Posts Tagged ‘Hong Kong’

If you don’t like it here, get out: Why Hong Kong’s downtrodden domestic helpers can never win

February 17, 2018

Yonden Lhatoo asks what hope there is for this marginalised but vital sector when, instead of addressing their grievances, we argue they are welcome to leave if life here is unbearable

By Yonden Lhatoo
South China Morning Post

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 February, 2018, 4:01pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 February, 2018, 10:31pm

“If you don’t like it here, you can always leave, go back to where you came from,” is a regular refrain in Hong Kong to discourage the less fortunate among us from speaking out about their plight.

It has to be the most defeatist argument in defence of existing ills in society and the biggest impediment to progress, this boneheaded belief that only a bona fide son of the soil has the right to complain and anyone else should either just suck it up or go away.

Which is why it’s so disheartening to see a High Court judge, no less, offering the equivalent of this interpretation in the first judicial review of the government rule that forces Hong Kong’s 370,000 foreign domestic helpers to live with the families who hire them.

 The foreign domestic helper community in Hong Kong numbers 370,000 people, mostly women from Indonesia and the Philippines. Photo: David Wong

It was a landmark test case that held out hope to countless women who have to put up with slave-like working and living conditions, but the judge threw out the argument that the live-in rule was unconstitutional.

“It cannot seriously be argued that the imposition of the live-in requirement would directly constitute, or give rise to, a violation of the [foreign domestic helper’s] fundamental rights,” he said. “If, after coming to work in Hong Kong, the foreign domestic helper finds it unacceptable, for any reason, to reside in his/her employer’s residence, it is well within his/her right or power to terminate the employment.”

The courageous Filipino domestic helper who challenged the live-in requirement told her lawyer of hateful messages on social media reminding her that she could always go back home if she found life unbearable here.

The lawyer lamented the similar tone of the court ruling: “The judge effectively said if she didn’t like it she could leave. Outside of the law and in practical consideration, the judge has reinforced the stereotype that domestic helpers are second-class citizens.”

 Anyone other than a foreign domestic helper may qualify for permanent residency in Hong Kong after seven consecutive years of living in the city. Photo: Felix Wong

The live-in rule has long been seen as an enabler of abuse, as in the case of Indonesian domestic helper Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, whose story of sustained torture and assault at the hands of her employer made global headlines. But our government clings to it as a pillar of labour law, purportedly to prevent illegal employment and protect local menial workers.

The true reason, I strongly suspect, has more to do with race and class stigma. It explains why anyone who has lived in this city for seven consecutive years is automatically entitled to permanent residency, but foreign domestic helpers are permanently ineligible.

The fact is, it’s not only the hired help: many families would much rather their domestic workers didn’t have to share their cramped living space.

It has already been pointed out in court that the live-in rule meets five of the 11 indicators of forced labour identified by the International Labour Organisation: abuse of vulnerability; restriction of movement; isolation; abusive living and working conditions; and excessive overtime. Just that the judge didn’t see it that way.

Of course, there are many domestic helpers in Hong Kong who are treated well by their employers, but we’re talking about the many others who are not. When you’re the sole breadwinner for your family back home and you’re still paying off huge debts to the employment agencies that brought you here, terminating a contract with an abusive boss can be complicated.

Second-class treatment in “Asia’s World City” makes it OK because it’s twice as bad if they go back home? There’s no limit to this asinine line of argument.

Complaining about bus safety? Shut up and catch a train or a cab. Air pollution concerns? Try Beijing or Delhi and see how you like them apples.

Don’t agree with what I’m saying here? Go read something else then.

Yonden Lhatoo is the chief news editor at the Post.

http://www.scmp.com/comment/insight-opinion/article/2133654/if-you-dont-it-here-get-out-why-hong-kongs-downtrodden

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China vows to protect interests as US eyes trade sanctions

February 17, 2018

AFP

© AFP/File | China produces about half of the world’s steel but supplies less than two percent of the steel imported by the United States

BEIJING (AFP) – China on Saturday warned it would take necessary measures to protect its interests if the US imposes tough trade sanctions against its steel and aluminium exports.The US Commerce Department on Friday recommended imposing heavy tariffs on China and other countries to counter a global glut in steel and aluminum, laying out an array of possible options in a report to President Donald Trump.

