[VIDEO] Who’s the Champion of the Panda Kingdom? 37-Year-Old Senior Citizen ‘Jai Jai’ Breaks World Record in Hong Kong

Jai Jai has become the world’s oldest captive panda at the grand old age of 37, entering the history books and breaking a 16-year-old record, from her home in Ocean Park, Hong Kong.


[VIDEO] End of the Umbrella Revolution: ‘Hong Kong Silenced’


In September 2014, VICE News documented the birth of the so-called Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong. When students organized a weeklong strike to protest China’s handling of the local election process, the government responded with tear gas.

Thousands of Hong Kong residents took to the city’s streets in solidarity with the students and the protesters occupied several major roads for weeks on end.

[Read more about the Umbrella Movement at punditfromanotherplanet.com]

Nearly two months into the occupation, the demands and resolve of the protesters remained unchanged. They started to become fatigued and divided against each other, however, and public support for their cause began to decline. The movement was under immense pressure to either escalate their action, or to retreat and give back the streets.

When VICE News returned to Hong Kong near the end of 2014 to check in on the protesters, we witnessed the final days of the Umbrella Movement’s pro-democracy demonstrations.

Watch “Hong Kong Rising

Read “Hong Kong Leader Warns Concessions Could Lead to ‘Anarchy,’ as Scuffles Break Out in ParliamentRead the rest of this entry »


Disillusionment Among Hong Kong’s Youth Fuels Uneasy Separatist Longings

HK-anti-Beijing-students

The youngsters are members of a new front that is using increasingly aggressive tactics to demand an independent Hong Kong free from mainland China’s grip.  

Viola Zhou and Claire Baldwin report: On a recent Sunday night in the working-class Hong Kong district of Mong Kok, a group of radical young activists swore through loudspeakers and gestured rudely as they denounced mainland Chinese as “prostitutes” and “barbarians.”

The youngsters are members of a new front that is using increasingly aggressive tactics to demand an independent Hong Kong free from mainland China’s grip.

Their separatist yearnings have alarmed Beijing and the pro-Beijing Hong Kong government which are fighting back to win hearts and minds and forge a spirit of “love China, love Hong Kong” with multimillion-dollar information drives and exchanges.

The animosity on display in Mong Kok was virtually unheard of until recently, despite resentment toward mainlanders flooding into Hong Kong, and follows unsuccessful protests to demand full democracy in the city late last year.

The 'Umbrella Revolution' rallies together again after the October 21 talks

“I never call myself Chinese at school because it is a shame to be Chinese,” said 16-year-old “Gorilla” Chan, who, unbeknownst to his parents, founded a radical group with a 14-year-old friend.

He said violence is almost inevitable.

“That day will come sooner or later if Hong Kong remains like this,” Chan said.

Beijing sees national unity as sacrosanct and has ruled Hong Kong under a “one country, two systems” formula, allowing broad autonomy, since the city returned from British rule in 1997.

But Hong Kong’s prodemocracy movement, spearheaded by fresh-faced youngsters, has shaken the assumption of cozy accommodation between the mainland’s communists and the capitalist enclave.

The protesters demanded full democracy in a 2017 election for the city’s leader. But Beijing insists the leader will be chosen from a list of candidates it approves.

The anti-China radicals were galvanized by the democracy protests and gained traction later during protests against mainland shoppers swamping Hong Kong and buying up various items, including formula milk, and pushing up prices. Read the rest of this entry »


Chinese Web Censors Not Happy About Uniqlo’s Changing-Room Sex Viral Video

Uniqlo sex video: Police investigate smartphone footage showing couple doing the ‘secret communist handshake’ in Uniqlo’s Beijing flagship store changing room

Laura Lorenzetti reports: A sex tape filmed in a changing room of Uniqlo’s Beijing flagship store went viral on Chinese social media, sending national authorities into a tizzy.

Uniqlo changing room

“Uniqlo, which is owned by Fast Retailing, denies any such association, releasing a statement that customers should ‘abide by social ethics, maintain social justice and correctly and properly use the fitting spaces.’”

The short video, which features a black-clad male having sex with a naked woman, was condemned by Chinese officials as going “severely against socialist core values,” according to the South China Morning Post.

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Internet censors scrambled to ban and eliminate the clip after it spread across popular social networks like Weibo and WeChat Tuesday. It has reportedly been removed from the Internet by the Cyberspace Administration of China and an investigation has been launched to find out who made the clip.

Uniqlo3

Chinese authorities have also ordered social media executives to help uncover the source of the video, while Uniqlo has come under fire for using it as a publicity ploy. Read the rest of this entry »


The Cultural Revolution Spreads to Hong Kong

cultural-rev-hk-wsj

Because that’s how we roll: The Communist Party’s way of doing business is coming to the city

Stephen Vines writes: The dark days of China’s Cultural Revolution are being revisited in Hong Kong.

Thankfully, this time there is no bloodshed or widespread mayhem. But Beijing’s local loyalists are using some of the same rhetorical tactics to isolate and intimidate pro-democracy figures.

