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 »
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 »
China’s Nationalist Fervor & Fear-Mongering Paranoid Xenophobic Bloodthirsty Racist West-Bashing Reaches Dangerous New LevelsPosted: August 11, 2016
This kind of propaganda is highly effective and gives licence to ordinary people to indulge their most primitive prejudices. By convincing its people that many of China’s ills are the work of foreign spies and conspiracies, Beijing could eventually be forced to hit back against such perceived enemies in order to placate popular outrage.
Across much of the world, fear-mongering and xenophobia are creeping into public and political discourse.
In liberal democracies with traditions of free speech, vociferous denunciations of these attitudes can act as a counterweight. But in authoritarian countries where alternative narratives are forbidden, official attempts to demonise foreigners and “others” can be especially dangerous. In the past week, the Chinese government has launched several viral online videos that blame “western hostile forces” for a host of ills and supposed conspiracies within China.
“In the past, most foreigners in China enjoyed a certain level of unstated protection and privilege. In business and in everyday life ‘foreign friends’ were welcomed and often treated with kid gloves by the authorities. Some of them undoubtedly took advantage of this to flout the rules or behave badly without fear of retribution.”
The videos are crude but exceptionally powerful in their simplicity and emotional appeal. One video promoted by the Supreme People’s Procuratorate and Communist Youth League, two of the most powerful state bodies, begins with heartbreaking scenes of orphans and victims of the wars in Iraq and Syria, and then jumps to an assertion that the west, led by the US, is trying to subject China to the same fate.
“Today, that informal immunity seems to have vanished. In its place are hints of a backlash that many long-term foreign residents will tell you can be very ugly, ranging from casual discrimination and racial slurs, to physical altercations that take on a racist dimension.”
“Under the banner of ‘democracy, freedom and rule of law’ western forces are constantly trying to create societal contradictions in order to overthrow the [Chinese] government,” the subtitles read over pictures of democracy protesters in Hong Kong and President Barack Obama meeting the Dalai Lama.
According to the video, western plots and the “dark shadow of the Stars and Stripes” are also to blame for everything from attacks on Chinese peacekeepers in Africa, to farmers’ riots in China’s hinterland, to the Tibetan independence movement. The effect is heightened by ominous music and juxtaposition of chaos elsewhere with heroic images of Chinese soldiers and weaponry.
“In the past week, the Chinese government has launched several viral online videos that blame ‘western hostile forces’ for a host of ills and supposed conspiracies within China. The videos are crude but exceptionally powerful in their simplicity and emotional appeal.”
In some ways this is a mirror of the populist, jingoistic tilts happening elsewhere in the world. While not a direct reaction to the assertive Trumpism emanating from the US or the rise of rightwing nationalism in Europe, some of the same collective animus is taking hold in China, partly at the instigation of the ruling Communist party.
“According to the video, western plots and the ‘dark shadow of the Stars and Stripes’ are also to blame for everything from attacks on Chinese peacekeepers in Africa, to farmers’ riots in China’s hinterland, to the Tibetan independence movement.“
Many of those propagating this message are the shallowest of nationalists — the kind of party apparatchiks who are diversifying their (often ill-gotten) assets abroad as fast as they can and sending their children to study in Australia, the US, Canada or the UK.
“The effect is heightened by ominous music and juxtaposition of chaos elsewhere with heroic images of Chinese soldiers and weaponry.”
Indeed, one of the main producers of the video on western plots is a 29-year-old PhD student from China now living in Canberra, Australia. Meanwhile, the party has called for the rejection of western values and concepts in favour of Marxism — an ideology named after a German living in London and refracted into China via Moscow. Read the rest of this entry »
Since Xi Jinping came came to power nearly four years ago, hundreds of activists, lawyers, writers, publishers and employees of nongovernmental groups have been rounded up. Many more have been threatened and intimidated. Internet news sites have been ordered to stop publishing reports from sources that aren’t sanctioned by the state.
Julie Making reports: For five days last week, the confessions poured forth from Chinese human rights activists and attorneys rounded up last summer and held incommunicado for a year. Four men, facing trial for subversion, cowered before a court where they were represented by lawyers they didn’t choose.
A fifth person, knowing her husband was detained and teenage son under surveillance, declared her wrongs in a videotaped interview.
“As an old timer who’s been studying China since the Mao era, I have to say it’s the worst I’ve seen since then. It’s very discouraging.”