The move gives Trump the opportunity to strike a highly public blow for his “America first” trade policy — he is due to decide on the measures next month — but has stoked fears of retaliation and a trade war between the world’s two largest economies.

“If the United States’ final decision affects China’s interests, we will take necessary measures to defend our rights,” said Wang Hejun, a director at China’s commerce ministry, in a statement responding to the US report.

The US report framed concerns about Chinese overproduction in terms of national security and defence — an approach refuted by Wang.

“The findings of the investigations (of the US Department of Commerce) are groundless and do not correspond to reality,” he said.

Washington “should not lightly adopt restrictive measures under the pretext of ‘national security’ … a vague formula that can easily lead to abuse,” he said.

China produces about half of the world’s steel but supplies less than two percent of the steel imported by the United States.

The US and EU argue Chinese overproduction is heavily subsidised by the state and has depressed world prices, hurting their own domestic production.

Trump on Tuesday accused Beijing of decimating American steel and aluminium industries, saying he was “considering all options”.

China says will protect its interests amid US trade probe on steel, aluminium

February 17, 2018

Image may contain: 1 person, standing

China’s Commerce Ministry said it will take necessary steps to protect itself if a final US decision on imposing steep curbs on steel and aluminium imports from China and other countries affects China’s interests. PHOTO: REUTERS

Reuters

BEIJING (REUTERS) – China’s Commerce Ministry said on Saturday (Feb 17) the country will take necessary steps to protect itself if a final US decision on imposing steep curbs on steel and aluminium imports from China and other countries affects China’s interests.

The ministry added that the US Commerce Department report was “baseless” and did not accord with the facts.

The US Commerce Department has recommended that US President Donald Trump impose steep curbs on steel and aluminum imports from China and other countries ranging from global and country-specific tariffs to broad import quotas, according to proposals released on Friday.

The long-awaited unveiling of Commerce’s “Section 232″national security reviews of the two industries contained global tariff options of at least 24 percent on all steel products from all countries, and at least 7.7 percent on all aluminum products from all countries.

Trump authorised the probes under a 1962 trade law that has not been invoked since 2001. He has until April 11 to announce his decision on steel import curbs and by April 20 to decide on aluminum restrictions.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross emphasised that Trump would have the final say, including on whether to exclude certain countries, such as NATO allies, from any actions.

“The president has the discretion to modify any of these or to come with something totally different,” he told reporters on a conference call.

He said a global tariff would cover every steel and aluminum product entering the American market from China.

China’s Commerce Ministry urged the United States to exercise restraint in using trade protection tools, respect the rules of multilateral trade and make a positive contribution to the international economic and trading order.

“If the final US decision affects China’s interests, China must take necessary measures to protect its own reasonable interests,” the ministry added, without giving details.

Steel stocks soared with US Steel closing up 14.7 percent, AK Steel up 13.7 percent, Nucor ended up 4.5 percent and the broader S&P 1500 steel index 5.3 percent higher.

Century Aluminum shares closed up 8.3 percent, while Alcoa, which has operations across the globe, ended off 0.44 percent.

Alcoa said in a statement the US trade actions should focus on Chinese overcapacity and not penalise nations that abide by the rules.

Ross said he would not be surprised if countries challenged the measures at the World Trade Organization.

He said “there has been no dialing back” of the recommendations due to objections from industries that use steel and aluminum.

“The objective of both reports is to get the production up to a level which will result, in our judgment, in the long term viability of each industry,” Ross said, adding that he did not believe that the recommendations would lead to significant price hikes.

US Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said he hoped the proposals “are the beginning of efforts by this administration to finally get tough on China.”

SPECIFIC COUNTRY OPTIONS

Alternatively, Commerce recommended a tariff of at least 53 percent on all steel imports from 12 countries – Brazil, China, Costa Rica, Egypt, India, Malaysia, Russia, South Korea, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam.