“Now in Hong Kong opposition politicians and their supporters are routinely accused of consorting with and being funded by foreign powers; of advocating the violent overthrow of the state; and of perpetrating child abuse—the last charge based on the large numbers of young people who joined Hong Kong’s antigovernment protests.”

Back then the search was on for “traitors” who were named, shamed and then terrorized, often to a fatal degree. Now in Hong Kong opposition politicians and their supporters are routinely accused of Chinese leader Xi Jinpingconsorting with and being funded by foreign powers; of advocating the violent overthrow of the state; and of perpetrating child abuse—the last charge based on the large numbers of young people who joined Hong Kong’s antigovernment protests.

“Less-high-profile individuals have also encountered employment problems. RTHK, the public broadcaster, is under relentless pressure to sack certain people. And in privately owned media, columnists have been removed and other journalists have been told that the time has come to toe the line.”

These sorts of accusations are routinely found on the pages of Hong Kong’s increasingly rabid Communist newspapers. While largely ignored by the bulk of the population, these publications are carefully scrutinized by the leaders of the local government because their content enjoys Beijing’s imprimatur.

“The Communist press has also been in the forefront of a wider campaign to “expose” the democratic movement’s leaders, accusing them of being in the pocket of overseas governments and in receipt of illicit funding.”

One of their current targets is Johannes Chan, former dean of the law school at Hong Kong University and a respected professor. His main “crime” is his association with another legal scholar, Benny Tai. Mr. Tai was one of the founders of the Occupy Central movement that morphed into the Umbrella Movement street protests last year.

[Read the full text here, at WSJ]

The communist press has been busy darkly hinting that Prof. Chan is somehow involved in unlawful funding of the protest movement and that he neglected his academic duties. Following these accusations, his appointment to a pro-Vice Chancellor post was blocked.

Another academic targeted was political scientist Joseph Cheng, who was demoted prior to retirement and threatened with a denial of his pension. The accusations in this instance were even more extreme, ranging from charges of plagiarism to abuse of office.

china-communist-propaganda

The Communist press has also been in the forefront of a wider campaign to “expose” the democratic movement’s leaders, accusing them of being in the pocket of overseas governments and in receipt of illicit funding. Read the rest of this entry »


‘Pancake Man': Chinese Super Hero Movie Heads For U.S.

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 reports: Chinese super hero comedy “Pancake Man (“Jian Bing Man),” which features cameos from Jean-Claude van Damme, is set to get a North American release on July 24.

Pancake” and Hong Kong-made sports action picture “To The Fore” will both be distributed by Milt Barlow’s specialty company Asia Releasing on behalf of rights holder Magnum Films.

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Jian Bing Man,” which is a Wanda Pictures release in China, is the tale of a street pancake vendor who gains super powers from the breakfast dishes he serves. It is directed by Da Peng and stars Chinese actors Ada Liu (“Badges of Fury”) and Yuan Shanshan (“One Day”) and includes Hong Kong comedy favorites Eric Tsang and Sandra Ng. Read the rest of this entry »


[PHOTOS] Rare Photos of Sean and John Lennon in Hong Kong, 1977

Sean and John Lennon in Hong Kong, 1977 (3)

vintage everyday has a small collection of rare photos of John Lennon traveling in Hong Kong in May 1977 with Sean, who was about two years old, and was on his way to meet Yoko in Japan.

Sean and John Lennon in Hong Kong, 1977 (6) Sean and John Lennon in Hong Kong, 1977 (4)

[See more…]

vintage everyday


Volatility, Chaos, Panic, Despair: Greeks Freak

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Sarkis Zeronian reports: The value of the euro compared to major peer currencies is already dropping as the financial effects of the Greek ‘No’ vote in Sunday’s referendum filter into the global market. With analysts predicting banks facing funding crises and individuals unable to take their money from ATMs, volatility is set to reign for some time.

“It was not the only currency to lose value. The Aussie fell 0.9 per cent to 74.52 U.S. cents, the first time it’s broken 75 cents since 2009, and New Zealand’s dollar slipped 0.6 per cent.”

Bloomberg reports analysts are tipping the investment winners in the situation to be Treasuries and German bunds, benefiting from a “flight to safety”.

“This was also related to regional difficulties involving China where initial public offerings were suspended, as brokerages pledged to buy shares and the state media tried to limit investor panic as officials intensified efforts to stop the steepest plunge in equities the country has seen since 1992.”

With currencies trading throughout the day, the euro began to fall as soon as the outcome of the referendum became clear, even with most traders in Tokyo and Hong Kong yet to reach their desks. The drop is said to herald the start of what is expected to be a volatile week for global financial markets as institutions such as JPMorgan Chase & Co say Greece exiting the eurozone is now the base-case scenario.

The euro lost 1.1 per cent to $1.0992 by 6:12 a.m. Tokyo time, its weakest level since 29 June, also slipping 1.7 per cent against the yen and 1 per cent versus the pound. Greece may only account for less than 2 per cent of eurozone output, but a ‘Grexit’ risks setting a precedent of reversible membership.

