Archive for ‘Hong Kong’


Across China: “Sino-British Street” seeks rejuvenation

SHENZHEN, May 25 (Xinhua) — A southern Chinese trade hub boasting special links with Hong Kong is hoping the enhanced efforts to build the g will revitalize its tourism industry and local economy.

Chung Ying Street, or “Sino-British Street,” straddles the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and the mainland city of Shenzhen and has been a special zone where local residents from both sides are allowed to cross the border freely.

It was once a boomtown popular among mainland visitors, who entered with a special permit to snatch duty-free goods from Hong Kong, but fell into decline after travel to Hong Kong was made easier for mainlanders.

The street derived from a small village, which was divided by the “Sino-British” borderline after Hong Kong became a British colony in the 19th century.

Sha Jintao, a 73-year-old resident, remembers how the street became a boomtown as China opened up and tightened links between the mainland and Hong Kong.

“When I was a child, there were only a few farmers and fishermen living on the mainland side of the street, while the Hong Kong side bustled with shops and businesses,” Sha said.

But as Shenzhen rose as a forefront of China’s reform and opening up starting in the late 1970s, the street became the center of changes. New shops and factories propped up with the inflow of Hong Kong investments, and the fancy commodities from its Hong Kong stores wooed in large numbers of mainland tourists.

Historical records show the number of tourists flocking into the 250-meter-long street peaked at 100,000 a day in the 1980s. As many as 89 jewelry stores opened in its heyday and sold 5 tonnes of gold jewelry in half a year.


The heyday was however short-lived. After Hong Kong returned to the motherland in 1997, the street began to lose its appeal, as shopping in Hong Kong was made much easier for mainland tourists. Its daily visitors dropped below 10,000 after 2003, when mainlanders were allowed to independently travel to Hong Kong.

Many stores closed due to a loss of customers, and some survived by selling fake jewelry, winning the street much notoriety, recalled Sha, who then headed the local neighborhood committee.

Sha said the ephemeral boom was limited to the era when most Chinese had limited access to the outside world, so as the country opened its door wider, the street’s function as a “window” faced an inevitable doom.

“Now with a smartphone, a consumer could easily buy goods from across the globe,” he said, referring to China’s cross-border e-commerce boom. “So if is just for the purpose of shopping, why take the trouble of traveling to the Chung Ying Street?”

The street is now more of a cultural site, dotted with relics and museums displaying its history, but locals are hopeful that the ongoing construction of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area will usher in another golden era for their neighborhood.

China has planned to turn the greater bay area, which encompasses Hong Kong, Macao and nine cities in Guangdong Province, into the world’s largest bay area in terms of GDP by 2030.

Earlier this month, the city government of Shenzhen said it will upgrade its ports with Hong Kong to boost the greater bay area development. The Shatoujiao Subdistrict, where the Chung Ying Street is located, was reserved for a new cooperation zone featuring tourism and consumption.

Optimism is running high in the community. New industries like artificial intelligence (AI), health and high-end shipping service have taken root in Yantian District, which administers Shatoujiao, and Sha is buzzing around to connect business people from Hong Kong and Shenzhen.

“Shatoujiao and its Chung Ying Street have boasted the one-of-the-kind advantage in Shenzhen-Hong Kong cooperation. We’ll work hard to turn the blueprint of the greater bay area into a reality here,” said Chen Qing, party secretary of Yantian.

Source: Xinhua


Chinese street cleaner says unlicensed taxi drivers who throw cigarette ends cost him nearly half a day’s wages

  • Man says his pay packet takes a hit every time cabbies flick butts onto the street
  • Zhengzhou city management says supervisors are too zealous with staff fines
Local authorities say a street cleaner in Henan province fined for the cigarette butts left by smokers on his beat may be the victim of a zealous supervisor. Photo: Weibo
Local authorities say a street cleaner in Henan province fined for the cigarette butts left by smokers on his beat may be the victim of a zealous supervisor. Photo: Weibo
A street cleaner in eastern China who was filmed complaining about the hefty fines he had to pay for the cigarette ends found littering his section of road has won a hearing for his case and the support of internet users, social media site Pear Video said on Tuesday.
In the video taken on Saturday, the elderly man from Zhengzhou in Henan province claimed that he was once fined 260 yuan (US$38) – 7 yuan (about US$8) per cigarette end – from an 86 yuan per day pay packet.
“Today, I had to clean up five or six thousand cigarette butts,” the man said in the video while working outside a subway station.
“All the fines come out of my salary. This month they docked me a few hundred yuan.”
The Zhengzhou street cleaner says he can pick up thousands of cigarette ends off the street each day but the littering in his section does not stop. Photo: Weibo
The Zhengzhou street cleaner says he can pick up thousands of cigarette ends off the street each day but the littering in his section does not stop. Photo: Weibo

The man blamed littering on unauthorised taxi drivers who throw cigarette ends into the street.

