Posts Tagged ‘Carrie Lam’

Hong Kong’s July 1 march kicks off, with controversy over police orders

July 1, 2018

Civil Human Rights Front, which organises annual demonstration, expects about 60,000 people to turn up for event marking 21st anniversary of city’s return to Chinese rule

South China Morning Post
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 July, 2018, 4:07pm

Roads were closed on Sunday around Hong Kong’s Victoria Park as demonstrators started to stream into Causeway Bay for the annual July 1 pro-democracy march, set to start from the park at 3pm in uncomfortable proximity to an outdoor celebration organised by a pro-China group to mark the 21st anniversary of the city’s handover from British to Chinese rule.

Organised by the Civil Human Rights Front – an umbrella group of some 50 pro-democracy groups – the march is both a protest against Chinese power and a show of support for democracy. This year, the theme is “End one-party dictatorship, reject the fall of Hong Kong”.

The starting point of the march has been a matter of contention this year. Police ordered the march to begin on the central lawn of the park. But the front, which had planned to start the march from East Point Road, opposed that plan, saying participants could clash with the pro-Beijing group using the six soccer pitches at the same time.

The front appealed but lost. It remained defiant and insisted that some of its core member groups would start the march from elsewhere and join the procession midway, although it would officially begin the march from the central lawn, following police orders.

Police warned that anyone ignoring force orders could be arrested for unlawful assembly.

The front said it expected turnout to be more or less the same as last year’s 60,000. Police estimated the turnout was 14,000 last year, a 14-year low.

A protester holds a placard which reads: “End one-party rule”. Photo: Sam Tsang

3.30pm – ‘What is the point of having a Legislative Council?’

Shortly before the procession started, middle-aged marcher Winnie Chan said she joins almost every year.

“I am especially angry this year. Look at how the Legislative Council has turned!” she said, referring to the spate of lawmakers being disqualified and activists being barred from running in elections, as well as Legco president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen’s controversial handling of the bill for joint border checkpoints on the cross-border high-speed rail line.

Winnie Chan said she attends the march almost every year. Photo: Kimmy Chung

“What is the point of having a Legislative Council?” she asked, saying the chamber’s monitoring function had been lost. She said Carrie Lam had to take responsibility for that, and accused her of continuing the political aims of her predecessor Leung Chun-ying.

“We’re here to fight for the younger generation,” said Liao Xiu-Ying, a 74-year-old retiree holding a fan with the slogan “We want universal suffrage”. She said she had been at the march every year since 1997.

“Oppression is mounting from the Communist Party, but if we have the ability, we should continue to fight,” she said.

“Oppression is mounting from the Communist Party, but if we have the ability, we should continue to fight.”: Liao Xiu-Ying. Photo: Martin Choi

3.15pm – Protesters following orders, so far

Dozens of police officers were seen patrolling East Point Road and Great George Street, near where they specifically told protesters not to assemble. No protesters were seen gathering there, after the rally organiser told the public not to, for fear of clashes.

Multiple groups set up booths on Great George Street to seek donations from the public, including People Power, Demosisto, and the League of Social Democrats. Ousted lawmaker Lau Siu-lai – “actively considering” running in the Legislative Council by-election for the Kowloon West seat in November – was also seen seeking donations.

“We don’t fear Ko Wing-man,” Lau said, referring to speculation that the former health minister could run in Kowloon West for the pro-establishment camp.

The march has officially begun, with about 400 people setting off from the park’s central lawn, the police-sanctioned starting point.

As they did, they brandished a yellow banner protesting the police arrangement.

“Protest against the ridiculous starting point arrangement. Citizens have the right to join in safety,” the banner read.

“No guilt in joining midway. Shameful police,” they chanted, referring to protesters who intended to join the march further along the route.

The march officially started at 3pm, about 400 people setting off from Victoria Park’s central lawn. Photo: Winson Wong

3.00pm – ‘Society has made our teenagers think it’s not important; obey the Chinese government’

Taylor Lam, an 18-year-old who just completed the DSE exam, was at the march on his own. He was dismayed by what he saw as political apathy and an influx of mainland Chinese migrants.

“[My classmates] don’t have much interest in politics,” he said. “I think society has made our teenagers think it’s not important; obey the Chinese government. They only focus on studies, find a good job and income.