— Susan L. Shirk, chair of the 21st Century China Program at UC San Diego
China is in the midst of what many overseas scholars say is its harshest crackdown on human rights and civil society in decades. Since Xi Jinping came came to power nearly four years ago, hundreds of activists, lawyers, writers, publishers and employees of nongovernmental groups have been rounded up. Many more have been threatened and intimidated. Internet news sites have been ordered to stop publishing reports from sources that aren’t sanctioned by the state.
“I want to remind everybody to wipe their eyes and clearly see the ugly faces of hostile forces overseas. Never be fooled by their ideas of ‘democracy,’ ‘human rights’ and ‘benefiting the public.’”
— Zhai Yasmin, one of the defendants
Even as China has been touting its efforts to boost the “rule of law,” some critics of the government have vanished under mysterious circumstances in places like Thailand and Hong Kong, only to surface months later in Chinese custody, claiming rather unbelievably they had turned themselves in voluntarily. Many of those detained have appeared on state-run TV confessing to crimes before they have had a day in court.
“Xi likes to underscore his status as the new Mao Tse-tung by not giving a damn about what the major Western leaders, authors or media are saying about China.”
“As an old timer who’s been studying China since the Mao era, I have to say it’s the worst I’ve seen since then,” said Susan L. Shirk, chair of the 21st Century China Program at UC San Diego. “It’s very discouraging.”
The activists and lawyer prosecuted last week confessed to having illegally organized protests and drawn attention to sensitive cases at the behest of “foreign forces” in order to “smear the [Communist] party and attack the Chinese government.” They had erred in accepting interviews with international journalists, they added, and traveled abroad to participate in interfaith conferences and law seminars infiltrated by separatists and funded by enemies of China. Read the rest of this entry »
Julie Making reports: A prominent Chinese lawyer who had taken on sensitive, high-profile cases involving activists and victims of a tainted infant formula scandal was sentenced Thursday to seven years in prison on charges of subversion.
“This wave of trials against lawyers and activists are a political charade. Their fate was sealed before they stepped into the courtroom and there was no chance that they would ever receive a fair trial.”
Zhou Shifeng, a human-rights lawyer and director of the Beijing Fengrui Law firm, was arrested in July 2015 in a wide-reaching crackdown that saw hundreds of people detained.
“The Chinese authorities appear intent on silencing anyone who raises legitimate questions about human rights and uses the legal system to seek redress.”
State-run media accused him of operating a “criminal syndicate” that masterminded serious illegal activities to incite “social disorder” all in the name of making money.
Authorities accused Zhou of drawing unwarranted amounts of public attention to “sensitive cases” by publishing information about them online and encouraging people to appear outside courthouses where trials of such cases were being held.
Fengrui gained a reputation as a firm that would take on the most difficult, and from the government’s perspective, nettlesome cases. Outspoken artist Ai Weiwei turned to the firm when he was slapped with a tax evasion case; the firm also represented Ilham Tohti, a scholar from the Uighur ethnic minority who was accused of separatism and sentenced to life in prison in 2014. And when contaminated baby formula sickened thousands and led to multiple deaths in 2008, Fengrui represented families seeking redress. Read the rest of this entry »
In a city where land is everything, a housing crunch is brewing.
Annie Zheng reports: According to a new study by think tank Our Hong Kong Foundation, the amount of new, developable land in the former British colony is shrinking. Add in a growing population that will outpace the supply of new apartment units, and there’s a pressing need for the creation of more land, says the think tank, led by former Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa.
“We see a substantial shortage in land and housing resources,” said William Tsang, senior researcher and author of the study. “The government is increasingly relying on changing the use of old land. This means the amount of buildable land is dwindling. When that runs out, what’s next?”
The study found that in 2012, 73% of the nine million square feet of public land for bidding was reclaimed land; by 2015 that had dropped to 50% of the 7.8 million square feet on offer. As a result, the government is relying more on selling converted forms of land, such as work sites, slopes and former staff quarters.
Public land sales in the form of 50-year land grants are a major source of revenue for the government and one way developers secure land on which to build. In recent years, a flurry of new developers including mainland Chinese have entered the bidding process as the government has put up smaller and more pieces of land. Read the rest of this entry »
Hong Kong stocks dived on Friday morning after vote counting indicated a win for the “Leave” camp in the referendum on Britain leaving the European Union.
The Hang Seng index nosedived 4.67 per cent or 974.22 points, trading at 20,132.02 at Friday’s morning close. At one point, the index lost 1,023.34 points or 4.9 per cent. The H-share Index also fell 4.58 per cent or 402.21 points to 8,382.86.
Pound sterling fell sharply by more than 12 per cent in morning trade to its lowest level in 30 years on the Brexit news, with analysts believing the currency has no hope to bounce back in the near term.