“These black cab drivers come here every day, again and again. They never stop coming here,” the cleaner was quoted as saying.

Pear Video spoke to other street cleaners in Zhengzhou, who confirmed that they were fined 7 yuan per cigarette butt found after cleaning.

It’s a dirty job, but don’t treat them like trash: Hong Kong’s cleaners are an aged, overlooked group
However, city authorities denied that the penalty system was strictly enforced and blamed overzealous monitoring officers.

“[Management patrol] will say things like this because they want to supervise the street cleaners. But there are no detailed written guidelines, and this was never formally implemented,” a representative from the Zhengzhou City Management Command Centre was quoted as saying in the report.

“It is just for the purpose of verbal supervision and encouragement.”

The Zhengzhou official said the centre would investigate further and speak to the street cleaners about fines.

In response to the cleaner’s complaints, city authorities in Zhengzhou say they will investigate and speak to staff about fines. Photo: Weibo
In response to the cleaner’s complaints, city authorities in Zhengzhou say they will investigate and speak to staff about fines. Photo: Weibo

The video stirred up angry reactions on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform.

“When [Pear Video] investigated they say it hasn’t been implemented. If they didn’t investigate, they would have just carried on giving fines,” read one comment that attracted more than 17,000 likes.

Street cleaners in China often earn meagre salaries for gruelling manual labour for long periods of time.

Last month, it emerged that more than 500 street cleaners in the city of Nanjing were ordered to wear GPS tracking bracelets that would alert authorities if they stayed in the same place for more than 20 minutes. The manufacturer removed the feature after a backlash inside and outside China.

Source: SCMP


China’s ban on scrap imports revitalises US recycling industry

  • US paper mills are expanding capacity to take advantage of a glut of cheap waste materials
  • Some facilities that previously exported plastic or metal to China have retooled so they can process it themselves
China phased in import restrictions on scrap paper and plastics in January last year. Photo: AP
China phased in import restrictions on scrap paper and plastics in January last year. Photo: AP
The halt on China’s imports of waste paper and plastic that has disrupted US recycling programmes has also spurred investment in American plants that process recyclables.

US paper mills are expanding capacity to take advantage of a glut of cheap scrap. Some facilities that previously exported plastic or metal to China have retooled so they can process it themselves.

And in a twist, the investors include Chinese companies that are still interested in having access to waste paper or flattened bottles as raw material for manufacturing.

“It’s a very good moment for recycling in the United States,” said Neil Seldman, co-founder of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a Washington-based organisation that helps cities improve recycling programmes.
Global scrap prices plummeted in the wake of China’s ban. Photo: AP
Global scrap prices plummeted in the wake of China’s ban. Photo: AP

China, which had long been the world’s largest destination for paper, plastic and other recyclables, phased in import restrictions in January last year.

Global scrap prices plummeted, prompting waste-hauling companies to pass the cost of sorting and baling recyclables on to municipalities. With no market for the waste paper and plastic in their blue bins, some communities scaled back or suspended kerbside recycling programmes. But new domestic markets offer a glimmer of hope.

How China’s ban on plastic waste imports became an ‘earthquake’

About US$1 billion in investment in US paper processing plants has been announced in the past six months, according to Dylan de Thomas, a vice-president at The Recycling Partnership, a non-profit organisation that tracks and works with the industry.

Hong Kong-based Nine Dragons, one of the world’s largest producers of cardboard boxes, has invested US$500 million over the past year to buy and expand or restart production at paper mills in Maine, Wisconsin and West Virginia.

Brian Boland, vice-president of government affairs and corporate initiatives for ND Paper, Nine Dragons’ US affiliate, said that as well as making paper from wood fibre, the mills would add production lines turning more than a million tonnes of scrap into pulp to make boxes.

“The paper industry has been in contraction since the early 2000s,” he said. “To see this kind of change is frankly amazing. Even though it’s a Chinese-owned company, it’s creating US jobs and revitalising communities like Old Town, Maine, where the old mill was shuttered.”