Other countries would be subject to a quota limiting their tariff-free access equal to their 2017 steel exports to the United States.

The country-specific aluminum option would impose a 23.6 percent tariff on all products from China, Hong Kong, Russia, Venezuela and Vietnam. All others would be subject to quotas equal to their 2017 exports to the United States.

A third option called for Trump to impose global quotas based on 63 percent of each country’s 2017 steel exports and based on 87 percent of their aluminum exports to the United States.

Ross said the remedies were designed to raise U.S. capacity utilization to about 80 percent for each industry, from the current 48 percent in aluminum and 73 percent in steel.

“That is the level we believe would provide the industry with long term viability,” he said.

Some US companies will be able to request exclusions for specific products if the U.S. lacks sufficient domestic capacity or for national security considerations, Ross added.

Philip Bell, president of the Steel Manufacturers Association, welcomed the proposals saying they could be”meaningful and effective” in tackling global excess capacity and relentless steel imports.

But in a joint statement the National Tooling and Machining Association and Precision Metalforming Association said steep tariffs would “devastate” downstream US steel consuming manufacturers, which employ 6.5 million Americans.

“If these tariffs are imposed, the US will become an island of high steel prices resulting in our customers simply importing the finished part and threatening thousands of jobs,” the groups said.

Cowen and Co. analysts Novid Rassouli and Han Zhang told clients in a research note they believe Trump will likely go for more targeted options.

“Utilising a blanket tariff is too broad, in our view,” they said. “There is a higher level of precision needed than a blanket tariff because depending on the product spread, it could for instance knock out one product, and do little to nothing for another.” Trump met with a bipartisan group of US senators and representatives at the White House last week, signaling he would take at least some action to restrict imports of the two metals.

Some US lawmakers and steel and aluminum users have urged caution in any restrictions to avoid disruptions or price spikes in the raw materials, used in everything from autos to appliances and aircraft and construction.

Related:

Trump Administration Proposes Stiff Penalties on Steel and Aluminum Imports — Would China Retaliate?

February 17, 2018
Workers at a Nucor steel plant in Huger, S.C., using a crane to lift rolled steel into storage before it is shipped for further processing. The Trump administration wants to impose tariffs on steel imports. Credit Stephen B. Morton for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration for the first time declared imports of steel and aluminum from China and other nations a threat to national security, laying the foundation for President Trump to impose the types of punitive tariffs he has long championed.

In a report released on Friday, the Commerce Department said a recent influx of foreign metals posed a risk to national security by threatening the viability of American manufacturers who make planes, armored vehicles and other products for the military. It outlined an array of recommendations the president could take to help domestic manufacturers struggling to stay competitive, including a sweeping tariff of 24 percent on steel imports from all countries.

The recommendations hand Mr. Trump an opportunity to make good on the get-tough approach to global trade that he has long espoused by giving him authority to decide the scope and severity of any trade action by mid-April. Mr. Trump has previously embraced tariffs on imports of steel and solar products as crucial to protecting American companies.

Yet erecting barriers could prompt swift retaliation from other trading partners, including China and the European Union, which have already warned of reciprocal action in response to protectionist measures. It could also further erode relations with foreign allies that might be ensnared by the measure and drive up prices for American consumers.

Wilbur Ross, the secretary of commerce, outlined three alternatives Mr. Trump could choose from to protect American steel producers, which have struggled to compete with a flood of cheap metals from China and other countries. The options included a broad 24 percent tariff on all steel imports, or a targeted 53 percent tariff on all steel products from 12 countries, including China, Brazil, India, South Korea and Vietnam. Under this option, imports from all other countries would be limited to the level they imported in 2017.

Mr. Ross also proposed an alternative for the steel industry that involved no tariffs, but would set a quota limiting steel imports from all countries to roughly two-thirds the level they were at last year.

For aluminum, the Commerce Department also outlined three alternatives, including a flat 7.7 percent tariff on imports from all countries, or a targeted 23.6 percent tariff on aluminum from China, Hong Kong, Russia, Venezuela and Vietnam. A third option involved putting into effect quotas to limit aluminum imports to lower levels than were shipped to the United States last year.

