Archive for October, 2014

Vietnam Is Becoming A Proxy In Efforts To Contain Chinese Influence In The South China Sea

October 31, 2014


Vietnam Navy Soldier

Vietnamese naval soldier stands quard at Thuyen Chai island in the Spratly archipelago January 17, 2013. STRINGER Vietnam/REUTERS


Vietnam is becoming a proxy against China in any future possible confrontation in the South China Sea or South Asia as a whole.

On Oct. 28 India announced that it would sell naval vessels to Vietnam in exchange for an energy-exploration deal. These vessels would arrive at a time of rising tension between Vietnam and China over contested island chains in the South China Sea.

Massive protests broke out across Vietnam in May and over the summer, as citizens torched Chinese businesses after China moved an oil rig into disputed territory west of the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea. Both Vietnam and China lay claim to the islands, and the nations have frequently clashed over them.

India’s decision to back Vietnam comes during the country’s own border disputes with China. China and India fought a border war in 1962 that has led to the frontier between the two countries in a still-unresolved state of controversy.

A Chinese Coast Guard vessel near a drilling rig that China installed in disputed waters near Vietnam in May. Credit Reuters  

China has taken full advantage of this lack of demarcation to slowly eat away at Indian territory by very slowly pushing its troops into the disputed areas and normalizing Chinese control over them. The incursions are never enough to justify a military response from India, but this lack of a reaction gives China a strategic advantage.

Although China and India are attempting to repair relations and usher in a period of economic coexistence, militarily the two countries are carefully sizing each other up.

The US has also paid particular attention to the possible use of Vietnam as a proxy against Chinese expansionism. On Oct. 2, the US partially lifted a ban on supplying lethal weapons to the country in a bid to help it improve its maritime security against China.

“This is a very important first step that will engender future cooperation,” an unnamed State Department official told Reuters. “This policy revision enables us to … provide Vietnam the ability to defend itself in the context of its presence in the South China Sea.”

This effort to improve the military strength of China’s rivals comes amid a time of rapid Chinese advancement. China is in the process of developing a fleet of nuclear powered submarines. The nation also is attempting to develop a fifth-generation fighter jet fleet to challenge US and allied air supremacy in the region.

Along with India and Vietnam, China also has unresolved territorial disputes with Japan, the Philippines, and Malaysia.


Democracy: British expats ‘in awe’ of Hong Kong protesters

October 31, 2014

Hong Kong: Foreigners living in the city have been giving money, food and moral support to the students campaigning for democracy  

Protesters with umbrellas came in their thousands to the main protest site in Hong Kong on October 28

Protesters with umbrellas came in their thousands to the main protest site in Hong Kong on October 28 Photo: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images
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British expats have lent their support to the student-led democracy protests in Hong Kong.

The Umbrella Movement, so called because of the protesters’ use of umbrellas in guarding against police tear gas and pepper spray, has elicited a wide range of opinion from local residents, ranging from heartfelt encouragement to outright hostility.

Since Hong Kong was governed by Britain until 1997, British expats living there today occupy a unique position among that spectrum of support.

“Well it’s sort of our fault in a way, isn’t it?” said Sophie Jackson, a 27-year-old expat from London.

“I think it’s the first time that I’ve really had an idea of what Britain has done, just sort of abandoning Hong Kong. Most of my friends in Britain feel little affiliation with Hong Kong. They don’t really know anything about it. But people in Hong Kong really feel a great connection to Britain and that’s quite sad in a way, that we don’t really have that relationship.”

Ms Jackson, who moved to Hong Kong from Tokyo 10 months ago, manages a corporate finance magazine and writes for local and foreign publications. She has visited one of the protest sites nearly every day since the movement begun to chat with the protesters and “see what’s changing”.

She said: “I’m quite in awe that people have been able to stay calm and focused for this long. I’ve seen protests in Paris and London and they were never like this. They weren’t calm and they weren’t organised and they weren’t loving. The protests here have been very much about, ‘We love Hong Kong. Let’s all stay together’; very positive messages.”

Emily Cha, a 35-year-old from London who has lived in Hong Kong for almost 10 years, is also impressed by the movement. “I think it’s a good cause to fight for. Everyone deserves their freedom, their right to vote, their right to nominate. Regardless of how the system is structured they have a right to comment on it,” she said.

Ms Cha, who works in marketing and design, often visits the two main protest sites, the biggest of which is in Admiralty, a modern financial district. The second biggest is in Mong Kok, a working-class, residential area.

Like many in Hong Kong, her support for the movement was amplified after witnessing the violence that erupted in the early days of the protests.

“It all happened so quickly. I was panicking,” she said.

On October 13, Ms Cha said she witnessed a group of thugs beating up teenage students in Admiralty.

“I saw one expat shouting at the police, ‘What the f*** are you doing? Shouldn’t you be arresting those blokes? They hit someone in front of you’,” said Ms Cha, who was upset that the police did not intervene.

Demonstrators disperse as tear gas is fired by police during a protest on September 29 (Anthony Kwan/Getty Images)

Ms Cha has taken food and drink to the protesters and expat colleagues have contributed money even when they are unwilling to deliver the supplies themselves. Many expats are afraid to be seen helping the protesters, according to Ms Cha, who is ethnically Cantonese.

“A lot of them, particularly the white folk, are reluctant to share their views. They don’t want to come out and say ‘We support the students.’ They don’t want to do it publicly anyway because they’re worried about being kicked out,” she said.

Ms Cha added that although Hong Kong has laws protecting free speech, a general feeling that the island’s freedoms are dwindling has pervaded the city in recent years.

“It’s not as bad as 1984,” said Ms Cha, referencing George Orwell’s dystopian novel, “but there are a lot of expats who think Big Brother’s watching us in a way. A lot of bloggers insist on remaining anonymous for that same reason. It may not be as scary as what’s happening in China but they have it in the back of their minds.”

That Hong Kong has become less and less free since the end of British rule is at the root of the Umbrella Movement, according to Bill Taylor, a 52-year-old from Northumberland who has lived in Hong Kong for nearly 22 years.

Mr Taylor teaches Chinese labour relations and political economy at the City University of Hong Kong. The place has changed “dramatically” since he first arrived in the early Nineties, he said.

“When I first came, although there was a lot of nervousness regarding the handover to China, there was also a general optimism which has declined over the last decade.”

Mr Taylor is moved that many of his former and current students are fighting for what they believe in at the protest sites.

“I was looking at how many thousands of students I’ve taught over these 20-odd years and quite a few of them are there … frankly, I’m very proud,” he said.

Mr Taylor is also impressed by the students’ political sophistication. “They’ve thought beyond the idea of just electing their leaders. I think they want to participate and not be shut out of the democratic system, which some would argue has happened in places like the UK where voting for your leader doesn’t make a huge difference. They want a huge difference. They want to participate in government in some way.”

Helen Regan, 27, a reporter originally from Cornwall who has covered the protests since their inception, has been most surprised by the students’ commitment. “They’re just so mature and I think it completely shows that if these guys aren’t ready for democracy, then who is?”

Although she’s only been in Hong Kong for two months, the love she has for her new home is already substantial. “I think after only being here for two months you can see why [the protesters] love it. You speak to these guys on the street and you say, ‘Well why are you here?’ and they say, ‘Because I love Hong Kong. We love our city,’ and you can see why after only being here for a little while.”

However, not all expats are supportive of the protesters. Dick Wynn, a Londoner who works in the export business and has lived in Hong Kong for six years, believes that sympathy for the students may be dwindling.

“I think most people have sympathy. But a lot of the feeling is ‘Well it’s OK to sympathise but if the way you’re protesting is really inhibiting on other people’s livelihood then that could be a bit of a problem’,” he said.

“I think there’s also sympathy for the shopkeepers in Mong Kok, for people trying to go to the hospital, people trying to get around. I think expats are tending to feel like ‘OK enough. Let’s find some other way of protesting and making your feelings felt’.”

