Driving a Stake in the Heart of Bloodthirsty IRS Agents, Americans Living Abroad Renounce U.S. Citizenship in Record NumbersPosted: February 9, 2016
Uncle Sam’s Global Tax Police Crawl Over International Borders to Extract Tribute from U.S. Citizens.
The number of citizens and long-term residents cutting their official ties to Uncle Sam jumped more than 20% last year to 4,279, according to a CNNMoney analysis of the latest government data.
“Unlike most other countries, the U.S. taxes its citizens on all income, no matter where it’s earned or where they live.”
It’s a trend that’s been increasing in recent years. Many of those severing links are Americans living overseas who are tired of dealing with complicated tax paperwork, a headache that has worsened since new regulations came into effect.
“For Americans living abroad, that results in a mountain of paperwork so complex that they are often forced to seek professional help, forking out high fees for accountants and lawyers.”
Eighteen times as many Americans renounced their citizenship or long-term residency in 2015 compared with 2008. Last year was the third record-breaking year in a row.
“The burden has gotten heavier in recent years with the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, which became law in 2010.”
Unlike most other countries, the U.S. taxes its citizens on all income, no matter where it’s earned or where they live. For Americans living abroad, that results in a mountain of paperwork so complex that they are often forced to seek professional help, forking out high fees for accountants and lawyers.
The burden has gotten heavier in recent years with the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, which became law in 2010.
It requires individuals to report certain foreign assets and banks to disclose all foreign accounts held by Americans. That comes on top of another rule that requires Americans to disclose foreign bank holdings above $10,000. Read the rest of this entry »
Stanley Lubman writes: A trio of recent repressive actions by the Chinese party-state represents a disturbing three-pronged attack that treats legality as an unnecessary burden on governance over society, and illustrates how far China is willing to go to snuff out dissent.
The actions include the arrest of seven lawyers accused of “subversion” and four others charged with lesser offenses; the televised “confession” of a China-based Swedish citizen who worked for a rights NGO and has been charged with “endangering state security;” and the disappearance of five Hong Kong booksellers and publishers One reemerged on CCTV to confess to a prior crime years earlier, and a second has written to his wife from Shenzhen to say that he has been “assisting in an investigation.”
Arrests for “subversion of state power”
The lawyers who have been arrested have all been in the forefront of defending controversial activists. Seven are accused of “subversion of state power,” an offense that has been on the books since 1997 but infrequently used. More commonly, activists such as Pu Zhiqiang have been convicted for the lesser charges of “inciting ethnic hatred” and “picking quarrels.” (Pu received a three-year sentence that was simultaneously suspended for the same length of time; however, because of his conviction, Pu is barred from practicing law.) Conviction for subversion can lead to a sentence of anywhere from three years to life in prison.
Three of the other lawyers were charged with the lesser offense of “inciting subversion against state power” which, according to a recent posting by Chinese Human Rights Defenders, is used against individuals who “express criticism of the government” and is punishable by a sentence of up to five years. One other person, a paralegal, has been charged with “assisting in destruction of evidence; other lawyers have been detained incommunicado or forcibly disappeared for at least six months.
The arrests raise the severity of the charges by aiming at speech related to “subversion” — rather than acts. Foreign experts are dismayed; Eva Pils (Kings College London) comments that the situation “is basically about as serious as it gets for human rights advocacy.”
The arrest of the human rights lawyers is a continuation of the crackdown that exploded in July, but the rise of the accusation of “subversion” raises the odds of harsher punishment.
Arrest and televised “confession” of Swedish citizen affiliated with a human rights NGO
A Swedish man in his 30s, Peter Dahlin, a co-founder of the Chinese Urgent Action Working Group (China Action) that organizes training programs for human rights defenders, was detained in early January, on a charge of “endangering state security.” On Wednesday, he was paraded on China Central Television and shown admitting to have broken Chinese laws, in a televised “confession” that has been denounced by rights advocates as coerced.
According to a statement from China Action, the NGO focuses on land law and administrative law and trains non-lawyers to provide pro-bono legal aid to victims of rights violations. Dahlin is in need of daily medication due to affliction by a rare disease; Chinese state media reports say he is receiving it, but no other information has been available. China’s Foreign Ministry says it is granting Swedish consular officials access to him, although no information has been available on his whereabouts. Read the rest of this entry »
The billionaire founder of Metersbonwe, one of China’s best-known fashion brands, has gone missing, the latest in a series of Chinese business people and financiers apparently embroiled in the country’s anti-corruption campaign.