Mr. Ross did not indicate which way Mr. Trump might go, saying the president could pick a separate path, or reject the penalties altogether. But the president’s longstanding support for tariffs and his recent remarks suggest he is likely to support some kind of action.

In a meeting with lawmakers of both parties on Tuesday, Mr. Trump played down objections to the trade measures, and said that the United States was considering tariffs, quotas or both. “You may have a higher price, but you have jobs,” Mr. Trump told the bipartisan group.

Supporters of the trade action, including American steel companies and the United Steelworkers union, say American metal makers badly need the White House to step in and halt the flood of cheap imports, which has depressed the price for steel and aluminum. Many American steel and aluminum plants are struggling to compete in an oversaturated market and some have had to scale back production and eliminate jobs.

“This is a step in the right direction, and hopefully the president responds sooner than later,” said Todd Leebow, the chief executive of Majestic Steel USA, which buys American-made steel from mills to sell to customers in construction, agriculture and other industries. Mr. Leebow said he had seen a troubling decline in the industry in recent years, and he was hopeful Mr. Trump’s measure might reverse that.

But the investigation has also prompted criticism from American industries that use steel and aluminum to make their products, including automakers and food packagers. These businesses say tariffs or quotas will cause their prices to rise and shrink their profits, and could end up costing American jobs.

Christine McDaniel, a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center, a think tank that supports free markets, said that for every one steelworker that may be helped by trade restrictions, more than 38 workers in other sectors that could be harmed by it. “There is ample evidence that import taxes will harm economic growth and cost American jobs,” she said.

In a call with reporters on Friday, Mr. Ross played down any negative impact from the trade actions, saying that any increase in the cost of steel and aluminum for products like soft drinks and canned soup would be “trivial.” “We really don’t buy that argument,” Mr. Ross said.

Shares of American steel companies, including United States Steel, Nucor and AK Steel, rose following the release of the report. Stocks of Ford Motor Company and General Motors, which purchase aluminum and steel for their cars, declined.

Photo

Steel wire to be used in the manufacturing of tires at the Zhong Tian Steel Group Corporation in Changzhou, Jiangsu. China produces roughly half of the world’s steel and aluminum. CreditKevin Frayer/Getty Images

United Steelworkers, which strongly supported the tariffs, commended Mr. Ross’s announcement. “These recommendations have the potential to focus on the bad actors in the world that historically and systemically cheat in international trade,” said Leo W. Gerard, the president of United Steelworkers International.

Companies with operations outside of the United States were more circumspect. Aluminum companies including Alcoa, Rio Tinto Aluminum and Constellium issued statements urging the administration to exempt Canada, a major supplier of aluminum, from the rule, and focus on the issue of Chinese overcapacity instead.

Mr. Trump will have authority to determine which countries should be subject to any trade action, in part because of way in which the investigation was started. In April, the administration opened an investigation into steel and aluminum imports with a little-used provision of trade law that gives the president broad discretion to act to protect national security.

Read the rest:

NYT:https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/16/us/politics/trump-administration-recommends-stiff-penalties-on-steel-and-aluminum-imports.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=first-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

Related:

Focus on Aluminum:

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US eyes heavy tariffs on China, Russia to counter steel, aluminum glut

February 16, 2018

AFP

© AFP | US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross believes that cheap steel and aluminum imports from places like China and Russia “threaten to impair our national security”

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The US Commerce Department said Friday it recommended imposing tariffs on China, Russia and other countries to counter a global glut in steel and aluminum which it says threatens national security.In a report to President Donald Trump, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross includes among the options a nearly 24 percent tariff on all products from China, Russia and three other economies.

Other options would impose either high tariffs or quotas on steel and aluminum imports.

The findings are part of an investigation into the impact of the oversupply of steel and aluminum, and whether it undermines US national security.

In each case “the imports threaten to impair our national security,” Ross told reporters in a conference call about the so-called Section 232 investigation.