It was not the only currency to lose value. The Aussie fell 0.9 per cent to 74.52 U.S. cents, the first time it’s broken 75 cents since 2009, and New Zealand’s dollar slipped 0.6 per cent. This was also related to regional difficulties involving China where initial public offerings were suspended, as brokerages pledged to buy shares and the state media tried to limit investor panic as officials intensified efforts to stop the steepest plunge in equities the country has seen since 1992. Read the rest of this entry »


‘Wow, Pulled Back the Wrong Side Throttle’

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Official report confirms that the crash that left 43 people dead was caused by an engine malfunctioning and a pilot mistakenly shutting down the other

Andrea Chen and Sijia Jiang report: The captain of the TransAsia aircraft that crashed into a river in Taipei in February, killing 43 people, shut down the plane’s only working engine by mistake after the other had failed, a report by accident investigators confirmed on Thursday.

“Wow, pulled back the wrong side throttle,” Captain Liao Chien-tsung was heard saying on flight recorders eight seconds before the crash, the report by Taiwan’s Aviation Safety Council said.

Liao was initially hailed a hero for steering the aircraft away from buildings.

His training records released by the council showed that he had failed a simulator check during his test for promotion to captain last year due to “insufficient knowledge” of engine flameout.

But the council did not apportion any blame in its report.

A Hong Kong-based pilot told the South China Morning Post that TransAsia had tested all pilots on the handling of engine failure since the crash and 30 per cent failed. Those who failed would receive more training and be retested. He said pilots were supposed to turn off a failed engine to secure it.

The passenger flight GE 235, an ATR72-600, clipped a bridge and crashed into the Keelung River with 58 people on board, including 31 from the mainland, just minutes after taking off from Taipei Songshan Airport.

Among the dead were the captain and the co-pilot. Thirteen passengers and one cabin crew member sustained serious injuries. The other person on board suffered only minor injuries. Two people on the ground – a taxi driver and his female passenger – suffered minor injuries. Read the rest of this entry »


Isabella Steger: Leaked Chats on Vote Strategy Leave Hong Kong Lawmakers Reeling

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Isabella Steger reports: Beijing is striving to present a united front with its supporters in Hong Kong’s legislature, even as the pro-establishment camp is rocked by a series of leaked online conversations related to last week’s failed vote on a 2017 election overhaul.

“According to the leaked conversations published by the Oriental Daily, participants in the online chat included Jasper Tsang, a veteran pro-Beijing politician who is also the president of the legislature. The conversation shows Mr. Tsang was involved in the discussion last Thursday morning to orchestrate the timing of the vote.”

On Thursday, Hong Kong’s Oriental Daily newspaper published a series of conversations among a group of pro-Beijing lawmakers on the popular mobile messaging service Whatsapp, showing the internal debate before the vote took place and the politicians’ reactions afterwards.

An image of the Oriental Daily’s report on the leaked chats on Thursday. Isabella Steger/The Wall Street Journal

An image of the Oriental Daily’s report on the leaked chats on Thursday.
Isabella Steger/The Wall Street Journal

“That compromised Mr. Tsang’s obligation to remain neutral as president of the Legislative Council, opposition lawmakers said, with some demanding that he step down.”

Pro-Beijing lawmakers last week attempted to stage a walkout of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council to delay a vote on the election plan. Yet the tactic backfired: The vote was not postponed, and the package – which had been expected to narrowly fall short of passage – met a resounding defeat. In the wake of the vote, pro-Beijing lawmakers such as Regina Ip, a former security secretary, and Jeffrey Lam, who initiated the walkout, delivered emotional public apologies over the blunder.

“Everyone who could be a potential defector in the opposition has already spoken, it doesn’t look like there will be a change to the final result.”

— Mr. Tsang wrote in the chat, according to the leaked transcripts

The election plan, which for the first time would grant the public the right to vote for the city’s top leader, is opposed by pro-democracy lawmakers because it only allows pre-screened candidates to run. While pro-Beijing lawmakers hold a majority in Hong Kong’s legislature, the pro-democracy camp’s opposition to the measure denied it the two-thirds majority required for passage. Read the rest of this entry »


Chinese Officials Hounded by Activists as Dog-Eating Festival Nears

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Alyssa Abkowitz writes: The dog days of summer have arrived.

As locals prepare for the annual Yulin Dog Eating Festival in China’s Guangxi region, animal rights organizations are unleashing high-profile figures and waging global social media campaigns in an effort to bring the event to heel.

“An estimated 10,000 dogs are slaughtered for the annual festival, which marks the traditional start of summer and will occur on June 22 this year. Festival participants typically pair dog meat with lychees and a bevy of grain alcohol.”

As of June 18, Animals Asia, a Hong Kong based advocacy group, said that within the past two weeks, around 70,000 people had signed a letterasking China’s dog meat traders to stay away from the festival. It’s the first year Animals Asia has run a petition, the group said.

British comedian Ricky Gervais has partnered with Humane Society International to campaign against the festival. Mr. Gervais recently tweeted out, “Please help our best friend. #StopYuLin2015.” He included a photo of a canine with lipstick rings on its face, along with the caption: “The only marks you should leave on a dog.”