“First people don’t care about it, then our rights will easily be taken by the Chinese government. We’ll have no bargaining power on any policies. There are lots of new immigrants from China who apply for public housing. Even our locals don’t have enough space to live.”



Thousands set to rally in Hong Kong over Beijing’s tightening grip — “No freedom, more despair.”

July 1, 2018

Pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong were expecting tens of thousands of people to attend an annual protest rally on Sunday to mark the 21st anniversary of the city’s return to Chinese rule as tensions simmer over Beijing’s tightening grip.

Image result for Hong Kong, China flag

Turnout will be a key indicator of public sentiment at a time when the opposition in Hong Kong has seen activists jailed and others barred from running in a by-election.

An organizer of the Sunday protest, Sammy Ip, said the rally would not target Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam but focus on a broad push against Beijing’s perceived encroachment into the former British colony.

At a ceremony early on Sunday to mark the anniversary, Chief Executive Lam asserted that the “one, country, two systems” framework under which the financial hub is governed remains intact under her watch.

Lam took over as governor of the former British colony a year ago, pledging at a ceremony attended by Chinese President Xi Jinping to be accountable to both Beijing and Hong Kong.

“Without fear, we correctly deal with our relationship with the central government. And we promote a stronger understanding of the constitution, the Basic Law, and national security in all sectors,” Lam said at a Sunday morning cocktail reception.

Related image

FILE PHOTO: Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam takes her oath in front of Chinese President Xi Jinping on the 20th anniversary of the city’s handover from British to Chinese rule, in Hong Kong, China, July 1, 2017. REUTERS/Bobby Yip/File Photo

Also present at the ceremony were the three former Chief Executives – Tung Chee-wah, Donald Tsang and Leung Chun-ying, as well as senior mainland officials.

Under the mini-constitution, the Basic Law, Hong Kong is guaranteed wide-ranging autonomy for “at least 50 years” after 1997 under a “one country, two systems” formula praised by Xi. It also specifies universal suffrage as an eventual goal.

Beijing’s refusal to grant full democracy to Hong Kong triggered massive street protests in 2014 and deepened resentment toward China’s perceived growing encroachment on the territory, where its influence in nearly every facet of life has increased.

While critics in Hong Kong have questioned Lam’s commitment to the autonomy and freedoms under the “one country, two systems” formula, Beijing has praised her leadership.

“You have adopted a series of policies … to promote Hong Kong’s economic development and social harmony,” China’s Vice Premier Han Zheng said after meeting Lam in Beijing on Tuesday.

“I congratulate you,” he said.

Lam was chosen by a largely pro-Beijing committee of some 1,200 people in the city of 7.3 million.

Her approval ratings have dipped since then. A University of Hong Kong survey of 1,000 people put her approval rating at 54.3 points, down from 61.1 points a year ago.

Reporting by Venus Wu; Additional reporting by Holly Chik and Maggie Liu; Editing by Anne Marie Roantree and Simon Cameron-Moore




‘Everyone is feeling more despair’: A look back at Hong Kong’s handover to China 21 years later

Hong Kong university student Arthur Yeung recalls the widespread feeling of despair when the massive pro-democracy protests that brought Hong Kong to a standstill four years ago yielded no results.

Includes video:

Key points:

  • Hong Kong was transferred back from British to Chinese rule on July 1, 1997
  • This year, distrust in China’s Government hit its highest level since the handover
  • Almost 100 activists in Hong Kong have been jailed or put on trial in the past year

The so-called Umbrella Movement was sparked after Beijing decided it would pre-screen the candidates standing for Hong Kong’s chief executive in 2017.

It was seen as a violation of the “one country, two systems” principle that Beijing promised exactly 21 years ago, when Hong Kong was handed over from British rule back to China.

“Before the Umbrella Movement, everyone seemed to have some hope that if you fight for something, you might succeed,” Mr Yeung told the ABC.

“But since the Umbrella Movement there has been no such thing, and everyone is feeling more and more despair.”

A public opinion survey conducted by the University of Hong Kong’s Public Opinion Program earlier this month showed distrust in Beijing’s Central Government in the first half of 2018 hit the second-highest level since the handover — the highest was during the Umbrella Movement.

