the Admiralty site during Occupy was the study room, built of wood and decked out with furniture, lights and Wi-Fi. Even that has been reconstructed in recent days at the new encampment, albeit much smaller and away from its previous location the middle of the road.

New York-based artist Miso stands in front of some of his paintings near the Occupy protest site in Hong Kong’s Admiralty neighborhood. Isabella Steger/The Wall Street Journal

New York-based artist Miso stands in front of some of his paintings near the Occupy protest site in Hong Kong’s Admiralty neighborhood. Isabella Steger/The Wall Street Journal

On Sunday evening, a group of students sat studying for their university entrance examinations, nibbling on Japanese snacks and breaking out into occasional discussions over Occupy-related family strife and a proposed third runway at Hong Kong’s airport, which some have criticized for cost and environmental reasons.

“We want to recreate the feeling of being at the study room,” said Joyce Lo, 18 years old, who was set to take an exam in Chinese reading and writing on Monday. “It’s that feeling when people walked past us in the study room and they fed us and told us they support us, even though the food wasn’t always great, like sometimes the dessert was a bit watery.” Read the rest of this entry »


The Message is the Medium

Messaging Services Are Rapidly Growing Beyond Online Chat

“I PROPOSE, if and when found, to take him by his beastly neck, shake him till he froths, and pull him inside out and make him swallow himself.” It is not often that Silicon Valley’s denizens quote P.G. chat appsWodehouse. But this is what Benedict Evans of Andreessen Horowitz, a venture-capital firm, expects the success of messaging services could do to both mobile and corporate software.

The most striking example so far of this process came on March 25th when Facebook announced at a conference in San Francisco that it has started to turn its Messenger service into a “platform” that can carry, and be integrated with, all manner of apps created by other software firms. So Facebook Messenger, which is itself an app for smartphones that run on Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android operating systems, will then be competing with those operating systems’ services for buying apps and downloads. In plain language, it could become the app that ate Apple’s app store.

The prospect may surprise those who thought messaging apps were just another way for teens to share this week’s tragic news about One Direction (a pop group, apparently). But their continuing explosive growth suggests that they will be a
lasting phenomenon. According to Flurry, a market-research firm, the total number of users grew by more than 100% last year (which explains why old-style text messages seem to have peaked, see chart). Together the ten biggest messaging 20150328_WBC665apps, which include KakaoTalk, Viber and WeChat, now boast more than 3 billion users. WhatsApp, the leader of the pack, alone has 700m—a big reason why Facebook last year paid $22 billion for the firm, despite continuing to develop its own Messenger app.

As the number of users has grown, specialised versions of messaging apps have emerged. What made Snapchat popular was the ability to exchange pictures that vanish after a few seconds (and often contain nudity). Secret, Whisper and Yik Yak let users remain anonymous (including bullies, unfortunately). Telegram stands out because of its strong encryption (making intelligence services unhappy). And FireChat works without cellular service: users’ phones communicate directly, which was a popular feature during recent protests in Hong Kong. Read the rest of this entry »


Alyssa Abkowitz 沈丽莎: Sex Toys and ‘Er Nai’: Inside China’s Unfolding Sexual Revolution

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Alyssa Abkowitz reports: In 1989, sexologist Li Yinhe conducted a famous survey that showed 15% of Chinese respondents said they had premarital sex. Today, that figure is about 71%, according to local figures. “China is becoming more adventurous in the bedroom,” said Zhang Lijia, author of the forthcoming novel “Lotus,” which looks at prostitution in modern China.

“China is becoming more adventurous in the bedroom.”

Ms. Zhang was speaking to a mostly younger crowd at Beijing’s Bookworm Literary Festival on Sunday. She was joined by Jemimah Steinfeld, author of “Little Emperors and Material Girls,” which focuses on China’s sex and youth culture, and Faramerz Dabhoiwala, who has been called the Stephen Hawking of sex for writing “The Origins of Sex,” which looks at the western sexual revolution of the 18th century.

Pictures that an Internet poster on China's Weibo microblogging site went viral when it was suggested they were of officials in Lujiang County.

“Chinese women gingerly began to unbutton Chairman Mao’s jacket. For a long time kissing on a bus was something we only saw in foreign films.”

— Zhang Lijia

Only several decades ago, “Chinese women gingerly began to unbutton Chairman Mao’s jacket,” Ms. Zhang said, referring to the 1980s, when women started to wear makeup and shorter skirts. “For a long time kissing on a bus was something we only saw in foreign films.”

china-mistresses

“Er nai, as modern-day Chinese mistresses are called, are deeply entwined in business practices, because having multiple mistresses is a sign that a man has the pull to seal a deal.”