Hong Kong-based Nine Dragons has invested US$500 million in paper mills in Maine, Wisconsin and West Virginia. Photo: Handout
Hong Kong-based Nine Dragons has invested US$500 million in paper mills in Maine, Wisconsin and West Virginia. Photo: Handout

The Northeast Recycling Council said in a report last autumn that 17 North American paper mills had announced increased capacity to handle recyclable paper since the Chinese cut-off.

Another Chinese company, Global Win Wickliffe, is reopening a closed paper mill in Kentucky. Georgia-based Pratt Industries is constructing a mill in Wapakoneta, Ohio that will turn 425,000 tonnes of recycled paper per year into shipping boxes.

Plastics also had a lot of capacity coming online, de Thomas said, noting new or expanded plants in Texas, Pennsylvania, California and North Carolina that turned recycled plastic bottles into new bottles.

Chinese companies were investing in plastic and scrap metal recycling plants in Georgia, Indiana and North Carolina to make feedstocks for manufacturers in China, he said.

GDB International processes bales of scrap plastic film into pellets to make garbage bags and plastic pipe. Photo: AP
GDB International processes bales of scrap plastic film into pellets to make garbage bags and plastic pipe. Photo: AP

In New Brunswick, New Jersey, the recycling company GDB International exported bales of scrap plastic film such as pallet wrap and grocery bags for years. But when China started restricting imports, company president Sunil Bagaria installed new machinery to process it into pellets he sells profitably to manufacturers of garbage bags and plastic pipe.

The imports cut-off that China called “National Sword” was a much-needed wake-up call to his industry, he said.

“The export of plastic scrap played a big role in easing recycling in our country,” Bagaria said. “The downside is that infrastructure to do our own domestic recycling didn’t develop.”

China to suspend checks on US scrap metal shipments, halting imports

That was now changing, but he said far more domestic processing capacity would be needed as a growing number of countries restricted scrap imports.

“Ultimately, sooner or later, the society that produces plastic scrap will become responsible for recycling it,” he said.

It has also yet to be seen whether the new plants coming on line can quickly fix the problems for municipal recycling programmes that relied heavily on sales to China to get rid of piles of scrap.

About US$1 billion in investment in US paper processing plants has been announced in the past six months, according to a non-profit group that tracks the industry. Photo: AP
About US$1 billion in investment in US paper processing plants has been announced in the past six months, according to a non-profit group that tracks the industry. Photo: AP

“Chinese companies are investing in mills, but until we see what the demand is going to be at those mills, we’re stuck in this rut,” said Ben Harvey, whose company in Westborough, Massachusetts, collects trash and recyclables for about 30 communities.

He had a car park filled with stockpiled paper a year ago after China closed its doors, but eventually found buyers in India, Korea and Indonesia.

China to collect applications for scrap metal import licences from May

Keith Ristau, chief executive of Far West Recycling in Portland, Oregon, said most of the recyclable plastic his company collected used to go to China but now most of it went to processors in Canada or California.

To meet their standards, Far West invested in better equipment and more workers at its material recovery facility to reduce contamination.

In Sarepta, Louisiana, IntegriCo Composites is turning bales of hard-to-recycle mixed plastics into railroad ties. It expanded operations in 2017 with funding from New York-based Closed Loop Partners.

“As investors in domestic recycling and circular economy infrastructure in the US, we see what China has decided to do as very positive,” said Closed Loop founder Ron Gonen.

Source: SCMP


I M Pei, Louvre pyramid architect, dies aged 102

I M Pei on the 10th anniversary of The Pyramid of the Louvre, April 1999Image copyright AFP

I M Pei, the architect behind buildings including the glass pyramid outside the Louvre in Paris, has died aged 102.

Tributes have been pouring in, remembering him for a lifetime of designing iconic structures worldwide.

Pei’s designs are renowned for their emphasis on precision geometry, plain surfaces and natural light.

He carried on working well into old age, creating one of his most famous masterpieces – the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar – in his 80s.

A pragmatic artist

Ieoh Ming Pei was born in Guangzhou in 1917, and moved to the US at the age of 18 to study at Pennsylvania, MIT and Harvard.

He worked as a research scientist for the US government during World War Two, and went on to work as an architect, founding his own firm in 1955.

One of the 20th Century’s most prolific architects, he has designed municipal buildings, hotels, schools and other structures across North America, Asia and Europe.