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Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, November 1, 2014 — To be conformed to Christ

October 31, 2014


All Souls Day

Solemnity of All Saints
Lectionary: 667

Reading 1 rv 7:2-4, 9-14


I, John, saw another angel come up from the East,
holding the seal of the living God.
He cried out in a loud voice to the four angels
who were given power to damage the land and the sea,
“Do not damage the land or the sea or the trees
until we put the seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.”
I heard the number of those who had been marked with the seal,
one hundred and forty-four thousand marked
from every tribe of the children of Israel.After this I had a vision of a great multitude,
which no one could count,
from every nation, race, people, and tongue.
They stood before the throne and before the Lamb,
wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.
They cried out in a loud voice:“Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne,
and from the Lamb.”All the angels stood around the throne
and around the elders and the four living creatures.
They prostrated themselves before the throne,
worshiped God, and exclaimed:“Amen. Blessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving,
honor, power, and might
be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”

Then one of the elders spoke up and said to me,
“Who are these wearing white robes, and where did they come from?”
I said to him, “My lord, you are the one who knows.”
He said to me,
“These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress;
they have washed their robes
and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.”


Responsorial Psalm ps 24:1bc-2, 3-4ab, 5-6


R. (see 6) Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.
The LORD’s are the earth and its fullness;
the world and those who dwell in it.
For he founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the rivers.
R. Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.
Who can ascend the mountain of the LORD?
or who may stand in his holy place?
One whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean,
who desires not what is vain.
R. Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.
He shall receive a blessing from the LORD,
a reward from God his savior.
Such is the race that seeks him,
that seeks the face of the God of Jacob.
R. Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.


Reading 2 1 jn 3:1-3


See what love the Father has bestowed on us
that we may be called the children of God.
Yet so we are.
The reason the world does not know us
is that it did not know him.
Beloved, we are God’s children now;
what we shall be has not yet been revealed.
We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him,
for we shall see him as he is.
Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure,
as he is pure.


Gospel mt 5:1-12a


When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain,
and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him.
He began to teach them, saying:“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you
and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me.
Rejoice and be glad,
for your reward will be great in heaven.”
Lectio Divina from the Carmelites

Jesus’ words on the Beatitudes that Matthew drew from his sources, were condensed in short and isolated phrases, and the Evangelist has placed them in a broader context, which Biblical scholars call the “sermon on the mount” (chapters 5-7). This sermon is considered like the statutes or Magna Carta that Jesus gave to the community as a normative and binding word that defines a Christian.


The many themes contained in this long sermon are not to be seen as collection of exhortations, but rather as a clear and radical indication of the new attitude of the disciples towards God, oneself and the brothers and sisters. Some expressions used by Jesus may seem exaggerated, but they are used to stress reality and thus are realistic in the context although not so in a literary sense: for instance in vv.29-30: «If your right eye should be your downfall, tear it out and throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose one part of yourself than to have your whole body thrown into hell. And if your right hand should be your downfall, cut it off and throw it away, for it will do you less harm to lose one part of yourself than to have your whole body go to hell». This manner of speaking indicates the effect desired to be created in the reader, who must understand correctly Jesus’ words so as not to distort their meaning.


Our focus, for liturgical reasons, will be on the first part of the “sermon on the mount”, that is the part dealing with the proclamation of the beatitudes (Mt 5:1-12).


Some details:


Matthew invites the reader to listen to the beatitudes proclaimed by Jesus with a rich concentration of details. First he indicates the place where Jesus proclaims his sermon: “Jesus went onto the mountain” (5:1). That is why exegetes call this the “sermon on the mount” even though Luke places this sermon on level ground (Lk 6:20-26). The geographic location of the “mountain” could be a veiled reference to an episode in the OT quite like ours: that is, when Moses proclaims the Decalogue on mount Sinai. It is possible that Matthew wishes to present Jesus as the new Moses who proclaims the new law.


Another detail that strikes us is the physical posture of Jesus as he proclaims his words: “when he was seated”. This posture confers upon him a note of authority in the legislative sense. The disciples and the “crowd” gather around him: this detail shows what Jesus had to say was for all to hear. We note that Jesus’ words do not present impossible matters, nor are they addressed to a special group of people, nor do they mean to establish a code of ethics exclusively for his inner circle. Jesus’ demands are concrete, binding and decisively radical.


Someone branded Jesus’ sermon as follows: «For me, this is the most important text in the history of humankind. It is addressed to all, believers and non, and after twenty centuries it is still the only light still shining in the darkness of violence, fear and solitude in which the West finds itself because of its pride and selfishness» (Gilbert Cesbron).


The word “blessed” (in Greek makarioi) in our context does not say “softly” but cries out happiness found throughout the Bible. For instance, in the OT, those called “blessed” are those who live out the precepts of Wisdom (Sir 25,7-10). The prayerful person of the Psalms defines “blessed” as those who “fear”, or more precisely those who love the Lord, expressing this love in the observance of the precepts contained in the word of God (Sal 1,1; 128,1).


Matthew’s originality lies in adding a secondary phrase that specifies each beatitude: for instance, the main assertion “blessed are the poor in spirit” is clarified by an added phrase “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. Another difference with the OT is that Jesus’ words proclaim a saving blessedness here and now and without any limitations. For Jesus, all can attain happiness on condition that they remain united to Him.


The first three beatitudes:


i) The first cry concerns the poor: “How blessed are the poor in spirit, the kingdom of heaven is theirs”. The reader may be shocked: how can the poor be happy? In the Bible, the poor are those who empty themselves of themselves and above all renounce the presumption of building their own present and future alone, and thus leave room for and focus on God’s project and his Word. The poor, always in the biblical sense, is not someone closed in on himself, miserable, negative, but someone who nurtures being open to God and to others. God is all his/her treasure. We could say with St.Teresa of Avila: happy are those who experience that “God alone suffices!”, meaning that they are rich in God.

A great modern spiritual author described poverty as follows: «As long as one does not empty one’s heart, God cannot fill it with himself. As you empty your heart, so does the Lord fill it. Poverty is emptiness, not only in what concerns the future but also the past. Not a regret or memory, not a worry or wish! God is not in the past, God is not in the future: He is in the present! Leave your past to God, leave your future to God. Your poverty is to live the present, the Presence of God who is Eternity» (Divo Barsotti).

This is the first beatitude, not just because it is the first of many, but because it seems to encapsulate all the others in their diversity.

ii)Blessed are those who mourn; they shall be comforted”. One can mourn because of a great pain or suffering. This underlines the fact that we are dealing with a serious situation even though the motives or the cause are not mentioned. If we wish to identify today “those who mourn” we could think of all the Christians who hold dear the demands of the kingdom and suffer because of many negative aspects in the Church; rather than focus on holiness, the Church presents divisions and lacerations. They may also be those who suffer because of their sins and inconsistencies and who, in some way, slow down their conversion. To these, only God can bring the news of “consolation””.

iii)Blessed are the gentle, they shall have the earth as inheritance”. The third beatitude is about gentleness. This is a quality that is not so popular today. Rather, for many it has a negative connotation and is taken for weakness or the kind of imperturbability that knows how to control calculatingly one’s own emotions. What does the word “gentle” mean in the Bible? The gentle are remembered as those who enjoy great peace (Ps 37:10), are happy, blessed and loved by God. They are also contrasted with evildoers, the ungodly and sinners. Thus the OT gives us a wealth of meanings that do not allow for one single definition.

In the NT the first time we meet the word is in Matthew 11:29: “Learn from me because I am gentle and humble of heart”. A second time is in Mt 21:5, when Matthew describes Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and cites the prophet Zechariah 2:9: “Behold your servant comes to you gentle”. Truly, Matthew’s Gospel may be described as the Gospel of gentleness.

Paul too says that gentleness is an identifying quality of the Christian. In 2 Corinthians 10:1 he exhorts believers “I urge you by the gentleness and forbearance of Christ”. In Galatians 5:22 gentleness is considered one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit in the heart of believers and consists in being meek, moderate, slow to punish, kind and patient towards others. Again in Ephesians 4:32 and Colossians 3:12 gentleness is an attitude that is part of the Christian and a sign of the new man in Christ.

