Posts Tagged ‘Carrie Lam’

Anti-Beijing protesters march in Hong Kong

January 1, 2018


A depiction of Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam, left, is displayed as protesters take part in the annual New Year’s Day pro-democracy rally in Hong Kong on Jan. 1, 2018. (AFP)
HONG KONG: Angry protesters marched through Hong Kong Monday against what they described as suppression by Beijing, days after Chinese authorities ruled that part of a city rail station would come under mainland law.
Demonstrators scuffled with police at the end of the march and some who refused to leave the protest area were carried or escorted out by security guards.
Semi-autonomous Hong Kong has been ruled under a “one country, two systems” deal since Britain returned it to China in 1997 and enjoys rights unseen on the mainland, including freedom of speech and an independent judiciary.
But a string of recent incidents have fueled concern over the erosion of its autonomy and rule of law, including the jailing of prominent pro-democracy activists.
Campaigner Joshua Wong, who joined thousands of protesters at the march Monday, said suppression by China’s Communist Party government had worsened in 2017.
Wong, 21, was jailed in August over his role in the Umbrella Movement mass pro-democracy protests of 2014 and is on bail pending an appeal against his six-month sentence.
“In 2018, I hope that every Hong Konger can become an avenger, and win back the core values eroded by Beijing,” Wong told AFP.
Many of the protesters were angry at the so-called “co-location” agreement, which would bring part of a new rail terminus in the heart of Hong Kong under mainland law.
The high-speed link to the sprawling southern mainland cities of Shenzhen and Guangzhou is due to open this year, with plans for a joint immigration checkpoint that would see mainland police and other officials based in the Hong Kong terminus.
The station is on Hong Kong’s famous harborfront in Kowloon, not on the border with the mainland further to the north.
China’s top legislative body approved the project last week.
The final stage before implementation is a vote by Hong Kong’s legislative council, which is weighted toward Beijing.
Pro-democracy lawmakers, campaigners and some in the city’s legal community say the plan is a violation of Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, which stipulates national laws do not apply to Hong Kong with a few exceptions.
Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing government argues the rail set-up is for the convenience of passengers and both local and Chinese authorities insist it does not impinge on the city’s autonomy.
“I find it ironic that the legally illiterate are explaining what the rule of law is,” said office worker Patrick Tang, 48, of Beijing’s ruling on the rail link.
Teacher Simon Woo, 47, who joined the march with his wife and daughter, said the “survival of Hong Kong is under severe threat,” citing the rail terminus agreement as one of the main reasons he was protesting.
The march culminated at a forecourt outside the government’s headquarters known as Civic Square, a traditional protest area recently reopened to the public after being shut down during the 2014 rallies.
Protesters demanded the resignation of current city leader Carrie Lam and there were minor scuffles with police. One demonstrator had his arm in a sling and another was stretchered away.
Democracy campaigner Nathan Law, a former lawmaker who was disqualified from the legislature after an intervention from Chinese authorities, said the public would “say no” to Beijing.
“Hong Kong people have backbone. Hong Kong people have their own dignity,” he told the crowds.
The handful of protesters who remained at midnight were escorted out of the square by security, with one man carried out by four guards.

Hong Kong Leader Says She Won’t Blindly Obey Beijing’s Orders

December 22, 2017

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Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam delivers her policy speech at the Legislative Council in Hong Kong, China October 11, 2017. REUTERS/Bobby Yip Reuters

By Venus Wu

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said she would not blindly obey the orders of Communist Party leaders in Beijing, while admitting the government has no way to suppress skyrocketing prices in one of the most expensive property markets in the world.

Lam was sworn in by Chinese President Xi Jinping in July as the former British colony celebrated 20 years of Chinese rule under the principle of “one country, two systems”, which promises the city a high degree of autonomy and freedoms not enjoyed in the mainland.

While a recent poll shows the new chief executive is more popular than her predecessor, some accuse her of being a puppet of Beijing amid perceptions of Chinese meddling in Hong Kong’s affairs. Specifically, they criticize her for pushing an arrangement that will allow Chinese officials to enforce Chinese laws in a high speed railway station due to open next year.

