Posts Tagged ‘Carrie Lam’

Hong Kong: Pan-democrats could be the “kingmakers” in a tight political race

February 17, 2017

By Joyce Lim
Hong Kong Correspondent
The Straits Times

Holding over 25% of the votes, they aim to stop Beijing’s preferred candidate Carrie Lam

On March 26, Hong Kong’s next leader will be voted in by an Election Committee of 1,194 members. That only so few have a say reflects the failure of the 2014 Occupy Protests, where protesters demanded “one man, one vote” in choosing the chief executive.

But the experience has galvanised the pan-democratic, or pro-democracy camp, to be more pragmatic. Previously, they would cast blank votes to show that they do not support pro-establishment contenders. This time, they hold 326 votes – which is more than a quarter of the votes in the Election Committee – and are determined to make them count.

With the election featuring three pro-establishment figures – Mrs Carrie Lam, Mr John Tsang and Ms Regina Ip – for the first time, the pan-democrats could be the “kingmakers” in a tight race.

Former security chief Ip, 66, who won the most votes for a female lawmaker in last September’s Legislative Council Election, was the first among the three to announce her candidacy, followed by Mr Tsang, 65, a former finance chief, and Mrs Lam, 59, a former chief secretary. Others include retired judge Woo Kwok Hing, 70, and radical pan-democrat Leung Kwok Hung, 60.

To become the next chief executive, at least 601 votes are needed. To qualify, each contender needs at least 150 nominations from the Election Committee made up of mostly pro-Beijing property tycoons, lawmakers as well as representatives of professional bodies and trade associations.

That’s the challenge for all but Mrs Lam, who has been endorsed by Beijing. She has reportedly secured 300 to 400 nominations while Mr Tsang has 24 nominations from pan-democrats.

Mr Tsang, who is leading in popularity polls, is seen as the strongest contender to Mrs Lam.

Some see Beijing’s move to name its preferred candidate as its bid to control the election, said Professor Lau Siu Kai, vice-chairman of the Beijing-backed Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies. And it is the pan-democrats’ aim to stop Beijing’s choice candidate from becoming the next chief executive.

“If John Tsang and Woo Kwok Hing are able to join the race, there may be unexpected results,” said Prof Lau, referring to the duo deemed acceptable by the pan-democrats. That is because the next leader would be picked by a secret ballot system, which could see Mrs Lam’s supporters switching sides.

Still, if Beijing had not declared its preferred candidate, it is unlikely that any contender would be able to win enough votes.

Last week, radical lawmaker Leung, better known as “Long Hair”, declared his intention to run and urged pan-democrats not to vote for the other four contenders who “do not represent (the) pro-democracy camp”.

But lawmaker Dennis Kwok, who is coordinating votes from the pan-democrats, told reporters the bloc is considering voting for Mr Tsang, Mr Woo and a third nominee picked from a mock online poll.

With nomination closing on March 1, pan-democrats should decide by next week, he said.

Critics have said Mr Leung’s intention to run has further split the pan-democratic camp already faced with the dilemma of whether to support Mr Tsang. Some worry about the possible backlash from endorsing someone who wants to enact the unpopular national security law.

But with Mr Tsang having a huge lead in popularity polls, even if he turns out to be like incumbent Leung Chun Ying, whose policies are unpopular with Hong Kongers, the pan-democrats could say that the candidate they have endorsed was the people’s choice.

Hong Kong: Tsang v Lam shaping up as elites v the people in Hong Kong chief executive election

January 16, 2017

John Tsang is seen as the friend of big business who takes a conservative view on spending public money, while Carrie Lam wants to tackle the wealth gap and bridge the social divide

By Gary Cheung
South China Morning Post
Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and John Tsang Chun-wah may share a similar career trajectory of having spent decades in government service, but they are hardly cut from the same ideological cloth.

If Tsang throws his hat into the ring in the coming days and runs for chief executive, their approaches to social issues, a fast emerging difference between the two, could be the defining feature of their election battle.

Tsang, who joined the government in 1982, is a firmer believer in “big market, small government” and favours minimal government intervention.

But Lam, who joined the administration two years earlier after graduating from the University of Hong Kong, has sought to highlight the need to support the disadvantaged and to promote balanced development, given the city’s widening income inequality and hefty fiscal surplus.