Today, sex is everywhere in China, from adult stores on nearly every corner in Beijing to young entrepreneurs, such as one interviewed by Ms. Steinfeld, who wants to import quality sex toys because he thinks Chinese sex toys are faulty. (This could be a tough road, as the majority of sex toys are made in China and exported around the world, Ms. Zhang said).

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“There are women who have lovers just for fun too. Male prostitutes are far more expensive here because they have more work to do.”

Judging from the panel discussion, progress is mixed. As Beijing looks to pass its first domestic violence law, cleavage is being banned on television. One of the most popular items sold at roadside sex shops is hymen repair kits. Read the rest of this entry »


Inside Art Basel Hong Kong

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Kristen Ang and Dean Napolitano report: The third edition of Art Basel Hong Kong kicks off March 15, with artists, collectors, gallerists and others descending on the city for the three-day fair. The event, which was held in May the first two years, was pushed up to March this year.

“May was a real obstacle in terms of trying to realize the full potential of the show in Hong Kong. I think we’ll have a higher quality of works because these are galleries that have access to better material. I think that even the galleries who were here in the previous years will continue to bring better and better material as they feel like the market becomes more and more sophisticated.”

— Marc Spiegler, Art Basel’s director

WSJ’s Wei Gu and Paolo Bosonin give a preview of the must-see works at this year’s Art Basel Hong Kong.

The Hong Kong fair’s shift to March allows some prominent Western galleries to attend for the first time, Mr. Spiegler says. Read the rest of this entry »


Hong Kong Separation Anxiety

NPC-Beijing-WSJ

Beijing Assails Student Democrats as Revolutionaries

China’s Communist Party frequently rails against “splittists,” with the usual targets being the freedom- and independence-minded people of Taiwan, Tibet and Xinjiang. Now China’s parliament is adding Hong Kong to its enemies list, using the pretext of last year’s pro-democracy marches.

“In his annual Policy Address in January, Mr. Leung attacked his critics for harboring secessionist sentiments, citing as evidence the undergraduate magazine of Hong Kong University, which published an article on ‘Hong Kong people deciding their own fate’ and a book called ‘Hong Kong Nationalism.'”

“The movement and the expression for independence of Hong Kong will not be tolerated,” third-ranked leader Zhang Dejiang declared last week in the Great Hall of the People. Days before, General Sun Jianguo, deputy chief of the general staff, told a state magazine that last year’s street protests were “a Hong Kong version of a color revolution,” akin to the popular movements that toppled several post-Soviet governments a decade ago.

“Mr. Leung was widely ridiculed for the feebleness of the charge, yet now top leaders in Beijing are echoing it.”

These aren’t the first time such charges have been leveled. In October, during the first weeks of Hong Kong’s 75-day demonstrations, a commentary in the official People’s Daily argued that the protesters’ true aim was independence, while senior Politburo member Wang Yang warned of “color revolution.” But Beijing then muted such claims—at least until Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying revived them. Read the rest of this entry »


Chinese Tycoon Wang Jianlin Blames ‘Western Schooling’ for Son’s Comments About Wanting a Girlfriend With Big Boobs

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Wang Jianlin blames Western education for his son’s controversial remark that potential girlfriends needed to be “buxom”

Wang, one of the richest men in China, used an interview on state television on Tuesday evening to publicly defend his son, whose remark caused a furore on social media and led to condemnation by a state news agency. He also said he preferred to stay away from politics and said businessmen should “refrain from bribes”.

Wang said his son, Wang Sicong , had spent years studying overseas and had got into the habit of speaking whatever was on his mind.

chinese-subtlety

Tycoon takes to TV to defend offspring who caused uproar by saying he preferred ‘buxom’ girlfriends; his overseas schooling is to blame

The younger Wang was lambasted after making the remark on Valentine’s Day, with the state-run news agency Xinhua publishing a 1,287-word commentary condemning his remarks.

His father, who runs a property and cinema empire, said he was always ready to “take a hint” from others and not “speak carelessly”, but his son was more direct and had not learnt Chinese subtlety.

“He is smart. He went overseas to study at grade one and he has a Western-style of thinking,” said Wang.

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“Maybe after spending five or eight years in China, he will truly become Chinese.”