Lam, in an interview with the government-funded RTHK, said she was accountable to both the Hong Kong public and Beijing, but she would not blindly obey the central authorities.

“Being accountable doesn’t mean you have to do everything you’re told,” Lam said. “So you can’t say you’ll do whatever the Central Government (says).

“If the Central Government asks me to do something that I think is beyond what Hong Kong people can bear or against Hong Kong’s developmental interests, then of course I have the duty to tell the Central Government and fight for a more favorable arrangement for Hong Kong.”

Lam also said she did not plan to kickstart legislation for a controversial national security law in 2018, and urged people not to “demonize” it.

Asked about Hong Kong’s red-hot property market, where prices have shot up more than 12 percent over the past year and are expected to climb another 10 percent in 2018, Lam said the government was helpless in reversing the trend.

“The government really has no ways to curb property prices… The government has introduced a few rounds of cooling measures, but they did not suppress prices, and quite the contrary now some people say these measures have pushed up prices.”

The government’s mixed bag of tax and regulatory policies, on top of eight rounds of mortgage tightening measures by the city’s defacto central bank since 2009, has effectively locked up supply in the secondary housing market.

Lam also said that while she has never promised to suppress property prices, she would seek more land to boost long-term housing supply.

“I’ve never said I want to turn around the increase in property prices, because there are many factors contributing to that. But I want to turn around how supply falls short of demand, or, simply put, insufficient supply,” Lam said.

(Reporting by Venus Wu; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Hong Kong, Singapore key centres of trafficking ring sending thousands of Filipino helpers to Russia

November 16, 2017

Senior Philippine official says domestic helpers lured to take up bogus jobs in Russia, Brazil and Turkey

By Billy SK Wong
South China Morning Post

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 November, 2017, 11:26pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 November, 2017, 9:21am

Hong Kong has been a top breeding ground for job recruitment frauds as thousands of Filipino domestic helpers in the city have been trafficked to countries like Russia, Brazil and Turkey for bogus jobs, a senior Philippine official told the Post on Wednesday.

Over 4,000 undocumented Filipinos were currently working in Russia, most of them former Hong Kong domestic helpers transiting through the city, the senior official said, citing statistics from the Philippine embassy in Moscow. He was speaking on condition of anonymity.

The official added that some cases of trafficking from the city to Russia dated back seven years and that Filipinos from other places like Singapore and Taipei were also involved.

Jalilo Dela Torre, labour attaché at the Philippine consulate in Hong Kong, confirmed the situation and said some Hong Kong-registered recruitment agents had promised domestic helpers high-paying jobs in Moscow and lured them into breaking their contracts with employers in the city before arranging flights to Moscow.

“The intermediaries would pocket agency fees of HK28,000 to HK$43,000. Almost all victims would borrow the amount from financial institutions or even loan sharks,” Dela Torre said.

United Filipinos in Hong Kong chairwoman Dolores Balladares-Pelaez said most Hong Kong helpers would get loans to pay agency and training fees totalling up to HK$15,000 when they first came to the city. Victims of human-trafficking were therefore already in debt while the lucrative jobs they were promised never came to fruition, she said.

 Filipino workers sitting on the streets on a Sunday around Hong Kong. Photo: Dickson Lee

The plight of trafficked domestic helpers came to light as Manila imposed a three-week ban on the export of labour by suspending the issue of overseas employment certificates, which are needed by those wishing to work overseas.

The Philippine labour and employment department announced the ban last Friday, citing “persistent reports of illegal recruitment” and “pernicious activities of certain unscrupulous individuals preying on Filipinos.”

Dela Torre said: “When the victims first came to Hong Kong, they probably didn’t have the intention to go to Russia. They were usually approached on Facebook or social media to take up bogus jobs in Russia.”

He said he had recently received complaints from four former domestic helpers from Hong Kong who claimed to have been tricked into working in Russia.

They were usually approached on Facebook or social media to take up bogus jobs in Russia

Dang, which is not her real name and who is currently in Moscow, was one of the complainants. She told the Post on Wednesday a local employment agent deceived her into going to Russia in 2011 for a domestic helper job that was supposed to pay several times more than she was getting in Hong Kong. But it turned out she only got a job that paid about the same as in the city and therefore fell into debt.

