Japan Scrambles Jets as China Warplanes Fly Through Okinawa Strait

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It was the first time Beijing is known to have sent fighter jets through the area, and comes days after Japan’s defense minister announced plans to step up engagement in the disputed South China Sea.

Jesse Johnson reports: The Air Self-Defense Force scrambled aircraft on Sunday as at least eight Chinese fighters and bombers — and possibly more than 40 — passed through a critical international entryway into the Western Pacific.

They used a legal but politically sensitive passage through Okinawa, apparently to send a message to Tokyo.

“This is a response to what Beijing will allege is a provocation by Japan in joining the U.S. in South China Sea drills despite Beijing warning Tokyo against participating.”

— University of Miami political science professor June Teufel Dreyer

It was the first time Beijing is known to have sent fighter jets through the area, and comes days after Japan’s defense minister announced plans to step up engagement in the disputed South China Sea.

The Chinese aircraft, which also included refueling tankers, flew over the Miyako Strait in Okinawa Prefecture but did not infringe Japanese airspace, the Defense Ministry said in Tokyo.

China said more than 40 aircraft were involved. They flew between Miyako Island near Taiwan and Okinawa’s main island on the way to “regular” patrols and drills in the Western Pacific, the Chinese Defense Ministry said in a statement posted to its website.

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People’s Liberation Army Air Force spokesman Shen Jinke said the massive show of force, which included H-6K bombers, Su-30 fighters and tanker aircraft, conducted reconnaissance and early warning exercises, attacks on sea surface targets, and in-flight refueling “to test the air force’s fighting capacity on the high seas.”

Chinese bombers and fighters also conducted what Shen called a “regular patrol” in the East China Sea air defense identification zone (ADIZ) that China unilaterally declared in 2013.

“The regular Western Pacific drills and ADIZ patrols are necessary to safeguard national sovereignty, the country’s security and maintain peaceful development,” Shen said.

[Read the full story here, at The Japan Times]

The air force will continue patrolling the East China Sea ADIZ and conduct training to improve its combat capacity in order to “uphold the legitimate rights and interests of China,” Shen added.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, the government’s top spokesman, told a news conference Monday that although the aircraft never violated Japanese airspace, Tokyo “will continue to devote every effort to vigilance and surveillance and rigorously enforce steps against intrusions into our airspace based on international law and the Self-Defense Forces law.”

In this Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013 photo, a crew member of Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy monitors on the deck of the China's aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, sailing on the East China Sea for sea trials. The Liaoning departed for its first-ever sea trials in the South China Sea, a mission likely to draw scrutiny amid Beijing's drive to assert its claims to those waters and their island groups. (AP Photo) CHINA OUT

While it was apparently the first time for Beijing to send fighter jets on the route, its air force first flew other types of jets over the strait in May 2015, China’s Defense Ministry said.

Defense Minister Tomomi Inada angered Beijing with a speech last week, in which she said Tokyo would “increase its engagement in the South China Sea through … Maritime Self-Defense Force joint training cruises with the U.S. Navy.”

There was a fiery reaction in Chinese state media, but experts said she had not broken new ground in Japan’s approach to the South China Sea.

Still, according to University of Miami political science professor June Teufel Dreyer, the Chinese flights were meant to send a message to Japan not to meddle in the South China Sea issue. Read the rest of this entry »


From Hiroko to Susie: The Untold Stories of Japanese War Brides

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Who are these women and what do we, their children, know about them?

Kathryn Tolbert writes: I thought she was beautiful, although I never understood why she plucked her eyebrows off and penciled them on every morning an inch higher. She had been captain of her high school basketball team in Japan, and she ran circles around us kids on a dirt court in our small town in Upstate New York. I can still see this Japanese woman dribbling madly about, yelling “Kyash! Kyash!” That’s how she said Kath, or Kathy.

[Above: Hiroko and Bill with Kathy, left, Sam and Susan. The video is the trailer to a short documentary film, “Fall Seven Times, Get Up Eight: The Japanese War Brides,” which features Hiroko and two other war brides.]

She married my American GI father barely knowing him. She moved from Tokyo to a small poultry farm just outside Elmira, N.Y., and from there she delivered eggs all over the county and into Pennsylvania. My sister describes her as having a “core of steel.” She raised us as determinedly as any mother could, and yet, looking back, I barely knew her.