Chinese yuan also fell to a five year low with onshore yuan down 0.54 per cent to trade at 6.6101 before bouncing back to 6.6091 yuan per US dollar at 12.30am, while the offshore yuan down 0.79 per cent to trade at 6.6360 yuan per US dollar. Read the rest of this entry »
The city has gone to great lengths to contain protests during Mr. Zhang’s visit, but pro-democracy messages have slipped through.
BEIJING — Jason Lam reports: For more than a minute on Tuesday night, nine-digit numbers were displayed across the facade of Hong Kong’s tallest skyscraper, the International Commerce Center. Towering above Victoria Harbor, the glowing white digits blinked against the night sky: 979,012,493… 979,012,492… 979,012,491…
“Due to the high level of security, there’s almost no channel for the Hong Kong people to voice and protest.”
The seemingly innocuous numbers contained a subversive statement. The animation is a countdown of the seconds until when the “one country, two systems” framework — a guarantee that Hong Kong, a former British colony, would keep its civil liberties and a high degree of autonomy for 50 years after its return to Chinese sovereignty in 1997 — is set to expire.
“Most of the animations shown on the I.C.C. are ad-like, meaningless videos. We wanted to show something relevant to the social situation of Hong Kong.”
The artists planned the display to coincide with a three-day visit to Hong Kong by Zhang Dejiang, a member of China’s governing Politburo Standing Committee, which began on Tuesday. Mr. Zhang is the highest-ranking official from mainland China to visit Hong Kong since the pro-democracy demonstrations in 2014 known as the Umbrella Movement.
The city has gone to great lengths to contain protests during Mr. Zhang’s visit, but pro-democracy messages have slipped through. At least seven members of the League of Social Democrats party were arrested on Tuesday in connection with at least two banners appearing in public — one on a hillside, the other along the route taken by Mr. Zhang’s motorcade — reading “I Want Genuine Universal Suffrage” and “End Chinese Communist Party Dictatorship.”
“Due to the high level of security, there’s almost no channel for the Hong Kong people to voice and protest,” Mr. Wong said. Read the rest of this entry »
New York judge bans eight parties from sending promotional materials, including a company with a branch in Sheung Wan.
US authorities have shut down a long-running international “psychic” mail fraud ring linked to a Hong Kong company that cheated over a million Americans out of more than US$180 million.
“This widespread scam targeted more than one million Americans, many of whom were elderly or in financial distress.”
— Benjamin C. Mizer, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division
It was understood Hong Kong police have not received any complaints about such a scam or the local firm, Destiny Research Center Limited.
A federal judge from the Eastern District of New York approved a consent decree on Monday, permanently banning eight parties, including Destiny Research Center and its president, Martin Dettling of Zurich, from using the US mail system to send ads, promotional materials and solicitations on behalf of self-styled psychics, astrologers and clairvoyants.
Since 2000, the defendants allegedly preyed upon vulnerable Americans’ superstitions and sent them over 56 million letters through the US mail purported to have been written by French psychics Maria Duval and Patrick Guerin. The letters predicted the recipients would become rich through means such as winning the lottery if they bought products and services to secure good fortune.
One such letter touted how Duval and Guerin shared “clear visions” that recipients would come into “massive sums of money on games of chance” if they paid US$50 for a “mysterious talisman” and a copy of “My Invaluable Guide to My New Life”. Read the rest of this entry »
A record net $674 billion left China last year, the International Institute of Finance estimates. A further $175 billion left China in the first quarter.
Saint Chatterjee reports: Hong Kong is conducting a multi-pronged customs, shipping and financial sector crackdown against so-called fake trade invoicing that allows billions of dollars of capital to leave China illegally.
Hong Kong’s central bank told Reuters it has beefed up its scrutiny of banks’ trade financing operations, while customs officials are doing more random checks on shipments crossing border posts and conducting raids on warehouses to ensure the authenticity of goods, senior officials working in shipping, logistics and banking said. The head of a logistics company said surprise customs inspections at Hong Kong border posts had doubled.
The sources declined to be identified given the sensitivity of the issues.
They said the increased efforts began this year and reflected concerns about billions of dollars in illicit cash authorities suspect are being channeled through Hong Kong following a stock market crash in China last year.
“Examinations and investigations reflect one of the strongest trends we are seeing now in the financial sector,” said Urszula McCormack, a partner at law firm King & Wood Mallesons, which helped co-author a report published by The Hong Kong Association of Banks in February that highlighted shipping as a sector where fake invoicing can thrive.