Qatar's Islamic Museum of ArtImage copyright GETTY IMAGES
Image caption Qatar’s Islamic Museum of Art is one of Pei’s most famous designs
Suzhou Museum in ChinaImage copyright AFP/GETTY
Image caption The architect also designed the Suzhou Museum in China, which was completed in 2006

His style was described as modernist with cubist themes, and was influenced by his love of Islamic architecture. His favoured building materials were glass and steel, with a combination of concrete.

Pei sparked controversy for his pyramid at the Louvre Museum. The glass structure, completed in 1989, is now one of Paris’ most famous landmarks.

The John F. Kennedy Library and Museum in BostonImage copyright GETTY IMAGES
Image caption Pei designed Boston’s John F Kennedy Library and Museum
Dallas City Hall, designed by architects I M Pei and Theodore J MushoImage copyright GETTY IMAGES
Image caption I M Pei designed Dallas City Hall with fellow architect Theodore J Musho
I M Pei's Bank of China tower (L) in Hong KongImage copyright REUTERS
Image caption I M Pei’s Bank of China tower (L) in Hong Kong

His other work includes Dallas City Hall and Japan’s Miho Museum.

“I believe that architecture is a pragmatic art. To become art it must be built on a foundation of necessity,” he once said.

He was won a variety awards and prizes for his buildings, including the AIA Gold Medal, the Praemium Imperiale for Architecture.

In 1983 Pei was given the prestigious Pritzker Prize. The jury said he had he “has given this century some of its most beautiful interior spaces and exterior forms”.

He used his $100,000 prize money to start a scholarship fund for Chinese students to study architecture in America.

I M PeiImage copyright FILM MAGIC/GETTY
Source: The BBC

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s overtures to Japan’s new emperor set tone as G20 summit in Osaka nears

  • Xi’s message talks of promoting ‘peaceful development’ as Reiwa era begins in Japan
  • Analysts see diplomacy as latest steps towards bringing an end to bitter rivalry
The Japanese flag flies at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on October to mark the visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to China. Photo: Kyodo
The Japanese flag flies at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on October to mark the visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to China. Photo: Kyodo
Chinese President Xi Jinping congratulated Emperor Naruhito on his ascent to the throne of Japan in an effort to strengthen China’s ties with its neighbour and competitor as Beijing’s trade dispute with the United States went on.
Xi sent greetings on Wednesday in which the president stressed the importance of relations between Beijing and Tokyo, China’s state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
The two countries should “work together to promote peaceful development and create a bright future for bilateral relations”, Xi said.
The president also sent a message to Akihito, now Japan’s emperor emeritus, and “expressed his greetings and wishes”, Xinhua said.
Akihito, 85, relinquished the throne to his son at midnight on Tuesday, bringing the Heisei era that spanned his 30-year reign to an end.

Naruhito took the Chrysanthemum Throne to begin the Reiwa era with a pledge to become a “symbol of unity”.

Xi’s message came as China and Japan tried to repair relations damaged by disputes over the East China Sea and the bitter legacy of the second world war.

Washington was locked in a trade tariff war with Beijing, and President Donald Trump’s America First policy had prompted fears about the US’ commitment to Asia at the highest levels of Japanese government. These have pushed Beijing and Tokyo closer and, in October, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Beijing.

China set to appoint new ambassador to Japan, as Xi Jinping prepares for June visit

Xi was expected to attend a Group of 20 summit to be held in Osaka in June. A source said officials were considering whether Xi would dovetail a state visit to Japan with the summit.

Felix Wiebrecht, a China researcher at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said in the international environment China was more willing to put a deep-seated rivalry aside and take Japan as a partner.

“Facing increasing tensions with the US, China is naturally turning towards other potential opportunities for cooperation,” Wiebrecht said.

“Xi is indeed very likely to visit Japan this year since it seems that both he and Abe are interested in strengthening their cooperation. A visit this year could be seen as a culmination in normalising their relationship and comes at the right time for China as its conflict with the US intensifies”.

Ryo Hinata-Yamaguchi, a visiting professor at Pusan National University in South Korea and an adjunct fellow at the Pacific Forum foreign policy research institute, said Xi’s message could be seen as Beijing’s expectation on Tokyo to keep relations positive.

“[But] this would raise questions in Japan, particularly regarding regional and bilateral security issues, as well as the trade issues between the US and China,” he said.

As Japan prepares to mark end of an era, a look back at how China started the system

“The big question is whether China – as well as the US – expects Japan to work as some kind of mediator between Beijing and Washington, causing dilemmas for the Japanese government”.