Some people think the film I co-directed, “Fall Seven Times, Get Up Eight: The Japanese War Brides,” is a paean to loving Japanese mothers. When one interviewer suggested as much to me and fellow director Karen Kasmauski, we exchanged a look that said, “Shall we tell him the truth?” The film, titled after a Japanese proverb, is about strong women, for sure. Warm and loving mothers? No.

So who are these women and what do we, their children, know about them?

They are sisters and daughters of the ferocious enemy that attacked Pearl Harbor in the “day of infamy,” an enemy that surrendered four years later after waves of firebombing on Japanese cities and the dropping of atomic bombs. They married men who occupied their country and came to the United States. And then? They disappeared into America. There were tens of thousands of them, yet they vanished from public awareness — Japanese women who were barely a blip in immigration history, who married into families of North Dakota farmers, Wisconsin loggers, Rhode Island general store owners.

[Read the full story here, at The Washington Post]

They either tried, or were pressured, to give up their Japanese identities to become more fully American. A first step was often adopting the American nicknames given them when their Japanese names were deemed too hard to pronounce or remember. Chikako became Peggy; Kiyoko became Barbara. Not too much thought went into those choices, names sometimes imposed in an instant by a U.S. officer organizing his pool of typists. My mother, Hiroko Furukawa, became Susie.

How did it feel to be renamed for someone in the man’s past, a distant relative or former girlfriend? My mother said she didn’t mind, and others said it made their lives easier to have an American name.

The brides, as many as 45,000, landed in the home towns of their husbands, places where Japanese people had been visible only on World War II propaganda posters. Was their skin really yellow? One war bride in South Carolina was asked to pull up her sleeve since no yellow was visible on her hands and wrists.

Hiroko Furukawa Tolbert, 85, mother of Kathryn Tolbert, arrived in Elmira, N.Y., in 1952. Her in-laws called her Susie. (Karen Kasmauski for The Washington Post)

My mother, once a daughter of privilege, came to her in-laws’ chicken farm. She has lived in the same two square miles of countryside ever since. It has been 64 years.

[Read the full text here, at The Washington Post]

I read and reread the transcripts from interviews I had recorded with my mother when I was pregnant with my own daughter more than 20 years ago, when I realized I didn’t have even a timeline of her life. Six hours of tapes and they didn’t tell me what I now wanted to know. So I went back to her recently to try to understand what she could possibly have been thinking when she made the choice to marry an American soldier she barely knew. “I wasn’t thinking. I just had to get out,” was one of her succinct responses.

I didn’t know other women like her, although I had two journalist friends who were also daughters of Japanese war brides. When they proposed making a film about our mothers, I readily agreed because I had always wanted to tell her story. And she’s such an excellent raconteur that, sitting beside her in the film as her interviewer, I’m almost an unnecessary prop.

Read the rest of this entry »


China Facing Full-Blown Banking Crisis, World’s Top Financial Watchdog Warns

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China has failed to curb excesses in its credit system and faces mounting risks of a full-blown banking crisis, according to early warning indicators released by the world’.

A key gauge of credit vulnerability is now three times over the danger threshold and has continued to deteriorate, despite pledges by Chinese premier Li Keqiang to wean the economy off debt-driven growth before it is too late.

The Bank for International Settlements warned in its quarterly report that China’s “credit to GDP gap” has reached 30.1, the highest to date and in a different league altogether from any other major country tracked by the institution. It is also significantly higher than the scores in East Asia’s speculative boom on 1997 or in the US subprime bubble before the Lehman crisis.

Studies of earlier banking crises around the world over the last sixty years suggest that any score above ten requires careful monitoring.  The credit to GDP gap measures deviations from normal patterns within any one country and therefore strips out cultural differences.

It is based on work the US economist Hyman Minsky and has proved to be the best single gauge of banking risk, although the final denouement can often take longer than assumed. Indicators for what would happen to debt service costs if interest rates rose 250 basis points are also well over the safety line.

China’s total credit reached 255pc of GDP at the end of last year, a jump of 107 percentage points over eight years. This is an extremely high level for a developing economy and is still rising fast.

Outstanding loans have reached $28 trillion, as much as the commercial banking systems of the US and Japan combined. The scale is enough to threaten a worldwide shock if China ever loses control. Corporate debt alone has reached 171pc of GDP, and it is this that is keeping global regulators awake at night. Read the rest of this entry »


South China Morning Post Closes its Chinese-Language Websites Without Warning

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Things just keep getting worse and worse for Hong Kong’s paper of record.