Results from the poll of 1,000 people revealed the younger the respondent, the less proud they felt about becoming a Chinese national citizen, and the more negative they were about the Central Government’s policies on Hong Kong.

This public sentiment is a stark contrast to a feeling of hope during the handover, when former vice premier Deng Xiaoping said it would be business as usual, or in his exact words: “horse racing and dancing as usual”.

Honeymoon period ends as Beijing tightens control

Samuel, who did not want to disclose his surname, made a surprising decision to return to Hong Kong after graduating from university in Melbourne in 1994, as many people fled Hong Kong because they were worried about its future under Beijing’s rule.

Beijing at the time wanted, to some extent, satisfy what the Hong Kong people wanted and implied that the only thing that would change was the flag, said Samuel, who recently migrated to Sydney.

The Chinese parliament in 2010 passed the Basic Law, a mini-constitution of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, which guaranteed ‘One Country, Two Systems’, allowing it to retain a high degree of autonomy for 50 years.

However the honeymoon period between the Hong Kong people and Beijing ended a few years after the handover, when former chief executive Tung Chee Hwa proposed to amend the Basic Law to include Article 23, which prohibits any act of treason, secession, sedition, subversion against the Central Government of China.

The proposed bill sparked massive demonstrations on July 1, 2003 — the sixth anniversary of the handover — which was attended by half-a-million Hong Kong people.

It forced the Hong Kong Government to indefinitely shelve the bill.

Professor Willy Wo-Lap Lam, adjunct Professor at the China Studies Centre of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said that since the 2003 demonstrations: “Beijing’s control or containment of Hong Kong has become more and more severe.”

“This kind of clamping has been increasing since Xi Jinping came to power in 2012,” he said.

‘Hong Kong turned from rule of law to rule by law’

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Joshua Wong, 21, one of the leaders of the Umbrella Movement, said the younger generation’s dissatisfaction of the Chinese Government had been gradually rising since the handover, but recently “rapidly increased”.

In the past year, he was aware of nearly 100 activists in Hong Kong jailed or on trial in different court cases.

“The situation in Hong Kong turned from rule of law to rule by law,” he told the ABC.

“‘One country, two systems’ just turned to ‘one country, one-and-a-half systems’, and high-degree autonomy is under the threat of Beijing.”

Mr Wong himself had been sentenced to six months last year for his involvement in 2014 protests, but then had his sentence overturned after serving more than two months in jail.

He was sentenced for a second time in January for the same protest but on a separate charge, and was released on bail pending appeal.

The “one country, two systems” principle has been on shaky grounds with China’s interference in Hong Kong’s politics, and more recently the drafting a Chinese National Anthem Law which observers say is intended to make it an offence to show disrespect for the Chinese national anthem.

Umbrella Movement ‘an important turning point’

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Tensions between Hong Kong citizens and the Chinese Government intensified in August 2014 when Beijing rejected calls for open nominations for the city’s next chief executive.

Students boycotted class and started protesting outside the government headquarters, with protesters blocking key roads and police using pepper spray to disperse the crowd.

The Hong Kong and Beijing Governments denounced the occupation as “illegal” and a “violation of the rule of law”, and the 79-day protest ended when police cleared the site in December.

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Mr Yeung described the movement as an important turning point for young people in Hong Kong, where the Government was also taking a tougher approach to protesters.

“It used to be OK for you to demonstrate. There was no problem,” he said.

“But now … if you go to a demonstration, you have to be prepared to be beaten by the police.

“Everyone knows that demonstration is useless. No matter how you demonstrate, they still can put you under control.”

Radical localists cross the ‘One China’ red line

Discontent towards the Chinese Government also gave rise to “localist” groups which advocate the Hong Kong people’s right to self-determination and greater autonomy.

In the first Legislative Council election since the Umbrella Movement in 2016, the localists — many in their 20s or early 30s — won six seats and gained 19 per cent of the vote share.

Some radical localists have even called for Hong Kong’s independence from Beijing, which from Beijing’s perspective crossed a red line.

“In Beijing’s eyes, the most acute conflict in Hong Kong has gone beyond political identity and is challenging the ‘One China’ bottom line,” Ding Xueliang, a prominent professor of social science with Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, told the ABC.