Finally, an eloquent witness comes from 1 Peter 3:3-4: “Your adornment should be not an exterior one, consisting of braided hair or gold jewellery or fine clothing, but the interior disposition of the heart, consisting in the imperishable quality of a gentle and peaceful spirit, so precious in the sight of God”.

How does Jesus use the word “gentle”? A truly enlightening definition is the one given by the gentle person of Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini “The gentle person, according to the beatitudes, is one who, in spite of the fervour of his/her feelings, remains docile and calm, not possessive, interiorly free, always extremely respectful of the mystery of freedom, imitating God in this respect who does everything with respect for the person, and urges the person to obedience without ever using violence. Gentleness is opposed to all forms of material or moral arrogance, it gains the victory of peace over war, of dialogue over imposition”.

To this wise interpretation we add that of another famous exegete: “The gentleness spoken of in the beatitudes is none other than that aspect of humility that manifests itself in practical affability in one’s dealings with the other. Such gentleness finds its image and its perfect model in the person of Jesus, gentle and humble of heart. Truly, such gentleness seems to us like a form of charity, patient and delicately attentive towards others” (Jacques Dupont).


The word enlightens me (to meditate)


a) Am I able to accept those little signs of poverty in my regard? For instance, the poverty of poor health and little indispositions? Do I make exorbitant demands?

b) Am I able to accept some aspect of my poverty and fragility?

c) Do I pray like a poor person, as one who asks with humility the grace of God, his pardon and his mercy?

d) Inspired by Jesus’ message concerning gentleness, do I renounce violence, vengeance and a vengeful spirit?

e) Do I encourage, in families and in my place of work, a spirit of kindness, gentleness and peace?

f) Do I pay back any small malice, insinuations or offensive allusions with evil?

g) Do I look after the weakest who cannot defend themselves? Am I patient with old people? Do I welcome lonely strangers who are often exploited at work?


To pray


a) Psalm 23:


The Psalm seems to rotate around the title “The Lord is my shepherd”. The saints are the image of the flock on the way: they are accompanied by the goodness and loyalty of God, until they finally reach the house of the Father (L.Alonso Schökel, I salmi della fiducia, Dehoniana libri, Bologna 2006, 54)


Yahweh is my shepherd,
I lack nothing.

In grassy meadows he lets me lie.
By tranquil streams he leads me
to restore my spirit.
He guides me in paths of saving justice as befits his name.

Even were I to walk in a ravine as dark as death
I should fear no danger,
for you are at my side.
Your staff and your crook are there to soothe me.

You prepare a table for me under the eyes of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup brims over.

Kindness and faithful love pursue me every day of my life.
I make my home in the house of Yahweh
for all time to come.


Closing prayer:


Lord Jesus, you show us the way of the beatitudes so that we may come to that happiness that is fullness of life and thus holiness. We are all called to holiness, but the only treasure of the saints is God. Your Word, Lord, calls saints all those who in baptism were chosen by your love of a Father, to be conformed to Christ. Grant, Lord, that by your grace we may achieve this conformity to Jesus Christ. We thank you, Lord, for the saints you have placed on our way and who manifest your love. We ask for your pardon if we have tarnished your face in us and denied our calling to be saints.





Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore


SCRIPTURE READINGS: REV 7:2-4, 9-14; JN 3:1-3; MT 5:1-12

Some years ago, it was reported in the papers that a survey conducted in Britain found that most people live their lives without any thought of life beyond death.  These people are only concerned about this life; that they enjoy it to the fullest.   For them, only this life matters.  This is rather unfortunate because if our life is only meant for this world, then we are a most pitiable lot.  Such a limited purpose of life will not bring us to great heights, since life and its meaning are reduced to an earthly fulfillment, one that is transitory.

For this reason, as the Church liturgical year is drawing to its close, the Church commemorates the Feast of All Saints.  This feast is important, lest in our daily struggles we forgot our real destiny and may be tempted to give up hope in life.  Like the Anawim in today’s gospel, when we are poor, hungry, unjustly treated and persecuted, we might feel that life is unfair and that life has no real meaning at all.    But the truth is that our life goes beyond this earthly life.  We have a greater destiny before us.  And this is what the Feast of all Saints wants to remind us.  What then is our Christian Hope?

Firstly, it is our belief that we are all called to be with God.  This is what the second reading tells us.  St John tells us “we shall be life him because we shall see him as he really is.”  In other words, we are called to share in the life of God, in love, unity and communion.  This is our true calling because right from the outset, God has meant us to share in His life.  That is why we are called the children of God.  Hence, our destiny is to recover our real identity as children of God, sharing in His life and love.

Secondly, it is our Christian hope too that we would all come together as a family of God in the eschaton.  St John had the vision of the 144 thousand and “a huge number, impossible to count, of people from every nation, tribe, and language.”  Yes, it is our hope that all humankind will be gathered together into one, living a life of love and unity.  This gathering of people of every kind means that all of us, each in his own way, will find fulfillment.  One need not be somebody in life to attain to the community of the glorified.  It is only necessary that he becomes the person that he is meant to be.    Hence, we are consoled that the victory of God is overwhelming and that countless people have been saved.

Thirdly, it is our hope too that God’s kingdom will prevail in the end, which implies that the people of God would be vindicated.  Within this context, we can therefore understand better today’s gospel reading.  The beatitudes, which are to be understood within the context of the Kingdom Message of Jesus, speak of the vindication of the poor, those who are oppressed and persecuted.  In this way, life becomes more meaningful.  For those of us who are struggling with life, we know that somehow our sufferings will be vindicated in the end.  Even for those who are not suffering, they will come to understand the meaning of their lives.

But what is the basis of our Christian hope so that it would not be seen as a dream?  Firstly, our hope is founded on the fact that Christ has been victorious over death and sin.  Christ’s death and resurrection is our certain hope that God will be victorious over sin and death in the end.  Secondly, Christian hope rests on the fact that some of our brothers and sisters are already there in the bosom of God and among the community of the glorified.  On these two facts, rest our Christian hope and goal.  Where they are, we too will be there.

Having spoken so confidently about Christian Hope and that our lives should not be lived as if it is meant only for this world, we must now insist on the importance of this life.  This is because our ability to realize our goal and destiny is dependent on how we live this life.  In other words, the fullness of next life should in some ways be already experienced in this life.  For this reason, St John in the second reading tells us that since we are already the children of God we must continue to live our lives in such a way so that we can be truly like God when the eschaton arrives.  How can we then recover our filiations with God?

Firstly, we need to purify ourselves.  This is what St John tells us in the second reading.  “Surely, everyone who entertains this hope must purify himself, must try to be as pure as Christ.”  This means that we are called to be Christ in our way of life.  This is the only way to recover our divine sonship.  Christ is for us the way to become once again identified with God and be incorporated into him.

Secondly, this purification is achieved by being faithful to our baptismal vows.  Yes, like the saints in heaven we are called to be faithful to the white robes given to us on the day of our baptism.  To keep our robes white and clean, the first reading tells us that we need to wash it with the blood of the Lamb.  In other words, we need to die to ourselves.

Thirdly, the way of purification is by following the beatitudes taught by Jesus.  The beatitudes are the blue print to the kingdom life.  It is the way of poverty in spirit, the way of compassion, the way of love, justice and peace that will see us perfected in Christ.

Consequently, whilst we wait for our reunion with the Saints in heaven, the time on earth is but a time of recovery and purification.  God is patient with us.  This is what St John tells us in the vision.  God would not destroy the earth yet until he has “put the seal on the foreheads of the servants of God.”  At the same time, it is a time of mission as well.  We are not only to purify ourselves but we who have been anointed with the seal, which is the sacrament of confirmation, are called to establish the kingdom of God in the world.  In this way, all will be gathered together in the community love and peace with God carrying the palms of victory in our hands.  