“The company said in a second statement on Thursday night that it was unable to reach Mr Zhou or the secretary of the board, Tu Ke. The statement gave no further details.”
Metersbonwe suspended trading in its shares on the Shenzhen stock exchange on Thursday while the company said it was investigating reports in the Chinese media that Zhou Chengjian, its chairman, had been picked up by police.
“Mr Zhou is the latest high-profile private sector businessman believed to have been caught up in probes, and his disappearance follows the detention last month of Guo Guangchang of the conglomerate Fosun, which owns Club Med.”
The company is a household name on the Chinese high street and Mr Zhou was China’s 65th-richest man last year, according to the Hurun Rich list, with a fortune of Rmb26.5bn ($4.01bn).
The company said in a second statement on Thursday night that it was unable to reach Mr Zhou or the secretary of the board, Tu Ke. The statement gave no further details.
Mr Zhou is the latest high-profile private sector businessman believed to have been caught up in probes, and his disappearance follows the detention last month of Guo Guangchang of the conglomerate Fosun, which owns Club Med. Read the rest of this entry »
Yifan Xie and Shen Hong report: China’s stock market regulator announced last month that come the New Year it would introduce a circuit breaker–a forced pause to trading–if shares fell too precipitously. On the first trading day of the year, officials had to reach for the newly installed system, twice.
“The U.S. adopted the circuit breaker system in 1988, and it was only triggered once. The history of China’s circuit breaker is one day, and we’ve triggered it twice.”
An index of the 300 biggest stocks listed in Shanghai and Shenzhen plunged Monday, triggering the circuit breaker and leading first to one 15-minute pause in trading and then a second halt, which closed the markets for the remainder of the day 80 minutes earlier than scheduled.
“Excessive interference with trading will affect market efficiency and become counter-productive.”
— Chief economist Lin Caiyi
The markets opened in negative territory and stayed there as a flurry of bad news arrived: a weaker-than-expected gauge of manufacturing activity and a further slide in the value of the country’s currency. Adding to the bearish mood are worries among investors about the lapse this Friday of a six-month ban on selling shares by major shareholders–those holding 5% stakes or larger in a listed company. The ban was imposed in July last year to stem a meltdown in the stock markets, and its end may lead to more selling.
Markets turned critical 12 minutes into the afternoon session, as the CSI 300 Index fell 5%, prompting the 15-minute suspension. Six minutes after trading resumed, at 1:27 p.m.,the hemorrhaging continued. The CSI 300 index dived further, hitting a 7% limit and bringing the trading day to an end.
Caught off guard by the plunge, traders speculated that the securities regulator was conducting a test of the new circuit breaker mechanism. Read the rest of this entry »
A fifth person affiliated with a bookstore that sells books critical of China’s government went missing last week, raising concerns over Hong Kong’s freedoms.
Fiona Law reports: Hong Kong police are investigating the disappearance of the co-owner of a bookstore specializing in works critical of the Chinese government, that has prompted local lawmakers to voice fears that mainland Chinese law-enforcement agencies crossed the border to detain him.
Hong Kong and foreign media have reported that the wife of Lee Bo, a shareholder of Causeway Bay Books, told police on Friday that Mr. Lee had gone missing and that four people who worked for the bookstore or a publisher affiliated with it have gone missing in recent months, including one who disappeared in Thailand.
“It is terrifying,” said Albert Ho, a pro-democracy lawmaker. “So the mainland police can publicly arrest people in Hong Kong?”
On Sunday, a group of lawmakers and activists marched to the central Chinese government’s liaison office in Hong Kong, demanding answers about the missing people. Read the rest of this entry »
Force backs down after being accused of trying to whitewash the city’s history and role played by pro-Beijing radicals.
Christy Leung reports: The Hong Kong police force has made an unexpected climbdown and is restoring its official account of the 1967 riots after causing a storm earlier this year by deleting parts of it.
A source told the Post the missing details would be reinstated on its archived website as early as Friday, and more historical details would be added to make the account “fuller”.
The U-turn was decided at a meeting of the Police Historical Records Committee yesterday.
It reverses a controversial move in mid-September to revise the official version of the riots, during which pro-Beijing radicals inspired by the Cultural Revolution sought to overthrow the colonial government.
The force replaced phrases like “communist militia” with “gunmen” and deleted detailed descriptions of events such as leftist mobs threatening bus and tram drivers who refused to strike.
Police were accused of trying to whitewash history out of political considerations. They were also ridiculed for claiming there was not enough space to publish full details online.
“[We are uploading the original version] to answer our readers’ calls and have no political agenda behind it,” the source explained yesterday.