“Even if I want to go back home to the Philippines or to Hong Kong, it’s impossible because we need first to pay all the debts [incurred] in applying to go to Russia,” Dang said.

“That’s why maybe it’s much better for me to stay and work illegally for a few more years until my children finish their studies [in the Philippines] and pay all our debts and save a little money that I can use when I go back home,” she said.

 Dang, as she preferred to be called, said she was deceived into going to Russia for a job that never existed. Photo: Handout

Matt Friedman, the chief executive officer of the Mekong Club, a human-trafficking watchdog, said recruitment agents would fabricate job offers tailored to a victim’s preference.

“They would prey on vulnerable domestic helpers who might want more money or better jobs, for example as a social worker or teacher, ” Friedman said.

“They were made to believe they could easily repay the debts from agency fees … and would eventually be held in a foreign country to repay them.”

“It’s the first time I’ve heard the Philippine consulate confirming the situation … which has been discussed in the NGO community for years,” he said.

United Filipinos in Hong Kong staged a rally outside the Philippine consulate in Admiralty on Wednesday, demanding compensation for outbound workers affected by the labour export ban in their home country.

Balladares-Pelaez said an estimated 75,000 outgoing workers seeking employment worldwide would be stuck in limbo with no income. She accused the Philippine government of seeking to curtail illegal recruitment at the expense of outgoing workers.

A spokesman for the Hong Kong government said: “Upon receipt of complaints, the Labour Department will [initiate] investigations promptly on suspected overcharging by employment agencies. It will also refer the case to police for investigation on the fraud aspect.”

Brainwashing fears stoked as Hong Kong schools encouraged to broadcast Beijing official’s Basic Law speech live

October 25, 2017

Government circular raises concerns among teachers, pupils and others

By Peace Chiu, Kimmy Chung, and Jeffie Lam
South China Morning Post

Wednesday, 25 October, 2017, 10:54pm

Hong Kong’s Education Bureau has once again drawn accusations of patriotic brainwashing after a circular surfaced inviting secondary schools to stream a broadcast of a seminar featuring a senior Beijing official.

Despite raising questions about the government’s intention to have pupils view the event, some schools expressed confidence the children would handle the experience with a critical mind.

The circular, issued to school operators last week, stated the Basic Law seminar to be held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre next month would celebrate the 20th anniversary of the city’s handover from British to Chinese rule.

 Basic Law Committee chairman Li Fei is to be featured in the seminar. Photo: Simon Song

According to the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau, Basic Law Committee chairman Li Fei is to deliver a speech about Hong Kong’s role and mission under both the country’s constitution and the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution.

Four other experts in the field were expected to share their views at the event also.

But the bureau said the seminar did not exclusively target schools and that lawmakers and business representatives had also been invited. A live online broadcast is to be made available for those unable to attend in person.

A bureau spokesman explained it had invited sponsoring bodies to arrange for their secondary-level teachers and pupils to watch the broadcast and encouraged government schools to make arrangements to enhance understanding of the “one country, two systems” principle and Basic Law.

 Pupils at Fresh Fish Traders’ School in Tai Kok Tsui attend morning assembly on September 1. Photo: Felix Wong

He added that participation was purely voluntary and that each school could determine its arrangement.

But education lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen pointed to a reply slip in the circular stating sponsoring bodies had to indicate whether they would broadcast the seminar as well as leave their contact details.

“Some sponsoring bodies complained to us that they felt pressured,” he said. “They’re worried about the consequences [of not taking part].”

Ip claimed it was the first time the government demanded schools participate in a live broadcast of an official’s speech.

This kind of arrangement is not in keeping with Hong Kong’s tradition, culture or practice

“The pupils will only hear a one-sided view from Li Fei,” he said. “This kind of arrangement is not in keeping with Hong Kong’s tradition, culture or practice.”

A government schoolteacher speaking on condition of anonymity challenged the motive behind the circular.