The difference in their governing philosophy has given rise to a perception that Tsang is backed by the city’s elites and favours the status quo, while Lam is supported by people who favour a proactive approach to tackling social ills. While they may naturally appeal to such constituencies, academics warn against portraying the pair as representing exclusively the interests of opposing social classes or blocs. The candidates themselves are going to some lengths not to be painted into one corner, with Lam stressing she is not a socialist and Tsang uploading pictures of himself bonding with ordinary people.

As financial secretary, Tsang managed large budget surpluses but was widely viewed as too conservative in how public money was spent. He had argued that the bigger the fiscal reserves the government amassed, the better.


 Carrie Lam a Catholic, has said God had called on her to run.

In 2013 Tsang appointed economic analysts and academics to study the impact of the ageing population on public finances, which are subject to land revenue fluctuations and rely increasingly on salaries and profits tax.

The report by the Long Term Fiscal Planning Working Group, released in March 2014, warned Hong Kong could be as heavily indebted as Greece – facing a structural deficit of HK$1.54 trillion by 2041 – if spending grew at the current pace and nothing was done to mitigate the impact of an ageing population.

At a closed-door seminar attended by senior government officials at the Science Park last Thursday, Lam spoke in stark contrast of the need to support the disadvantaged and to promote balanced development and an inclusive society.

In her swan-song speech as chief secretary, she said the ageing population should not be seen as a problem because “nowadays many elderly people are better educated and they may not rely on welfare payments in future”.

At a closed-door dinner on December 13, Lam, formerly chairwoman of the Commission on Poverty, described the fiscal planning report as unfair to the elderly.

Lam raised eyebrows last year by acknowledging three “mountains” or contentious issues the government aimed to conquer.

She identified these as the controversial management of public housing malls by The Link Reit, repeated MTR fare increases and the offsetting mechanism of the Mandatory Provident Fund, which allows bosses to settle severance or long-service payments through worker contributions.

The Link, which took over government-owned malls and markets in 2005, has been accused of adopting a business practice that pushes up rents and drives out small concerns.

Liberal Party honorary chairman James Tien Pei-chun personally endorsed Tsang and said he was the business sector’s favourite for chief executive.

Professor Lau Siu-kai, vice-chairman of the semi-official Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, said it was natural that businesspeople and the wealthy were more receptive to Tsang’s pro-market approach.

But Lam was quick to make clear during the Science Park seminar that “I’m not a socialist” and that Hong Kong should not abandon capitalism.

Announcing her bid for chief executive on Thursday, she said: “I support the free-market economy but I agree there is a need to narrow the wealth gap and bridge the social divide. This is different from championing socialism.”

Tik Chi-yuen, convenor of the political group Third Side, appreciated Lam’s determination to get things done and help the underprivileged by going around bureaucratic rules. “John Tsang believes in ‘the less, the better’ and seldom took bold initiatives,” Tik said.

He suggested a substantial number of businesspeople favoured Tsang because they were unhappy with Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s interventionist approach and measures such as imposing a heavy stamp duty to cool the property market.

But Dr Law Chi-kwong, who worked with Lam on the Commission on Poverty, pointed out that she was well connected to the business community and had worked with some second-generation tycoons.

Law said Lam also worked closely with Hopewell Holdings and Sino Land on the handling of hawkers next to The Avenue, a property project in Wan Chai.

Tian Feilong, an associate professor at Beihang University’s law school in Beijing, said Tsang’s governing philosophy was closer to that of the business sector while Lam’s proactive approach was more in line with the need for ­social development, such as ­narrowing the wealth gap.

“But their differences are only about concrete policies, and labels like who represents business interests do not help rational analysis on who is the better candidate for the top job,” Tian said.

While Tsang’s more conservative stance may sit well with the entrenched elite, Lam’s attempts to reach out to be more inclusive suggests an acknowledgement that change must take place in the social compact.

Tian said this approach sat better with Beijing, which trusted Lam more. She also had the advantage of close interaction with the central government on issues like political reform, he added.

“The central government’s expectation of a chief executive is higher than for a minister. It expects the chief executive to have the capability of handling complicated situations in Hong Kong and its relationship with the mainland and the international community,” Tian said.

Additional reporting by Raymond Cheng

Hong Kong finance chief John Tsang resigns — Expected to run for Chief Executive

December 12, 2016


HONG KONG: Hong Kong’s finance chief resigned Monday (Dec 12) ahead of what is widely expected to be a tilt at the city leadership.

