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Hong Kong Bookstore Disappearances Shock Publishing Industry 

In a frenetic commercial district of Hong Kong, sandwiched between shops selling vitamins and clothing to tourists, the Causeway Bay Bookstore touts itself as the authority on Chinese politics.

Juliana Liu reports: The tiny shop specialises in selling gossipy paperbacks that are highly critical of China’s leadership. They are particularly popular with mainland Chinese visitors who cannot buy the banned books at home.

But two weeks ago, four men who work for the bookstore and its affiliated publishing house went missing. Their colleagues believe they have been detained by Chinese officials because of their work.

One of their associates, Mr Lee, told BBC News: “I suspect all of them were detained. Four people went missing at the same time.”

Among them is Gui Minhai, a China-born Swedish national who is the owner of Mighty Current, the publishing house that owns the bookstore.

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Forthcoming book

According to Mr Lee, who declines to give his full name for fear of reprisals by Chinese officials, the publisher last communicated with colleagues via email on 15 October from the city of Pattaya in Thailand, where he owns a holiday home.

Mr Gui had written to tell printers to prepare for a new book and that he would send the material shortly. He has not been seen since.

The others are Lui Bo, general manager of Mighty Current, and Cheung Jiping, the business manager of the publishing house. Both have wives who live in Shenzhen, and were last seen there.

Lui Bo, general manager of Mighty Current publishing house

Lui Bo, general manager of Mighty Current publishing house, is among those missing

The fourth missing man is Lam Wingkei, manager of the bookstore, who was last seen in Hong Kong.

“I am quite certain that the main target was Mr Gui. They wanted to prevent him from publishing that book,” said Mr Lee, who was not privy to what the publisher had been writing about.

[Read the full text here, at BBC News]

“I think the others were taken because they thought the contents of the book had already been distributed.”

‘Deeply troubling’

Mr Lee said Mr Lam’s wife had filed a missing persons report with the Hong Kong police, who have confirmed the case to the BBC.

Calls to China’s Foreign Ministry office in Hong Kong have gone unanswered. Attempts to reach the relatives of the four men have been unsuccessful.

Banned books for sale at the Causeway Bay Bookstore

The tiny shop sells paperbacks that are highly critical of China’s leadership and banned in mainland China

The tiny shop sells paperbacks that are highly critical of China’s leadership and banned in mainland China

Sources close to the families fear international attention may hurt more than help.

Rights groups have expressed concern about the disappearances.

“We think that if the information is true, it is a deeply troubling case and it will have serious implications about the deterioration of freedom of expression in Hong Kong,” said Amnesty International‘s China researcher Patrick Poon.

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Government influence?

Freedom of the press is guaranteed in Hong Kong. But many in the publishing business say the Chinese government has begun to exert its influence in the industry. Read the rest of this entry »

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Disillusionment Among Hong Kong’s Youth Fuels Uneasy Separatist Longings

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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 »


Occupy Hong Kong: Six Months Later

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Hong Kong Leader Singles Out College Magazine For Helping Cause ‘Anarchy’

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This is not the first time that HKU, among the city’s most prestigious universities, has come under fire from the Hong Kong government and Beijing since the outbreak of student-led protests in September, which followed a decree from Beijing that Hong Kong should elect its leader from a handful of pre-screened candidates.

Isabella Steger reports: A relatively unknown student magazine at the University of Hong Kong may get a surge in readership after Hong Kong’s leader made a reference to the publication, warning that support for ideas it propagates could lead to “anarchy” in the city.

In his annual policy speech, Leung Chun-ying kicked off his address with a series of stern warnings against further attempts by Hong Kong people to challenge Beijing’s authority on the issue of constitutional reform. He specifically named ideas advocating self-determination for Hong Kong published in Undergrad, a monthly Chinese-language magazine published by HKU’s student union.

“The protest showed Beijing that Hong Kong people were not loyal so Beijing ratcheted up interference in Hong Kong, but it also catalyzed a new wave of native ideology.”

— From the article in Undergrad

Saying that Hong Kong problems should be solved by Hong Kong people “violates the constitution,” said Mr. Leung, warning that such slogans could help throw the city into anarchy.

“Regardless of the likelihood of Hong Kong independence…we must fight to the end for the freedom to at least talk about it.”

— Keyvin Wong, a former assistant editor in chief of Undergrad

Under the One Country, Two Systems framework, Hong Kong is supposed to have a high degree of autonomy, but many in the city fear growing encroachment from Beijing. Mr. Leung said Hong Kong’s autonomy is not absolute.

Joshua Wong, the 18 year-old leader of another student protest group Scholarism, called Mr. Leung’s reference to the magazine “stupid” because it will only serve to boost interest in the publication.