Now, if you try to log onto South China Morning Post‘s Chinese-language news site or lifestyle site you are redirected to the paper’s English-language website and informed that SCMP’s Chinese-language services have been closed in order to better “integrate resources.” The message concludes, “We thank you for your past support.”

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And just like that years of Chinese-language reporting by the SCMP has been wiped out. Current and former employees told Quartz that they were not told in advance about the decision to close the site. This is backed up by the fact that SCMP’s Chinese-language news site, nanzao.com, was still posting stories on Facebook as late as this afternoon. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] What does China want in the South China Sea? In 60 Seconds

DigitalGlobe overview imagery from June 3rd, 2016 of the Fiery Cross Reef located in the South China Sea. Fiery Cross is located in the western part of the Spratly Islands group.  Photo DigitalGlobe via Getty Images.

Unlike China’s neighbors, the South China Sea‘s islands are not within China’s exclusive economic zone. So what do they want there? AEI Research Fellow Michael Mazza describes China’s motivations for its claims in the waters near the Philippines and Vietnam.

 


HONG KONG WRONG: iPhone 7’s New Slogan Translates to ‘This is Penis’ in Cantonese

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The Cantonese language uses subtly different tones to differentiate between words. The Cantonese pronunciation of ‘seven’ (七) uses a ‘cat1’ tone, according to the Chinese Character Database of Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Apple launched its iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus at a live event in San Francisco this week. One of the technology firm’s biggest market is China, which includes the mainland, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Apple’s ‘This is 7’ slogan for its new iPhone 7 has a rather unfortunate translation in Hong Kong.

Smartphone users have been mocking the technology firm’s latest marketing line because it sounds just like ‘This is penis’ in Cantonese.

The iPhone 7 slogan as it appears on Apple's site  in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong (l-r)

China is one of Apple’s biggest markets, but the translations for its new slogan differ drastically across mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

“A common example is the Hong Kong’s Chief Executive CY Leung who is nicknamed as ‘689’ after being elected to his post with just 689 votes from an election committee – regrettably missing a ‘seven’.”

Apple boss Tim Cook introduces the iPhone 7 during an Apple special event in San Francisco

While mainlanders and Taiwanese people predominantly speak Mandarin, Hong Kong dwellers typically converse in Cantonese, which is why the comical translation only affects them.

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“Earlier this year, Korean technoloy firm Samsung faced similar mockery in Hong Kong following the launch of its Galaxy Note 7.”

Many Cantonese speakers in Hong Kong took to social media to mock the x-rated gaffe, reports Quartz.

Tim Cook unveils newly-designed iPhone 7 at Apple Keynote

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“The number ‘seven’ is a common euphemism of a Cantonese profanity word referring to penis, which only differs slightly in the tone. Number ‘seven’ is widely deployed in local politics.”

‘The slogan “7, is here” in China is the best. They got so many “7”s,’ said one Facebook user.

‘Why didn’t people say anything during the launch of Windows 7?’ queried another. Read the rest of this entry »


The Economist Explains: How Hong Kong’s Version of Democracy Works

The deck may be stacked, but the results still matter.

HONG KONGERS head to the polls on September 4th to pick their representatives in what, by China’s standards, is a remarkably democratic institution: the Legislative Council of Hong Kong (Legco). When China took possession of Hong Kong from the British in 1997 it promised the territory a high degree of autonomy for 50 years. In the run-up to these elections, the first since the “umbrella revolution” protests of 2014, local newspapers have been filled with candidates who mistrust those guarantees, and by some who want to renegotiate Hong Kong’s relationship with the mainland. Yet it can be taken for granted that a clutch of parties supported by the government in Beijing will continue to dominate Hong Kong’s political system. How does the territory’s democratic process work?