John Tsang – nicknamed “Mr Pringles” by local media for his resemblance to the crisp brand’s mascot – is seen as a more moderate alternative to current leader Leung Chun-ying, who said Friday he would step down in July.

The city has become sharply divided under Leung, whose term has been marked by anti-Beijing protests. Opponents cast him as a puppet of the Chinese government squeezing the semi-autonomous city’s freedoms.

Tsang confirmed to reporters Monday evening that he had resigned after more than nine years, but stopped short of announcing he would run for the leadership.

“I shall think through this in the coming days and make an announcement,” he said.

He used the opportunity to thank the Chinese government for their “support and encouragement” as well as the people of Hong Kong.

Tsang recapped how he had witnessed the city returned to “our motherland” – referring to the handover of Hong Kong from Britain to China in 1997.

He also said that Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy had been “successfully implemented”.

The finance secretary’s resignation is being seen as a signal that he will stand in the leadership elections in March. Candidates are not allowed to hold a government office if they want to stand for chief executive.


Although Tsang has a better public image than Leung, he is still an establishment figure.

Pro-democracy campaigners have warned the next city leader will simply be another Beijing yes-man as the vote system is skewed.

The chief executive is chosen by an electoral committee made up of representatives of special interest groups, weighted towards Beijing.

Mass rallies in 2014 called for fully free leadership elections, but failed to win concessions on reform.

Special interest groups voted for members of the election committee on Sunday – of almost 1,200 only around a quarter come from the pro-democracy camp.

Speculation that Tsang would run for office intensified last year after China’s President Xi Jinping shook his hand during a meeting in Beijing.

There was another handshake between the two in September at the G20 in Hangzhou.

Former security minister and current senior lawmaker Regina Ip is also expected to announce her candidacy this week.

Ip is hated by the pro-democracy camp for supporting controversial anti-subversion law Article 23 when she was minister in 2003. It was dropped after hundreds of thousands of residents protested.

However, she has a strong support group in the establishment camp – in recent legislative elections Ip was one of the most popular candidates receiving 60,000 votes.

Current government number two Carrie Lam has also said she will consider running.

Only one candidate has declared they are running for the leadership so far – retired judge Woo Kwok-hing who has said he wants to help Hong Kong overcome its divisions.

Analysts say Tsang would stand the best chance.

“John Tsang is accepted by many pan-democratic supporters and the business circle in the pro-establishment camp,” said Edmund Cheng, professor of government and international studies at Hong Kong Baptist University.

Cheng added that Tsang had outranked all other potential candidates in opinion polls.

Pro-Democracy Groups in Hong Kong Face Test in Elections

September 3, 2016

Results of Sunday’s poll could color relationship between Hong Kong and Beijing for years to come

Candidates' campaign posters for the Legislative Council election are displayed at a market in Hong Kong on Aug. 17.
Candidates’ campaign posters for the Legislative Council election are displayed at a market in Hong Kong on Aug. 17. PHOTO: BOBBY YIP/REUTERS


The wall Street Journal
Sept. 2, 2016 11:32 p.m. ET

HONG KONG—A fractured pro-democracy camp here faces its first public test Sunday since street protests seeking greater political autonomy gripped this city two years ago.

Hong Kong voters are heading to the polls to elect a fresh slate of lawmakers for the 70-member Legislative Council for the first time since the Occupy protests of late 2014. At the time, thousands of citizens of this former British colony—which has partial autonomy from the Communist Party-ruled mainland under a “one country, two systems” policy—blocked main thoroughfares for 79 days, angered by the unwillingness of Beijing and the Hong Kong government to let them nominate their own candidates for the territory’s top official in 2017.

Those protests ended without budging the government’s stance. Instead, they left widening divisions between those in Hong Kong who want to work with Chinese leaders to make the city’s government more democratic and a spate of new groups espousing everything from greater autonomy to independence from the mainland. The Demosisto Party, for instance, champions “political and economic autonomy from the oppression of the Communist Party of China and capitalist hegemony,” according to its website, and is fielding in the election a 23-year-old college student who was one of the leaders of the Occupy protests.



The results of Sunday’s poll, where representatives from some of those new parties are running for the first time, could color the relationship between Hong Kong and Beijing for years to come.