China has become increasingly concerned about capital outflows since the middle of last year when Chinese rushed to get money offshore for safekeeping or to invest following the stock market slump and unexpected yuan devaluation.
Hong Kong is the most popular route, analysts say, because of its proximity to China.
Chinese authorities have tried to staunch the outflows by tightening cross-border investment quotas, stepping up enforcement action of existing rules and restricting residents from buying financial products, such as insurance policies, offered in Hong Kong. But the trade channel had largely been left untouched given the complexity and magnitude of transactions involved.
A record net $674 billion left China last year, the International Institute of Finance estimates. A further $175 billion left China in the first quarter. China had been a long-term net importer of dollars. Read the rest of this entry »
A Chinese news portal’s publication of a mysterious letter calling for President Xi Jinping’s resignation appears to have triggered a hunt for those responsible, in a sign of Beijing’s anxiety over bubbling dissent within the Communist Party. As WSJ’s Chun Han Wong reports:
The letter, whose authorship remains unclear, appeared on the eve of China’s legislative session in early March, the most public political event of the year.
Since then, at least four managers and editors with Wujie Media—whose news website published the missive—and about 10 people from a related company providing technical support have gone missing, according to their friends and associates, who say the disappearances are linked to a government probe into the letter….(more)
Beijing (AFP) – The website of the South China Morning Post, a Hong Kong newspaper being bought by Internet giant Alibaba, has become inaccessible in China during a series of high-level government meetings in Beijing.
Attempts by AFP in China on Friday to open the newspaper’s English and Chinese-language websites returned only error messages saying that the pages could not be displayed.
The scmp.com website was blocked starting on March 3, according to the security website GreatFire.org, which monitors online censorship in China.
China’s Communist Party oversees a vast censorship system — dubbed the Great Firewall — that aggressively blocks sites or snuffs out Internet and TV content and commentary on topics considered sensitive, such as Beijing’s human rights record and criticisms of the government.
Popular social network sites such as Facebook and Twitter are inaccessible in the country, as is Youtube.
Several Western news organisations have accused China of blocking access to their websites in the past, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg and Reuters. Read the rest of this entry »
‘Virus of the Mind’! ‘Ten Years‘: The Controversial Hong Kong Independent Film that China Doesn’t Want You to SeePosted: March 10, 2016
Communist Party mouthpiece Global Times has called ‘Ten Years,’ comprising vignettes that reveal a dystopic vision of Hong Kong’s future in which political freedoms have been eroded by China’s control, a “virus of the mind.”
Patrick Brzeski reports: The most talked-about recent film phenomenon in Hong Kong centers on the territory’s tiniest local release. The dark, provocative indie drama Ten Years was produced on a microbudget of $75,000 and opened in December at a single cinema in Hong Kong’s Yau Ma Tei district. A surprise run of sellout screenings resulted in the movie beating the local per-screen average of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which opened the following day.
Ten Years comprises five shorts — all set in the year 2025, and each directed by a different Hong Kong filmmaker — that explore ways in which life in the territory might change during the next decade. Collectively, the vignettes reveal a dystopic vision of Hong Kong’s future in which human rights and political freedoms in the semiautonomous territory have been eroded by the incursion of mainland China’s control.
The film struck an immediate chord among a Hong Kong populace worried about its future.
“Many in the audience told us they hadn’t gone to the cinema to watch a movie for a long time,” says Jevons Au Man-Kit, one of the film’s five directors. “But they came to support Ten Years. It was more than just a movie to them — it’s about their home.” Read the rest of this entry »
Te-Ping Chen reports: The case of a Beijing judge gunned down late last week — the latest in a slew of physical attacks against the profession — has triggered horror and introspection among China’s legal community, which is already facing problems of morale.
According to the Supreme People’s Court’s verified Weibo account, Ma Caiyun, 38, was shot and killed on Friday by two attackers. One of the attackers, the court said, was an individual whose post-divorce property settlement case had previously been heard by Ms. Ma. The duo killed themselves after the attack on Ms. Ma, the court said.
According to the Beijing police, the perpetrators also attacked several others, including a man married to one of the attackers’ ex-wives. The man died in the assault, police said, adding that the gun used in the attack was homemade.
China’s judges have faced violent assaults before, including physical beatings, knifings and more. Last September, a 43-year-old man involved in a Hubei labor dispute, unhappy with the verdict, stabbed four judges.
On social media, numerous judges and lawyers mourned and shared news of Ms. Ma’s death. While such postings were at first the subject of assiduous deletions by censors, on Sunday, the country’s highest court publicly confirmed her death. Read the rest of this entry »
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 »