[Read the full story here, at The Economist]

For more than 30 years Hong Kong’s political parties have been split roughly into two camps. On one side are the “pan-democrats”, who argue that only a democratic system can safeguard the civil liberties the territory enjoyed under the British (whom many of the pan-democrats opposed, before the handover). They stand against the “pro-government” or “pro-Beijing” politicians, who regard themselves as patriotic allies of their counterparts in the rest of China. They tend to say that fair elections are less important than smooth relations with the Communist Party in Beijing. The role of Legco is to debate the laws and budgets put forward by the territory’s executive branch. Read the rest of this entry »


Meet the Young Leaders Shaking up Hong Kong Politics

Pedestrians walk past a banner for new party Youngspiration showing disqualified candidate Edward Leung (L) and Baggio Leung (C) during the Legislative Council election in Hong Kong on September 4, 2016. Young Hong Kong independence activists calling for a complete break from China stood in major elections for the first time on September 4, the biggest vote since 2014 pro-democracy rallies. / AFP / Anthony WALLACE (Photo credit should read ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP/Getty Images)

Beijing wants pro-democracy activists to go away. Instead, they’re getting elected.

Suzanne Sataline writes: In late 2014, Hong Kong protestors used umbrellas to shield themselves as police soaked them with pepper spray. Student leaders demanded elections free of intrusion from the Chinese central government, capturing headlines around the world, but their efforts failed. On Sept. 4, city residents pushed back again. Voters elected several of those young activists to the city’s legislature, a sharp rebuke to Beijing’s increasing encroachment on political life in the city.

“By the terms of its constitution, called the Basic Law, Hong Kong has autonomy, but with an asterisk. Individual residents cannot elect the city’s leader, nor try to change policies through referenda; they pick just half of their lawmakers. “

A record 2.2 million people queued to cast ballots — hundreds reportedly waited at one polling station past two o’clock in the morning — in the financial capital’s first city-wide election since protests two years earlier. Voters tossed several veteran moderates from the Legislative Council (LegCo), and replaced them with six activists who want to wrest Hong Kong from mainland China’s control. While the chamber’s majority still tilts toward Beijing — thanks mostly to voting rules that grant greater power to trade and industry groups — the new term will seat 30 lawmakers who favor democracy in the 70-member chamber. They will collectively pose a greater obstacle to the city’s unpopular chief executive, C.Y. Leung, a man widely considered too deferential to Beijing.

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“This arrangement of 19 years — engineered by the British crown, enforced by mainland China after it took Hong Kong back — never sought, and was never given, resident approval. Hence the widespread, youth-driven protests two years ago, quickly dubbed the Umbrella Movement.”

By the terms of its constitution, called the Basic Law, Hong Kong has autonomy, but with an asterisk. Individual residents cannot elect the city’s leader, nor try to change policies through referenda; they pick just half of their lawmakers. This arrangement of 19 years — engineered by the British crown, enforced by mainland China after it took Hong Kong back — never sought, and was never given, resident approval. Hence the widespread, youth-driven protests two years ago, quickly dubbed the Umbrella Movement.

[Read the full story here, at Foreign Policy]

Since then, Beijing appears to be tightening its grip on the semi-autonomous city. Many residents were unsettled when five members of a local book publisher disappeared last year, and yet Hong Kong’s government seemed to do little to help. (One man later resurfaced, sharing details of how he’d been kidnapped by state security and held for months in mainland China; a colleague is still missing.) A sudden demotion and resignations at the city’s independent graft commission signaled that the lauded agency might not be so independent anymore. The central government’s chief lawyer in Hong Kong said in April that the government could deploy British colonial laws still on the books, such as those for treason and sedition, to prosecute independence activists. This summer, the city government’s Electoral Affairs Commission barred six candidates from the LegCo race, five of whom demand either independence, or a vote on the issue among Hong Kong residents. (The commission’s chairman is appointed by the city’s chief executive.)

Cheng Chung-tai speaks to supporters in Hong Kong elections

“Since then, Beijing appears to be tightening its grip on the semi-autonomous city. Many residents were unsettled when five members of a local book publisher disappeared last year, and yet Hong Kong’s government seemed to do little to help.”

But that didn’t stop the election of young upstarts who aim to amend the constitution, expand voting rights, and bolster civil liberties. Sixtus “Baggio” Leung of a new party called Youngspiration thinks Hong Kong should declare independence from China. (None of the Leungs mentioned in this article are related.) Nathan Law, at age 23 the youngest lawmaker in city history, believes residents deserve a vote for self-determination. Beijing officials “are scared of our influence because we are not controllable,” Law, a leader in the 2014 protests, said. “We can mobilize people and arouse people and create enough tension between Hong Kong and China.”

