Posts Tagged ‘Beijing’

China’s Secret Weapon in South Korea Missile Fight: Hackers

April 21, 2017

China denies it is retaliating over the Thaad missile system, but a U.S. cybersecurity firm says they are

This 2015 handout photo from the U.S. Department of Defense shows a terminal High Altitude Area Defense interceptor being test launched on Wake Island in the Pacific Ocean.

This 2015 handout photo from the U.S. Department of Defense shows a terminal High Altitude Area Defense interceptor being test launched on Wake Island in the Pacific Ocean. PHOTO: AFP PHOTO / DOD / BEN LISTERMAN
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April 21, 2017 5:20 a.m. ET

Chinese state-backed hackers have recently targeted South Korean entities involved in deploying a U.S. missile-defense system, says an American cybersecurity firm, despite Beijing’s denial of retaliation against Seoul over the issue.

In recent weeks, two cyberespionage groups that the firm linked to Beijing’s military and intelligence agencies have launched a variety of attacks against South Korea’s government, military, defense companies and a big conglomerate, John Hultquist, director of cyberespionage analysis at FireEye Inc., said in an interview.

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The California-based firm, which counts South Korean agencies as clients, including one that oversees internet security, wouldn’t name the targets.

While FireEye and other cybersecurity experts say Chinese hackers have long targeted South Korea, they note a rise in the number and intensity of attacks in the weeks since South Korea said it would deploy Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, or Thaad, a sophisticated missile-defense system aimed at defending South Korea from a North Korean missile threat.

China opposes Thaad, saying its radar system can reach deep into its own territory and compromise its security. South Korea and the U.S. say Thaad is purely defensive. The first components of the system arrived in South Korea last month and have been a key issue in the current presidential campaign there.

One of the two hacker groups, which FireEye dubbed Tonto Team, is tied to China’s military and based out of the northeastern Chinese city of Shenyang, where North Korean hackers are also known to be active, said Mr. Hultquist, a former senior U.S. intelligence analyst. FireEye believes the other, known as APT10, may be linked to other Chinese military or intelligence units.

China’s Ministry of Defense said this week Beijing has consistently opposed hacking, and that the People’s Liberation Army “has never supported any hacking activity.” China has said it is itself a major hacking victim but has declined to offer specifics.

Mr. Hultquist said the two hacking groups gained access to their targets’ systems by using web-based intrusions, and by inducing people to click on weaponized email attachments or compromised websites. He declined to offer more specific details.

HACK ATTACKS

Recent cyberattacks attributed to Chinese state-backed groups.

  • Since February Spear-phishing* and watering hole** attacks were conducted against South Korean government, military and commercial targets connected to a U.S. missile defense system.
  • February, March Attendees of a board meeting at the National Foreign Trade Council were targeted with malware through the U.S. lobby group’s website.
  • Since 2016 Mining, technology, engineering and other companies in Japan, Europe and North America were intruded on through third-party IT service providers.
  • 2014-2015 Hackers penetrated a network of U.S. Office of Personnel Management to steal records connected to millions of government employees and contractors.
  • 2011-2012 South Korean targets, including government, media, military and think tanks were targeted with spear-phishing attacks.
  • *Sending fraudulent emails made to look as if they come from a trusted party in order to trick a target into downloading malicious software.
  • **A strategy in which the attacker guesses or observes which websites a targeted group often uses and infects them with malware to infect the group’s network..
  • Sources: FireEye, Trend Micro, Fidelis, PricewaterhouseCoopers and BAE Systems, WSJ reporting

Mr. Hultquist added that an error in one of the group’s operational security provided FireEye’s analysts with new information about the group’s origins.

South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said last month that its website was targeted in a denial-of-service attack—one in which a flood of hacker-directed computers cripple a website—that originated in China.

A spokesman said that “prompt defensive measures” ensured that the attacks weren’t effective, adding that it was maintaining an “emergency service system” to repel Chinese hackers.