Some observers remarked on the possibility of sideline meeting between the two leaders at Osaka.

“Xi could meet with Abe [at G20] in a bilateral context too,” Zhang Baohui director of the Centre for Asian Pacific Studies at Lingnan University in Hong Kong, said.

He also felt that Xi may make a separate state visit to Japan, after the G20 meeting closed.

“Japan is reportedly interested in having a second and separate visit by Xi later in the year … The Japanese efforts are part of a broader attempt by the Abe administration to improve relations with China,” Zhang said.

“A separate state visit would cement the full recovery of Sino-Japanese relations since the 2012 Diaoyu Islands dispute,” Zhang said.

Xi Jinping, then Chinese Vice-President, meets Emperor Akihito in Tokyo in December 2009. Photo: Xinhua
Xi Jinping, then Chinese Vice-President, meets Emperor Akihito in Tokyo in December 2009. Photo: Xinhua

Japan and China both claim the territorial rights over the Senkaku Islands – also known as the Diaoyu Islands – in the East China Sea.

In 2012, Japanese government purchased three of the disputed islands from private owners, which prompted large-scale protests in China. In the following year, Beijing set up the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone which included the islands, requiring all aircraft entering the zone to file a flight plan, further intensifying the conflict between the two countries.

Efforts this summer to intensify diplomacy “should bring greater stability to the East China Sea and may even lead to greater Sino-Japanese cooperation on regional issues like economic integration”, Zhang said.

“But Japan’s concern for a rising China and China’s expanding maritime activities in the East China Sea will continue,” Zhang added, noting that Japan has also expanded its military capabilities in disputed areas such as the South China Sea.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are likely to continue their diplomacy during and after June’s G20 summit in Osaka. Photo: EPA
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are likely to continue their diplomacy during and after June’s G20 summit in Osaka. Photo: EPA

Thousands take to Hong Kong streets to protest new extradition laws

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Thousands of people marched on Hong Kong’s parliament on Sunday to demand the scrapping of proposed extradition rules that would allow people to be sent to mainland China for trial – a move which some fear puts the city’s core freedoms at risk.

Opponents of the proposal fear further erosion of rights and legal protections in the free-wheeling financial hub – freedoms which were guaranteed under the city’s handover from British colonial rule to Chinese sovereignty in 1997.

Early estimates suggested several thousand people had joined the march along Hong Kong Island from Causeway Bay to the council in the Admiralty business district.

Veteran Hong Kong activist and former legislator Leung Kwok-hung said the government’s move risked removing Hong Kongers’ “freedom from fear”.

“Hong Kong people and visitors passing by Hong Kong will lose their right not to be extradited into mainland China,” he said. “They would need to face an unjust legal system on the mainland.”

The peaceful marchers chanted demands for Hong Kong’s Executive Carrie Lam to step down, saying she had “betrayed” Hong Kong. Some sported yellow umbrellas – the symbol of the Occupy civil disobedience movement that paralysed parts of Hong Kong for 11 weeks in 2014.
The proposed changes have sparked an unusually broad chorus of concern from international business elites to lawyers and rights’ groups and even some pro-establishment figures.
Chris Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong who handed the city back to Chinese rule in 1997, on Saturday described the move “as an assault on Hong Kong’s values, stability and security”, government-funded broadcaster RTHK reported.
Chief Executive Lam and other government officials are standing fast by their proposals, saying they are vital to plug long-standing loopholes.
Under the changes, the Hong Kong leader would have the right to order the extradition of wanted offenders to China, Macau and Taiwan as well as other countries not covered by Hong Kong’s existing extradition treaties.
As a safeguard such orders, to be issued case-by-case, could be challenged and appealed through the city’s vaunted legal system.
Government officials have said no-one at risk of the death penalty or torture or facing a political charge could be sent from Hong Kong. Under pressure from local business groups, they earlier exempted nine commercial crimes from the new provisions.
The proposals could be passed into law later in the year, with the city’s pro-democratic camp no longer holding enough seats to block the move.
The government has justified the swift introduction of the changes by saying they are needed so a young Hong Kong man suspected of murdering his girlfriend in Taiwan can be extradited to face charges there.
The government’s assurances are not enough for Lam Wing-kee, a former Hong Kong political bookseller who said in 2016 he was abducted by mainland agents in the city.