“A sudden demotion and resignations at the city’s independent graft commission signaled that the lauded agency might not be so independent anymore. The central government’s chief lawyer in Hong Kong said in April that the government could deploy British colonial laws still on the books, such as those for treason and sedition, to prosecute independence activists.”

Some of those activists have been preaching on radio and street corners that Hong Kong is historically and culturally separate from China. The city, they have said, cannot trust China, and city residents should decide their own fate. By July, according to one survey, more than 17 percent of residents, and nearly 40 percent of those aged 15 to 24, said the city should separate from China when the “one-country, two-systems” plan ends in 2047. In August, the banned candidates organized what they called the city’s first independence rally, drawing several thousand people. One of the organizers was Edward Tin-kei Leung, a 25-year-old philosophy student born on the mainland. Read the rest of this entry »


Hong Kong’s Election is Proof that ‘One Country, Two Systems’ is Alive and Well

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Ilaria Maria Sala writes: The bizarre “One Country, Two Systems” formula under which Hong Kong has been ruled since its handover to Beijing in 1997 has been declared dead many times—but last Sunday’s elections may just have proven its remarkable resilience.

“In many ways, the combination of Hong Kong with China has been like a marriage between two near-strangers, one of whom was brought to the altar without being asked their opinion, and where the power balance is fatally skewed.”

Invented by China’s former paramount leader Deng Xiaoping for China to govern Hong Kong, it was a bold and imperial idea. By allowing Hong Kong to retain its partially democratic system and freedom of expression, it would let the far away “province” govern itself, as long it remained loyal to the center.

“Leaders in Beijing are obsessed with control, and national identity in China is increasingly defined as supporting the Communist Party.”

The current Chinese government has more desire to control and more technology to do so than Deng or the emperors used to, but Hong Kongers are nevertheless guaranteed the right to vote in partial elections, freedom of speech and press, and an independent judiciary, rights citizens on the mainland only wish for.

Exclusive: punditfromanotherplanet Hong Kong Bureau

Exclusive: punditfromanotherplanet Hong Kong Bureau

“The sudden, unlawful arrest of dissidents is no surprise in China, but nothing of the kind had ever happened in Hong Kong.”

In many ways, the combination of Hong Kong with China has been like a marriage between two near-strangers, one of whom was brought to the altar without being asked their opinion, and where the power balance is fatally skewed. Hong Kong, with its long-held democratic aspirations and millions of residents who had fled Communist rule on the mainland, was never going to be an easy addition to China. Leaders in Beijing are obsessed with control, and national identity in China is increasingly defined as supporting the Communist Party.

[Read the full story here, at Quartz]

Unsurprisingly, “One Country Two Systems” has been under severe stress in recent years. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Faily McWorseThanCarter Abroad: POTUS’ Full Speech To People Of Laos

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks in Laos and delivers an adress to the people of Laos. He is the first US President to visit the country.

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…He also accused Americans of being isolated and ignorant because the United States is such a big country.

“The United States is and can be a great force for good in the world. But because we’re such a big country, we haven’t always had to know about other parts of the world,” he said. “If you’re in the United States, sometimes you can feel lazy and think we’re so big we don’t have to really know anything about other people.”

Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Hong Kong Student Protest Leader Wins Government Seat 

Candidates from new parties who want greater autonomy for Hong Kong from China won legislative seats in Sunday’s vote–the city’s first major elections since large pro-democracy protests in 2014.

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No Respect for POTUS in Asia

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The president emerged from a smaller staircase in the belly of the aircraft, and many saw it as a deliberate sign of disrespect by the Chinese.

 reports: On President Obama’s final trip to Asia, his impending lame-duck status is showing.

Mr. Obama, who arrived in Laos late Monday night to become the first U.S. president ever to visit the Southeast Asian country, is encountering more than his usual share of friction and confrontation on his 10th trip to the region.

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It started with his arrival at the airport in China, where Chinese officials failed to provide a portable staircase for Mr. Obama to disembark from the upper door of Air Force One with the typical grandiose visibility befitting a visiting head of state. Instead, the president emerged from a smaller staircase in the belly of the aircraft, and many saw it as a deliberate sign of disrespect by the Chinese.