The ministry this week declined to comment further, or to say which cybersecurity firm it had employed or whether he thought the attacks were related to Thaad.

Another cybersecurity company, Russia’s Kaspersky Lab ZAO, said it observed a new wave of attacks on South Korean targets using malicious software that appeared to have been developed by Chinese speakers starting in February.

The attackers used so-called spear-phishing emails armed with malware hidden in documents related to national security, aerospace and other topics of strategic interest, said Park Seong-su, a senior global researcher for Kaspersky. The company typically declines to attribute cyberattacks and said it couldn’t say if the recent ones were related to Thaad.

The two hacking groups with alleged ties to Beijing have been joined by other so-called hacktivists—patriotic Chinese hackers acting independently of the government and using names like the “Panda Intelligence Bureau” and the “Denounce Lotte Group,” Mr. Hultquist said.

South Korea’s Lotte Group has become a particular focus of Chinese ire after the conglomerate approved a land swap this year that allowed the government to deploy a Thaad battery on a company golf course.

Last month, just after the land swap was approved, a Lotte duty-free shopping website was crippled by a denial-of-service attack, said a company spokeswoman, who added that its Chinese website had been disrupted with a virus in February. She declined to comment on its source.

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs didn’t respond to questions about the website attacks. The ministry has previously addressed Lotte’s recent troubles in China by saying that the country welcomes foreign companies as long as they abide by Chinese law.

The U.S. has also accused Chinese state-backed hacking groups of breaking into government and commercial networks, though cybersecurity firms say such activity has dropped since the two nations struck a cybersecurity deal in 2015.

The two Chinese hacking groups named by FireEye are suspected of previous cyberattacks.

FireEye linked Tonto Team to an earlier state-backed Chinese hacking campaign, identified by Tokyo-based cybersecurity firm Trend Micro Inc. in 2012, which focused on South Korea’s government, media and military. Trend Micro declined to comment.

Two cybersecurity reports this month accused APT10 of launching a spate of recent attacks around the globe, including on a prominent U.S. trade lobbying group. One of those reports, jointly published by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP and British weapons maker BAE Systems, said the Chinese hacker collective has recently grown more sophisticated, using custom-designed malware and accessing its targets’ systems by first hacking into trusted third-party IT service providers.

Because of the new scrutiny from that report, FireEye said in a recent blog post that APT10 was likely to lay low, though in the longer run, it added, “we believe they will return to their large-scale operations, potentially employing new tactics, techniques and procedures.”

Write to Jonathan Cheng at jonathan.cheng@wsj.com and Josh Chin at josh.chin@wsj.com

 

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The hype about China’s newest city

April 12, 2017

Faced with overcrowding in Beijing, China plans to build an annex

UNTIL the start of this month, no one had ever heard of Xiongan. Today, it is the most talked-about place in China. When the government announced on April 1st that it would create “Xiongan New Area” as a metropolis from scratch, it immediately set off a frenzy. Housing prices in the zone, about 100km (62 miles) south-west of Beijing, more than tripled overnight before authorities ordered a halt to property transactions. Local hotels were booked up and roads packed with cars as prospective investors flocked to what is still largely farmland. The shares of companies such as local cement-makers and real-estate developers soared in value. State media extolled the promise of the city, touting it as a new chapter in China’s urban development. What is all the fuss about?

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The government’s intention is to make Xiongan an annex of Beijing, to take pressure off the Chinese capital, which is struggling to cope with a population of more than 20m people. Beijing’s traffic jams are horrendous, its subways overloaded and its water supply running low. In recent years planners have encouraged people to move away from the centre, to suburbs and nearby cities. The creation of Xiongan marks an escalation in these efforts: China wants to make it a model city, with a clean environment, fast transport and high-tech industries, to attract millions of people. The hope is that a big slice of Beijing’s “non-capital functions”, from businesses to universities, will move to Xiongan. Initially, it will cover 100 sq km, nearly twice the size of Manhattan. Eventually, the aim is to reach 2,000 sq km, more than twice as big as New York city or Singapore.