Wins by pro-independence candidates could show such ideas have traction in the territory, as well as heighten tensions with the mainland, which has labeled such groups dangerous secessionists. The government barred several candidates calling for Hong Kong’s complete independence from China from running in Sunday’s election.
The fragmentation of the pro-democracy groups means they could lose seats and ultimately the ability to veto legislation proposed by a more numerous group of pro-Beijing lawmakers.

“This is an important election,” said Dixon Sing, a political analyst who teaches at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. “It remains uncertain if the city’s pro-democracy parties would be able to retain…veto power.”

Without that power, pro-Beijing legislators could enact legislation to prohibit acts of subversion against the mainland government or could take away the ability to filibuster, which democracy advocates have used to slow legislation they don’t like, political observers say.

Just over half of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council, or LegCo, is selected by popular vote, while the rest is chosen by constituencies that represent largely pro-Beijing and business interests. That has meant comfortable majorities for mainland-friendly politicians and policies. During the last election four years ago, pro-democracy candidates won 27 seats—not enough to sway legislation but just over the one-third number needed to veto bills.

Recently, the ballooning gap between the rich and the poor in Hong Kong, combined with signs that the mainland is trying to tighten its grip over the territory, have prompted dissatisfaction with the government and the political system.

A proposal to let Hong Kong citizens vote for the territory’s chief executive but limit candidates to a list vetted by a pro-China committee sparked the Occupy protests. Pro-democracy lawmakers blocked that change last year, leaving in place a system whereby a pro-Beijing committee selects the city’s leader.

Some Hong Kongers and foreign governments have expressed concern about Beijing’s encroachment since the disappearance last year of five Hong Kong residents affiliated with a publisher of gossipy books on Chinese politicians, which are banned in the mainland. The five surfaced in China, where officials said they had voluntarily traveled and aided various investigations. In June, however, one of the booksellers who returned to Hong Kong said he had been abducted and detained for selling works deemed subversive.

Pro-establishment parties are also facing an uphill climb in Sunday’s election because of the unpopularity of Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and his administration. Mr. Leung was selected in March 2012 for a five-year term by a largely pro-Beijing committee of business and political elites. It is unclear if he will run for re-election next year.

Write to Mia Lamar at and Chester Yung at


 (Has links to many related articles)

Bookseller Lam Wing-kee (C) takes part in a protest march with pro-democracy lawmakers and supporters in Hong Kong, China June 18, 2016.

 (Contains many  links to articles on the Chinese human rights lawyers)

Hong Kong: Important Election on Sunday

September 2, 2016

How Hong Kong’s version of democracy works


HONG KONGERS head to the polls on September 4th to pick their representatives in what, by China’s standards, is a remarkably democratic institution: the Legislative Council of Hong Kong (Legco). When China took possession of Hong Kong from the British in 1997 it promised the territory a high degree of autonomy for 50 years. In the run-up to these elections, the first since the “umbrella revolution” protests of 2014, local newspapers have been filled with candidates who mistrust those guarantees, and by some who want to renegotiate Hong Kong’s relationship with the mainland. Yet it can be taken for granted that a clutch of parties supported by the government in Beijing will continue to dominate Hong Kong’s political system. How does the territory’s democratic process work?

For more than 30 years Hong Kong’s political parties have been split roughly into two camps. On one side are the “pan-democrats”, who argue that only a democratic system can safeguard the civil liberties the territory enjoyed under the British (whom many of the pan-democrats opposed, before the handover). They stand against the “pro-government” or “pro-Beijing” politicians, who regard themselves as patriotic allies of their counterparts in the rest of China. They tend to say that fair elections are less important than smooth relations with the Communist Party in Beijing. The role of Legco is to debate the laws and budgets put forward by the territory’s executive branch. The institution is at least partially democratic. But only 40 of its 70 seats are elected through universal suffrage. The remaining 30 seats belong to so-called “functional constituencies”. Their legislators are chosen by groups representing different classes of professionals, business interests and rural communities. In the term just ending, the pan-democrats held 21 of the 40 seats chosen by popular vote. The functional seats, by contrast, tend to be tilted towards people keen to keep the Communist Party happy: the pro-government parties hold 24 out of 30. The arrangement of functional constituencies and their weighting against the other seats ensures that pro-Beijing parties have held a majority in every Legco since handover.