Lam left Hong Kong for Taiwan last week, saying he feared being sent back to the mainland under the new laws and his experienced showed he could have no trust in China’s legal system.

A group of 33 followers of Falun Gong, a religious sect banned in China, flew from Taiwan to Hong Kong on Saturday to join the march but were refused entry to Hong Kong, RTHK reported.

Sunday’s march comes amid renewed calls for deeper electoral reforms stalled five years ago after Occupy protests.

Four leaders of the movement were last week sentenced to jail terms ranging from eight to 16 months, part of a group of nine activists found guilty after a near month-long trial.

Source: Reuters


Hong Kong ‘Umbrella’ protesters found guilty of public nuisance

Media caption The “Umbrella Movement” activists said they would continue to strive for democracy

Nine pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong have been found guilty of public nuisance charges for their role in a civil disobedience movement that called for free elections in the city.

Among them are three prominent activists, seen as figureheads of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement.

They could be jailed for up to seven years for their part in the “Umbrella Movement” protests of 2014.

Thousands marched demanding the right for Hong Kong to choose its own leader.

Those convicted include the so-called “Occupy trio” – sociology professor Chan Kin-man, 60, law professor Benny Tai, 54, and Baptist minister Chu Yiu-ming, 75.

They are seen as the founders of the movement that galvanised protesters in their campaign of civil disobedience.

“No matter what happens today… we will persist on and do not give up,” Mr Tai told reporters ahead of the verdict.

Mr Tai, Mr Chan and five others were found guilty of two charges of public nuisance, and Mr Chu and one other of just one charge.

A large crowd gathered outside the court on Thursday to support them. It is not yet clear when they will be sentenced.

Presentational grey line
Chu Yiu-ming, Benny Tai, Chan Kin-manImage copyrightAFP
Chu Yiu-ming, Benny Tai and Chan Kin-man (left to right) were charged under colonial-era laws that carry possible jail terms of up to seven years

Like just another day

By Martin Yip, BBC News Chinese, Hong Kong

The nine defendants walked into the court building looking refreshed and in high spirits. All but one said a few words in what might have been their last hours of freedom before their predicted jail term.

Delivering his verdict, Justice Johnny Chan said the defendants had caused a nuisance – by occupying major roads – leading to injuries among civilians. The nine looked calm and not particularly emotional. They were later released on bail. Benny Tai, Chan Kin-man and Chu Yiu-ming smiled as they passed me, as if it was just another day.

They are yet to say if they will appeal. The court was adjourned for the day as the lawyers are yet to finish their mitigation submissions. The sentences have yet to be announced.

The broader pro-democracy camp already has bad relations with Beijing. Activists and politicians did express their anger but political analysts also warn that people might simply leave the movement out of frustration.

“Some people might feel dispirited and helpless. I hope they can see that other people haven’t given up,” Benny Tai told BBC News Chinese ahead of today’s verdict.

Seventy nine days of sit-in protests have already changed Hong Kong a lot. But today’s verdict might serve more as a reminder that this city remains divided.

Presentational grey line

What has the reaction been?

At the trial Judge Johnny Chan rejected the idea that this would have a substantial impact on society.

“It cannot be reasonably argued that a charge of conspiracy to cause public nuisance would generate a chilling effect in society,” he wrote in his ruling.

But rights groups criticised the ruling, with Humans Rights Watch saying the court was “sending a terrible message”.

“[This] will likely embolden the government to prosecute more peaceful activists, further chilling free expression in Hong Kong,” said researcher Maya Wang in a statement to the BBC.

A pro-Democracy activist holds a piece of yellow paper with a slogan in Chinese saying "People"s Hero"Image copyrightEPA
One pro-democracy supporter outside the court held up a sign saying “People’s Hero”

Lord Chris Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong, released a statement saying that it was “appallingly divisive to use anachronistic common law charges in a vengeful pursuit of political events which took place in 2014”.

This verdict comes after a string of frustrations for pro-democracy activists. In the last few years the courts have removed six lawmakers for changing their swearing in oaths to include protest phrases. Others have also been disqualified from running for office.

What were the protests about?

The protests started in reaction to a decision made by China that it would allow direct elections in 2017, but only from a list of candidates pre-approved by Beijing.

Beijing is highly sensitive about Hong Kong’s status and any calls for more autonomy from China.

The former British colony was handed back in 1997 on condition it would retain “a high degree of autonomy, except in foreign and defence affairs” for 50 years.

Many people in Hong Kong believe they should have the right to elect their own leader.