There are no blueprints yet and details are hazy, but it is sure to entail a massive amount of investment. The three counties that will be converted into Xiongan are mainly made up of scrubby fields and drab towns (pictured). Analysts at UBS, a bank, reckon that as much as 4trn yuan ($580bn) could be spent on building Xiongan over the next two decades—hence the rally in construction-related shares. But punters might be getting ahead of themselves. Given the size of the Chinese economy, Xiongan will, even in the most bullish assessments, add less than half a percentage point to annual GDP growth while it is being built. And that is if all goes well. The government has pointed to Shenzhen, a southern metropolis, and Pudong, Shanghai’s financial district, as examples of successful urban developments that it hopes to replicate. Yet there are also plenty of new areas—notably, Binhai in Tianjin, just east of Xiongan—that have failed to take root.

One problem that has plagued these urban projects is changes in government leadership. When they lose their sponsors, they often also lose their funding. Xiongan should fare better in this regard. It appears to have strong backing from Xi Jinping, China’s powerful president who is on the cusp of another five-year term. The bigger concern is whether it will actually be a smart investment. Rather than creating a new city, it might be cheaper and more efficient to improve Beijing’s design and infrastructure. More subway lines, denser neighbourhoods and better water conservation are all needed. Upgraded transport links to nearby cities would also help. But China has the political will and the financial muscle to start afresh and build a city from the ground up. Next stop: Xiongan.

http://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2017/04/economist-explains-9

Related:

Affordable housing a distant dream for ordinary Hongkongers — Will Xiongan New Area in Hebei be good for housing? Probably not.

April 6, 2017

Michael Chugani says residents in city should blame all parties involved, including politicians, tycoons and themselves

By Michael Chugani
South China Morning Post

Opinion

April 4, 2017

China’s Hebei promises new assault on smog after 2017 spike — “Taking action to shut backward coal-fired power plants”

April 1, 2017

Reuters

Heavily-polluted Hebei province in northern China will take more action to shut “backward” coal-fired power plants, promote new energy vehicles and relocate more industries, it said on Saturday after a surge in smog levels in January and February.

Hebei, home to six of China’s 10 smoggiest cities in the first two months of 2017, is on the frontline of a three-year “war on pollution”, and has already promised to slash coal consumption and close inefficient industrial plants.

But the province has been accused of pursuing “form over substance” when it comes to fighting pollution.

Despite improvements, Hebei, together with neighboring Beijing and Tianjin, saw concentrations of small breathable particles known as PM2.5 rise 48 percent in the first two months of 2017 after several bouts of persistent smog.

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At a meeting of government officials on Friday, Hebei Communist party chief Zhao Kezhi said the province had now drawn up 18 new “special implementation plans”, but he also called for “patience”, saying there was still a long way to go before Hebei’s problems could be resolved.

Hebei is China’s biggest steelmaking region, and despite cutting capacity, output rose 2.3 percent to 192.6 million tonnes last year, nearly a quarter of the national total.

The steel city of Tangshan saw output rise 6.8 percent to 88.3 million tonnes last year, and it is the target of a tough new inspection campaign aimed at rooting out firms that break rules.

In one of its new plans, Hebei promised to shut or relocate all “backward” power generation capacity in urban areas by 2020.

Hebei, which will host events for the 2022 Winter Olympics, has lagged the rest of the country when it comes to replacing coal, with the share of renewables in its total energy mix less than half the national level last year.

Hebei aims to cut PM2.5 by 10 percent this year and by 15 percent in the winter. It has promised to replace coal-fired furnaces in 1.8 million households with gas or electric heaters.

The official Xinhua news agency said on Saturday that a total of 28 northern cities have now drawn up detailed action plans to address winter smog, promising to shut small polluting enterprises, establish “coal-free zones” and halve coal and steel production in winter.

The Ministry of Environmental Protection will publish a monthly progress report aiming to “name and shame” cities that fall behind, Xinhua added.

(Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Eric Meijer)

 

Smog Taiyun

Smog billows from chimneys and cooling towers of a steel plant during hazy weather in Taiyuan, Shanxi province. China’s middle class is becoming less tolerant of pollution. (Reuters)

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From 2014:

Hebei province eyes foreign experts to ease smog

2014/03/25
North China’s Hebei province will recruit 200 foreign experts to assist with 50 projects on air pollution control in the next four years.
North China’s Hebei province will recruit 200 foreign experts to assist with 50 projects on air pollution control in the next four years. (Photo: Chinanews.com)

North China’s Hebei province will recruit 200 foreign experts to assist with 50 projects on air pollution control in the next four years, and set up an industrial zone in which companies are encouraged to develop solutions.

Jing Qingyu, deputy director of the provincial human resources and social security department unveiled the plan at a recent meeting.”We will attract projects and experts mainly from the United States, Britain, Germany and other developed countries”, said he, adding that, companies could find ideal conditions for developing environmental protection projects in the two designated zones dedicated for this purpose.

The province had seen an overabundance of smog in 2013, having recorded 236 days with an air quality index worse than the national standard for good air. Jing said that to alleviate smog this year, the province plans to slash polluting industries and also make use of foreign experts to lead a campaign against air pollution with a funding of 20 million yuan ($6.2 million) for imported talent this year.

All 11 major cities of the province will introduce programs to attract experts for environmental projects in an effort to ease worsening air quality. For example, Zhangjiakou, Beijing’s northern neighbor, has already taken a step forward. The city, generally upwind of the capital, launched a zone for environmental protection industries and research centers in September.

Song Xinwei, director of the new zone said the headquarters of the zone will open on April 2 to provide services for candidate companies and experts. Another facility of 20,000 sq meters will be ready in five months. “We will restrict companies and institutions in the zone to those associated with environment protection-related high technology”, said he, adding that “we will do our utmost to guarantee clean air for the capital and support the bid for the Winter Olympics in 2022.”

Guo Bin, who also leads environmental protection research in Hebei said “we already possess the main technology for air pollution control, so what we need are experts with cutting-edge knowledge and also advanced models on forecasting and early warning of air pollution based on numerical calculations.”

http://gbtimes.com/china/hebei-province-eyes-foreign-experts-ease-smog

Leaders of 2014 protest in Hong Kong to face charges — Freedom of expression, right to peaceful assembly “under a sustained attack” in Hong Kong

March 28, 2017

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Occupy Central founders (from left) Chan Kin Man, Benny Tai and Chu Yiu Ming kicking off the movement in Hong Kong on Aug 31, 2014.PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG • Police have cracked down on Hong Kong democracy activists, saying they would be charged over the Umbrella Movement mass protest, a day after a pro-Beijing candidate was chosen as the city’s new leader.

The move yesterday provoked anger and disbelief among democrats, and heightened political tension in the Chinese-ruled city.

Former chief secretary Carrie Lam was on Sunday chosen by a 1,200-person committee to lead the city. She pledged in her victory speech to bridge political divisions that have hindered policymaking and legislative work.

 Carrie Lam met Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying on Monday morning. Photo: Handout

Yet, less than 24 hours later, several students and academics who took part in the 2014 pro-democracy movement, also known as Occupy Central, said they received phone calls from the police informing them that they faced criminal charges.

Rights group Amnesty International said the police charges showed that the city’s freedom of expression and right to peaceful assembly were “under a sustained attack”.

All nine activists reported to Wan Chai police station last night, with around 200 supporters gathering outside.

Civic Party lawmaker Tanya Chan said she received a call from the police yesterday morning, telling her she would be charged with causing a public nuisance, with a maximum sentence of seven years.

“They said it was related to the ‘illegal occupation’ of 2014,” she said, describing it as a “death kiss” from incumbent Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying, who will hand over the reins to Mrs Lam on July 1.

Ms Chan said she was arrested at the end of the protests, but had never been charged.