Since the protests of 2014, which began as a demand for the democratic election of the chief executive, the traditional two-camp distinction has been eroding. A new category has emerged within the pan-democratic side, one that favours greater autonomy. Many of the young activists who led the sit-ins two years ago have turned into politicians. Known as “localists”, this new generation is frustrated with the traditional pan-democrats and infuriated with China’s rulers. Demosisto, a prominent new party, advocates civil disobedience and a referendum to determine Hong Kong’s fate after the 50-year agreement is up. Other parties, such as the Hong Kong National Party, have called for outright independence. This alarms China and so becomes a problem for Hong Kong’s rulers. Despite its relatively moderate stance, Demosisto has been refused a bank account and had its election materials rejected. In July Hong Kong’s electoral-affairs commission required that all prospective candidates for Legco declare that Hong Kong is an “inalienable” part of China. Six who refused, or seemed insincere, were disqualified.

Many Hong Kongers wish their votes would count for something. A growing minority is willing to fight for it. Some of the new parties say they are polling well and could even win seats. Two banned localist candidates are challenging the legality of their exclusion. Despite their split, pan-democrats and localists are plotting together to win enough Legco seats to retain the power to veto government proposals. An electoral majority is beyond their grasp—by design of the system—but the contest is real nonetheless.


 (Has links to many related articles)

Bookseller Lam Wing-kee (C) takes part in a protest march with pro-democracy lawmakers and supporters in Hong Kong, China June 18, 2016.

 (Contains many  links to articles on the Chinese human rights lawyers)

Britain looks to Hong Kong and mainland China for post-Brexit trade talks

August 23, 2016

British MP and head of parliamentary committee on China relations Richard Graham says negotiations on new trade agreement should begin immediately

By Danny Lee
South China Morning Post

Tuesday, August 23, 2016, 11:42 p.m.

China and Hong Kong will be prioritised in Britain’s post-Brexit trade talks, Richard Graham, the head of a British parliamentary committee on China relations, told the Post.

During talks with Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying on Monday, Graham said it was a priority to strengthen UK-Hong Kong links and to take advantage of opportunities from both sides with a potential free-trade agreement and the One Belt, One Road initiative.

“This is our opportunity now to decide what we and our partners really want to have in a free-trade agreement and that might be slightly different from what the European Union wants,” he said.

“I would prioritise the whole of Asia and I would prioritise Hong Kong and China within that, and then the Asean countries.”

Graham said he wanted to see Hong Kong sign a free-trade deal as soon as Britain formally exits the European Union, and included Beijing as part of the first wave of countries he would recommend to the Department for International Trade to seal commercial agreements.

He said he saw no reason why informal talks could not begin and added that an agreement would symbolise the closeness of London and the SAR.He claimed the Hong Kong government had given off “good vibes”, and that it was keen to do a deal soon.

Graham said a deal with Hong Kong was not likely to be complex, with few taxes imposed on imported goods and services.

The British MP is also visiting the Philippines and Indonesia for trade talks as the prime minister’s Asean envoy.

London hopes informal talks with Hong Kong can begin as soon as Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor is scheduled to visit London towards the end of September.

Britain ranks as Hong Kong’s 12th largest trading partner and the second largest among the 28 EU member states. Total trade between the two was valued at ­HK$100 billion in 2015.

“The UK-Hong Kong relationship, it is special, it has been going on for a long time. It’s going to continue to increase and expand,” Graham said.

China Tells Hong Kong: Don’t Allow Election Campaigns To Talk About Democracy, Freedom, Independence — Independence backers ‘must be kept out of legislature’

July 21, 2016

Liaison office director Zhang Xiaoming asks if letting independence advocates run in polls is in line with ‘one country, two systems’

By Tony Cheung
South China Morning Post

Wednesday, July 20, 2016, 11:27pm

Beijing’s top representative in Hong Kong has warned against ­allowing the Legislative Council elections in September to be used as a platform to promote independence in breach of the Basic Law.

Reflecting Beijing’s position for the first time on controversial changes to election rules ­announced last week, Zhang ­Xiaoming said it was a matter of principle, rather than a legal issue, to allow independence advocates to promote such ideas.

He questioned whether allowing independence advocates to run and even enter the legislature was in line with the “one country, two systems” policy of governing Hong Kong, warning of the risk of “calamity” otherwise.