In 2014, the three activists’ calls for non-violent civil disobedience joined with student-led protests and snowballed into the massive demonstrations.

Tens of thousands of people camped in the streets and demanded the right to fully free leadership elections.

Hong Kong protests (Sept 2014)Image copyrightAFP The pro-democracy protests bought an area of central Hong Kong to a standstill for weeks in 2014

The protests became known as the “Umbrella Movement” after people used umbrellas to shield themselves from pepper spray fired by police to disperse the crowd.

Protesters accused the Chinese government of breaking its promise to allow full democracy in Hong Kong, and of encroaching more and more on the region.

But the number of protesters dwindled to just a few hundred as the weeks dragged on and they ultimately failed to achieve their goal.

Source: The BBC


Fears over Hong Kong-China extradition plans

Chinese flag in front of Hong Kong skylineImage copyrightREUTERS
Image captionHong Kong is part of China but has its own judicial system

The Hong Kong government has proposed changes to extradition laws that could allow transferring suspects to mainland China for trial. The move has further fuelled fears of erosion of the city’s judicial independence amid Beijing’s increasing influence.

The Hong Kong government will also consider extradition requests from Taiwan and Macau after the new changes.

Officials say the change is needed so that a murder suspect can be extradited to Taiwan for trial, and that mainland China and Macau must be included in the change to close a “systematic loophole”.

Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam has pushed for the amendments to be passed before July.

What are the changes?

The changes will allow for extradition requests from authorities in mainland China, Taiwan and Macau for suspects accused of criminal wrongdoings, such as murder and rape.

The requests will then be decided on a case-by-case basis.

Demonstrators march during a protest to demand authorities scrap a proposed extradition bill with China, in Hong KongImage copyrightREUTERS
Image captionOver 100,000 protesters took to Hong Kong streets to rally against the government’s proposal.

Several commercial offences such as tax evasion have been removed from the list of extraditable offences amid concerns from the business community.

Hong Kong officials have said Hong Kong courts will have the final say whether to grant such extradition requests, and suspects accused of political and religious crimes will not be extradited.

Why is this controversial?

There has been a lot of public opposition, and critics say people would be subject to arbitrary detention, unfair trial and torture under China’s judicial system.

“These amendments would heighten the risk for human rights activists and others critical of China being extradited to the mainland for trial on fabricated charges,” Sophie Richardson of Human Rights Watch said in a statement.

Lam Wing Kee, a Hong Kong bookseller said he was abducted and detained in China in 2015 for selling books critical of Chinese leaders and charged with “operating a bookstore illegally”.

During a recent protest against the government proposal, Mr Lam said he would consider leaving the territory before the proposal was passed.

“If I don’t go, I will be extradited,” he said. “I don’t trust the government to guarantee my safety, or the safety of any Hong Kong resident.”

Though some pro-Beijing politicians eager to defend China, dispute the criticism of its judicial system.

Hong Kong skylineImage copyrightEPA
Image captionHong Kong and China – one country, two systems

The changes have also attracted opposition from the Hong Kong business community over concerns they may not receive adequate protection under Chinese law.

The proposal has already sparked a legal challenge from Hong Kong tycoon Joseph Lau, who was convicted in absentia in a corruption case in Macau in 2014.

Macau’s government has not been able to have Mr Lau extradited because of a lack of extradition agreement between Hong Kong and Macau, but that will become possible if Hong Kong’s legislature decides to amend the extradition laws.

His lawyers argue in a 44-page submission to Hong Kong’s courts that the Macau trial was marred by “serious procedural irregularities that rendered the trial incompatible with internationally mandated standards of fairness”.

Every citizen can request a judicial review like Mr Lau has done, but it’s the High Court that decides whether this will be granted. Most observers say there is little chance Mr Lau’s request will be successful.

Why the change now?

The latest proposal has come after a 19-year-old Hong Kong man allegedly murdered his 20-year-old pregnant girlfriend, while holidaying in Taiwan together in February last year. The man fled Taiwan and returned to Hong Kong last year.

Taiwanese officials have sought help from Hong Kong authorities to extradite the man, but Hong Kong officials say they cannot comply because of a lack of extradition agreement with Taiwan.

Xi JinpingImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionUnder Xi Jinping, Beijing is seeking increasing control over Hong Kong

“Are we happy to see a suspect that has committed a serious offence staying in Hong Kong and we’re unable to deliver justice over the case?” Mrs Lam said on 1 April while responding to media questions.