The police did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Asked by reporters about the timing, Mrs Lam said she could not intervene with prosecutions carried out by the administration of Mr Leung, who protesters say ordered the firing of tear gas on them in 2014.

“I made it very clear that I want to unite society and bridge the divide that has been causing us concern, but all these actions should not compromise the rule of law in Hong Kong and also the independent prosecution process that I have just mentioned,” said Mrs Lam.

Mrs Lam met Mr Leung earlier yesterday. They shook hands and expressed confidence in a “smooth and effective” leadership transition.

The next few months will be critical for them, with Chinese President Xi Jinping expected to pay a visit on July 1 to celebrate Hong Kong’s 20th anniversary of the handover from British rule, with large protests expected.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Hong Kong: Carrie Lam Says She Will Unify Divided City — As HK Police Round Up To Arrest Pro-Democracy Leaders

March 27, 2017

‘Obviously the government didn’t want to affect the election,’ says one leader, who faces public nuisance charge

By Chris Lau and Joyce Ng
South China Morning Post

Monday, March 27, 2017, 3:30 pm

Beijing shuts last coal power plant in switch to natural gas — Premier Li Keqiang promised to “make our skies blue again”

March 19, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | The last large coal-fired power plant in Beijing has suspended operations, with the city’s electricity now generated by natural gas
BEIJING (AFP) – The last large coal-fired power plant in Beijing has suspended operations, with the city’s electricity now generated by natural gas, the state news agency reported as smog enveloped the Chinese capital this weekend.

The shuttering of the Huaneng Beijing Thermal Power Plant comes on the heels of China’s annual legislative sessions, where Premier Li Keqiang promised to “make our skies blue again” in his state-of-the-nation speech.

According to Xinhua, Beijing has become the country’s first city to have all its power plants fuelled by natural gas, an objective laid out in 2013 in the capital’s five-year clean air action plan.

The Huangneng plant is the fourth to be closed and replaced by gas thermal power centres between 2013 and 2017, cutting nearly 10 million tonnes in coal emissions annually.

Xinhua reported the move the night before municipal authorities issued a blue alert for heavy air pollution on Sunday.

Smog has cloaked the capital for several days and is expected to continue through the week.

Since last Wednesday’ closing of the National People’s Congress, the annual meeting of China’s rubber-stamp parliament, PM2.5 (harmful particulate) levels have remained between 200 and 330 micrograms per cubic metre — well above the World Health Organization’s recommended maximum average exposure of 25 micrograms per cubic metre in a 24-hour period.

The pollution often vanishes during prominent events like the legislative sessions and the 2008 Summer Olympics as authorities order factories to halt activity and force cars off the road.

During the 2014 gathering of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation in Beijing, this clear air phenomenon was dubbed “APEC blue.”

During the one-week-and-a-half period of the NPC, average PM2.5 levels hovered between 50 and 80, despite exceeding 200 micrograms per cubic metre just one day before the opening of the parliamentary sessions on March 5.

In response to a reporter’s question about this disparity at his annual press conference last Wednesday, Li repeated his pledge to target coal-burning and vehicle emissions.

“We may not be able to control the weather, but we can adjust our behaviour and our way of development,” he said.

“Blue skies should no longer be a luxury, nor will they be.”

China Defends HK Law Interpretation to ‘Firmly Oppose’ Secession

March 8, 2017

BEIJING/HONG KONG — A controversial interpretation by China’s parliament of Hong Kong’s mini-constitution that effectively bars pro-independence lawmakers from taking office, showed Beijing’s resolve to prevent secession, a Chinese leader said on Wednesday.

Chinese leaders are increasingly concerned about a fledgling independence or secessionist movement in the former British colony of Hong Kong, which returned to mainland rule in 1997 amid promises of wide-ranging autonomies including judicial independence under a “one country, two systems” arrangement.

China’s parliament last year staged a rare interpretation of the Basic Law, as Hong Kong’s mini-constitution is called, and staged one of Beijing’s most direct interventions into the city’s legal and political system since the 1997 handover.