China and Russia are primary targets, but many other countries are included in the recommended sanctions, which are sure to spark fears of a global trade war if implemented.

Ross said the sanctions were designed to be broad to prevent targeted countries from circumventing the limits by shipping through a third country.

He said “serial offenders can evade these orders by transshipment through another country.”

For steel, Ross recommended three possible options: a 24 percent tariff on all steel from all countries; a 53 percent tariff on imports from 12 countries, including China, Russia and Brazil; or a quota on steel from all countries.

For aluminum, he recommended either a 7.7 percent tariffs on the metal from all countries; a quota for all countries; or, perhaps the most shocking of all the options, a 23.6 percent tariffs on imports of all products from China, Russia, Hong Kong, Vietnam and Venezuela.

Ross submitted the two reports to the White House in late January.

Trump has until mid-April to decide on any possible action, which he acknowledged likely would prompt action by US trading partners in the World Trade Organization.

US industries have urged the administration to take care since high import tariffs would raise the cost of supplies for major industries.

But Commerce said the goal of the measures is to boost domestic aluminum and steel prodcution.

Related:

U.S. Weighs Tariffs and Quotas on Steel, Aluminum Imports

February 16, 2018

Trump administration weighs different options, ranging from a global tariff of at least 24%, to a more targeted approach focusing on China and other nations

The Trump administration on Friday said it was weighing broad-based tariffs and quotas to curb imports of steel and aluminum to protect national security, though officials stressed no final decisions had yet been made and the ultimate policy could be considerably more limited.

The recommendations were part of internal administration reports released Friday laying out the options for President Donald Trump as he considers how to fulfill a campaign promise to take a more aggressive stance than predecessors to shield domestic steel and aluminum makers from growing foreign competition.

The recommendations suggest the president choose among several options. One of them is a global tariff of at least 24% on all steel imports from all countries. Another is a tariff of at least 53% on steel imports from a dozen countries. Under the latter, targeted option, the tariffs of 53% would be applied on steel from Brazil, China, Costa Rica, Egypt, India, Malaysia, South Korea, Russia, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam.

The report from the Commerce Department also included, as an alternative, a quota on steel products from countries equal to 63% of the countries’ 2017 exports to the U.S.

“I am glad that we were able to provide this analysis and these recommendations to the president,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement. “I look forward to his decision on any potential course of action.”

The recommendations are opposed by many lawmakers and businesses who worry that the tariffs risk provoking a trade war and raising prices on a range of domestic products.

The recommendations sent sector stocks soaring Friday. Nucor Corp, the largest U.S. steel producer by sales, rose almost 5% and US Steel Corp and AK Steel Holding Corp gain more than 10%. Aluminum stock reaction more muted, with market leader Alcoa Corp. recently up almost 3% and Arconic Inc up 1.6%, both off earlier highs

Mr. Trump faces an April deadline to decide whether, and how, to restrict imports under little-used section 232 of the 1962 trade law that gives the president wide discretion to impose tariffs and quotas if he deems certain imports pose a national security threat. Mr. Trump launched the studies in a White House ceremony last April with cheering industry and union executives by his side, and he promised at the time dramatic action within weeks.

On aluminum, the Commerce Department recommended global tariffs of at least 7.7% on all aluminum imports, or a tariff of 23.6% on select countries or a quota on imports equal to a maximum of 86.7% of the countries’ 2017 exports to the U.S. Under the second option, which targets individual countries, tariffs would apply to aluminum from China, Hong Kong, Russia, Venezuela and Vietnam.

Write to Jacob M. Schlesinger at jacob.schlesinger@wsj.com and William Mauldin at william.mauldin@wsj.com

 https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-recommends-tariffs-and-quotas-on-steel-aluminum-imports-1518801588

Fast Europe Open: UK retail sales, Czech Republic GDP

February 16, 2018

View From Hong kong

Financial Times (FT)

Image may contain: sky and outdoor

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Alice Woodhouse in Hong Kong — 0800 GMT, February 16, 2018

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Beware the pollutants in your bathroom cabinet.