“We think people nowadays are not into reading bulky and long paragraphs, but since they enjoy reading the full version, we are bringing it back.”
In addition to the original write-up, the history of women in the force and the Hong Kong Police College will be added to the website.
“We want to make the contents ‘finer’ and ‘fuller’, so that people can have a better understanding of police history,” the source said.
It is understood the committee is still reviewing the content and may upload the original version along with the new information on January 1 at the earliest. Read the rest of this entry »
The average area per capita dropped 29.3% from 2013 to 47.8 square feet in 2015 – not much bigger than a king-size bed.
Isabella Steger reports: For some of Hong Kong’s poorest residents, the tiny subdivided apartments they call home are shrinking– and becoming less affordable.
With the city’s real estate among the most expensive in the world, many low-income Hong Kong residents — sometimes entire families — have been forced to live in so-called subdivided units. These apartments have been modified by landlords to fit multiple tenants and aren’t strictly illegal, but are subject to different structural and fire-safety requirements.
According to a study jointly conducted by the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s Institute of Future Cities and a concern group for people living in subdivided units, tenants of subdivided units now pay on average around 41% of their income towards rent, compared to 29% two years ago. The average rent is about HK$3,924 (US$506) a month, the study said.
Rents in more central areas of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon far exceed those of the New Territories, where many poor families are forced to live despite long and expensive commutes.
According to the study, a 90-square-foot subdivided unit in the downtown Tsim Sha Tsui district could command HK$5,500 (US$710) a month, which works out to be about HK$61(US$7.87) a square foot a month. In a 2011 Wall Street Journal story, a family of four paid HK$4,000 (US$516) a month to live in a 150-square-foot subdivided unit in the low-income district of Sham Shui Po in Kowloon. The unit housed a stove, desk, fridge and bunk bed.
Spaces are also getting tinier in subdivided units, according to the study. The average area per capita dropped 29.3% from 2013 to 47.8 square feet in 2015 – not much bigger than a king-size bed. Read the rest of this entry »
The right to privacy is usurping the public right to know in Asia’s financial hub.
Financial hubs depend on the free flow of information, and nowhere more so than in Hong Kong, gateway to the opaque China market. So a recent case in which an appeals board upheld the censorship of a court judgment to protect the supposed privacy rights of the litigants sets a bad precedent. The territory is following Europe’s lead toward extreme privacy protection at the expense of access to information.
“The right to be forgotten affects more than media freedom. It prevents investors and entrepreneurs from conducting due diligence and managing business risks, and helps people hide from public scrutiny. That may be good for the reputations of the rich and powerful, but it will hurt Hong Kong’s reputation for transparency.”
Luciana Wong Wai-lan, who now serves on several government advisory panels, participated in a matrimonial case in the early 2000s. In 2010 Ms. Wong requested that the court remove the judgments from its online reference system. The court made them anonymous, but hyperlinks to the judgments placed on the website of local shareholder activist David Webb still revealed her name.
Ms. Wong wrote to Hong Kong’s privacy commissioner for personal data in 2013, and the commissioner ordered Mr. Webb to remove the links pursuant to Data Protection Principle 3 (DPP3) of the Personal Data Privacy Ordinance. Read the rest of this entry »
In a frenetic commercial district of Hong Kong, sandwiched between shops selling vitamins and clothing to tourists, the Causeway Bay Bookstore touts itself as the authority on Chinese politics.
Juliana Liu reports: The tiny shop specialises in selling gossipy paperbacks that are highly critical of China’s leadership. They are particularly popular with mainland Chinese visitors who cannot buy the banned books at home.
But two weeks ago, four men who work for the bookstore and its affiliated publishing house went missing. Their colleagues believe they have been detained by Chinese officials because of their work.
One of their associates, Mr Lee, told BBC News: “I suspect all of them were detained. Four people went missing at the same time.”
Among them is Gui Minhai, a China-born Swedish national who is the owner of Mighty Current, the publishing house that owns the bookstore.
According to Mr Lee, who declines to give his full name for fear of reprisals by Chinese officials, the publisher last communicated with colleagues via email on 15 October from the city of Pattaya in Thailand, where he owns a holiday home.
Mr Gui had written to tell printers to prepare for a new book and that he would send the material shortly. He has not been seen since.
The others are Lui Bo, general manager of Mighty Current, and Cheung Jiping, the business manager of the publishing house. Both have wives who live in Shenzhen, and were last seen there.
The fourth missing man is Lam Wingkei, manager of the bookstore, who was last seen in Hong Kong.