Humane Society International also launched a letter-writing campaign and has bestowed the name “Ricky” (in Mr. Gervais’ honor) to a black-and-white pooch rescued from a Yulin slaughterhouse last month. According to the Humane Society, 400,000 people have used the organization’s websiteto send messages directly to Guangxi’s Communist Party secretary, Peng Qinghua. Mr. Peng could not be reached for comment, and Humane Society officials did not immediately respond to a request for further details on how the messages were delivered and whether they had successfully reached his office.

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

Raise UR Paw, a non-profit in Canada, said that as of June 15 its letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping on the petition website change.org had received more than 340,000 signatures. Read the rest of this entry »


Hong Kong Democrats Unite

pro-democracy-hk-wsj

The territory blocks Beijing’s preferred election law

Hong Kong democrats celebrated Thursday as the city’s legislature blocked passage of the Beijing-backed election law that sparked last year’s 75-day mass protests. Not that this was a surprise. Beijing’s vision of democracy—a rigged election in which Hong Kongers could vote only for candidates chosen by a small pro-Beijing committee—was politically dead on arrival.

“All 27 pro-democracy legislators voted no and even picked up a vote from outside their caucus. The pro-Beijing camp staged a disorderly last-minute walk-out, leaving only eight votes in support of Beijing’s proposal. The veto would have held either way, but the scene was an appropriate end to the government’s attempt to subvert universal suffrage.”

Democrats in the legislature had the votes to block Beijing’s plan since it was announced last August. Then came the protests, during which democrats displayed greater numbers and determination than anyone expected. Public opinion, long critical of the government but divided on the reform vote, increasingly came to favor veto. Outside the legislature on Thursday, democrats outnumbered nominal pro-Beijing demonstrators, who wore matching shirts, refused to speak to the media and spoke Mandarin, not Hong Kong’s dominant Cantonese language.

“Unless Beijing puts forward a more acceptable plan, Hong Kong’s next leader will be selected in 2017 like the last, by a 1,200-member committee of the territory’s elite.”

All 27 pro-democracy legislators voted no and even picked up a vote from outside their caucus. The pro-Beijing camp staged a disorderly last-minute walk-out, leaving only eight votes in support of Beijing’s proposal. The veto would have held either way, but the scene was an appropriate end to the government’s attempt to subvert universal suffrage. Read the rest of this entry »


Isabella Steger: Hong Kong Votes Down Beijing-Backed Election Plan

HK-reject-WSJ

For the Chinese government, the defeat was a blow to its effort to integrate Hong Kong into the mainland. And it was a rare defeat for the country’s Communist Party

HONG KONG — Isabella Steger reports: Hong Kong’s legislature rejected a Beijing-backed election-reform plan, ending a year of turmoil in the city and dealing a setback to the former British colony’s relationship with mainland China.

The outcome was expected, but the vote was called abruptly amid the second day of debate for the package, which would have allowed Hong Kong citizens to vote for their leader for the first time but required that candidates be vetted by a pro-Beijing committee.

“After about 20 months of intense political wrangling, many people feel fatigued. No matter what the result today, society needs some time to calm down and reflect on what has happened over these past 20 months, and think about the future direction of Hong Kong.”

— Carrie Lam, the city’s No. 2 official who has spearheaded the effort to sell the electoral overhaul plan

Pro-government lawmakers walked out of the legislature before the vote, leaving the chamber filled with mostly opposition lawmakers, who had vowed to reject the plan. The vote was 28 against and eight in favor, with 34 not voting. The vote would have required a two-thirds majority to pass.

“After about 20 months of intense political wrangling, many people feel fatigued,” said Carrie Lam, the city’s No. 2 official who has spearheaded the effort to sell the electoral overhaul plan, in concluding remarks in the legislature just before the vote. “No matter what the result today, society needs some time to calm down and reflect on what has happened over these past 20 months, and think about the future direction of Hong Kong.”

Pro-democracy lawmaker Charles Mok is surrounded by veto signs during his speech in Hong Kong’s legislature on Thursday. Photo: Reuters

Pro-democracy lawmaker Charles Mok is surrounded by veto signs during his speech in Hong Kong’s legislature on Thursday. Photo: Reuters

“We used our sacred vote today to veto a fake universal suffrage proposal. We helped Hong Kong people send a clear message to Beijing that we want real choice. This isn’t the end of the democracy movement in Hong Kong. A new chapter starts today.”

— Alan Leong, a pro-democracy legislator, told reporters after the vote

The vote on Thursday marks probably the most critical event in Hong Kong’s political development since pro-democracy activists started angling for greater democracy in the territory in the 1980s. Ms. Lam said Thursday that she couldn’t predict at what point Hong Kong’s democratic development would resume.

The rejection of the reform proposal was a victory for pro-democracy legislators who stuck to their pledge to reject the plan. The group had come under pressure from Beijing, which said they could be held to account for their votes. It was a serious defeat for Hong Kong’s government, which was forced to promote Beijing’s plan despite opposition in Hong Kong.