At the same time, he also gave an assurance that Beijing would stick to the one country, two systems principle and not “mainlandise” Hong Kong or turn it into another Shanghai or Guangzhou.

Under the changed election rules, candidates for September have to sign the standard declaration pledging allegiance to the Basic Law, as well as a new form confirming their understanding and acceptance of three articles in the mini-constitution spelling out the city’s status as an inalienable part of China.

Pan-democrat and localist candidates have already started boycotting the new form while handing in their nominations for September, complaining that it smacks of political censorship.

At the inauguration ceremony yesterday for a preparatory committee for National Day celebrations, Zhang did not directly refer to the new declaration rule, but said: “If Hong Kong independence advocates are allowed to turn the run-up to the Legco elections into a process of proactive promotion of pro-independence remarks and activities, or are even allowed to enter Lego openly and gloriously, does this comply with the ‘one country, two systems’ principle, the Basic Law and the principle of the rule of law?

“What direction would it take Hong Kong society in? Does it bring blessings or calamity to the city? This is not just a technical and legal matter, but also one of right and wrong, bottom line and principle, and concerns the city’s general direction of development.”

During his visit to Hong Kong in May, National People’s Congress chairman Zhang Dejiang (張德江 ), the state leader overseeing the city’s affairs, had said that Hongkongers were discerning enough to know whether calls for independence would bring advancement or adversity.

The Hong Kong Indigenous party’s Edward Leung Tin-kei, one of the localist candidates who have refused to sign the new declaration, blamed Beijing for the current situation and argued that the Basic Law protected their freedom of speech and right to advocate independence.

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said the government was “totally justified” in imposing the new requirement but she remained vague on enforcement. “The decision might not be as simple as whether the form was signed,” she said.

But Anson Wong Man-kit, chairman of the Bar Association’s committee on constitutional ­affairs and human rights, said that according to the law, candidates could run as long as they made the standard declaration.

“Free press is an indispensable part of Hong Kong” Leader CY Leung says — But what does Beijing think?

April 26, 2016

Leung Chun-ying speech coincides with fears over editorial policy at Ming Pao and poll showing public concern at media freedom

By KC Ng
South China Morning Post

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has pledged to uphold press freedom, saying it is the government’s “constitutional responsibility” and an indispensible element that makes Hong Kong an international city.

Leung was delivering a speech on Monday at the presentation ceremony of the Newspaper Society of Hong Kong’s annual news awards.

It was the first time he had officiated at the event since becoming chief executive in 2012. Previously, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor was the officiating guest. There were rumours that Leung had avoided showing up because he was unhappy that news stories on the illegal structure at his home won awards in 2012.

 Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying

This year the South China Morning Post bagged six prizes, with Elaine Yau and Mark Sharp winning the first prize in the Best English News Writing category, Debasish Roy Chowdhury netting first prize in Best Business News Writing, and K. Y. Cheng the first prize in Sports Photographic.

Other Post winners were Hong Kong desk reporters Phila Siu and Chris Lau, photographer Dickson Lee, and graphics director Alberto Lucas Lopez.

In his address, Leung said: “We safeguard a free press not only because it is the government’s constitutional responsibility, not only because it is Hong Kong society’s core value.

“It is because it is an indispensible condition for Hong Kong as an international city. It is also an important foundation that can maintain Hong Kong’s competitiveness and maintain the city as a free and open society.”

He added: “Upholding press freedom is to uphold Hong Kong’s way of living.”

His address coincided with the brewing row over Ming Pao’s abrupt sacking of its chief executive editor Keung Kwok-yuen at the Chinese-language newspaper last week.

Ming Pao journalists at Monday’s ceremony wore black in protest at Keung’s dismissal, which has sparked concerns about a perceived decline in press freedom in Hong Kong. A poll last week by the University of Hong Kong found people’s satisfaction with press freedom had dropped to its lowest point since the handover.

Ming Pao’s staff union said the move was meant to punish “dissidents of editorial decisions” and accused editor-in-chief Chong Tien-siong, who announced the dismissal on grounds of cutting costs, of attempting to obstruct freedom of expression.

It had demanded the newspaper management apologise and reinstate Keung.