“This is not acceptable for Beijing.”

During Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Hong Kong to mark the 20th anniversary of handover, he made it clear that sovereignty was not up for discussion.

“Any attempt to endanger China’s sovereignty and security, challenge the power of the central government and the authority of the Basic Law of the HKSAR, or use Hong Kong to carry out infiltration and sabotage activities against the mainland, is an act that crosses the red line and is absolutely impermissible,” he said in his speech last July.

Professor Ding said while Beijing was able to put up with young people in Hong Kong criticising its political systems and its response to the student-led pro-democracy movement in 1989, they could not tolerate them “drawing a line with Beijing in national, cultural and ethnic identity”.

Young localists are like ‘spoiled children’: Professor Liu

Another renowned academic, Francis Lui, an adjunct professor of economics at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, described the young localists as “spoiled children”.

“They think they are sticking to the principles, but in fact these principles are all fake,” he said.

“They were spoiled by their families from childhood to adulthood, thinking that their opinions are the only opinions.

“They can’t look at things thoroughly. In other words, they are not very mature and do not know that the world does not operate like this.”

Media player: “Space” to play, “M” to mute, “left” and “right” to seek.

VIDEO: ‘I want to vomit every time I hear the national anthem”: student leader (ABC News)

Professor Lam, however, argued young people in Hong Kong were unhappy with Beijing because it is challenging Hong Kong’s core values, such as freedom of speech and rule of law.

“Many young people, such as college students or people in their twenties express their aspirations and put forward their local awareness,” he said.

“These are actually the reactions of resisting Beijing’s tightening up of one country, two systems and the tightening up of a high degree of autonomy.”

‘I will try my best to defend this place’: Yeung

There are many uncertainties about what will happen to Hong Kong after 2047, when the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ principle expires.

But Mr Wong said Demosisto, a political party he co-founded, advocated for self-determination, “which means the future of Hong Kong after 2047 should be determined by Hong Kong people instead of Beijing”.

University student Mr Yeung believed independence was not the realistic way out, because he learned from his discussions with his father and grandfather that Hong Kong’s older generation had nationalistic feelings towards China.

He said he also believed there was increasing integration between mainland China and Hong Kong — his mother even suggested that he learn Mandarin, because there were many opportunities on the mainland.

But Mr Yeung does not want to take up that opportunity.

“I have a strong [belief] that I am a Hong Kong person and I love this place very much … I will try my best to defend this place,” he said.

“Although many people choose to leave, I feel that I have the responsibility to stay and do something to change the future. Trivial as it may be, I still need to try.”

Hong Kong’s Heat on City Leader: “She has neglected her primary and most important duty … which is to stand up and speak for Hong Kong.”

June 30, 2018

Hong Kong will on Sunday mark the 21st anniversary of its return to Chinese rule, with city leader Carrie Lam struggling to win over residents even as she receives praise from Beijing.

Lam took over as governor of the former British colony a year ago, pledging at a ceremony attended by Chinese President Xi Jinping to be accountable to both Beijing and Hong Kong.

Image result for china flag, hong kong, photos

But many in Hong Kong say she has only succeeded in the first part of her vow.

“She has neglected her primary and most important duty … which is to stand up and speak for Hong Kong,” the city’s former civil service chief, Anson Chan, said in a television interview on Thursday.

Tens of thousands of people are expected to march on Sunday in an annual rally to demand full democracy and vent their frustration over rising prices in the world’s least affordable real estate market.

Turnout will be a key indicator of public sentiment at a time when the opposition in Hong Kong has seen activists jailed and others barred from running in a by-election.

While critics in Hong Kong have questioned her commitment to the autonomy and freedoms under the “one country, two systems” formula, agreed at the time of the city’s handover to China in 1997, Beijing has praised her leadership.

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Carrie Lam — Why does she look like a Prisoner of War?

“You have adopted a series of policies … to promote Hong Kong’s economic development and social harmony,” China’s Vice Premier Han Zheng said after meeting Lam in Beijing on Tuesday.

“I congratulate you,” he said.

An organizer of the Sunday protest, Sammy Ip, said the rally would not target Lam but focus on a broad push against Beijing’s perceived encroachment into the city.

Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling, crowd and outdoor
Thousands of pro-China protesters raise Chinese national flags and Hong Kong flags during a rally outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016. Source: AP


Lam was chosen by a largely pro-Beijing committee of some 1,200 people in the city of 7.3 million.

Unlike her hawkish predecessor, Leung Chun-ying, whose unpopularity helped to galvanize the opposition, Lam won some early support by presenting a softer image.

But her approval ratings have dipped since then. A University of Hong Kong survey of 1,000 people put her approval rating at 54.3 points, down from 61.1 points a year ago.

Lam said on Friday the criticism did not bother her.

“At this last stage of my public career, I have the opportunity to plan the future for Hong Kong. I think it really is an immense honor,” she told reporters. “So I’m not worried about criticisms, attacks or popularity ratings”.

While Hong Kong activists push for greater democracy, the city is being inexorably drawn into mainland China’s sphere, and some Hong Kong residents say the old border that has defined the city’s autonomy is slowly withering away.

Lam faces a test later this year with the opening of two highly symbolic infrastructure projects – a bridge and high-Speed rail linking Hong Kong with mainland China.

The projects are part of a broader Beijing plan, overseen by Xi, to integrate the city into the Pearl River Delta and improve the flow of people and money between Hong Kong and the mainland.

A joint immigration checkpoint inside a train station on Hong Kong soil will be regarded as mainland territory governed by mainland laws.

Critics argue this will blur the border that has safeguarded Hong Kong’s core values and freedoms.

“This is the biggest assault against ‘two systems’ since the handover. It creates a breach, a precedent,” said Joseph Wong, a retired senior government official.

    “This administration does not show that it is willing to strongly argue for Hong Kong people’s interests in front of mainland authorities,” he said.

Reporting by Venus Wu; Additional reporting by Holly Chik; Editing by Anne Marie Roantree and Darren Schuettler



Beijing’s meddling in Hong Kong affairs through the city’s liaison office has eased under Carrie Lam but experts warn she still needs to tread carefully

Thorny topics that touch on business sector’s interests or political hot potato issues, such as national security laws, could bruise Lam’s popularity and force the liaison office to resume regular contact with Hong Kong lawmakers

Saturday, 30 June, 2018, 7:02am

South China Morning Post

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Like clockwork, every two to three months during Leung Chun-ying’s term as the city’s leader, pro-establishment lawmakers would get phone calls from Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong.

The caller would sometimes seek their views on policy issues. More often than not, recounted insiders who spoke to the Post, they would ask about goings-on at the Legislative Council. Leung spent almost all of his term between 2012 and June 2017 clashing with opposition lawmakers.

Apart from making calls, the liaison office officials would also lobby lawmakers, mainly from the pro-establishment camp, to support specific government proposals, said the sources who spoke on condition of anonymity. They also did not think it outside their remit to offer advice to university chiefs.

Pan-democrats seethed at the actions of the liaison office, viewing it as an attempt to meddle in the city’s affairs and breaching the principle of one country, two systems under which Hong Kong is governed. Specifically, they accused the liaison office of contravening Article 22 of the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, that states no mainland Chinese authority may interfere in the city’s affairs according to this principle.

This bugbear – though the pro-Beijing camp insists it is a demonisation of the liaison office – has eased somewhat under Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor. Indeed, it could be part of the reason emotions have calmed down, analysts said.

Things changed from last July when Lam was elected as chief executive.

A pro-establishment lawmaker summarised it as such: “In the past, [there was contact made] maybe every two or three months.

“When important bills were being scrutinised at the Legislative Council, liaison officials would call us and ask ‘how are things going in Legco? What’s the progress?’ But there has been very little contact in the last few months.”

The central government’s liaison office in Hong Kong. Photo: Edward Wong

Commentators attribute the liaison office’s retreat from lobbying lawmakers as a sign that Hong Kong-mainland China ties have improved since Lam took charge.

But they also warned her to tread cautiously, especially on thorny topics such as labour and land, that could divide the pro-Beijing camp.

“Lam would unavoidably touch on [the business sector’s] vested interests … and the office could intervene if the city’s government wanted to do something that was not supported by the pro-establishment camp,” said Lau Siu-kai, vice-chairman of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, a top Beijing-based think tank.