[Read the full text here, at WSJ]

“We used our sacred vote today to veto a fake universal suffrage proposal,” Alan Leong, a pro-democracy legislator, told reporters after the vote. “We helped Hong Kong people send a clear message to Beijing that we want real choice. This isn’t the end of the democracy movement in Hong Kong. A new chapter starts today”. Read the rest of this entry »


BREAKING: Hong Kong Lawmakers Reject Beijing-Backed Reform Package

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Hong Kong (AFP) – Hong Kong lawmakers rejected a Beijing-backed political reform package Thursday as pro-democracy legislators united to vote down the divisive electoral roadmap that has sparked mass protests.

Most pro-government lawmakers staged a walkout as the bill headed for defeat, with just eight casting their vote in support of the package and 28 voting against it.

AFP/Yahoo News.


5 Things About the Hong Kong Vote

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Isabella Steger reports: Hong Kong’s legislature is expected to vote down a proposal that would let the public directly elect the city’s chief executive in 2017 — but only from a prescreened slate of candidates. The showdown follows city-wide protests and a year and a half of efforts by Hong Kong’s leaders to sell the Beijing-backed election plan. Here are five things to know about the vote.

1. The Legislature Will Vote This Week

The proposal currently on the table will be put to a vote this Wednesday and Thursday. This is arguably the most critical of five stages in the election overhaul blueprint, laid down by Beijing and in accordance with the Basic LawHong Kong’s mini-constitution

2. Pro-Democracy Lawmakers Oppose the Package

The package lays out the rules for electing Hong Kong’s chief executive in 2017 within a framework formulated by Chinese authorities, in which all candidates must be nominated by a 1,200-member committee that is heavily pro-Beijing. After slight tweaks announced in April, the opposition maintains that the system is not democratic enough to allow one of their own candidates to stand.

3. The Plan Is Not Likely to Pass

27 pro-democracy lawmakers — who control a little more than one-third of the city’s legislature –say they will vote against the package, as has one lawmaker who isn’t part of the opposition camp. Read the rest of this entry »


Hong Kong Democracy Protesters Take to the Streets Ahead of a Crucial Reform Bill

TOPSHOTS A pro-democracy demonstrator gestures after police fired tear gas towards protesters near the Hong Kong government headquarters on September 28, 2014. Police fired tear gas as tens of thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators brought parts of central Hong Kong to a standstill on September 28, in a dramatic escalation of protests that have gripped the semi-autonomous Chinese city for days. AFP PHOTO / XAUME OLLEROS        (Photo credit should read XAUME OLLEROS/AFP/Getty Images)

Thousands march on the legislature to demand a freer vote

Joanna Plucinska reports: Nine months after the Umbrella Revolution began, pro-democracy protesters again took to the streets of Hong Kong to demand a say in the way the city’s leader is elected in polls slated for 2017.

“We’re not North Korea, we know what freedom is.”

— Carol Lo, a protester at Sunday’s rally

A crowd of 2,000 to 3,000 people—workers and families as well as students and democracy activists—marched on Sunday afternoon from Victoria Park, a traditional gathering place for protests, to the legislature buildings downtown. Many carried yellow umbrellas—adopted as the symbol of Hong Kong’s democracy movement after protesters took to carrying them during last year’s unrest to protect themselves from police pepper spray.

Riot police use tear gas against protesters after thousands of people blocked a main road at the financial central district in Hong Kong, Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014. Hong Kong police used tear gas on Sunday and warned of further measures as they tried to clear thousands of pro-democracy protesters gathered outside government headquarters in a challenge to Beijing over its decision to restrict democratic reforms for the city. (AP Photo) HONG KONG OUT

Riot police use tear gas against protesters after thousands of people blocked a main road at the financial central district in Hong Kong, Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014. Hong Kong police used tear gas on Sunday and warned of further measures as they tried to clear thousands of pro-democracy protesters gathered outside government headquarters in a challenge to Beijing over its decision to restrict democratic reforms for the city. (AP Photo) HONG KONG

Others carried signs that read “Citizens Against Pseudo-Universal Suffrage,” declaring their opposition to the form of democracy described in a political reform bill to be voted on by the city’s legislature on June 17. That bill will allow the central government in Beijing, and a 1,200 member electoral college composed mostly of pro-establishment figures, to vet all candidates for the position of Chief Executive, as the city’s top official is known. Similarly unrepresentative electoral methods helped to spark last fall’s Umbrella Revolution, and protesters are once again demanding broader political rights.

“I’m a genuine citizen of Hong Kong, I’m not from China. Most people from China are after money, but I’m after truth.”

— Protester and Uber driver Chao Sang

“We’re not North Korea, we know what freedom is,” said Carol Lo, 35, a protester at Sunday’s rally and a parent of a 9-year-old girl. Lo voiced fears for the political future of Hong Kong’s next generation: “How will [my daughter] survive, if this situation gets worse and worse?” she said.