She added that mainland China and Macau were included in the proposed change to address a “loophole” in current laws.

Isn’t Hong Kong part of China anyway?

A former British colony, Hong Kong is semi-autonomous under the principle of “one country, two systems” after it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

The city has its own laws and its residents enjoy civil liberties unavailable to their mainland counterparts.

Hong Kong has entered into extradition agreements with 20 countries, including the UK and the US, but no such agreements have been reached with mainland China despite ongoing negotiations in the past two decades.

Critics have attributed such failures to poor legal protection for defendants under Chinese law.

Source: The BBC


Hong Kong subway trains collide amid new signal system trials

Mass Transit Railway (MTR) trains collide near Central station during a signal system trial in Hong Kong, 18 March 2019Image copyrightREUTERS
Image captionThe collision was said to have involved a “modernised train” and occurred during a signal trial

Two subway trains have collided during a new signal system test in Hong Kong, halting services and threatening travel disruption for millions of commuters.

The incident occurred between the Central and Admiralty stations before the service was open to the public early on Monday morning.

While the trains had no passengers on board, both drivers were taken to hospital.

Rail officials warned that repairs were likely to take “quite a long time”.

Network operator Mass Transit Railway (MTR) said sections of the Tsuen Wan Line had been suspended and urged commuters to avoid the route affected and to use other forms of transport if possible.

MTR Corporation has said a failure with the new signal system was to blame for the crash, Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post newspaper reports.

An investigation has been launched.

Mass Transit Railway (MTR) trains collide near Central station during a signal system trial in Hong Kong, 18 March 2019Image copyrightREUTERS
Image captionNeither of the two trains involved was carrying passengers at the time

Further disruption was caused later on Monday morning when a woman fell on to the tracks at Kowloon Tong station, causing a temporary suspension of service in that area.

Hong Kong’s subway network is used by up to six million people on weekdays, Reuters news agency reports.

Source: The BBC


Protesters arrested in Hong Kong over proposed China extradition law

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong police on Friday arrested five women who staged a protest inside the government’s headquarters over a proposal to allow fugitives to be extradited to mainland China, stoking human rights concerns.

In February, Hong Kong’s Security Bureau submitted a paper to the city’s legislature, proposing amendments to extradition laws that would include granting the city’s leader executive power to send fugitives to jurisdictions not covered by existing arrangements, including mainland China and Taiwan.

The proposal has been strongly opposed by some lawmakers, legal and rights groups who fear such it could be exploited by Beijing’s Communist Party leaders and lead to an erosion of Hong Kong’s judicial independence.

In video footage posted online, the five, who were demanding the extradition amendments be scrapped, rushed into the lobby of government headquarters where they staged a sit-down protest.

“Oppose legalised kidnapping,” the women, including several members of the pro-democracy party Demosisto, shouted. They were later hauled out by police into vehicles.

The Hong Kong government said in a statement a total of nine protesters were “removed” for blocking the lobby of its headquarters, and that a female security guard had been injured in a skirmish. A police spokesman gave no immediate comment.

Since Hong Kong reverted from British to Chinese rule in 1997 with the guarantee that it would enjoy a high degree of autonomy and freedoms not allowed in mainland China, there has been no formal mechanism for the surrender of fugitives to mainland China.

The Hong Kong Bar Association said in a statement that this was not an oversight, but a result of “grave concerns” about China’s legal and judicial system.

It said authorities were “jumping the gun” in seeking to force through such ad hoc rendition arrangements with China without a full consultation.

Some business groups, including the American Chamber of Commerce, expressed “serious reservations” about the proposal in a submission to Hong Kong’s Secretary for Security John Lee, and said they would “undermine perceptions of Hong Kong as a safe and secure haven for international business operations”.

The proposal also seeks to remove legislative oversight on individual extradition requests that may arise by giving the city leader executive authority to make such decisions.

In the February paper, the Security Bureau said “human rights and procedural safeguards” would remain unchanged. Requests in relation “to offences of a political character” shall be refused, the bureau said.

But some critics have expressed concern over how a political offence might be defined.

Demosisto, in a statement, described the proposed extradition reform as “an attempt to prepare to entrap oppositional voices for China”.

A former Chinese deputy minister for public security, Chen Zhimin, told reporters in Beijing this week that more than 300 “fugitives” wanted by mainland authorities were hiding in Hong Kong. He did not give details.

Source: Reuters

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