“The interpretation fully demonstrates the Chinese central leadership’s resolve in upholding the ‘one country, two systems’ principle and its firm stand against any attempt at secession of Hong Kong from the Chinese nation,” parliament chief Zhang Dejiang said in his annual report to parliament.

The National People’s Congress had ruled last November that all lawmakers must swear allegiance to Hong Kong as part of China and that candidates would be disqualified if they changed the wording of their oath of office or if they failed to take it in a sincere and solemn manner.

Two lawmakers, Yau Wai-ching and Baggio Leung, who pledged allegiance to a “Hong Kong nation” during their oath-taking, have since been barred from office after being democratically elected. Four other pro-democracy lawmakers face possible disqualification for improper oath-taking amid ongoing legal proceedings.

“It embodies the firm will of the 1.3 billion Chinese people, including those in the Hong Kong region, to safeguard their country’s sovereignty, security and developmental interests,” added Zhang, who is also the ruling Communist Party’s third-ranked leader.

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Hong Kong is an inseparable part of China and any attempt at Hong Kong independence is a violation of “one country, two systems”, China’s constitution and Hong Kong’s Basic Law, he said.

A former Hong Kong secretary for justice, Elsie Leung, said it was important for Hong Kong’s prosperity and integrity that the central government made a statement on independence.

“This is the bottom line (of China) and cannot be over written,” Leung, now a vice-chairperson of a parliamentary committee on the Basic Law, told reporters in Beijing before the release of Zhang’s report.

While Communist Party rulers in Beijing have ultimate control over Hong Kong, their perceived growing interference in the financial hub’s affairs has stoked tensions and protests including the “Occupy” civil disobedience movement in 2014 that saw major roads blocked for nearly three months in a push for full democracy.

Premier Li Keqiang also warned over the weekend in his annual work report to parliament that the notion of Hong Kong independence would lead nowhere.

A Hong Kong member of China’s top advisory body now in Beijing said a person close to Xi Jinping had once told him the Chinese leader had described Hong Kong as “very troublesome” for China.

With Hong Kong due to select a new leader in an election on March 26, the delegate, who declined to be named, said it was likely Xi wanted someone who could better manage the city and not bring an even bigger headache for Beijing.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Clare Jim; editing by James Pomfret and Michael Perry)

Hong Kong Pro-democracy protesters gatecrash meeting of leadership hopeful Lam claiming “rigged election”

February 27, 2017

AFP

© AFP | Pro-democracy protesters (R) shout slogans against former Hong Kong chief secretary and leadership hopeful Carrie Lam (not seen) before the start of a press conference by Lam in Hong Kong on February 27, 2017

HONG KONG (AFP) – Pro-democracy protesters Monday gatecrashed a press conference by Hong Kong leadership hopeful Carrie Lam, displaying banners criticising a “rigged election” as the woman seen as China’s favourite unveiled her policy.

Around a dozen activists including Joshua Wong, the face of 2014’s mass pro-democracy protests, entered the venue minutes before the start and demanded to be allowed to communicate their messages to Lam.

Protesters chanted slogans and unfurled banners demanding the public get the right to vote for the city’s top post.

They were allowed to stay after campaign manager Bernard Chan said he welcomed them to sit in.

The chief executive of the semi-autonomous Chinese city will be chosen on March 26 by a 1,200-strong committee, most of whose members are broadly pro-Beijing.

Lam, a former deputy leader of the Hong Kong government, was in charge of promoting a Beijing-backed political reform package rejected as a sham by the pro-democracy camp in 2014.

The proposal would for the first time have allowed all Hong Kong voters to elect their leader, but would tightly control those eligible to stand.

Lam said Monday that divisions in society had made it difficult to restart discussions about political reform.

Her platform instead focused on livelihood issues, the city’s housing crisis, the economy and youth development.

After the event Lam approached the protesters and presented her campaign pamphlet. Some demonstrators tore it up and threw pages at her.

Lam and her colleagues eventually left hurriedly while the media and protesters surrounded them.