Volatile chemicals from everyday consumer items such as cleaning products, aerosols and even perfumes now rival vehicle emissions as a cause of air pollution.

A research team led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reached the surprising conclusion after assessing the source of chemicals that reacted in the air to form fine particles and other lung-damaging pollutants in the US city of Los Angeles.

“As transportation gets cleaner, those other sources become more and more important,” said Brian McDonald, the project leader. “The stuff we use in our everyday lives can impact air pollution.”

In markets, Japanese stocks rallied as the rebound in global equities showed little sign of slowing following the sharp sell off last week. The Topix was 1.2 per cent higher although Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 dipped 0.1 per cent. Markets in China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and Vietnam were closed for the lunar new year.

Meanwhile, the dollar resumed its downward trajectory with the dollar index, a measure of the greenback against a basket of peers, falling 0.3 per cent to 88.305, a three-year low. The yen strengthened further to ¥105.75, a 15-month high.

Futures tip the FTSE 100 to open 0.5 per cent higher, while the S&P 500 is set to open up 0.2 per cent.

Corporate earnings and updates for Friday include Air France, EDF, Danone, Renault and Allianz. The economic calendar believes three is the magic number (all times London):

08.00: Czech Republic Q4 gross domestic product
08.20: European Central Bank’s Benoit Coeure speaks in Macedonia
09.30: UK retail sales

https://www.ft.com/content/ef966116-12d8-11e8-8cb6-b9ccc4c4dbbb

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Image may contain: sky and outdoor

Czech Republic

The economy had a strong showing in 2017: Growth picked up pace in three consecutive quarters, and indicators suggest the momentum carried over into the final quarter. Industrial production and retail trade turned in positive results again in November, albeit moderating from the prior month. Furthermore, the manufacturing PMI continued climbing throughout the quarter, clocking a multi-year high in January. However, while consumer confidence improved in January, business confidence slipped. Politically, the sailing is less smooth. President Milos Zeman, an ally of Russian president Vladimir Putin, won a second term on 27 January; he is one of the few allies of Andrej Babiš, who has been prime minister since December. Babiš, who lost a no-confidence vote on 10 January, has been unable to garner majority backing to form a government. However, the Communist Party agreed to restart talks over possible support of a Babiš-government. The combination of Zeman and Babiš could, however, strain relations with the EU further as both men oppose further EU integration.

See more:

https://www.focus-economics.com/countries/czech-republic

Global Stocks’ Early Rebound Fades — Is China Dragging Markets Lower?

February 7, 2018
A strong early rebound in Asian equities failed to last, as some markets barely finished higher while others skidded.
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Pedestrians walk past an electronic stock board showing the U.S. stock market’s performance on Feb. 6 in Tokyo. Photo: Rodrigo Reyes Marin/Zuma Press
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A strong early rebound in Asian equities failed to last Wednesday, as some markets barely finished higher while others skidded.

Weakness was led by declines in China, where “there are concerns about the lack of liquidity,” said Daniel So, a strategist at CMB International Securities in Hong Kong. The country’s central bank took no action in money markets for a 10th straight day Wednesday.

The Shanghai Composite Index was recently down 1.8% and the big-cap CSI 300 fell 2.3%, while financial stocks slid more than 3%.

Hong Kong’s H-share index, made up of mainland-based companies listed in the city, went from a 3.6% rebound in the morning to falling more than 1%. The benchmark Hang Seng Index was recently down 0.5% after rising as much as 2.9% earlier.

Meanwhile, the Nikkei, which slumped 4.7% Tuesday to fall into correction territory, posted an early 3.4% rebound. But it closed up just 0.2%.

And Korea’s Kospi skidded 2.3% after holding up relatively well during the past two days of heavy global selling. Samsung Electronics declined 3.4% on market chatter about a potential management shuffle involving the Samsung group of companies.

The swings came after U.S. stocks staged a big late-day rally following Monday’s rout. That rout fed into Tuesday trading in Asia and Europe.

S&P 500 futures were recently down 0.8%.

“The only surprise about the current market volatility is that it hasn’t happened sooner,” said Richard Titherington, chief investment officer for emerging-market stocks in Asia at J.P. Morgan Asset & Wealth Management.