“Beijing’s interpretation of the Basic Law is different from ours and their legal perspective is not in line with that of Hong Kong’s,” he said.

He believed political considerations played a role.

The news came after the mainland’s education minister, Chen Baosheng, spoke of the importance of national education for teachers in the city.

But the teacher expressed confidence that his pupils possessed adequate critical thinking skills to question the subject matter.

Form Five pupil Comson Or Yan-lung said his teacher told him only those studying history in senior secondary levels would be required to watch.

 C.C.C. Fong Yun Wah Primary School pupils in Tin Shui Wai on September 1. Photo: Xiaomei Chen

“I take history as an elective and am learning about Hong Kong history now, so this will be useful,” he said.

Or added that his teacher advised pupils to adopt their own stance and thinking as they watched.

Still, he believed schools should not require junior secondary pupils to view the broadcast, saying they might not be familiar enough with the topic to critically analyse the discussions.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor denied accusations that the government was forcing all pupils to watch the broadcast.

Lam said the Education Bureau was responsible for strengthening Basic Law instruction and that schools previously might not have had the equipment to make such a broadcast possible.

Additional reporting by Kimmy Chung and Jeffie Lam

Tens of Thousands March to Defend Hong Kong’s Rule of Law Against “Authoritarian Rule”

October 1, 2017

HONG KONG — Tens of thousands marched in China-ruled Hong Kong on Sunday in an “anti authoritarian rule” march that called for the resignation of the city’s top legal official over the recent jailing of young democracy activists.

The march, an annual fixture over the past few years on China’s October 1 National Day, comes at a time of nascent disillusionment with Hong Kong’s once vaunted judiciary.

“Without democracy, how can we have the rule of law,” the crowds yelled as they marched through sporadic downpours, from a muddy pitch to the city’s harbour-front government headquarters.

Organisers estimated about 40,000 people joined the march.

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Activists hold banners and placards as they take part in an annual protest march on China’s national day in Hong Kong on October 1, 2017. (Photo | AFP)

Many protesters, some clad in black, expressed dismay with Hong Kong’s Secretary of Justice, Rimsky Yuen, who Reuters reported had over-ruled several other senior public prosecutors to seek jail terms for three prominent democrats: Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow.

“We believe he (Yuen) has been the key orchestrator in destroying Hong Kong’s justice,” said Avery Ng, one of the organisers of the rally that drew a coalition of some 50 civil and political groups.

Around one hundred Hong Kong activists are now facing possible jail terms for various acts of mostly democratic advocacy including the “Umbrella Revolution” in late 2014 that saw tens of thousands of people block major roads for 79 days in a push for universal suffrage.


While the October 1 march is a regular annual fixture, this was the first time the rule of law has been scrutinised like this, with the judiciary — a legacy of the British Common Law system — long considered one of the best in Asia and a cornerstone of Hong Kong’s economic success.

“It’s like mainland (Chinese) laws have intruded into Hong Kong,” said Alex Ha, a teacher of classical guitar, who was walking alone in the crowd.

Pro-democracy activists take part in a protest on China’s National Day in Hong Kong, China October 1, 2017. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index last week downgraded Hong Kong’s judicial independence ranking by five spots to number 13 in the world.

In response, however, Yuen stressed at the time that Hong Kong’s judiciary remained strong and independent.

“We cannot rely on subjective perceptions, we have to look at the facts,” he told reporters.

Hong Kong, a former British colony, returned to Chinese rule in 1997 with the promise that Beijing would grant the city a high degree of autonomy and an independent judiciary under a so-called “one country, two systems” arrangement.

But over two decades of Chinese rule, differences have deepened between Communist Party leaders in Beijing and a younger generation of democracy advocates, some of whom are now calling for the financial hub to eventually split from China.

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, Carrie Lam spoke of a need for unity during a speech to assembled dignitaries at a National Day reception to mark the 68th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China by the Communists.

“As long as we capitalise on our strengths, stay focused, seize the opportunities before us and stand united, I am sure that Hong Kong can reach even greater heights,” she said.