– See more at:


All Saints’ Day (in the Roman Catholic Church officially the Solemnity of All Saints and also called All Hallows or Hallowmas[1]), often shortened to All Saints, is a solemnity celebrated on 1 November by parts of Western Christianity, and on the first Sunday after Pentecost in Eastern Christianity, in honor of all the saints, known and unknown.

In Western Christian theology, the day commemorates all those who have attained the beatific vision in Heaven. It is a national holiday in many historically Catholic countries. In the Roman Catholic Church, the next day, All Souls’ Day, specifically commemorates the departed faithful who have not yet been purified and reached heaven. Catholics celebrate All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day in the fundamental belief that there is a prayerful spiritual communion between those in the state of grace who have died and are either being purified in purgatory or are in heaven (the ‘church penitent’ and the ‘church triumphant’, respectively), and the ‘church militant’ who are the living. Other Christian traditions define, remember and respond to the saints in different ways.

In the East

Eastern Orthodox icon of All Saints. Christ is enthroned in heaven surrounded by the ranks of angels and saints. At the bottom is Paradise with the bosom of Abraham (left), and the Good Thief (right).

Eastern Christians of the Byzantine Tradition follow the earlier tradition of commemorating all saints collectively on the first Sunday after Pentecost, All Saints’ Sunday.

The feast of All Saints achieved great prominence in the ninth century, in the reign of the Byzantine Emperor, Leo VI “the Wise” (886.911). His wife, Empress Theophano.commemorated on December 16.lived a devout life. After her death in 893,[2] her husband built a church, intending to dedicate it to her. When he was forbidden to do so, he decided to dedicate it to “All Saints,” so that if his wife were in fact one of the righteous, she would also be honored whenever the feast was celebrated.[3] According to tradition, it was Leo who expanded the feast from a commemoration of All Martyrs to a general commemoration of All Saints, whether martyrs or not.

This Sunday marks the close of the Paschal season. To the normal Sunday services are added special scriptural readings and hymns to all the saints (known and unknown) from the Pentecostarion.

The Sunday following All Saints’ Sunday.the second Sunday after set aside as a commemoration of all locally venerated saints, such as “All Saints of America”, “All Saints of Mount Athos”, etc. The third Sunday after Pentecost may be observed for even more localized saints, such as “All Saints of St. Petersburg”, or for saints of a particular type, such as “New Martyrs of the Turkish Yoke.”

In addition to the Sundays mentioned above, Saturdays throughout the year are days for general commemoration of all saints, and special hymns to all saints are chanted from the Octoechos.

In the West

The Western Christian holiday of All Saints’ Day falls on November 1, followed by All Souls’ Day on November 2, and is a Holy Day of Obligation in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church.

The origin of the festival of All Saints celebrated in the West dates to May 13, 609 or 610, when Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon at Rome to the Blessed Virgin and all the martyrs; the feast of the dedicatio Sanctae Mariae ad Martyres has been celebrated at Rome ever since. There is evidence that from the fifth through the seventh centuries there existed in certain places and at sporadic intervals a feast date 13 May to celebrate the holy martyrs.[4] The origin of All Saints’ Day cannot be traced with certainty, and it has been observed on various days in different places. However, there are some who maintain the belief that it has origins in the pagan observation of 13 May, the Feast of the Lemures, in which the malevolent and restless spirits of the dead were propitiated. Liturgiologists base the idea that this Lemuria festival was the origin of that of All Saints on their identical dates and on the similar theme of “all the dead”.[5]

The feast of All Saints, on its current date, is traced to the foundation by Pope Gregory III (731.741) of an oratory in St. Peter’s for the relics “of the holy apostles and of all saints, martyrs and confessors, of all the just made perfect who are at rest throughout the world”, with the day moved to 1 November and the 13 May feast suppressed.[6]

This usually fell within a few weeks of the Celtic holiday of Samhain, which had a theme similar to the Roman festival of Lemuria, but which was also a harvest festival. The Irish, having celebrated Samhain in the past, did not celebrate All Hallows Day on this November 1 date, as extant historical documents attest that the celebration in Ireland took place in the spring: “…the Felire of Oengus and the Martyrology of Tallaght prove that the early medieval churches [in Ireland] celebrated the feast of All Saints on April 20.”[7]

A November festival of all the saints was already widely celebrated on November 1 in the days of Charlemagne. It was made a day of obligation throughout the Frankish empire in 835, by a decree of Louis the Pious, issued “at the instance of Pope Gregory IV and with the assent of all the bishops”, which confirmed its celebration on November 1. The octave was added by Pope Sixtus IV (1471.1484).[8]

The festival was retained after the Reformation in the calendar of the Anglican Church and in many Lutheran churches. In the Lutheran churches, such as the Church of Sweden, it assumes a role of general commemoration of the dead. In the Swedish calendar, the observance takes place on the Saturday between October 31 and November 6. In many Lutheran Churches, it is moved to the first Sunday of November. It is also celebrated by other Protestants of the English tradition, such as the United Church of Canada, the Methodist churches, and the Wesleyan Church.[9]

Protestants generally regard all true Christian believers as saints and if they observe All Saints Day at all they use it to remember all Christians both past and present. In the United Methodist Church, All Saints’ Day is celebrated on the first Sunday in November. It is held, not only to remember Saints, but also to remember all those that have died that were members of the local church congregation.[10] In some congregations, a candle is lit by the Acolyte as each person’s name is called out by the clergy. Prayers and responsive readings may accompany the event. Often, the names of those who have died in the past year are afixed to a memorial plaque.

In many Lutheran churches, All Saints’ Day and Reformation Day are observed concurrently on the Sunday before or after those dates, given Reformation Day is observed in Protestant Churches on October 31. Typically, Martin Luther’s A Mighty Fortress is Our God is sung during the service. Besides discussing Luther’s role in the Protestant Reformation, some recognition of the prominent early leaders of the Reformed tradition, such as John Calvin and John Knox, occurs. The observance of Reformation Day may be immediately followed by a reading of those members of the local congregation who have died in the past year in observance of All Saints’ Day. Otherwise, the recognition of deceased church members occurs at another designated portion of the service.

Roman Catholic Obligation

In the Roman Catholic Church, All Saints’ Day is a Holy Day of Obligation in many (but not all) countries, meaning going to Mass on the date is required unless one has a good reason to be excused from that obligation, such as illness. However, in a number of countries that do list All Saints’ Day as a Holy Day of Obligation, including England & Wales, the solemnity of All Saints’ Day is transferred to the adjacent Sunday if 1 November falls on a Monday or a Saturday, while in the same circumstances in the United States the Solemnity is still celebrated on November 1 but the obligation to attend Mass is abrogated.


All Saints’ Day at a cemetery in O.wi.cim, Poland, 1 November 1984

In Portugal, Spain, and Mexico, offerings (Portuguese: oferendas, Spanish: ofrendas) are made on this day. In Spain, the play Don Juan Tenorio is traditionally performed. In Mexico, All Saints Day coincides with the celebration of “Díde los Inocentes” (Day of the Innocents), the first day of the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) celebration, honoring deceased children and infants. In Portugal, children celebrate the Pãpor-Deus tradition, and go door to door where they receive cakes, nuts and pomegranates. This only occurs in some areas around Lisbon.

In Austria, Belgium, France, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Spain, and American Cities such as New Orleans people take flowers to the graves of dead relatives.

In Poland, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Finland, Slovenia, Slovakia, Lithuania, Croatia, Austria, Romania, Moldova, Hungary and Catholic parts of Germany, the tradition is to light candles and visit the graves of deceased relatives.

In the Philippines, this day, called “Undas“, “Todos los Santos” (literally “All Saints”), and sometimes “Araw ng mga Patay” (approximately “Day of the dead”) is observed as All Souls’ Day. This day and the one before and one after it is spent visiting the graves of deceased relatives, where prayers and flowers are offered, candles are lit and the graves themselves are cleaned, repaired and repainted.