Republican nominee Donald Trump said he would have refused to meet with Chinese officials if they treated him like they treated Mr. Obama. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Krauthammer: China and Russia Think the U.S. under Obama ‘Does Not Earn Any of Their Respect’ 

Taking a question about the conspicuous absence of a mobile staircase for Air Force One when Obama landed in China, Charles Krauthammer said this indignity was more than merely a “microaggression” for the experienced Chinese.

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Two Years After the Occupy Protests, Hong Kong’s Youth Made Big Gains in a Record-Breaking Election 

At least six seats have gone to new politicians allied with Occupy and other anti-Beijing protests. Some replaced established pro-democratic politicians, who have been fighting for democracy for three decades in Hong Kong. Of the 70 seats, 55 have been announced, with 22 going to pro-democracy candidates.

Isabella Steger reports: Voters in Hong Kong showed they’re willing to put their future in the hands of politicians as young as 23, casting aside some of the most well known faces in local politics in the process.

Hong Kongers turned up in record numbers for the polls on Sunday (Sept. 4) to vote for members of the new Legislative Council. The council has long been controlled by pro-Beijing politicians, but holding on to veto power with one third of the seats is necessary for the opposition to push back against proposed legislation that could tighten the Chinese Communist Party’s over Hong Kong.

As the final results continued to roll in on Monday afternoon—counting was delayed because long queues forced polling stations to close well after the cut-off time—the after-effects of 2014’s Occupy protests, or Umbrella Movement, could already be viscerally felt.

Read the rest of this entry »


Why Anti-China Sentiment is On The Rise in Hong Kong 

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Elections for the Hong Kong Legislative Council were held Sunday with near-record turnout in the city. Many are voting for younger, more democratic candidates who want to become more independent from increasingly authoritative mainland China.

Weston Williams reports: In 1997, when Hong Kong underwent its “handover” from the British government to China, the deal carried with it the promise that, for the next 50 years at least, the former British colony would be largely autonomous from the Chinese mainland. The historic agreement created an unusual bond between the largely democratic island and the authoritarian communist state of which it is now a part.

In recent years, however, the handover that created “one country, two systems” has been called into question, as mainland China has increasingly tried to impose its will on the city.

On Sunday, these questions were brought to the forefront as Hong Kong voters turned out in near-record numbers to decide this term’s members of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong (LegCo). Pro-democracy candidates hope to win enough seats to resist the pro-Beijing establishment in the first election following the student-led “Umbrella Movement” protests in 2014.

[Read the full story here, at CSMonitor.com]

At least by Chinese standards, LegCo is a significantly democratic institution. The council consists of 70 seats that accept both pro-Beijing politicians as well as the “pan-democrats,” politicians who support the idea that the civil liberties enjoyed under the British can be preserved only through democratic action. But of those 70 seats, only 40 are directly elected by citizens of Hong Kong. According to the Economist, the remaining 30 seats belong to “functional constituencies,” which are chosen by groups representing business interests, professionals, and rural communities. The design of the constituencies has ensured that the majority of LegCo legislators have been pro-Beijing since the handover.

According to Reuters, Hong Kong’s pan-democratic opposition currently controls just 27 seats in LegCo, giving it the power to block policies and some laws, but little else. While Hong Kong enjoys a great deal more freedom and democratic leeway than mainland China, many citizens feel the Beijing holds too much sway in city elections. Read the rest of this entry »


U.S. Surrender: Internet Giveaway to the U.N.?

If the U.S. abdicates internet stewardship, the United Nations might take control.

renocol_GordonCrovitzL. Gordon Crovitz writes: When the Obama administration announced its plan to give up U.S. protection of the internet, it promised the United Nations would never take control. But because of the administration’s naiveté or arrogance, U.N. control is the likely result if the U.S. gives up internet stewardship as planned at midnight on Sept. 30.

“It’s shocking the administration admits it has no plan for how Icann retains its antitrust exemption. The reason Icann can operate the entire World Wide Web root zone is that it has the status of a legal monopolist, stemming from its contract with the Commerce Department that makes Icann an ‘instrumentality’ of government.”

On Friday Americans for Limited Government received a response to its Freedom of Information Act request for “all records relating to legal and policy analysis . . . concerning antitrust issues for the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers” if the U.S. gives up oversight. The administration replied it had “conducted a thorough search for responsive records within its possession and control and found no records responsive to your request.”