(Reporting by James Pomfret; Editing by Gareth Jones)


Hong Kong democracy rally marks China national day

October 1, 2017


© AFP | The protest, dubbed an ‘anti-authoritarian rally’, comes after recent arrests of prominent pro-democracy activists have renewed anti-China sentiment in Hong Kong

HONG KONG (AFP) – Thousands of people took to the streets of Hong Kong Sunday to mark China’s national day with a pro-democracy rally and voice growing fears that the city’s liberties are under threat from Beijing.The protest which was dubbed an “anti-authoritarian rally” also comes after recent arrests of prominent pro-democracy activists, including a former lawmaker, have renewed anti-China sentiment.

A number of other activists, including founding members of mass pro-democracy rallies in 2014, which blocked thoroughfares for 79 days, are also facing charges and possible jail terms.

“Authoritarian rule has already become Hong Kong’s reality in Hong Kong,” Benny Tai, one of the founders of the movement told protesters.

“We are having today’s rally … because we hope more Hong Kong people will see the true nature of the government,” Tai, a law professor, said.

Participants in Sunday’s rally singled out the city’s leader Carrie Lam and justice secretary Rimsky Yuen, along with Chinese President Xi Jinping with their pictures placed on placards saying “authoritarian clown”.

Others carried a black banner mimicking the Chinese national flag with five yellow stars drawn on it, with around 5,000 taking part in the rally, according to estimates by an AFP reporter at the scene.

University student Vince Ho, 21, said the authorities’ hardline approach was likely to spur others into action.

“I think it would even encourage more people to come out to redress the injustice,” she said.

Tens of thousands joined the Umbrella Movement which started in September, 2014 to call for fully free leadership elections in the city, but failed to convince the government to make concessions over political reform.

The face of the Umbrella Movement Joshua Wong, former lawmaker Nathan Law and fellow protest leader Alex Chow were sent to prison in August for their leading role in the initial protest that sparked the movement.

It was a blow to the pro-democracy campaign and seen as more evidence that Beijing was tightening its grip on semi-autonomous Hong Kong.

Their jailing has been criticised by international rights groups and politicians and has prompted accusations that the independence of Hong Kong’s courts has been compromised under pressure from Beijing.

City leader Lam on Sunday morning called for unity in her first national day speech since she became chief executive in July.

“I have been deeply impressed by the strength bestowed upon us by our country,” Lam said.

“As long as we capitalise on our strengths, stay focused, seize the opportunities before us and stand united, I am sure that Hong Kong can reach even greater heights,” she said.

Hong Kong Leader Demands End of Independence Talk, Warns Ties With Beijing at Risk

September 19, 2017

HONG KONG — Hong Kong’s leader urged an immediate end to independence debates in the Chinese-ruled global financial hub on Tuesday, warning that the issue was harming the city’s relationship with Beijing’s Communist Party leaders.

Insisting that the government did not want to intervene on university campuses against those who have been flying independence banners, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said the campaign was “organized and systematic” rather than simply an issue of freedom of speech.

“This has already deviated from the so-called ‘why aren’t we able to talk about this?’ point of view. It is clearly attacking ‘one country, two systems’ … and destroying the relationship between Beijing and Hong Kong,” Lam said.

“It is not in the interests of Hong Kong’s development and must stop,” she said.

Lam said the calls “violated” the Basic Law, the constitutional document that secured Hong Kong’s broad freedoms of speech and assembly after Britain handed its former colony back to Chinese sovereignty in 1997 under the “one country, two systems” banner.

While the Basic Law enshrines far broader civil and commercial freedoms than exist in mainland China, some legal experts warn that a sustained independence campaign could break laws against sedition.

Chinese leaders, including President Xi Jinping, have warned that independence discussions are a red line that can’t be crossed, saying the city is an inalienable part of China.

Independence debates have moved into the mainstream after several years on the political fringes as students and other groups test Hong Kong’s freedoms.

Some have placed banners on “democracy walls” on campuses in recent days, sparking anger and counter campaigns from Hong Kong-based mainland students.

The widening controversy sparked criticism from Chinese state media, as well as a rare joint statement from the heads of Hong Kong universities condemning the recent “abuses” of freedom of expression. They declared that the universities did not support Hong Kong independence.