In English-speaking countries, the festival is traditionally celebrated with the hymn “For All the Saints” by William Walsham How. The most familiar tune for this hymn is Sine Nomine by Ralph Vaughan Williams. Catholics generally celebrate with a day of rest consisting of avoiding physical exertion.

See it all with footnotes:

Hong Kong tycoons silent amid democracy discussions

October 31, 2014

Tung Chee-hwa, Hong Kong’s first chief executive after the 1997 handover, left, and some of the “tycoons” with President Xi Jinping in Beijing. Photo By Rao Aimin (AP)

With a $32-billion fortune and business interests as diverse as supermarkets and ports, Asia’s richest man, Li Ka-shing, would seem to have little to fret about. But as the Hong Konger told a class of graduating students in the summer at mainland China’s Shantou University, he’s kept up at night by worries over his city’s yawning wealth gap.

The government needs “dynamic and flexible [wealth] redistribution policies” and should invest more in education, the 86-year-old said in an address titled “Sleepless in Hong Kong.”

“We need to act now,” he exhorted his young audience.

The concerns troubling Li are among those that have echoed through the night in Hong Kong this fall as protesters, many of them students, have taken to the streets to demand change. Although their primary goal has been greater democracy — a sensitive topic that Li studiously avoided in his speech — they also have fretted about their economic prospects and the state of education.

When the demonstrations erupted in late September many people — particularly leaders in Beijing — expected power brokers like Li to come out firmly and forcefully against the sit-ins and call for a quick return to the status quo. After all, the territory’s business elite has enjoyed a cozy and profitable relationship with government officials since the former British colony reverted to Chinese rule 17 years ago, reaping massive windfalls as closer ties with the mainland set the city’s property market on fire and supercharged other sectors of the economy.

But that calculation may have underestimated the tycoons’ support for Hong Kong’s more Westernized traditions, and their distaste for its government leader, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.

To protesters in the streets, Leung is Beijing’s man, a representative of anti-democratic forces. But a majority of the region’s billionaires have long seen him as a populist, an up-from-poverty arriviste who doesn’t share their background or values.

Over the weekend, James Tien, a local legislator and head of the pro-business Liberal Party, called on Leung to resign, becoming the first such establishment figure to do so. Beijing’s displeasure at this became manifest Wednesday, when Tien was expelled from the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, a prestigious government body.

Tien’s call may only reinforce notions in Beijing that the billionaires who were supposed to have the Communist Party’s back are instead engaging in an internecine battle, some observers said.

“I think the way the mainland is seeing it is that the real face of the struggle has been revealed,” said Michael DeGolyer, a professor of government and international studies at Hong Kong Baptist  University. “And this is not a Hong Kong-mainland battle; this is a tycoon-tycoon battle.”

“This is probably also why [Beijing] is being fairly noninterventionist; it was supposed to be tycoons running Hong Kong,” DeGolyer added. “So clearly I think they’re interpreting this as an internal struggle in which the pro-democracy movement is either an unwitting dupe, being manipulated, or actually an arm or branch or acting element being encouraged by one of the tycoon factions.”

None of this is to suggest that the tycoons have been out in the streets alongside the protesters. For the most part, they have said nothing publicly about the unrest, and it is impossible to know what they are thinking or saying in private.

A fair number of Hong Kong’s 1% may be unsympathetic to the Occupy Central demonstrations and simply don’t want to say anything to offend their hometown customers. So far, the sit-ins have hurt the pocketbooks of taxi drivers, restaurateurs and some retailers, but spared the stock exchange and property market.

“The big boys are doing OK; their businesses have not been hurt,” said Willy Lam, a Hong Kong-based political analyst. Li and other billionaires “have called on the students to leave, but they have not used excessively heavy or colorful language to scold them. It’s obvious that they realize that the students have substantial support among the population. So I think they are playing it both ways.”

China’s communist leaders appear to be chafing at the silence. Last weekend, the state-run New China News Agency published an article-cum-plea headlined, “Hong Kong tycoons reluctant to take sides amid Occupy turmoil.” The story lamented that former Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa was nearly alone among the wealthy in voicing opposition to the protests.

Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing

Li had urged protesters to go home “but did not make it clear whether or not he agrees with the appeals of the protesters,” it said. “Other Hong Kong tycoons have all remained mute.”

There may be intrigue behind their silence.

Two years ago, Li and many of his peers backed Leung’s rival, Henry Tang, for the city’s top job. Tang, the son of a Shanghai textile baron, was seen by many of Hong Kong’s elite as cut from the same cloth. Leung — the son of a police officer, raised in public housing — was regarded as more populist and unpredictable, despite having made millions in the real estate and surveying businesses.

Ultimately, Beijing signaled its preference for Leung after Tang was hit by scandals over an affair and illegal additions to his mansion. Still, Leung managed to get only 689 votes from the 1,200-member committee of movers and shakers that chooses the chief executive.

“C.Y. Leung has never had the support of these tycoons,” Lam said. “So it’s highly possible they see this as an opportunity to settle old scores.”

So far, there’s no indication that the wealthiest tycoons have supported the demonstrators financially, though the city was abuzz this week with revelations that Occupy Central With Love and Peace, one of the key protest groups, received $166,000 from one anonymous donor.

But at least one protest leader believes their reticence to speak out may be a sign of tacit support.

“It seems that the Chinese Communist Party is not allowing people to remain silent. This may be the communist way of doing things, but I think [the elites’] acquiescence speaks loads about how they feel about the Occupy movement,” said Alan Leong, leader of the pro-democracy Civic Party. “They may think and feel as strongly as we do that the present system does not work. And if it continues, Hong Kong will become ungovernable.”

Special correspondents Tiffany Ap and Echo Hui in Hong Kong contributed to this report.



Vietnamese Blogger Released from Jail Says More Critics of the Communist Government Likely to be Released As U.S. Ties Improve

October 31, 2014

By John Boudreau

Nguyen Van Hai, a Vietnamese blogger whose sentence was suspended, said his country’s push to improve ties with the U.S. will lead to more critics of the communist government being released and boost freedom of speech.

Hai, who is known as Dieu Cay, was handed a 12-year jail sentence in 2012 for spreading anti-government propaganda. He was released on Oct. 21 as a result of an agreement between the U.S. and Vietnam, he said in a telephone interview. Hai was taken directly to Hanoi’s Noi Bai International Airport from prison and boarded a flight for Hong Kong and then Los Angeles.

Freed Vietnamese dissident Nguyen Van Hai is greeted upon arrival at Los Angeles International Airport on 21 October 2014 in Los Angeles, California

Nguyen Van Hai

Vietnam’s government will probably release more prisoners such as Hai as a sign of goodwill as it negotiates free trade agreements with the U.S., European Union and other countries, he said. Releases could also occur as a result of Vietnam developing closer relations with the U.S. amid territorial disputes with China, Hai, 62, said.

“In order to reach those agreements, such as TPP or the FTA with the EU, at the end of this year, they will probably release some more people,” he said, referring to the Trans-Pacific Partnership. “They need to build trust. Releasing these dissidents would show an improvement in human rights.”

‘Humanitarian Reasons’

The number of Vietnamese incarcerated for criticizing their government has decreased, U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Lisa Wishman said in an e-mail. She did not provide estimates of how many remain in jail. There are more than 150 dissidents being detained in Vietnam, according to Human Rights Watch.

Vietnam’s government should “release unconditionally all prisoners of conscience and allow all Vietnamese to express their political views without fear of retribution,” Wishman said in an Oct. 22 statement in Hanoi.

Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not immediately respond to an e-mail request for comment.

There are no “prisoners of conscience” in Vietnam, Pham Thu Hang, deputy spokeswoman in Vietnam’s foreign ministry, said by e-mail Oct. 22. The government “decided to temporarily suspend Nguyen Van Hai’s jail term and allow Nguyen Van Hai to emigrate to the U.S. for humanitarian reasons,” she said.