This is not the first time that HKU, among the city’s most prestigious universities, has come under fire from the Hong Kong government and Beijing since the outbreak of student-led protests in September, which followed a decree from Beijing that Hong Kong should elect its leader from a handful of pre-screened candidates. Read the rest of this entry »


Hong Kong Protesters Considering Retreat

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HONG KONG— Mia Lamar and Isabella Steger reporting: Student protesters demanding greater democracy for Hong Kong said Thursday they are more seriously weighing a retreat from the roads they have occupied for more than two months.

The remarks were the latest sign of the narrowing options that the protesters face as police have increased their efforts to remove the demonstrators from the streets and public support for the occupation of busy city thoroughfares has faded.

“Occupying here doesn’t put enough pressure on the government. If it put enough pressure, we wouldn’t be here two months….In the end, we didn’t get what we want, but this movement inspired people that we can’t live like this anymore.”

—  18-year-old student Timothy Sun

The Hong Kong Federation of Students, a group of university students at the helm of the protests, and Scholarism, a teenage student protest group, could issue a decision over whether to retreat from the encampments within the next week, according to student leaders.

A street cleaner pushes her cart between rows of tents at the pro-democracy movement's main protest site in Hong Kong's Admiralty district. Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

A street cleaner pushes her cart between rows of tents at the pro-democracy movement’s main protest site in Hong Kong’s Admiralty district. Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Yvonne Leung, a spokeswoman for HKFS, made the remarks on a local radio program. Eighteen-year-old Scholarism leader Joshua Wong separately told The Wall Street Journal that his group, which works closely with HKFS, is also considering a retreat. Mr. Wong is in the third day of a hunger strike, along with four other teen members of his group.

“For me, I think it’s time to adjust tactics. Retreat doesn’t necessarily mean failure.”

— Student leader

Protesters are calling for the right of citizens to select their own candidates for the city’s top leadership post, not those vetted by Beijing as per a decision handed down by the National People’s Congress in August. Those calls have been rejected by the government as nonnegotiable under Hong Kong’s Basic Law, a “mini-constitution” held with Beijing. The city will vote in 2017 for its next chief executive, a five-year appointment. Read the rest of this entry »


It’s On: The Clowns Who Organized Occupy Wall Street Are Now Suing Each Other

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WASHINGTON — Activists who organized the dormant Occupy Wall Street movement are suing another activist for control of the main Twitter account, and one of the plaintiffs says there was no other option but to turn to litigation to solve the dispute.

“We can either go and beat him up or we can go to court.”

— Marisa Holmes, video editor, part of the core organizing team of Occupy

The conflict centers around @OccupyWallStNYC, one of the main Twitter feeds that distributed information during the movement’s heyday in 2011. The OWS Media Group filed a lawsuit against organizer Justin Wedes on Wednesday, which is also the third anniversary of the beginning of Occupy Wall Street. The group, led by activist Marisa Holmes, is seeking control of the Twitter account as well as $500,000 in damages.

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The Twitter account, which used to be shared among several activists, is now under the control of Wedes, who explained his decision to take over the Twitter feed in a blog post in August:

A thread about “self-promotion” became just another shaming session. If we start from a place of assuming bad intentions – i.e. discouraging “self-promotion” over encouraging solid, relevant content – we will end up with rules that shame rather than empower. Group members took on the task of limiting others to “1 to 2 tweets per day” (or week) on a topic, a form of censorship that would never have been allowed in the earlier days of the boat. I had to say enough!

“We can either go and beat him up or we can go to court,” Holmes, a video editor who was part of the core organizing team of Occupy, told BuzzFeed News. “And quite frankly if we go and beat him up then we could end up with countersuits against us, and that puts us in a more damaging position and we don’t really want to do that anyway.” Read the rest of this entry »


Occupy Ft Collins activist found guilty of arson, caught by his Rolex watch


Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces by Radley Balko

”Are cops constitutional?” It’s a bold and provocative question, and the more Balko (Overkill) delves into the history of law enforcement, the more that question seems worth considering. And yet it’s not the mere presence of a police force that concerns the Cato Institute policy analyst (he readily concedes that one is necessary to any functional society); it’s the force’s gradual militarization that bothers him and many who’ve found themselves on the wrong side of a SWAT team. Our country’s “founding statesmen were adamant about the dangers of armed, standing forces,” but Balko argues that we have strayed far from their vision. From the creation of the first SWAT teams in response to the violent riots of the 1960s, to the literal war on drugs, the much-publicized crackdowns on the Occupy movements, and the increasingly frequent deployments of heavily armed units to address minor incidents (underage drinking, anyone? unlicensed barbers?), the list of questionable tactics and militarized raids has grown longer with each passing year, especially in the wake of 9/11. The problem, Balko insists, is that we “tend not to take notice of such long-developing trends, even when they directly affect us. The first and perhaps largest barrier to halting police militarization has probably been awareness.” After reading Balko, you’ll be aware, alright—and scared.

via Publisher’s Weekly