Wang Sicong, a board member of his father’s Wanda Group and the chairman of the private investment firm Prometheus Capital, is well-known for his outspoken comments on social media.

He made his latest eyebrow-raising remark after helping to raise more than 500,000 yuan (HK$630,000) for charity by auctioning the chance for a member of the public to watch a film with him.

Wang Jianlin’s son Wang Sicong, a board member at his father’s company, was chastised by state media and the public for a ‘crude’ comment about women. Wang Sicong said it was made in jest. Photo: SCMP Pictures

The senior Wang said he wanted his son to succeed in his own right in business, but would give him only two opportunities. “The third time he fails, he comes to work at Wanda,” he said.

The tycoon’s comments appeared to question Western customs and values, echoing remarks by government officials in recent months.

Education Minister Yuan Guiren said last month that universities must tightly control the use of text books from overseas that spread “Western values”. Read the rest of this entry »


Mini-sized Hong Kong? These Photos by French Photographer will Make You Look Twice

Originally posted on RocketNews24:

Red Cabs

Take a look at this picture. At first glance, it looks like a miniature diorama of a city street, with little cars, little street lights, little people… But it’s all so beautifully detailed, it can’t be just a replica right? What sorcery is this?!

Join us after the jump to see more of this amazing photography magic and cute miniature cityscapes by French artist Harold de Puymorin.

View original 157 more words


China’s Box-Office Expected to Hit 2 Billion During the New Year Holiday

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Driven by the ‪‎Spring Festival‬ period, one of the golden times for Chinese productions, China’s domestic movies are gaining more momentum

The ‪Chinese New Year‬ is approaching an end, but the country’s ‪movie‬ industry boom seems to have just begun, thanks to record high box-office sales during the New Year holiday.

Statistics show that across the country there were over nine million Chinese going to the movies during that period. On the first day of the Spring Festival, there was a record high intake of 356 million yuan or about $57 million at the ‪‎box office‬. That’s about 44 percent up on the same day last year.

Even on New Year’s Eve, a time traditionally devoted to family reunions, home banquets and the grand CCTV gala, Chinese moviegoers still spent 21 million yuan ($3.5 mln) in the country’s cinemas.

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By Sunday, box offices for the Spring Festival holiday reached 924 million yuan ($154 mln), a 42.15% increase from last year. Industry experts say that China’s movie market is expected to gross nearly 2 billion yuan ($300 mln) during the period.

There were 7 new movies released on the first day of the Chinese New Year, which could be one reason for the high sales.

The costume action movie “Dragon Blade” starring Chinese Kungfu star Jackie Chan leads the box office charts, creating about one third of the total income. It’s followed by Chow Yun-Fat’s family comedy “The Man from Macao II” and fantasy adventure “Zhongkui: Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal”.

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Rao Shuguang, the secretary-general of the China Film Association, says the recorded growth is also partly to do with the increased number of screens across the country, now at over 24,900.

Driven by the ‪‎Spring Festival‬ period, one of the golden times for Chinese productions, China’s domestic movies are gaining more momentum. Last year, Chinese domestic box-office revenue hit $4.7 billion, ranking the second largest in the world. Made-in-China movies accounted for 55 percent of the total. Read the rest of this entry »


Ed Feulner: Why Hong Kong Might Lose Its No. 1 Spot on the Index of Economic Freedom

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Hong Kong in many ways continues to act as a fine example for other countries who aspire to be economically free, its foothold on the No. 1 spot is slipping…

Ed Feulner writes: It’s good to be No. 1. But as any former champ will tell you, you have to avoid becoming complacent if you want to stay ahead of the pack. First-place finishes aren’t guaranteed, just ask Hong Kong.

Every year since 1995, the Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal have measured the state of economic freedom in the world. We go country by country, poring over the details of who’s up, who’s down, and who’s treading water. Through all the changes we’ve charted, one thing hasn’t changed: Hong Kong takes the top slot.

“To see what Hong Kong does right, consider business licenses. Obtaining one there requires filling out a single form, and the process can be completed in a few hours. In many other countries, it’s more complicated and can take much longer. Bureaucracy, inefficiency and even corruption abound.”

“As the economic and financial gateway to China, and with an efficient regulatory framework, low and simple taxation, and sophisticated capital markets, the territory continues to offer the most convenient platform for international companies doing business on the mainland,” write the editors of the 2015 Index of Economic Freedom.