Beijing think tank official Lau Siu-kai says Lam must tread cautiously on thorny topics such as labour. Photo: Simon Song

If the liaison office stepped in, commentators said, Lam’s credibility with the public would take a hit, affecting her chances of staying for a second term.

Ministers doing the lobbying

One of the most cited examples of the liaison office’s attempts at influencing politics was in 2013, when pro-establishment legislator Dr Leung Ka-lau admitted he had been “approached for discussion” by the liaison office before a Legco vote on whether to launch an inquiry into the government’s decision of denying a free-to-air television licence to a popular company.

In January this year, former University of Hong Kong chief Peter Mathieson revealed to the Post he was given advice “several times” by the liaison office.

In the run-up to the chief executive election last March, pan-democrats hit out at Lam for allowing the liaison office to help with her campaign.

She rejected the accusations. So at her first question-and-answer session with lawmakers four days after she took office as the city’s fourth chief executive, she declared she had directed ministers to “lobby lawmakers personally and not leave the task to anyone else”.

“I will set an example myself and require my principal officers to have more interaction with lawmakers,” she said.

Federation of Trade Unions lawmaker Wong Kwok-kin said the liaison office had been “relatively low-profile” in the city’s political arena since then.

“It has rarely been involved in helping the local government in lobbying. I cannot think of any example,” he said.

A pro-establishment camp veteran, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also agreed Lam had tried hard to “tone down” the impression that “Western controls Central”. Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong is in the Western district, while the government headquarters is near Central.

“Much of the lobbying for support for the co-location bill came from [the government],” the politician said, in a reference to recent legislation to set up a joint checkpoint with mainland Chinese authorities at the local terminus of a cross-border railway.

Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai agreed local ministers had been more active in policy lobbying this past year.

But he added it was “hard to say” whether the liaison office had refrained from lobbying his pro-establishment colleagues.

Wu said there had been no contact between the liaison office and his party members since Lam took office and during Leung’s term.

Lau said the legislators’ observations showed that while Lam had steered clear of interference from the liaison office in the past year, it was largely because there were not many issues that required the office’s attention.

“The liaison office was involved in lots of political arguments [with the pan-democratic camp] in the past,” he said.

Lau was referring to the office’s former director Zhang Xiaoming, whose tenure from 2012 to last year coincided with a time when Hong Kong was bitterly divided over a political reform exercise, and theOccupy protests of 2014.

Wang Zhimin took over as liaison office chief in September last year, as Zhang was appointed the new top Beijing official in charge of Hong Kong affairs.

In April, the office took the unprecedented step of organising an open day to demystify its functions, three months after Wang famously said he had heard from “many friends” that they were pleased to see both the city’s government and the liaison office “work together” more often.

Shifting from politics to the economy

The Post asked several Hong Kong ministers to explain whether the office had given them any advice on their work.

But a government spokesman responded on their behalf and said: “The government is keeping regular contact with the liaison office to exchange views on Hong Kong-mainland cooperation matters.”

In comparison, the University of Science and Technology’s incoming president Professor Wei Shyy gave a clearer answer. Since the January announcement that he would lead the institution from September, Shyy said: “I was never asked [nor given hints] to follow any particular policy or advice from the liaison office.”

But he added that it was in the interest of the university to “listen to the views of our stakeholders”.

A spokeswoman from Chinese University would only say it had “always maintained constructive communication with various sectors” including the liaison office.

Pundits said the responses showed the liaison office had shifted from being high-profile on political matters, to focusing more on socio-economic issues, such as helping the city to integrate into China’s development strategies.

For example, last November, Wang urged young Hongkongers to get involved in the “entrepreneurs’ paradise” of the Greater Bay Area, the Beijing-backed economic development drive linking Hong Kong, Macau and nine cities in Guangdong province.

But the liaison office could still intervene in local policies in the future, Lau added, should Lam’s cabinet fail to pacify the business and grassroot factions of the pro-establishment camp, when handling labour and land issues.

Wong, a veteran unionist, agreed. He said: “When the government is [going to challenge] property tycoons’ interests, it might need the central government’s help.”