Lam said she believed university management would be able to handle the issue without government action.

Asked about Lam’s warnings, Chris Patten, Britain’s last governor of Hong Kong, urged greater efforts to engage Hong Kong’s restive young people even though he felt they should “back off” the independence issue.

“It’s unwise to think that you can simply shut it down by, and I’m sure Carrie Lam wouldn’t suggest this, by locking students up,” said Patten.

“These (students) aren’t people to be frightened of. They are the future. And you’ve got to persuade them why they’re wrong,” he said.

“But of course Mrs Lam is entirely correct to say that what this does is …. provokes the worst sort of reactions from the Beijing press and the Beijing authorities,” said Patten, who is now chancellor of Oxford University.

(Reporting By Greg Torode and Venus Wu; Additional reporting by James Pomfret; Editing by Paul Tait)


Carrie Lam voices support for universities’ plan to remove Hong Kong independence banners

South China Morning Post

City’s leader also claims government has no plan to intervene in controversy

Hong Kong’s top official believed pro-independence banners flying over university campuses in the city “should not be allowed to continue” and that her administration backed individual university heads making clear they would remove the provocative messages.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor also expressed confidence in how universities were handling the matter and claimed the government had no intention to intervene in the matter.

 Lam receiving petition letters at government headquarters in Tamar on Tuesday. Photo: Sam Tsang

The controversy erupted on September 4 as posters and materials bearing the words “Hong Kong Independence” appeared at Chinese University as the new academic year kicked off. Similar messages surfaced at other institutions in the city thereafter.

There is no room for any discussion on the independence of Hong Kong

Last Friday, Chinese University vice-chancellor Joseph Sung Jao-yiu issued an ultimatum to the school’s student union to take the messages down, while leaders of the city’s 10 universities issued a joint statement decrying freedom of speech “abuses” on their campuses. But they stopped short of vowing to take all such banners down.

“There is no room for any discussion on the independence of Hong Kong because this breaches the ‘one country, two systems’ principle that underlies the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong,” Lam said on Tuesday before a weekly meeting of the Executive Council.

She claimed such discussion violated the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution, and was “absolutely not in the overall interest of Hong Kong”.

The chief executive called the stunts “organised and systematic” and reiterated her earlier comments on the matter in asserting she did not intend to curtail freedom of speech or academic discussion.

Universities are for students to be educated, Lam explained, and for this reason the advocacy of Hong Kong independence ““should not be allowed to continue” at local universities.

She added she supported the joint statement by the universities’ management, saying their stance was “right and legitimate”.

Reminding students of the boundaries of freedom of speech was a duty for university heads, she continued, and institutions were being “responsible” by making clear the banners would be taken down.

“I have confidence in university management not to turn a blind eye [to the issue] and allow this unhealthy wind to spread,” she said. “I have absolutely no intention right now to intervene in university management.”

 A Hong Kong independence banner at Chinese University in Sha Tin on Monday. Photo: Felix Wong

She brushed off criticism that the government had exerted pressure on university heads, arguing such comments underestimated the independent judgment of university presidents.

The presidents took various stances on whether such banners and posters were allowed on their ‘democracy walls’ on campus. Lingnan University president Leonard Cheng Kwok-hon said putting up posters to discuss Hong Kong independence was acceptable as long as the material did not advocate it.

Polytechnic University removed all related slogans and claimed the decision was meant to “respect and observe the Basic Law” and “protect students from potentially breaking the law”.

At Chinese University on Tuesday, student union representatives were still guarding against attempts to remove the banners. They had set up a booth round the clock at Cultural Square where posters were put up.

A student identifying himself only as a union committee member said: “If the posters are put on the wall following our rules, such as not covering others, we should protect them from being torn down under the freedom of speech … It’s [the union’s] responsibility to protect them.”

“We’re stationed here to guard the school and any unknown person against tearing down the posters and banners. We hope not to have any bodily conflict with them,” he added.

“We see Hong Kong independence as a legitimate topic for academic discussion that is protected under the freedom of speech.”