To see what Hong Kong does right, consider business licenses. Obtaining one there requires filling out a single form, and the process can be completed in a few hours. In many other countries, it’s more complicated and can take much longer. Bureaucracy, inefficiency and even corruption abound.

“As the economic and financial gateway to China, and with an efficient regulatory framework, low and simple taxation, and sophisticated capital markets, the territory continues to offer the most convenient platform for international companies doing business on the mainland.”

But while Hong Kong in many ways continues to act as a fine example for other countries who aspire to be economically free, its foothold on the No. 1 spot is slipping. Singapore, the perennial No. 2 finisher, has seen the gap between it and Hong Kong steadily narrow in recent years. Only two-tenths of a point (on a scale of 1-100) separate its Index score from Hong Kong’s.

In short, they’re virtually tied. And it’s worth noting that Singapore’s Index score is unchanged this year, which means Hong Kong has only itself to blame for coming within a hair’s breadth of losing the top slot. The question is, why? Read the rest of this entry »


Flaunting It On The Inside: China’s Corruption Crackdown Boosts Sales of Expensive Lingerie

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Sales Increase for Pricey Undergarments as Government Discourages Conspicuous Consumption

Laurie Burkitt and Alyssa Abkowitz report: Call it inconspicuous consumption. Lingerie stores in China are seeing strong sales of $300 bras and other pricey skivvies, defying a broad drop in luxury sales in the vast Chinese market. Italian lingerie maker La Perla—which once struggled to sell $2,000 strapless bustiers and other high-end undergarments in the region—saw sales at its 14 stores in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan jump 42% last year. Last month, La Perla opened a Shanghai men’s boutique, selling $200 silk boxers and $3,000 silk robes.

“I don’t want to overdress. But I don’t mind spending more than 1,000 yuan for a bra.”

— Ms. Zu, who works in pharmaceutical sourcing

Agent Provocateur, a London high-end lingerie company, said sales at the company’s four China boutiques are at least 25% above expectations. An Agent Provocateur saleswoman in a high-end Beijing mall said best sellers include a sheer bra with white-scallop details priced at 1,475 yuan, or about $240, and a 1,940 yuan lacy black bra.

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Consumers like Zu Yujing, a 30-year-old from the northern Chinese city of Tianjin, say spending on luxury clothing for the office or leisure is too ostentatious. But Ms. Zu splurges on custom-made pieces at a Beijing-based lingerie shop called Pillowbook, where she spent about 4,000 yuan on her last shopping spree.

“I don’t want to overdress,” said Ms. Zu, who works in pharmaceutical sourcing. “But I don’t mind spending more than 1,000 yuan for a bra.”

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Chinese consumers—famous for their appetite for designer bags and gold-plated iPhone cases—are now shying away from flashy logos and displays of wealth as a government austerity campaign shames officials who buy them. Sales of luxury goods, which include glitzy jewelry and couture, were down 1% last year in China, according to consulting firm Bain & Co.

But many Chinese appear to be flaunting their wealth under their clothes. Read the rest of this entry »


Taboo in Mainland Schools, Hong Kong Liberal Studies Make Beijing Officials Uneasy

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Officials in Hong Kong and Beijing fear that the unfettered freedom to discuss such topics in Hong Kong’s classrooms has helped breed a generation of unruly and unpatriotic youths

HONG KONG—Isabella Steger writes: High-school students in this city’s mandatory liberal studies class tackle issues that are strictly taboo in mainland Chinese schools—press freedom, civil disobedience and the rule of law.

“The biggest impact of liberal studies is that it encourages students to be much more aware of current affairs,” said Lo Yat-ko, a 30-year-old liberal studies teacher.

“In Hong Kong, we teach critical thinking, not like in China where they teach by indoctrination and memorizing”

— Ng Shun-wing, Hong Kong Institute of Education

That has become a big problem for some officials in Hong Kong and Beijing, who fear that the unfettered freedom to discuss such topics in Hong Kong’s classrooms has helped breed a generation of unruly and unpatriotic youths, and helped inspire the so-called Occupy pro-democracy protests that shook this semiautonomous Chinese city for 10 weeks late last year.

Excerpt: Lessons in Liberal Studies

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An excerpt from a liberal studies textbook explores the merits of street protests in Hong Kong. Photo: Longman New Senior Liberal Studies textbook

In the aftermath of those student-led protests, an education debate is once again brewing in Hong Kong. In November, the city’s Education Bureau launched a three-month review of the city’s school curriculum, the results of which will be announced in July.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said in his annual policy address last month that the government would change the current high-school curriculum, with an aim to “reinforce students’ interest in and understanding of Chinese history and culture.” Mr. Leung said the government will also subsidize students to participate in exchange programs with schools on the mainland.