Meanwhile, Asia “is still expected to see strong growth amid global monetary conditions that are still fairly loose,” said Virgil Fernandez Esguerra, an independent macro analyst.

Some analysts say concerns about Chinese equities persist despite the broader upbeat outlook for stocks regionally.

Earnings growth may slow faster than expected as trade tensions with the U.S. heat up and an anticorruption drive in China’s financial sector intensifies, said David Cui, a strategist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. He said a flow of capital out of the country may emerge as a risk if the dollar broadly turns around, including versus the Chinese yuan.

Away from China, weakness was also seen in New Zealand, where the NZX 50 stock index closed down 0.6%. Kiwi markets were closed yesterday for a holiday.

Korea’s Kospi, which held up relatively well by falling no more than 1.5% on Monday and Tuesday, was down 1.5% at midafternoon as index heavyweight Samsung Electronics slid 2.5%.

Asian stock buying overall slowed by lunchtime.

The Nikkei, which slumped 4.7% Tuesday to fall into correction territory, posted an early 3.4% rebound. But it closed up just 0.2%.

Related

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  • Market Turmoil Threatens IPO Recovery
  • What Was Really Behind the Stock Market Selloff?
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  • Heard on the Street: Market Plunge Lays Bare the Peril of FOMO

Meanwhile the yen found some footing from an overnight pullback—a stronger currency often weighs on Japan’s export-reliant stock market. The dollar was recently at ¥109.25 versus ¥109.70 earlier.

Bond yields continued to rebound Wednesday in Asia after experiencing inflows following Monday’s heavy selling on Wall Street and large declines in Asia yesterday. When Treasury prices rise, yields fall.

Ten-year Treasury yields were recently at 2.78% after falling to 2.65% in Asian trading Tuesday. They almost reached 2.9% on Monday.

 

Some have attributed the stock swoon to the rise in bond yields to start 2018. But “stocks have proven historically that they can rise along with bond yields at these or even higher levels,” said John Lynch, chief investment strategist for LPL Financial.

Oil futures rebounded nearly 1% in Asia after a U.S. industry group said domestic crude inventories declined slightly last week. A modest increase is expected in Wednesday’s government report.

Bitcoin was recently around $7,300, according to CoinDesk. It had earlier nearly touched $8,000, after briefly falling below $6,000 on Tuesday.

Write to Kenan Machado at kenan.machado@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/global-stocks-track-u-s-rebound-1517964224

Hong Kong court frees three democracy leaders, but warns against future acts of dissent — Amnesty says “politically motivated prosecutions aimed at silencing those promoting democracy in Hong Kong .”

February 6, 2018

By Venus Vu
Reuters

Image may contain: 1 person, eyeglasses and closeup

Pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong poses outside the Court of Final Appeal before a verdict on his appeal in Hong Kong, China February 6, 2018. REUTERS/Bobby Yip Reuters

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong’s highest court freed three young leaders of the city’s pro-democracy movement on Tuesday, including the public face of the protests, Joshua Wong, in a stark reversal of an earlier ruling, but it warned against future acts of dissent.

The unanimous decision was made by a panel of five judges on the Chinese-ruled city’s Court of Final Appeal, led by Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma. Wong, 21, Nathan Law and Alex Chow had served roughly two months in jail before they were granted bail in November.

Before that, a magistrate’s court had ruled the activists should serve community service and a suspended sentence for a charge of “unlawful assembly” after they and others stormed into a fenced-off area in front of government headquarters in September 2014.

That sparked a night-long standoff with police and was seen as a key trigger for the “Umbrella Movement” that blocked major roads in the city for 79 days in a push for full democracy, presenting Communist Party rulers in Beijing with one of their biggest political challenges in decades.

Image may contain: 3 people

Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow — Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

But this non-jail sentence was challenged by Hong Kong’s Department of Justice that pushed for a review, eventually leading the Court of Appeal to impose jail terms.

The five judges, including a non-permanent foreign judge, Lord Leonard Hoffmann, said in the judgment that they had “quashed the sentences of imprisonment” by the Court of Appeal.