In Beijing officials’ eyes, it would be better for Lam to seek re-election with higher popularity

However, veteran China watcher Johnny Lau Yui-siu warned that Beijing’s involvement in local policies would bruise Lam’s popularity and public image.

“In Beijing officials’ eyes, it would be better for Lam to seek re-election with higher popularity,” he said.

Lau added that Lam’s re-election bid would also depend on how she deals with political hot potato issues, such as the enactment of national anthem and national security laws. The former criminalises insulting or distorting the Chinese national anthem and the latter prohibits any act “of treason, secession, sedition, subversion” against the central government.

In recent months, Lam’s administration has faced mounting pressure from the pro-Beijing camp to enact the latter bill, which was shelved in 2003 after half a million people took to the streets to oppose it, fearing an erosion of civil liberties.

In a first, Hong Kong refused US extradition bid following Beijing request, State Department report says

May 30, 2018

Sign of slow but steady erosion of what was once considered “normal”

South China Morning Post
Wednesday, 30 May, 2018, 3:20pm

Hong Kong’s leader refused to hand over a fugitive to the US last year following a request by mainland Chinese authorities, in the first such case since the city’s handover from Britain to China, American officials have revealed.

The US Department of State stated in an annual report issued on Tuesday in Washington that Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor turned down an extradition request “at the behest” of the central government in October.

The detainee was released into mainland Chinese custody on the basis that Beijing was “pursuing a separate criminal action”, the Hong Kong Policy Act Report read.

“This was the first such instance since 1997,” it said of the refusal. “The central government has provided no information as to the disposition of its own case against the individual.”

Former Hong Kong home affairs minister Patrick Ho was arrested in the US over a bribery investigation. Photo: Franke Tsang

The report was submitted to inform the US Congress on key issues and developments in Hong Kong from last September to April. It did not mention the particulars of the case or identify the fugitive.

But a broken extradition negotiation was mentioned in a high-profile New York bribery investigation of former Hong Kong home affairs minister, Patrick Ho Chi-ping, as prosecutors opposed his bail application, the Post has found.

In the cited case, a hacker named Iat Hong, 28, was arrested in Hong Kong on Christmas Day in 2016. Local law enforcement officials were given credit for “assistance in the arrest and apprehension”.

Hong was charged by the US Securities and Exchange Commission for hacking into unnamed New York law firms and trading stocks based on information he obtained in 2014 and 2015, as part of a gang of three that made more than US$4 million.

To extradite Hong, a Macau resident, US prosecutors said they had to go through a “lengthy, cumbersome” process requiring first-hand statements “for all witnesses” including “document custodians”. However, the talks broke down in October last year.

The Hong Kong government handles the surrender of fugitive offenders in accordance with Hong Kong law

“After nearly 10 months of extradition proceedings in Hong Kong, the [US] government’s extradition application was denied,” the prosecutors said. “Hong thus has not been – and it appears never will be – extradited.”

Asked about the State Department report, a Hong Kong government spokesman declined to comment, saying: “The Hong Kong government handles the surrender of fugitive offenders in accordance with Hong Kong law.”

Authorities in the city have usually worked with law enforcement agencies in the US and generally accepted requests for extradition under a bilateral agreement that came into effect in 1997.

But US prosecutors in Ho’s case noted the deal contained “numerous exceptions that might be cited to deny an extradition request”.

One exception allows Hong Kong to refuse to surrender Chinese nationals when the request “relates to the defence, foreign affairs, or essential public interest or policy of [China]”.

The US and China do not have an extradition treaty.

Separately, the State Department criticised mainland Chinese authorities for diluting Hong Kong’s “high degree of autonomy” as enshrined in the city’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law.

It raised the example of Beijing officials repeatedly stressing the Basic Law is subordinate to the Chinese constitution and former Basic Law Committee chairman Li Fei saying the central government “jointly” governs Hong Kong.

It also cited the approval by China’s top legislative body of a controversial joint checkpoint plan in Hong Kong that would make mainland laws applicable in West Kowloon station for a high-speed cross-border rail project.

Is Hong Kong’s democracy movement at the end of the line?

April 3, 2018


As China tightens squeeze, soul searching for Hong Kong’s democracy movement

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)