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“As the administration spent the past two years preparing to give up the contract with Icann, it also stopped actively overseeing the group. That allowed Icann to abuse its monopoly over internet domains, which earns it hundreds of millions of dollars a year.”

It’s shocking the administration admits it has no plan for how Icann retains its antitrust exemption. The reason Icann can operate the entire World Wide Web root zone is that it has the status of a legal monopolist, stemming from its contract with the Commerce Department that makes Icann an “instrumentality” of government.

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“Without the U.S. contract, Icann would seek to be overseen by another governmental group so as to keep its antitrust exemption. Authoritarian regimes have already proposed Icann become part of the U.N. to make it easier for them to censor the internet globally.”

Antitrust rules don’t apply to governments or organizations operating under government control. In a 1999 case, the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the monopoly on internet domains because the Commerce Department had set “explicit terms” of the contract relating to the “government’s policies regarding the proper administration” of the domain system.

[Read the full story here, at WSJ]

Without the U.S. contract, Icann would seek to be overseen by another governmental group so as to keep its antitrust exemption. Authoritarian regimes have already proposed Icann become part of the U.N. to make it easier for them to censor the internet globally. So much for the Obama pledge that the U.S. would never be replaced by a “government-led or an inter-governmental organization solution.”

Shutterstock

Shutterstock

“So much for the Obama pledge that the U.S. would never be replaced by a ‘government-led or an inter-governmental organization solution’.”

Rick Manning, president of Americans for Limited Government, called it “simply stunning” that the “politically blinded Obama administration missed the obvious point that Icann loses its antitrust shield should the government relinquish control.” Read the rest of this entry »


SCMP: Special Police Units to Prevent Trouble When Hongkongers Vote

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South China Morning Post reports: Hong Kong police will hold unprecedented election security drills next week ahead of the Legislative Council polls, and mobilise all regional response teams set up after the 2014 Occupy protests to tackle social or political disturbances, the Post has learned.

“We will discuss tactics to be used during the elections. They need to update their knowledge about the latest equipment. So that everyone is on the same page about the operation. We learned a lesson from the Mong Kok riot. We want no blunders.”

Some 2,000 officers in five Regional Response Contingents drawn from the elite Police Tactical Unit and Emergency Units, among others, will be on standby for any mob violence on September 4, when more than 3.7 million eligible voters fan out across 595 polling stations to vote in the city’s most critical elections to date.

A senior police source told the Post that the risk level during the election period was “not very high”, based on initial assessments, but the force would not take any chances, especially given concerns about protest action by radical localists.

“The five regional teams will stand by during this period and will be deployed immediately in case of any trouble. They know their districts the best and have laid out clear manpower arrangements. A heavy police presence could put pressure on voters and impact the way they vote. So we have to be very careful.”

“Potential threats are there, especially with two returning officers receiving threatening letters just recently after disqualifying localist hopefuls,” the source said.

“The five regional teams will stand by during this period and will be deployed immediately in case of any trouble. They know their districts the best and have laid out clear manpower arrangements.” But the source also noted: “A heavy police presence could put pressure on voters and impact the way they vote. So we have to be very careful.”

The backlash so far has not been violent against the government’s recent decision to disqualify Legco candidates who advocate independence for Hong Kong, but some election officials responsible have received threats by mail.

The manpower arrangements were adopted as part of lessons learned during the 2014 civil disobedience campaign and the Mong Kok riot in February. The force established the response teams in the Hong Kong Island, Kowloon East and West, and New Territories North and South regions last year. Read the rest of this entry »


The Umbrella Movement Fights Back

The run-up to the Sept. 4 election for Legislative Council is getting tense, and the governments of both Hong Kongand Beijing are watching with keen interest. 

For the first time, a crop of fresh-faced candidates who cut their political teeth during the pro-democracy Umbrella Movement in 2014 are hoping to bring to the lawmaking body their battle to emancipate Hong Kong from Beijing’s increasingly authoritarian control.The activists, most of whom are in their 20s, no longer believe in the promises of the “one country, two systems” principle set out in the Basic Law. Even after paralyzing major traffic hubs in the city for 79 days in 2014, they failed to obtain any concession to democratize the rules by which the head of Hong Kong’s government, the chief executive, is nominated and elected. They concluded from the experience that democracy is impossible in Hong Kong as long as the territory remains under Chinese sovereignty. Read the rest of this entry »