Policemen rest following pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong on September 29, 2014.  Police fired tear gas as tens of thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators brought parts of central Hong Kong to a standstill in a dramatic escalation of protests that have gripped the semi-autonomous Chinese city for days.    AFP PHOTO / XAUME OLLEROS        (Photo credit should read XAUME OLLEROS/AFP/Getty Images)

Policemen rest following pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong on September 29, 2014. Police fired tear gas as tens of thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators brought parts of central Hong Kong to a standstill in a dramatic escalation of protests that have gripped the semi-autonomous Chinese city for days.  XAUME OLLEROS/AFP/Getty Images)

Another protester, Uber driver Chao Sang, voiced the growing tendency of many Hong Kongers to see themselves as politically, linguistically and culturally separate from mainland Chinese. “I’m a genuine citizen of Hong Kong, I’m not from China,” he told TIME. “Most people from China are after money, but I’m after truth.” Read the rest of this entry »


Industry Disruption Acceleration: Hong Kong Startup to Launch DIY Four-Seat Car

 

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The OSVehicle can be built in little over an hour from parts shipped in flatpacks from Italy and China

The car industry is tormented by how new rivals are coming in and upending the existing ways of doing business — whether that’s TeslaGoogle or Apple.

One Hong Kong-based start-up wants to help accelerate the disruption.

OSVehicle will on Tuesday launch its latest “do-it-yourself car” — an electric four-seater that it says can be built in little over an hour from parts shipped in flatpacks from Italy and China.

“It lowers the barriers to entry for start-ups and entrepreneurs who want to create vehicles in a whole new segment of the industry.”

— Carlo De Micheli, head of innovation at OSVehicle

The kit is aimed at companies that want to sell electric vehicles or run car sharing schemes, with would-be carmakers buying a platform from OSVehicle rather than a complete product.

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“Companies that are entering this market are focusing on specific technologies, such as self-driving or high power electric vehicles. We are eager to see all the open source components that come out of their research…adopted by other companies worldwide.”

— Carlo De Micheli

They order the chassis, electric power-train, suspension, steering system and wheels from OSVehicle. Customers then create the bodywork to their own design.

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“They order the chassis, electric power-train, suspension, steering system and wheels from OSVehicle. Customers then create the bodywork to their own design.”

“It lowers the barriers to entry for start-ups and entrepreneurs who want to create vehicles in a whole new segment of the industry,” said Carlo De Micheli, head of innovation at OSVehicle.

The kit car platform is based on another by OSVehicle that is a two-seater called Tabby.

The company has yet to decide on the price of the four-seater platform. The two-seater iteration of its Tabby platform retailed at $4,000, excluding the lithium-based battery pack.

The “OS” in OSVehicle stands for open source and the company is part of a growing trend of transparent innovation in the industry. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Blur – Travel to Hong Kong With Blur: In Conversation with Comic Artist KongKee

 

 


James R. Hagerty: Meet the New Generation of Robots for Manufacturing

robots-ABB-wsj

They are nimbler, lighter and work better with humans. They might even help bring manufacturing back to the U.S.

James R. Hagerty writes: A new generation of robots is on the way—smarter, more mobile, more collaborative and more adaptable. They promise to bring major changes to the factory floor, as well as potentially to the global competitive landscape.

Robots deployed in manufacturing today tend to be large, dangerous to anyone who strays too close to their whirling arms, and limited to one task, like welding, painting or hoisting heavy parts.

“Robots are going to change the economic calculus for manufacturing. People will spend less time chasing low-cost labor.”

— Hal Sirkin, a Chicago-based senior partner of Boston Consulting Group

The latest models entering factories and being developed in labs are a different breed. They can work alongside humans without endangering them and help assemble all sorts of objects, as large as aircraft engines and as small and delicate as smartphones. Soon, some should be easy enough to program and deploy that they no longer will need expert overseers.

“Researchers hope robots will become so easy to set up and move around that they can reduce the need for companies to make heavy investments in tools and structures that are bolted to the floor.”

That will change not only the way an increasing number of products are made. It could also mean an upheaval in the competition between companies and nations. As robots become less costly and more accessible, they should help smaller manufacturers go toe to toe with giants. By reducing labor costs, they also may allow the U.S. and other high-wage countries to get back into some of the processes that have been ceded to China, Mexico and other countries with vast armies of lower-paid workers.

“That would allow manufacturers to make shorter runs of niche or custom products without having to spend lots of time and money reconfiguring factories.”

Some of the latest robots are designed specifically for the tricky job of assembling consumer-electronics items, now mostly done by hand in Asia. At least one company promises its robots eventually will be sewing garments in the U.S., taking over one of the ultimate sweatshop tasks.

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“Robots are going to change the economic calculus for manufacturing,” says Hal Sirkin, a Chicago-based senior partner of Boston Consulting Group. “People will spend less time chasing low-cost labor.”

The changing face

Today, industrial robots are most common in auto plants—which have long been the biggest users of robot technology—and they do jobs that don’t take much delicacy: heavy lifting, welding, applying glue and painting. People still do most of the final assembly of cars, especially when it involves small parts or wiring that needs to be guided into place.