In the Monday issue of Ming Pao, two more columnists – former journalist Li Wai-ling and Vivian Tam Wai-wan of Chinese University – submitted blank columns to express their discontent at the newspaper’s decision. The empty spaces were run in Ming Pao’s print edition but included an editor’s note explaining the move was purely commercial and the newspaper’s editorial policy would remain intact.

This followed similar “blank column” protests on Sunday by three other columnists – Audrey Eu Yuet-mee of the Civic Party, Eva Chan Sik-chee, a former Ming Pao reporter, and veteran media personality Sam Ng Chi-sum.

In the Canadian Sunday edition, the blank columns were replaced with cartoons, without an editor’s note.

Keith Kam Woon-ting, chief operating officer of Ming Pao Holdings, said Ming Paohad been “very liberal”.

“We have been very liberal. I don’t think many newspapers elsewhere in the world would allow such a thing to happen – submitting blank columns,” said Kam, who dismissed allegations that the management had intervened with the operations of the editorial unit.

“I have been with Ming Pao for 30 years. I have never touched on the editorial department.”

In 2014, Ming Pao also ran blank columns by writers including Chan and Ng in protest against a decision to replace ex-chief editor Kevin Lau Chun-to with Chong. No editor’s note accompanied these.


Hong Kong must reject the paranoid paradox: Dare to exercise your freedoms and you may lose them

April 10, 2016

By Kent Ewing
Hong Kong Free Press

Although Hong Kong’s fear-mongers—out in their legions once again following the recent formation of the city’s first openly pro-independence party—usually don’t come right out and say it, the shadow of the June 4, 1989 crackdown looms over their warnings about the city’s uncertain future.

And that’s supposed to scare us all into shutting our traps and going back to the real purpose of Hong Kong—which is not politics and protest but rather business, business and more business.

red blue pill independence

Reacting to the creation of the Hong Kong National Party, Beijing’s chief representative in Hong Kong, Zhang Xiaoming, said its pro-independence platform was not protected by the guarantee of free speech in Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law.

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung were quick to agree that even talking about an independent Hong Kong was unacceptable. Executive Councillor Bernard Chan worried publicly about the “unnecessary anxiety” such talk causes our masters to the north.

Finally, Kaizer Lau Ping-cheung, deputy director of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s 2012 election campaign, likened advocating independence to planning the robbery of a bank.

ylrtgdT.jpg (812×434)

In the end, all this overstretched official and semi-official rhetoric amounts to a request to the people of Hong Kong to accept an unacceptable paradox—that we may well lose the freedoms we so dearly treasure by exercising them to the fullest.

Moreover—and, again, our officials and their representatives don’t say it outright—if we minions complain too much or too loudly, we might stir the angry Beast of Beijing. Once stirred, the monster might fully awaken, as it did in Tiananmen Square nearly 27 years ago, and fix its unforgiving gaze on our unruly city.

After that . . . we are left to imagine the ghastly consequences that could ensue.

But the frightening fable doesn’t fit, and we all know it.

The Beast of 1989 has lost its fangs. Now that China has transformed into a nation that boasts the second-largest economy in the world, it also desperately aspires to a diplomatic status in global affairs that is equal to its economic position.

Nations seeking first-tier recognition on the international stage do not unleash soldiers and tanks on their citizenry—whether, in China’s case, that be on the mainland or in special administrative regions such as Hong Kong.

As long as the people of this city keep their heads and refrain from violence, they are safe from the PLA and from a local police department whose politicisation has clearly accelerated since Leung became chief executive four years ago.

Indeed, we should all be safe under the protections of the Basic Law to say and do whatever we like as long as it does not bring harm to ourselves or others.

hong kong localist independence

Talk of independence may be impractical, but it is not illegal in Hong Kong. At this point anyway, no court in the city would sanction the prosecution of someone for simply talking about or even advocating independence.

What is causing “anxiety” in Beijing and among loyalists here is that such talk might catch on and turn into a substantial movement that gathers force. But that’s not going to happen—at least not in the near future—and telling Hong Kong people to shut up has never worked anyway. They just keep talking, as is their right.

Sadly, the Hong Kong example serves as a reminder to the world of China’s continuing and profound insecurity as a nation. No country confident in its own system would worry so much about a relative handful of “separatists” in tiny Hong Kong. And no Hong Kong government that had not completely caved in to the warped psychology of the Chinese leadership would choose to reflect that paranoia.