They stressed, however, that Hong Kong was a law-abiding society and that “future offenders involved in large-scale unlawful assemblies involving violence” will be subject to stricter guidelines laid down by the Court of Appeal.

Pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong poses outside the Court of Final Appeal before a verdict on his appeal in Hong Kong, China February 6, 2018. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

Hong Kong, a former British colony, returned to Chinese rule in 1997 with a guarantee of wide-ranging freedoms, including an independent judiciary and freedom of speech, but critics accuse Beijing of creeping interference in the city’s affairs and the government of toeing the Beijing line.

The three activists were somber despite being freed, saying future activists could be unjustly punished for civil disobedience, even acts aimed at defending local rights and freedoms.

“It’s not a time for celebration … It’s a long term battle for us in the future,” said Joshua Wong.

“Maybe more and more activists will be locked up because of this harsh judgment … We must urge people to continue to fight for democracy.”

The judges said: “There is no constitutional justification for violent unlawful behavior. In such a case involving violence, a deterrent sentence may be called for and will not be objectionable on the ground that it creates a ‘chilling effect’ on the exercise of a constitutional right.”

Amnesty International’s Hong Kong director, Mabel Au, said in a statement that the court had: “corrected an injustice” but added that “all politically motivated prosecutions aimed at silencing those promoting democracy in Hong Kong must be dropped”.

Besides the trio of Wong, Law and Chow, dozens of other mostly young democracy activists have also been jailed, or are facing court proceedings that could see them incarcerated for various forms of rights activism, in what some see as a concerted attempt by authorities to curtail the momentum of the city’s youth-led democracy movement.

“This will have some impact on Hong Kong’s activism … the norm is different now and has shifted to heavier sentences,” said Jonathan Man, a lawyer who has represented some of these rights activists. “This is setting a precedent.”

Reporting by Venus Wu; additional reporting by Carmel Yang and Pak Yiu; Editing by James Pomfret and Nick Macfie

See also Hong Kong Free Press:

https://www.hongkongfp.com/2018/02/06/breaking-hong-kong-democracy-activists-joshua-wong-alex-chow-nathan-law-free-go-occupy-sentence-appeal/

US lawmakers nominate HK pro-democracy activists for Nobel Peace Prize

February 1, 2018

AFP

© AFP/File | A group of US congressmen have nominated Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong and other members of the Umbrella Movement for the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize

WASHINGTON (AFP) – A bipartisan group of US congressmen announced Thursday they had nominated Hong Kong pro-democracy activists Joshua Wong, Nathan Law, Alex Chow and the entire Umbrella Movement for the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize.In a letter to the Nobel Committee, the four senators and eight members of the House said the nomination was “in recognition of their peaceful efforts to bring political reform and self-determination to Hong Kong.”

“Wong, Law, and Chow and the entire Umbrella Movement embody the peaceful aspirations of the people of Hong Kong who yearn to see their autonomies and way of life protected and their democratic aspirations fulfilled,” they said.

“Hong Kong’s pro-democracy advocates have made significant contributions to peace by actively seeking to safeguard the future of Hong Kong at precisely the time Beijing has taken steps to undermine Hong Kong’s long-cherished autonomy,” they said.

“They have shown great courage in the face of harassment, threats, detention, and legal and financial repercussions,” they added.

In nominating the Umbrella Movement, the congressmen noted that the Nobel Committee has shown “past willingness to brave the displeasure, and outright retribution, of the Chinese Communist Party and government in awarding the prize to Chinese political prisoner Liu Xiaobo.”

The 2014 Umbrella Movement was an unprecedented rebuke to Beijing as tens of thousands of protesters brought parts of Hong Kong to a standstill.

They demanded fully free leadership elections to replace a system where Hong Kong’s chief executive is selected by a pro-Beijing committee.

The rallies failed to win concessions and since then, Wong and other leading activists have been charged over their involvement.

Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and Democratic Senator Gary Peters of Michigan were among the signatories of the letter to the Nobel Committee.