His comments come two years after the Hong Kong government, at Beijing’s behest, attempted to introduce mandatory patriotic education in the city’s schools, drawing accusations of indoctrination and sparking widespread demonstrations that forced the government to back down.

The latest curriculum review risks reigniting a new round of protests, but the government’s resolve for an overhaul appears to have deepened. Hong Kong and Beijing officials have grown more outspoken over school subjects, such as liberal studies, that address controversial topics and emphasize critical analysis.

Excerpt 2: Lessons in Liberal Studies

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An excerpt from a liberal studies textbook discusses the differences between life in Hong Kong and mainland China. Photo: Longman New Senior Liberal Studies textbook

Such topics and teaching methods are off-limits in mainland Chinese schools, which place a more traditional emphasis on rote learning and shun current events that are sensitive to the Communist Party.

Chen Zuoer, former deputy director of the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, said last month that Hong Kong youth needed to have their thinking “repaired” as they have been “brainwashed.”

The problems in Hong Kong’s education system “have now become the seeds of bitter melons and poisonous beans,” said Mr. Chen at a seminar held by a think tank in Beijing, adding that some protesters who were “babies during the handover were…waving the British flag.”

Hong Kong, a former British colony, returned to Chinese rule in 1997 and has since operated under a separate political system that grants residents far greater freedoms than their mainland counterparts. But some people in the city worry that those freedoms are eroding. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Courtesy, Hong Kong Style: How to Politely Say ‘No’ in Cantonese

Smile and give them a pen

kamenoblog shares this language insight:

Last night my Cantonese professor taught my class how to politely refuse someone.

Instead of directly saying no, Cantonese speakers can give a subtle hint by giving an unwanted suitor a pen.

The words for “pen” and “no” sound similar in Cantonese. However, both words use different traditional Chinese characters:

筆 means “pen”

不是 (“bat si”/”m hai”) means “no”

Source: Milk Tea & Pudding


Study: China is Growing Less and Less Enamored with Social Media


Critics: Hong Kong’s TV Industry Hits New Low with Derivative Talk Show Clone of Shows Like David Letterman, Jimmy Fallon

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Vivienne Chow reports: Hong Kong’s television industry has hit a “new low” as TVB’s latest talk show Sze U Tonight was accused of copying popular American hosts such as Jimmy Fallon and David Letterman.

 “A TVB spokesman said Lee had already announced that his show would ‘take references’ from U.S. talk shows. But Lee insisted the show did not copy US shows entirely.”

Critics said the TVB show, hosted by comedian Johnson Lee Sze-chit, reflected the lack of creativity in the city’s TV productions – and even warned the alleged similarities in format and set designs could lead to legal action.

Sze U Tonight, which debuted on TVB Jade on Sunday, features Lee behind a desk interviewing celebrities sitting on a sofa, against the backdrop of Hong Kong’s skyline. It apparently bore a striking resemblance of the likes of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on NBC and Late Show with David Letterman on CBS.

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Lee’s desk, complete with an old-fashioned microphone, a pencil holder full of pencils and a coffee mug, was said to look like Letterman’s. The show also has a live band, a signature of Letterman’s show.

“Sze U Tonight risked falling into copyright traps, but it will depend on whether the U.S. networks decide to take legal action.”

Sze U Tonight achieved 16 rating points on Sunday – an equivalent to a TV audience of more than a million, accounting for a 93 per cent share. A TVB spokesman said Lee had already announced that his show would “take references” from US talk shows. But Lee insisted the show did not copy US shows entirely as it featured local content.

The South China Morning Post contacted NBC but the broadcaster has yet to comment on allegations its show has been copied.

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Barrister Albert Luk Wai-hung said it was common for TV stations to customise foreign shows. ATV screened quiz show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? while TVB broadcast The Weakest Link in the 1990s. But ATV and TVB acquired the rights from foreign stations which had originally broadcast them overseas.

Mainland China has also acquired the rights to foreign shows, such as South Korea’s Running Man and Dad! Where Are We Going?

However, it is understood that TVB did not acquire the rights to any of the US talk shows for the production of Sze U Tonight. Read the rest of this entry »


Thousands take to Hong Kong’s Streets in the First Major Rally Since Occupy Central

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