Hai ran afoul of Vietnamese authorities for criticizing China’s claims to the contested Paracel Islands and calling for a boycott of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, he said. Hai was initially arrested in 2008 on charges of tax evasion, he said.

Vietnam is looking for help from other powers to counter China’s military might as both countries compete for oil, gas and fish in the South China Sea. Skirmishes between boats and deadly anti-Chinese riots occurred in Vietnam after China placed an oil rig off Vietnam’s coast in May.

A Chinese Coast Guard vessel near a drilling rig that China installed in disputed waters near Vietnam in May. Credit Reuters  

Free Trade

Earlier this month U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told Vietnam Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh that Vietnam will be able to buy non-lethal weapons from the U.S. after the partial lifting of an arms embargo in place since 1984.

Vietnam is also looking to free trade agreements, such as TPP, to bolster an economy that the World Bank estimates will grow 5.4 percent this year, a seventh year of expansion below 7 percent, and lessen its economic reliance on China. The government aims for domestic investment to reach 30 percent of gross domestic product in 2015, about the same level as this year, even as it takes steps to resolve bad debt at banks and privatize state firms, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung told lawmakers on Oct. 20.

“To create trust with Western countries, Vietnam has to create democracy within Vietnam,” Hai said, speaking from his new home in Los Angeles. After trade and other agreements are signed, Vietnam could “crack down” again on those who speak out against the government, he said.

Since the clash between Vietnam and China during the summer over the Chinese oil rig in the South China Sea, Vietnamese have more leeway to criticize the country’s powerful communist neighbor, he said.

“The media can freely write about anti-China sentiment,” Hai said.

Social media sites like Facebook Inc. (FB) are giving Vietnamese an unprecedented ability to speak freely, he said.

“This has created a new media frontier that is stronger and more widespread,” Hai said. “Social networks are like a land of freedom that is difficult for the government to take control of.”

To contact the reporter on this story: John Boudreau in Hanoi at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Andrew Davis at K. Oanh Ha

South China Sea: China is “absorbing” disputed areas

October 31, 2014

Manila Times

China can slowly acquire more territory through its expansionist stance in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) and later “absorb the region”, a geopolitics experts said.

Rodger Baker, vice president for East Asia and the Pacific of Stratfor, said Beijing’s expansionism is “political, not military”, since none of the countries claiming ownership of small islands in the region will risk military action.

“So China can slowly absorb the region,” Baker said during the Business Forum organised by The Manila Times.

“Certainly, building structure on the islands prevents others from doing the same, and in time of relative peace may give China slightly easier and more robust capabilities for maritime surveillance,” the Stratfor analyst explained.

“But the main purpose of occupying the islands is not military. It is political,” he said.

Beijing’s “ownership” of the islands is further bolstered by the fact that it faces no concrete challenge.

“This strengthens the reality of Chinese possession,” Baker pointed out.

China’s highly dynamic movements in the disputed territories, he further explained, changes the political reality there by easily redirecting attention when tensions arise.

“When tensions rise too high with a particular country, China can ease off, shift attention to a different country, or just use the perception of heightened tensions to drive a desire for an easing of stress,” Baker said.

While the United States and other “extra-regional allies” have expressed the desire for a legal settlement of the maritime disputes, these countries “are not going to intervene on behalf of Southeast Asian nations”, he added.

“In China’s perspective, [it] will lead to a realignment of political relations where the Southeast Asian nations will find accommodation with China more beneficial than attempts to oppose Chinese expansion,” Baker said.

He observed that while China’s unprecedented growth has pushed it to become a world economic superpower, it lags behind in terms of “soft power expansion”.

“The disconnect between China’s economic strength and the security role assumed by others—namely the United States—highlights the imbalance of power in the region. In some ways, it has benefited Asean [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] countries, giving Asean states the ability to play off the big power competition for their own benefit,” the Stratfor official said.

Baker asserted that China will not “dominate” its smaller neighbours as colonial powers did in the past.

“China is hoping to simply draw in their cooperation and concessions, a recreation of the ages-old Chinese system of regional political management,” he said.

Also, according to Baker, Beijing cannot afford to have a confrontation with the Philippines because it would run counter to its maritime interests in the region.

“The Philippines is a US treaty ally, and thus seen as part of a US containment strategy to hold China in. There is plenty of room for expanded economic cooperation with China, despite the political speed bumps.”

The Philippine government’s filing of an arbitration case against China and openly seeking international support for Manila’s claim to disputed shoals and islets in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) may only be fanning nationalism among the Chinese who believe that the contested parts of the sea are theirs.

According to former ambassador Roberto Romulo, Beijing’s assertion of the nine-dash line principle in proving its ownership of the disputed territories are among the “long-held beliefs” of the Chinese people that the area was theirs dating back to the Chin Dynasty.

Speaking during a business forum organised by The Manila Times, the former envoy also criticised the government for “not being good at restraint”. He said the Aquino administration’s moves to prove sovereignty over these islands naturally come as “provocative” to the Chinese.

“Aligning ourselves with the US and Japan and seeking world opinion should not be done in a public and provocative manner. It will fuel nationalism from the Chinese,” Romulo explained.

Earlier this year, the government through the department of foreign affairs (DFA) filed a “memorial” with the International Tribunal on the Laws of the Sea contesting China’s claims to the disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea based on its nine-dash line rule.

In September, Aquino sought the backing of the European Union in Manila’s move against Beijing, invoking the United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Sea where China is a signatory.

But these tactics, Romulo noted, do not sit well with China.

He said it is impossible for the Chinese government to strike a compromise because it will be perceived as an act of treason.

“If you look at the interior of China, aside from these substantive issues, [we have to know] China’s current political dynamics.

Realising this help to calibrate [PH] response,” Romulo noted, adding that there’s “universal public support” in the mainland for its government toward its policies in the contested seas.

“Public support has devolved… Chinese [ownership] extends back to the Chin Dynasty. It is impossible for any Chinese government to compromise [because] compromise will be perceived as betrayal of the nation’s sovereignty,” he pointed out.

The former Foreign Affairs official maintained that it will be “difficult to imagine a major shift in China’s position until [there is a] new eldership bold enough to run counter along that long-held belief [of ownership over the territories].”

He said while there is no quick fix or “magic solution” to the problem, “subtlety” and “restraint” on the part of the Philippine government may do the trick in the long haul.

“There is no magic solution here other than the virtues of patience, perseverance and it is important to have that level of restraint, where we are not very good at, and subtlety,” Romulo added.

He said China and the Philippines should seriously consider joint use and exploration of the disputed areas and set aside the issue of sovereignty since none of the claimants are inclined to give up such.

“[Many] Chinese have all proposed shelving sovereignty and [resort to] joint use. Claimants should work together for maritime cooperation and joint development, maintain peace and stability, reduce tensions,” Romulo added.

Earlier, the former ambassador claimed that China’s rise as an economic superpower is inevitable, making it imperative for the Philippines to rekindle and even strengthen its ties with Beijing.

The chairman of AIG Philippine Insurance Inc., he said Philippine leaders must face the future and accept China’s “preeminence.”

“Why should we care to bring our relations to normalcy? Because [China’s rise] is a reality that we have to accept. [Thus it follows that] engagement and mutual accommodation [are] unavoidable,” Romulo added.

In Hong Kong, Many Big Businesses Unable To Discuss Democracy Move — But Not All

October 31, 2014

By Una Galani

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own. 

Hong Kong’s protesters have laid a minefield for big business. The city’s democracy debate is a deeply divisive issue. For companies, keeping quiet is less risky than expressing an opinion guaranteed to irk customers and staff or strain relations with Beijing. It’s even harder for individual employees who must tread a blurry line between free speech and corporate interests.

Before the movement took off a month ago, many business leaders were happy to predict that protests would bring chaos. The Big Four accounting firms even took out joint advertisements in local newspapers warning that disruption could shake Hong Kong’s position as an international financial center.

Now that activists are on the streets, silence is the preferred policy. Those companies that do speak out mostly take a conciliatory tone. Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing has called on protesters to go home. Jack Ma, chairman of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, blamed dissatisfaction with the city’s huge wealth divide, but also warned protesters not to push too hard.