[Read the full text here, at WSJ]

Now robots are taking on some jobs that require more agility. At a Renault SA plant in Cleon, France, robots made by Universal Robots AS of Denmark drive screws into engines, especially those that go into places people find hard to get at. The robots employ a reach of more than 50 inches and six rotating joints to do the work. They also verify that parts are properly fastened and check to make sure the correct part is being used.

At a Renault car plant, robots drive screws into engines—a sign of their progress in handling small parts. Photo: Renault

At a Renault car plant, robots drive screws into engines—a sign of their progress in handling small parts. Photo: Renault

The Renault effort demonstrates a couple of trends that are drastically changing how robots are made. For one, they’re getting much lighter. The Renault units weigh only about 64 pounds, so “we can easily remove them and reinstall them in another place,” says Dominique Graille, a manager at Renault, which is using 15 robots from Universal now and plans to double that by year-end. Read the rest of this entry »


The Rise of the Teeny Tiny: The Incredible Shrinking Apartments of Hong Kong

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HONG KONG— Isabella Steger writes: In showing an apartment of 180 square feet, a real-estate agent explained that all furniture essentially has to be made to order and described the window sill as a potential area for “entertainment.”

“Consumers have no bargaining power. Today if people want to buy property, like a couple who want to build a family, they don’t ask what the square footage is. They just ask about the price.”

— Barbara Leung, who teaches real-estate economics at Hong Kong Polytechnic University

The apartment, in a development called High Place, isn’t much bigger than the standard U.S. parking space. It went into contract in May for almost four million Hong Kong dollars (US$516,000.)

Even by Hong Kong’s cramped standards, apartments here are getting tinier and tinier.

So small are some of the new developments in Hong Kong that they have been given the moniker “mosquito-sized units.”

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Billy H.C. Kwok for the Wall Street Journal

“People have to sacrifice and crowd into smaller apartments.”

— Joanne Lee, of real-estate broker and consultancy Colliers International in Hong Kong

The incredible shrinking apartments in Hong Kong is part of a broader trend of rising values of residential real estate in major cities around the world, as investors see property as a better investment than low-yielding bonds.

Hong Kong, much like London and New York, also is seeing strong demand from wealthy investors from other countries looking for safe places to park their money, with much of that investment coming from mainland Chinese buyers. While these investors go after higher-end Hong Kong property, they are helping boost prices in general, making it tougher for people simply looking for a place to live.

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Hong Kong property prices have continued to rise despite repeated attempts by the government to keep them in check. The average price of private residential property, according to government data, has been on an upward trend since 2009, save for dips during three quarters in 2011 and a very mild correction during 2013 after the government stepped up measures to cool property prices.

“In a development called Mont Vert by Cheung Kong (Holdings) Ltd., controlled by the city’s richest man, Li Ka-shing, apartments even smaller than 180 square feet last year prompted a flood of YouTube videos showing people using arm spans to measure the living area.”

Such price increases have put strains on buyers in many major cities, but nowhere is the squeeze greater than in Hong Kong. Demographia, a U.S. think tank, in a recent study comparing median incomes with median housing prices, ranked Hong Kong property as the least affordable in the world, with home prices on average 17 times annual income, well above the 10.6 for second-place Vancouver. New York ranked seventh, with a 6.1 ratio.

[Read the full story here, at WSJ]

Since 2007, incomes have risen about 42%, but home prices have soared 154%, according to a calculation of data provided by the Hong Kong government. Read the rest of this entry »


Architect Couple Create a Serene Retreat Hidden in the Heart of Hong Kong Hustle

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Leaving the urban clatter and chaos of Wan Chai for the home of architects Winnie Ling and Scott Findley is to enter a serene refuge.

“We love this part of town, we just like the vibrancy of it, plus the materials shops downstairs make a great resource library,” says Ling. “But I wanted [our flat] to be almost spa-like; a place I can come home to after work and feel like I can relax and be pampered.”

“We love this part of town, we just like the vibrancy of it, plus the materials shops downstairs make a great resource library…But I wanted…a place I can come home to after work and feel like I can relax and be pampered.”

Together they turned a cramped, three-bedroom 670 sq ft walk-up apartment into a contemporary, Asian-inspired, one-bedroom haven for two.

“We gutted the whole thing. Opened it up to space and light, but with flexibility and privacy, too.”

— Architect Winnie Ling

Although Ling acknowledges that married architects – both former directors at architectural practice RMJM – are bound to knock heads when designing their own home, the doubling up on expertise was a clear advantage.

[Read the full story here, at South China Morning Post]

On buying the flat four years ago, the pair agreed they would need to restructure the space. Working with a contractor, they opened it up into one long, narrow studio, with only the two bathrooms concealed. The living spaces are defined by partitions, furniture, light and mirrors…..(read more)

STYLIST: DAVID RODEN. PHOTOGRAPHY: JONATHAN WONG AND JASON FINDLEY PHOTOGRAPHY

STYLIST: DAVID RODEN. PHOTOGRAPHY: JONATHAN WONG AND JASON FINDLEY PHOTOGRAPHY

Dining area The stainless-steel dining table base and quartz stone top, and the chickenfeather- wood, Chinese-style screen were custom designed for Winnie Ling and Scott Findley’s former home, with the table modified to fit the new space. The Kwun Yum statue in cast bronze was purchased from Ovo Home (16 Queen’s Road East, tel: 2526 7226) while the ceramic tea set was bought years ago in the United States.