Actually, given the huge cultural and political divide that separates Hong Kong from the mainland, it can be said that the city is adapting fairly well to what has been a very awkward, loveless arranged marriage now well into its 19th year.

Police at the Mong Kok protest. File Photo: Kris Cheng, HKFP.

Yes, some brick-throwing crazies turned Mong Kok into a battle zone over the Lunar New Year, localist sentiment is on the rise and now there is even an (unregistered) pro-independence party.

Most people, however, go about their business and quietly accept—albeit many doing so reluctantly—their unlovable Chinese sovereign.

That is a far more remarkable story than the bricks that were thrown in Mong Kok in February and the calls for independence today.

Let’s remember, China is a nation that is afraid of Facebook, YouTube and Gmail and so employs an army of Internet censors to block them. Even smutty Hong Kong booksellers are to be feared and silenced.

China is a nation that regards the Dalai Lama, winner of a Nobel Peace Prize, as a violent separatist.

China is a nation that sees charitable NGOs as a subversive threat to Communist Party rule.

And China is a nation that jails journalists, activists and anyone else who stands up for freedom of expression and human rights on the mainland.

If these abhorrent attributes are the bitter pill Hong Kong must swallow to retain its special status under Chinese rule, then so be it.

But let’s check and rigorously quarantine those attributes at the border and keep Hong Kong free.

Otherwise, who can blame those who dream aloud of independence?


“We must be of use to China otherwise Hong Kong will be finished.” — Hong Kong is becoming intellectually bankrupt

April 3, 2016

No longer a shining example, what good is an intellectually bankrupt Hong Kong to China?

 By Peter Guy
The South China Morning Post

“We must be of use to China otherwise Hong Kong will be finished.” This proclamation is regularly trotted out like it’s a prophetic warning to all citizens. If our economies and industries don’t blindly orbit around China’s growth story of the day, then Hong Kong will surely decline. Or even worse, our Beijing masters will ignore us.

The flip side of that warning is what will happen if Hong Kong isn’t of use to China – however usefulness is defined. Certainly, the city’s utility isn’t served or appreciated as an example of how a liberal society works in a Chinese culture. Taiwan is the first Chinese society to accomplish that with an elected government.

So if the creativity and dynamism of Hong Kong’s economy grinds to a halt because all of our capital and energy is held by and devoted to rent-seeking property oligarchs, then will China classify Hong Kong as a have-not vassal city like Washington, D.C. treats Detroit? Hong Kong may not be fiscally bankrupt like Detroit, but it is becoming intellectually bankrupt.

China has already surpassed Hong Kong in building new industries like social media and financial technologies. China has more users of online payment systems than any country. Hong Kong should have developed this kind of intellectual property. But, our best minds were lost to property flipping and managing its proceeds. Hong Kong’s establishment overstepped its already considerable hubris – that Hong Kong could lead China.

With the city’s infrastructure and economy inevitably integrated into China, it is the closing of the Hong Kong mind which is the city’s biggest impediment to any new kind of prosperity. So this is what happens when our industry leaders become addicted to the import-export of Chinese tourists.

Hong Kong retail sales declined 13.6 per cent in the first two months of this year – the worst since the 1999 Asian Financial Crisis. Total retail sales in February fell 20.6 per cent to HK$37 billion compared with the same period last year, deteriorating from January, when it contracted by 6.5 per cent.

In the first two months of this year, the number of visitors to the city declined by 13 per cent. Mainland Chinese tourists dropped by 18 per cent, despite a 7 per cent growth of overseas visitors.

After the signing of the Sino-British Joint Declaration in 1984, Hong Kong’s first big cliché was “stability and prosperity.” Exco member Lydia Dunn used to proclaim that line repeatedly until it became meaningless. You can’t have prosperity without some change and instability.

For the US, it was the social and economic upheaval caused by successive waves of immigration that built the foundation of the industrial and post-industrial revolutions and ultimately the technological revolutions from the personal computer to the internet.

Selling the inherent contradiction of “one country, two systems” requires our version of Donald Trump’s The Art of the Deal. Except Hong Kong doesn’t possess the political and business leaders with the skills, desire or foresight to sell the Hong Kong deal to Beijing.

And what is the Hong Kong deal? A place where the tenuous and borderline unsustainable combination of civic freedoms with a lack of democracy has to find a way to work without appearing to threaten Chinese sovereignty.