Tycoons recognise that power in Hong Kong lies with Beijing. Expressing any support for a movement which China views as illegal would invite retribution that could jeopardise business. Yet companies are also reluctant to antagonise customers and employees who support civil disobedience. That’s a key difference between the current standoff and, say, making political donations in the United States or opining on important economic questions like the Scottish referendum.

Individual employees, meanwhile, are discovering the limits of free speech. HSBC board member Laura Cha sparked an online petition after she was quoted comparing Hong Kong’s democracy drive to the emancipation of American slaves. Meanwhile, a senior JPMorgan banker whipped up a mini media storm when he was filmed speaking against the protests. Both banks distanced themselves from the views. Rightly or wrongly, high-ranking or high-profile employees are expected to put their companies’ interests first.

It makes sense for companies to speak out on legislation or regulation that affects their business prospects. Hong Kong’s business leaders are under pressure to make it clear where they stand on the protests. Before doing so, though, companies and individuals need to weigh the cost of speaking out.


Warning on airing dissent in secret

Selina Chow says pro-establishment politicians may lose voters’ support if disagreements with Beijing are discussed behind close doors

Gary Cheung, Peter So and Joyce Ng
South China Morning Post


Pro-establishment politicians will have difficulty winning voters’ support after being told by a state leader that they should convey dissenting views to Beijing behind closed doors rather than airing them in public, the Liberal Party’s chairwoman said yesterday.

Selina Chow Liang Shuk-yee was speaking a day after party leader James Tien Pei-chun was sacked from the nation’s top political advisory body for urging Beijing-backed Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to consider resigning.

Also on Wednesday, the chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference was quoted as saying that delegates with dissenting views, like Tien’s, should take them directly to Beijing instead of airing them publicly.

“If pro-establishment politicians are hesitant about airing criticisms, the voice of moderates within the pro-establishment camp will be sidelined,” Chow told the South China Morning Post.

“It would be unfavourable for pro-establishment politicians when canvassing support in future elections.”

She believed that maintaining discipline within the Beijing-friendly camp in the “political struggle” against the Occupy Central movement was behind the CPPCC’s sacking of Tien, who later also quit as party leader.

Meanwhile, amid efforts to resolve the political impasse over Beijing’s strict rules for the 2017 chief executive election that has left parts of the city paralysed by demonstrators, a pan-democrat lawmaker said the city’s No 2 official had agreed to consider meeting members of the camp.

Alan Leong Kah-kit, convenor of a weekly “lunch box meeting” of 23 pan-democratic lawmakers, said they had asked Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor on Wednesday for a meeting. “Carrie said she would think about it,” Leong said.

He said the lawmakers wanted to discuss government proposals – raised at a meeting between officials and student leaders last week – for a report to Beijing to reflect public sentiment and for a multiparty platform for dialogue on political reform.

Yu’s advice for pro-establishment politicians to take their views to Beijing was relayed by Chan Wing-kee, a member of the CPPCC standing committee.

Chow said she understood the reminder from Yu had come amid political turmoil over the Occupy movement – labelled by Vice-Premier Wang Yang two weeks ago as a “colour revolution”, a reference to uprisings in post-Soviet states.

“Some Hongkongers might think Beijing is taking too hardline an approach,” she said. “[But] the central government might require discipline within the pro-establishment camp during the political struggle.”

Chow defended Tien, saying he had been speaking from “the bottom of his heart”.

“He only asked Leung to consider whether his resignation could be a way out of the current political deadlock,” she said, adding that many Hongkongers might share Tien’s view.

“I may not 100 per cent agree with him, but I don’t think Tien was wrong.”

Chow denied donors and business figures were distancing themselves from the pro-business party but admitted it was facing a “real test”.


Fearing Beijing and A Pay Cut, Hollywood Chinese Fail to Support Democracy — But Taiwan’s President is Unafraid

October 31, 2014


The Hong Kong actors Chow Yun-Fat (L) and Jackie Chan (R), photographed here in 1999, have taken divergent views on the territory’s pro-democracy protests. (Bobby Yip/Reuters)

At the beginning of October, Hong Kong actor and international star Chow Yun-fat became one of the few high-profile local celebrities to speak out on the pro-democracy protests in his native country. Over the past week, a backlash has started to brew against Chow and others who have lent their support to the demonstrators. The stars, of whom Chow is arguably the most famous outside Asia, are the latest this year to take potentially risky positions on global political issues. This summer, Spanish and Korean filmmakers including Pedro Almodovar and Park Chan-wook, denounced Israel’s involvement in the violence in Gaza, sparking ire from onlookers around the world, but no visible impact on their careers. In this case, the Hong Kong bold-faced names are speaking out about a situation that is right in their own backyard — and that backyard belongs to an increasingly disgruntled China where much of their money is made.

A commentary published on the website of the state-run news agency Xinhua last week and aimed at the celebs, read (per a NYT translation): “You have violated the principles of ‘one country, two systems,’ challenged the authority of the central party, ignored the Basic Law, and earned fistfuls of cash only to then turn and scold your motherland.”

Media reports say the stars are being shunned by fans, and even by companies on the Mainland which is the world’s second largest box office market and where a lot of their fanbase resides. Among the other artists to support the Hong Kong protesters are understood to be Infernal Affairs actors Tony Leung, Andy Lau, Chapman To and Anthony Wong Chau-Sang as well as pop singer Denise Ho.

Social media last week started sending out a “blacklist” issued by Beijing authorities that included dozens of celebrity names, the Wall Street Journal said, with instructions to state news outlets and entertainment companies not to promote the stars.

Speaking to the NYT, Ho said, “Regardless of how official the bans might be, they can always achieve the same result by scaring off people or companies who might otherwise want to approach us.” She has had no invitations to perform on the Mainland since she began standing up for the movement, and a fashion brand recently canceled a commitment without giving a reason.

Meanwhile, Taiwanese director and author Giddens Ko, who made the 2011 hit You Are The Apple Of My Eye, has also been targeted. According to The Global Times, which is published by People’s Daily, one of China’s official government newspapers, Ko openly supported Taiwan’s anti-reunification Sunflower Student Movement this spring. This month, he also voiced his support for the Hong Kong movement.

The paper said that despite rumors of a ban on Ko’s books, they are still being sold on the Mainland. However, his latest film as writer, Cafe Waiting Love, underperformed at the box office upon release. His next film, The Graduate, has been postponed due in part to the loss of lead actor Kai Ko who was arrested on drug charges in August, but also, producer Xi Jianhong said, because of Giddens Ko’s political views.

In a bracing comment, Hu Xingdou of the Beijing Institute of Technology told the Global Times, “Celebrities or businessmen are suggested to avoid political topics so as not to risk their career or business. It’s worth pointing out that [as a result of] China’s political environment, most celebrities do not understand politics. Their political views are often naïve.”

Chow Yun-fat and Anthony Wong Chau-Sang appear to be taking any backlash in stride. Regarding a potential blacklist, Chow said, “I’ll just make less then.” Wong, per the Global Times, wrote on his Facebook page that he’ll make more movies in Hong Kong, even though it means taking a pay cut.


Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou promised to reduce tension

Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou

Taiwan President Backs Hong Kong Protesters While Courting Beijing

TAIPEI, Taiwan — President Ma Ying-jeou of Taiwan voiced support on Friday for the democratic ideals of student protesters in Hong Kong and for greater democracy in mainland China itself, taking a chance on antagonizing Beijing even as he reaffirmed his policy of seeking further free-trade agreements with the mainland.

”If mainland China can practice democracy in Hong Kong, or if mainland China itself can become more democratic, then we can shorten the psychological distance between people from the two sides of the Taiwan Strait,’’ Mr. Ma said in an interview here on Friday.