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Living room The couch and pouffe set; stainless-steel desk, cabinets and office chair; and leather Cab armchairs by Cassina all came from the couple’s previous home, with the former cut down to fit the new layout (modification for HK$2,500 by Patrick Mau, tel: 2614 4118). Mirrored doors concealing deep storage cabinets were refitted from the previous property. The wrought-iron artefact stands (HK$3,300 each) were created to a custom size at Ovo Home, where the couple also purchased the painted metal wire display basket (HK$2,000), lit from beneath by an Ingo Maurer table lamp (no longer in production). An inverted tree base sculpture, from Lane Crawford Home Store (Pacific Place, Admiralty, tel: 2118 3668), came from the previous apartment. A sliding etchedglass partition provides privacy in the bedroom. The Tolomeo Basculante desk lamp, by Artemide, came from Aluminium (58 Queen’s Road East, tel: 2547 5323).

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Living room detail An aluminium-clad credenza was reduced in length from five metres to three metres (by Chit Tat Sing, tel: 2699 1156, for HK$5,000) to fit the new apartment. It showcases a limited-edition print by mainland artist Zhang Xiaogang, from Gallery du Monde (Ruttonjee Centre, 11 Duddell Street, Central, tel: 2525 0529), architectural photographs that were gifts from the couple’s photographer son, Jason Findley (JLF Studio; www.jasonlfindley.com), and a brush painting by their daughter, graphic artist Jessica Findley (www.sonicribbon.com). The series of bronze sculptures, by Liu Ruowang, were purchased from Gallery 1949 (www.elite-concepts.com), in Beijing. Read the rest of this entry »


Hong Kong: Tiananmen Vigil Highlights a Rift

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

Some student groups won’t join annual vigil on June 4

HONG KONG— Isabella Steger reports: Every year for a quarter-century, large Hong Kong crowds have commemorated the 1989 crackdown on student protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. This June 4, some young Hong Kongers say they won’t join in.

Much like in Beijing in 1989, student groups were at the forefront of the monthslong pro-democracy protests that paralyzed much of Hong Kong last year and which challenged Beijing on how Hong Kong should elect its leader.

“I feel very sad. It’s a watershed year in my life” she said. “To call the ocean of candlelight ceremonial or perfunctory, it’s just not fair.”

— Claudia Mo, an opposition lawmaker and former journalist who was in Beijing during the 1989 crackdown

Unlike in Beijing, the Hong Kong protests ended peacefully, though with no visible concession from the Chinese government. What the rallies also did was lay bare a growing chasm between old and young over Hong Kong’s identity and relationship with Beijing. That rift is now playing out over the annual Tiananmen vigil, with some student groups saying Hong Kongers should focus on democratic rights in the territory rather than on the mainland.

“Every year it’s the same, we sing the same songs and watch the same videos. For some people, going to the vigil is a bit like clocking in. Should we continue looking back on a historical event, or focus on the more urgent situation here now?”

— Cameron Chan, 20, a social-sciences student at the University of Hong Kong

The University of Hong Kong’s student union will organize its own June 4 event “to reflect on the future of democracy in Hong Kong.” Separately, the Hong Kong Federation of Students, the main group leading last year’s protests, said that for the first time it won’t participate in the vigil as an organization.

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. Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images

“I feel very sad,” said Claudia Mo, an opposition lawmaker and former journalist who was in Beijing during the 1989 crackdown. “It’s a watershed year in my life” she said. “To call the ocean of candlelight ceremonial or perfunctory, it’s just not fair.”

“Going to the vigil is a bit like clocking in.”

—Cameron Chan, University of Hong Kong student

But to Cameron Chan, 20, a social-sciences student at the University of Hong Kong, it is precisely that the annual vigil has become such a fixture that is the problem.

[Read the full story here, at WSJ]

The student group’s decision is baffling to many democracy supporters in the city, who see the annual candlelight vigil in Hong Kong’s Victoria Park to remember the Tiananmen victims as an important civic duty—not least because it’s the only mass commemoration of the event in the Greater China universe.

Last year’s pro-denmocracy protests in Hong Kong were led by students, here seen gathered in front of the offices of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying on Oct. 2.Photo: Zuma Press

Last year’s pro-denmocracy protests in Hong Kong were led by students, here seen gathered in front of the offices of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying on Oct. 2.Photo: Zuma Press

“I don’t see how Hong Kong can fully divorce itself from democracy movements on the mainland.”

—Joshua Wong, student leader

“I cannot understand [the students’] thinking,” said Jack Choi, a 36-year-old who works in finance and has been going to the vigil on and off since 2000. “It’s two separate issues. Our mother is China, if the mother is not free, how can the child be?” Read the rest of this entry »


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