In response to a suggestion by former Bar Association chairwoman Winnie Tam Wan-chi that the posters might breach the Crimes Ordinance, students at the Sha Tin campus said they were not worried about breaking the law, maintaining there were no clear laws on the legality of banners advocating independence.

Additional reporting by Billy Wong

Hong Kong’s ‘One Country, Two Systems’ Framework Under Pressure: Britain

September 14, 2017

HONG KONG — “Important areas” of Hong Kong’s “One Country, Two Systems” framework are coming under growing pressure, illustrated by developments such as reports of mainland security officials operating in the autonomous city, a British government report said on Thursday.

The “One Country, Two Systems” principle, implemented as the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997, promises the city a high degree of autonomy, an independent judiciary and a range of freedoms not enjoyed in mainland China.

The former colonial power has been issuing reports on Hong Kong every half a year since then, and the latest, which covers developments in the first six months this year, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said the guiding principle has “generally functioned well.”

“However, at the same time, we cannot ignore that important areas of the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ framework are coming under increasing pressure,” Johnson wrote.

Examples include “further reports of mainland security officials operating within” Hong Kong, he said, without elaborating, as well as reports of the local Beijing representative’s office heightening its influence in the city.

But for the first time, the half-yearly report stopped short of raising concern over five Hong Kong booksellers who disappeared in late 2015 and later mysteriously re-emerged in mainland Chinese custody. One of the five men, Swedish citizen Gui Minhai, is still in Chinese detention.

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Gui Minhai

The report also touched upon the “apparent abduction” of Chinese billionaire Xiao Jianhua, who in January disappeared from his downtown Hong Kong apartment in a wheelchair with his head covered.

Although Hong Kong authorities said there was no evidence to suggest mainland law enforcement agents had acted on Hong Kong soil, Johnson noted that “many in Hong Kong and internationally highlighted the numerous similarities between Xiao Jianhua’s apparent abduction and the case of the Hong Kong booksellers.”

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Xiao Jianhua

He also said he looked forward to welcoming the city’s newly sworn-in leader, Carrie Lam, to visit London to discuss closer co-operation between the UK and Hong Kong “as the UK prepares to leave the EU.”

In response to the report, the Hong Kong government said foreign governments should not interfere in the internal affairs of the city.

“Since the return to the motherland, the HKSAR (Special Administrative Region) has been exercising a high degree of autonomy … This demonstrates the full and successful implementation of the ‘one country, two systems’ principle, which has been widely recognized by the international community.”

(Reporting by Venus Wu, editing by Larry King)

Peace and Freedom Note: Hong Kong is as safe a haven as beijing. No more. No less.

Hong Kong Democracy Leader Joshua Wong Back in Court Days After Being Jailed — “Hong Kong people are standing with political prisoners”

August 22, 2017

HONG KONG — Less than a week after being jailed for unlawful assembly, Hong Kong democracy leader Joshua Wong was summoned again to court on Tuesday for an ongoing contempt of court charge related to the 2014 “Occupy” pro-democracy protests.

Wong, 20, was jailed on Thursday for six months by Hong Kong’s second highest court for a separate incident during the protests, dealing a blow to the youth-led push for universal suffrage in Hong Kong and prompting accusations of political interference.

Wong had been sentenced last year to community service for unlawful assembly, but the Department of Justice in the former British colony applied for a review, seeking imprisonment.

Tuesday’s hearing involves a separate, overlapping charge for Wong related to a court-ordered clearance of a large protest site during the 2014 civil disobedience movement that Wong helped lead.

Another student leader, Lester Shum, also faces the same charge alongside 18 other defendants, including Raphael Wong, who is not related to Joshua Wong.

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 Democracy leader Joshua Wong sits in a prison van as he arrives at the High Court in Hong Kong, China August 22, 2017. REUTERS

Joshua Wong and 10 others have already “admitted liability” to contempt of court for defying a court injunction to clear away a protest encampment in the Mong Kok district after nearly 79 days of street occupations, that later sparked sporadic violent clashes between police and protesters.