Lam’s campaign said she had garnered more than 400 nominations from members of the election committee — a minimum of 150 are needed — and would formally submit her candidacy Tuesday.

Former financial secretary John Tsang, who has won support from some members of the pro-democracy camp, and ex-judge Woo Kwok-hing have secured 160 and 180 nominations respectively, local media reported.

Hongkongers’ confidence in ‘one country, two systems’ shaken by Legco elections and oath saga, UK report claims

February 25, 2017

British urge local and central governments to take steps to restore city’s faith in the model

By Jeffie Lam
South China Morning Post

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 25 February, 2017, 8:03am
UPDATED : Saturday, 25 February, 2017, 11:04am

The events surrounding the last Legislative Council elections and the subsequent oath-taking saga have shaken people’s confidence in the implementation of “one country, two systems”, the UK has stated in its latest report on Hong Kong.

While arguing the “one country, two systems” model continued to function well in the vast majority of areas, the British government urged the central and local authorities as well as all elected politicians to take steps to restore people’s full confidence in them.

“The period under review in this report nevertheless saw a number of developments which caused concern in Hong Kong and internationally with respect to the implementation of ‘one country, two systems’,” UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson wrote in the foreword to the latest biannual report on the former British colony.

The report to the UK parliament covered the latter half of 2016 and was released on Friday.

“These include the events surrounding the Legislative Council elections and the subsequent oath-taking by elected legislators; and continuing concerns about the exercise of rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Joint Declaration, including freedom of expression and the freedom of the press.” The declaration set out the terms of Hong Kong’s return to Chinese sovereignty on July 1, 1997.

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Sixtus “Baggio” Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching. Photo by David Wong, SCMP

Johnson was referring to the months-long oath controversy triggered by pro-independence lawmakers-elect Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching last year.

The democratically elected pair were disqualified by a court after the government filed a legal bid over their anti-Beijing antics employed during a swearing-in ceremony at the Legislative Council in October.

Their case prompted the National People’s Congress Standing Committee to interpret the Basic Law – Hong Kong’s mini-constitution agreed between the UK and China – ahead of the court ruling, stating the city’s lawmakers should be sworn in properly and only be given one chance to do so.

We did not question the right of the Standing Committee to issue this interpretation, but were concerned about the timing of its release
BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY

Prior to that, six localist candidates were barred from running in the Legco elections because of questions over their commitment to the declaration that Hong Kong is an inalienable part of China.

“The UK government specifically raised its concerns about the interpretation, both publicly and privately,” he continued. “We did not question the right of the Standing Committee to issue this interpretation, but were concerned about the timing of its release before the conclusion of related judicial proceedings in the Hong Kong courts.”

The report dismissed the notion of Hong Kong independence as an option for the city, noting local discussion of the topic and stressing that the “one country, two systems” arrangement provided by the Joint Declaration and Basic Law was the best long-term system.

In its previous report, the British government expressed concerns over the disappearance of five Hong Kong booksellers who later resurfaced under the custody of mainland authorities.

It said it continued to have concerns about the incident and claimed it aired them with mainland and Hong Kong authorities during the reporting period.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang urged the British government to stop publishing such reports and interfering in Hong Kong’s affairs.

“Hong Kong affairs are China’s internal affairs,” Geng said.

“Any foreign country has no right to interfere in it.”

Geng said the central government had upheld the principles of “one country, two systems”,

“Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong”, and provided a high degree of autonomy. He added that Hong Kong people enjoyed the full rights and freedoms, according to the law.

The five booksellers – associated with Mighty Current publishing house and Causeway Bay Books, which sold publications critical of China’s Communist Party – disappeared separately from Thailand, Hong Kong and Shenzhen between October and December 2015.

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Causeway Bay Books

The five were later confirmed to have been detained by mainland authorities, with state television broadcasting videos of their confessions.

http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/politics/article/2073841/hongkongers-confidence-one-country-two-systems-shaken-legco

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Hong Kong bookstore