The president’s public pronouncements on the Hong Kong protests — he also expressed support for them in a televised speech on Taiwan’s National Day, Oct. 10 — show a greater willingness lately to speak out on an issue of considerable sensitivity to the Beijing leadership. But Mr. Ma was quick to point out that he had issued an annual statement each June to mourn the Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989, and that Beijing had not made those statements an obstacle to improving relations.

“I think our support of Hong Kong’s democracy will not be at the expense of cross-strait relations,” he said.

Read the rest:


 (Includes links to articles on Hong Kong from 2 prior weeks)

 (By Chris Patten)

 (Joshua Wong Op-Ed)

“Foreign Forces” Not to Blame for Hong Kong’s Protests, Martin Lee Says — Beijing Broke Its Promise and Should Be Ashamed

October 31, 2014


Responsibility for ending the ongoing protests rests on the shoulders of Chinese President Xi Jinping

Hong Kong protests

China’s attempt to blame U.S. and other “foreign forces” for Hong Kong’s protests is merely a “convenient excuse” for Beijing to cover its shame for not granting the territory true democracy as it once promised, said Martin Lee, founding chairman of Hong Kong’s Democratic Party.

By Echo Hui
The Los Angels Times

With street sit-ins entering their second month and no resolution in sight, Lee, 76, said Tuesday that responsibility for ending the ongoing protests rests on the shoulders of Chinese President Xi Jinping, who recently has emphasized the necessity of the “rule of law.”

Lee, founder of one of Hong Kong’s largest political parties, has been singled out by China’s Communist Party for allegedly inviting outside interference in the territory’s affairs. In April, the U.S. Congress revived an annual report on political developments in Hong Kong following a plea by Lee and former Chief Secretary Anson Chan. They have since been condemned in China’s state-run media as “betraying” Hong Kong with their move.

Protesters in Hong Kong, a former British territory that returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under a framework known as “one country, two systems,” took to the streets in late September to denounce rules laid out by Beijing for the city’s chief executive election in 2017. The rules would limit candidates to two or three people approved by a special committee expected to be packed with pro-establishment figures.

Protesters say that is tantamount to “fake democracy” and contravenes promises made with the 1997 handover. They are pressing for a more open, public nominations system.

A two-hour dialogue between protest leaders and five Hong Kong government officials last week yielded little common ground. The session was first of what is expected to be several rounds of talks aimed at resolving the political crisis, but a second session has yet to be scheduled.

In an interview with The Times, Lee said he did travel overseas frequently to met with government officials, lawmakers, the media and Chinese communities. But he said that his message has always been defending Hong Kong’s core values and that he never accepts financial support from abroad.

“I never ask for money,” said Lee, “and even if they offer, which they haven’t, I won’t touch it. Because I know, once I touch it, they will use it against us.”

Lee denied allegations that protesters wanted to separate Hong Kong from mainland China. Rather, he said, demonstrators only want to hold Beijing to its promises made under the Basic Law, the legal framework of the 1997 handover, which promised Hong Kong a high degree of political autonomy for 50 years.

“We have never asked for independence. We have always accepted the ‘one country, two systems’ policy,” said Lee. “We just want to hold China accountable for its policy; we have never asked for more.”

“The Basic Law is China’s policy in Hong Kong and …  China promised us, 10 years after the handover, Hong Kong could have universal suffrage for the chief executive election. That includes not only the right [of every citizen] to vote, but also the right for other people to stand for elections,” said Lee. “But they have postponed it twice, and now block the way to true democracy.”

Lee said he clearly remembered the day in 1987 when he first met Deng Xiaoping, China’s paramount leader at the time. It was April 26, and Lee was then a Hong Kong lawmaker serving on a committee drafting the Basic Law.

Deng’s words, he said, were clear. “He famously said one sentence. He said if 50 years [of a high degree of autonomy] should prove not to be enough, you may have another 50.”

What Deng meant, Lee said, was if mainland China hadn’t “caught up” with Hong Kong by then, China would still want the territory to maintain the freedoms inherited from the British.

“Deng Xiaoping’s blueprint is not just for Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, but I believe, for the whole of China,” said Lee. However, he said that “China has not been sticking to Deng Xiaoping’s plan to keep Hong Kong truly a highly autonomous area.”

Pointing to a key Communist Party political gathering last week that emphasized the “rule of law,” Lee added that if Xi was sincere, he would ask the standing committee of the National People’s Congress, which issued the election framework, to revisit its decision.

“If he would do that, how would the world receive that decision? The whole world would approve,” said Lee. “They would say, ‘OK, from now on, China is in a different position, a Chinese leader can be trusted.'”

In the meantime, Lee appealed publicly to his generation and parents of protesting students to “not persuade the students protesters to go home.”

Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests have been characterized by a sharp generational divide, with many in their 40s and 50s opposing their children’s involvement as wrongheaded or futile.

“There are two movements, one is the grown-ups’ movement — we use our way to deal with it, and that’s always fighting for democracy within ‘the cage’ — that’s the Joint Declaration and the Basic Law. This is our world,” Lee said. “But in the younger generation’s world, where they are for the first time fighting for democracy, this is their way.”

Hui is a special correspondent.


 (Includes links to articles on Hong Kong from 2 prior weeks)

 (By Chris Patten)

 (Joshua Wong Op-Ed)



Sen. Mary Landrieu Seems To Blame President Barack Obama’s Low Approval Rating on Racism

October 31, 2014


Sen. Mary Landrieu

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Republicans are calling on Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu to apologize after she suggested Thursday that President Barack Obama’s deep unpopularity in the South is partly tied to race.

In an interview with NBC News on Thursday, Landrieu was quoted as saying that the South “has not always been the friendliest place for African-Americans.”

The comments came after an NBC reporter asked the senator why Obama has such low approval ratings in Louisiana. Landrieu’s first response was that the president’s energy policies are deeply disliked by residents of the oil and gas-rich state.

She then added, “I’ll be very, very honest with you. The South has not always been the friendliest place for African-Americans. It’s been a difficult time for the president to present himself in a very positive light as a leader.”

Landrieu is locked in a tight re-election battle with Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, and is targeted by Republicans nationally in their efforts to retake control of the Senate. Republican and tea-party favorite Rob Maness is polling in a distant third place.

State Republican Party Chairman Roger Villere issued a statement late Thursday calling Landrieu’s remarks “insulting to me and to every other Louisianian.”

“Louisiana deserves better than a senator who denigrates her own people by questioning and projecting insidious motives on the very people she claims to represent,” he said. “Senator Landrieu and President Obama are unpopular for no other reason than the fact the policies they advance are wrong for Louisiana and wrong for America.”

Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal issued a statement calling Landrieu’s comments “remarkably divisive” and Maness issued a statement calling on the senator to apologize.

Landrieu’s campaign declined to comment Thursday night.


In Comments sure to cascade into regional races across the South, embattled Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) told NBC’s Chuck Todd on Thursday that Southern racism is to blame for President Barack Obama’s unpopularity.

“Why does President Obama have a hard time in Louisiana?” asked Todd.

“Let me be very, very honest with you,” said Landrieu. “The South has not always been the friendliest place for African-Americans. It’s been a difficult time for the president to present himself in a very positive light as a leader.”

Landrieu added: “It has not always been a good place for women, to be able to present ourselves. It’s more of a conservative place. So we’ve had to work a little bit harder on that. But, you know, the people trust me, I believe. Really, they do.”

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal blasted Landrieu’s comments as desperate and out of touch.

“She appears to be living in a different century. Implied in her comments is the clear suggestion that President Obama and his policies are unpopular in Louisiana because of his ethnicity,” said Jindal. “That is a major insult by Senator Landrieu to the people of Louisiana, and I flatly reject it.”

Landrieu’s controversial remarks threaten to spill over into other Southern races, further placing already vulnerable Democrats in the uncomfortable position of having to defend or reject Landrieu’s statements. Democrats who reject Landrieu’s comments risk alienating black voters. Those who agree with Landrieu risk alienating white voters.

The latest USA Today poll shows Landrieu trailing her Republican challenger Bill Cassidy by seven percentage points.