According to Hong Kong law there is no maximum penalty for contempt of court, one defense lawyer told Reuters, and it is up to the discretion of the presiding judge.

On Sunday, tens of thousands of people took to the streets to decry the jailing of Wong, and two other democracy activists – Nathan Law and Alex Chow – for between six and eight months.

Some protesters held up placards during the demonstration, one of the largest in recent years, that said “Shame on Rimsky”, referring to Justice Secretary Rimsky Yuen. Reuters reported earlier that Yuen had overruled other senior legal officials when they initially advised against pursuing prison terms for the three activists.

Wong was taken to court in a prison van, and appeared relaxed with a buzz haircut after having spent five nights in jail, pumping his fist in the air at one point.

“Many people protested on Sunday. Thank you so much,” he shouted out from the dock.

Shum, another former student leader, told reporters the young democracy activists could stay relaxed and determined, “because Hong Kong people are standing with political prisoners”.

He was flanked by a group of clapping supporters who carried banners with the slogans: “Umbrella movement is indomitable. Civil disobedience is fearless.”

Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam, however, said on Monday the jailed activists aren’t “political prisoners”, addressing spreading international criticism over the jail terms, including from countries such as the United States and Germany.

Hong Kong’s Department of Justice said in a statement that the cases were handled “according to the applicable laws and that there is no question of political persecutions.”

(Additional reporting by Christine Chan; Writing by James Pomfret; Editing by Michael Perry)

Backlash in Hong Kong over China rail link (Beijing not worried…) — Hong Kong is being swallowed up by China

July 25, 2017


© AFP | The new rail project linking Hong Kong to the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou is one of a number of cross-border infrastructure projects, including a bridge to the mainland and the neighbouring casino enclave Macau

HONG KONG (AFP) – A plan for mainland border staff to be stationed on Hong Kong soil as part of a new rail link to China sparked a backlash Tuesday as concern grows about Beijing’s reach into the city.It is illegal for mainland law enforcers to operate in semi-autonomous Hong Kong under the city’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law.

But there are already concerns that Chinese operatives are working undercover after the alleged abductions of a city bookseller and a reclusive Chinese businessman.

The rail link plan comes at a time when fears are worsening that Hong Kong’s freedoms are under threat from an ever more assertive Beijing.

The high-speed connection out of the harbourfront West Kowloon station is set to open in 2018, linking to the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou 80 miles (130 km) away and then onto China’s national rail network.

A proposal backed by the Hong Kong government’s top advisory body Tuesday would see mainland border staff control a special immigration zone at the Hong Kong terminus.

There are already numerous transport connections between Hong Kong and the mainland, but Chinese immigration checks are done on the other side of the border.

City leader Carrie Lam insisted the new checkpoint arrangement was not a breach of the Basic Law and was designed to cut travel time.

“The crux of the matter is really to find a means that is legal to support this convenience for the people of Hong Kong,” Lam told reporters.

Pro-Beijing lawmaker Priscilla Leung said such joint immigration areas were common around the world and that Hong Kong would be “leasing” the portion of land at the terminus to China.

“Outside the zone both the officers and everyone else have to obey the laws in Hong Kong,” she told AFP.

But opponents say the new plan is a clear breach of the Basic Law and another sign that Hong Kong is being swallowed up by China.

Veteran lawyer and democracy advocate Martin Lee, who helped draft the Basic Law in the 1980s, said creating an exception within Hong Kong where mainland Chinese laws are enforced would set a “dangerous precedent”.

It would put at risk the semi-autonomous “one country, two systems” set-up guaranteed when Britain handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997, Lee told AFP.

The government wanted to force through the plan to make Hong Kong people “feel closer to Beijing, the sovereign power”, added opposition legislator Claudia Mo.

The plan now needs approval from the city’s legislature, which is weighted towards the pro-China camp.

The rail link is one of a number of cross-border infrastructure projects, including a new bridge to the mainland and the neighbouring casino enclave Macau.

Passengers from Hong Kong could reach Beijing in under 10 hours on the new line, but controversies have plagued the project, with snowballing costs now at HK$84.42 billion ($10 billion).