“I am quite certain that the main target was Mr Gui. They wanted to prevent him from publishing that book,” said Mr Lee, who was not privy to what the publisher had been writing about.
“I think the others were taken because they thought the contents of the book had already been distributed.”
Mr Lee said Mr Lam’s wife had filed a missing persons report with the Hong Kong police, who have confirmed the case to the BBC.
Calls to China’s Foreign Ministry office in Hong Kong have gone unanswered. Attempts to reach the relatives of the four men have been unsuccessful.
The tiny shop sells paperbacks that are highly critical of China’s leadership and banned in mainland China
Sources close to the families fear international attention may hurt more than help.
Rights groups have expressed concern about the disappearances.
“We think that if the information is true, it is a deeply troubling case and it will have serious implications about the deterioration of freedom of expression in Hong Kong,” said Amnesty International‘s China researcher Patrick Poon.
Freedom of the press is guaranteed in Hong Kong. But many in the publishing business say the Chinese government has begun to exert its influence in the industry. Read the rest of this entry »
Michael Barone writes: “‘Shut up,’ he explained.” Those words are from Ring Lardner‘s short story “The Young Immigrunts.” They’re an exasperated father’s response from the driver’s seat to his child’s question, “‘Are you lost, Daddy?’ I asked tenderly.”
They also can be taken as the emblematic response of today’s liberals to anyone questioning their certitudes. A response that at least sometimes represents the uneasy apprehension of the father in the story that they have no good answer.
“We are told that speech codes are necessary because some students may be offended by what others say. In recent years we have been warned that seemingly innocuous phrases may be ‘microaggressions’ that must be stamped out and that “trigger warnings” should be administered to warn students of possibly upsetting material.”
It was not always so. Today’s liberals, like those of Lardner’s day, pride themselves on their critical minds, their openness to new and unfamiliar ideas, their tolerance of diversity and differences. But often that characterization seems as defunct as Lardner, who died at an unhappily early age in 1935.
“Beyond the campus, liberals are also eager to restrict free speech. This is apparent in some responses to those who argue that global warming may not be as inevitable and harmful as most liberals believe, and that while increased carbon emissions would surely raise temperatures if they were the only factor affecting climate, some other factors just might be involved.”
Consider the proliferation of speech codes at our colleges and universities. The website of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education sets out the speech codes at 400 of the nation’s largest and most prestigious institutions of higher learning. The liberals who run these institutions — you won’t find many non-liberals among their faculties and administrations — have decided to limit their students’ First Amendment right of freedom of speech. Read the rest of this entry »
University of Hong Kong Alumni Vow Action to Stop Ex-Minister Arthur Li Taking Over as Chairman of Ruling CouncilPosted: October 25, 2015
Pro-Beijing Forces Target a Top School’s Leaders to Intimidate Professors.
The new school term in Hong Kong is off to a bad start. A year after university students led mass protests for democracy, the government is taking revenge against pro-democracy voices in the academy.
The crackdown is especially harsh at elite Hong Kong University, where the governing council last week blocked the appointment of former law dean Johannes Chan to the senior post of pro-vice chancellor. Mr. Chan was the only candidate recommended by a search committee.
The problem is that Mr. Chan is a human-rights and constitutional lawyer with moderate pro-democracy views. He has done academic work with his HKU law colleague Benny Tai, founder of the group Occupy Central With Love and Peace, which helped start the street protests last year.
For months Mr. Chan faced a smear campaign, with hundreds of articles in pro-Beijing newspapers condemning his “meddling in politics.” Critics accused him of mishandling a donation to Mr. Tai, but the governing council cleared him of wrongdoing earlier this year. Nevertheless the council denied his appointment last week by a 12-8 vote.
Council deliberations are meant to be confidential, but leaks suggest Mr. Chan was supported by the council members drawn from HKU’s faculty. Read the rest of this entry »
Michael Mazza writes: On September 28, protesters marked the anniversary of the start of last year’s Umbrella Revolution, in which 200,000 Hong Kongers took to the streets to demand genuine democracy for their city. The demonstrations ended after over two months of occupation, with the protesters failing to achieve their ends.
Although the democratic bloc in the Hong Kong legislature blocked implementation of Beijing’s preferred plan—the Chief Executive would be directly elected, but with candidates approved by a pro-Beijing nominating committee—it marked a pyrrhic victory. In rejecting what surely amounted to sham democracy, the city was left with its extant political system intact, leaving Hong Kongers no direct say in the appointment of the city’s leader. Read the rest of this entry »