Posts Tagged ‘Hong Kong’

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

July 25, 2017

AFP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baidu set for strong quarterly earnings as AI push intensifies — Part of China’s national AI development plan

July 23, 2017

China’s leading search engine operator expected to benefit from central government’s ambitious national AI development plan

By Bien Perez
South China Morning Post

Sunday, July 23, 2017, 4:21pm

Internet giant Baidu is expected to report solid second-quarter financial results in line with consensus market estimates, as mainland China’s largest online search engine operator steps up its transformation into a global powerhouse in artificial intelligence (AI).

Analysts anticipate Nasdaq-listed Baidu to provide on Thursday further details about its AI strategy, following the State Council’s announcement last week of an ambitious national AI development plan.

“Laying out a road map for AI is a very encouraging sign of support from the government,” said Jefferies equity analyst Karen Chan.

Baidu is forecast to post a 21 per cent year-on-year increase in net profit to 3.4 billion yuan (US$503 million) in the three months ended June 30, according to a Bloomberg survey of analysts’ estimates.

That gain was attributed by Jefferies to a rise in average spending per online advertising customer and Baidu’s efforts in controlling its traffic acquisition cost.

Revenue is estimated to be up 14 per cent year-on-year to 20.7 billion yuan. It would represent the mid-point of Baidu’s second-quarter revenue guidance, ranging from 20.5 billion yuan to 20.9 billion yuan.

Investors this week will likely focus on Baidu’s search recovery outlook, mobile newsfeed advertising traction, content investment, and sales and marketing spending, according to Jefferies’ Chan.

In the first quarter, Baidu maintained its lead in terms of total search revenue on the mainland with a 75.9 per cent market share, according to data from Analysys International and Jefferies.

Google China seized a 10.2 per cent share, while Sohu subsidiary Sogou had an 8.4 per cent share in the same period.

A regulatory filing made by Baidu last month disclosed that its first-quarter search revenue fell 6 per cent year on year, following its rigid customer verification process last year to remove low-quality advertisers.

“We see the elimination of unqualified advertisers resulted in decreased bidding intensity for keywords in certain industries, such as ‘health care’,” Daiwa Capital Markets analyst John Choi said in a report.

 Robin Li , co-founder and chief executive of Baidu. Photo: AFP

Jefferies’ Chan expected Baidu to add 3 billion yuan this year to its annual research and development budget of about 10 billion yuan. The incremental increase will be mostly spent on AI initiatives, she said.

Daiwa’s Choi said Baidu already leads the mainland’s internet sector in AI spending.

Mainland China’s total investments in AI enterprises reached US$2.6 billion last year, according to domestic think tank Wuzhen Institute. The US topped that list with US$17.9 billion in investments in the same period.

“Search is one of the first applications of AI where search works to understand humans,” said Robin Li Yanhong, the co-founder, chairman and chief executive of Baidu during a conference call in April.

“As the leading search engine in China, we have been fortunate to amass vast amounts of rich, valuable data in a market with over 700 million internet users who speak the same language, have the same culture, and abide by the same laws.”

 A fleet of vehicles equipped with Baidu’s autonomous driving technologies conduct road testing in Wuzhen. PhotoL: Handout

Earlier this month, Li stressed the importance of opening up the company’s AI platform to developers.

That approach would help Baidu’s DuerOS, a conversation-based AI technology, to become the Android operating system for the AI era. DuerOS is targeted for use in smart home appliances, cars and wearable devices.

Baidu’s recently launched its Apollo 1.0 autonomous driving platform with more than 50 industry partners, including major car makers and automotive component suppliers.

“While we applaud Baidu’s commitment to open up its AI technology platform … we are not too sure about what the ultimate business model would be,” said Alicia Yap, the head of regional internet research at Citi Research in Hong Kong.

http://www.scmp.com/tech/china-tech/article/2103768/baidu-set-strong-quarterly-earnings-ai-push-intensifies

Dark days for China’s democracy dream

July 19, 2017

AFP

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© AFP/File / by Joanna CHIU in BEIJING, and Aaron TAM and Elaine YU in HONG KONG | Chinese democracy activist Liu Xiaobo died from liver cancer while under heavy police guard at a hospital in northeastern China

BEIJING/HONG KONG (CHINA) (AFP) – The death of Liu Xiaobo deprives China’s dissident movement of a crucial figurehead at a time when political activism on the mainland is being forced ever deeper underground, and pro-democracy forces in Hong Kong are under threat.The world had not heard from Nobel laureate Liu since he was jailed in 2009 for writing a petition calling for political reform, but he remained an influential heavyweight of China’s democracy movement and an inspiration for opponents of the Communist-ruled system.

His death in custody from cancer last week triggered rage and frustration among the dissident community but also a sense of hopelessness as they face hardened repression under China’s President Xi Jinping.

“When the Chinese authorities can so easily control life and death, people are more afraid to fight,” said activist Su Yutong, who fled to Germany after being repeatedly detained and questioned over her work at an NGO.

“They see that even a Nobel Peace Prize winner can die in jail.”

There are fears that Liu’s supporters will now be targeted, particularly his wife Liu Xia, who has been under house arrest since 2010.

Veteran China specialist Willy Lam said most of Liu’s friends were already under 24-hour surveillance and that the dissident community in general was “highly demoralised”.

“They realise they are going through a long winter with no light at the end of the tunnel,” said Lam, a politics professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

The fact that support from the international community is outweighed by the desire of foreign governments to keep Beijing onside has also hit hard, said Teng Biao, a human rights lawyer and visiting scholar at Princeton University.

“If the West is reluctant to anger China, there will be no hope,” Teng told AFP.

However, some say they will brave it out.

One of the country’s most prominent social activists Hu Jia, 43, has vowed not to leave China despite being under police surveillance since his release from prison six years ago.

“I want to stay and make an impact on the country,” he told AFP.

– Hong Kong remembers –

Liu’s death prompted an outpouring of grief in semi-autonomous Hong Kong, where pro-democracy forces must also contend with an increasingly assertive Beijing.

“We have to face the same political system and oppression,” said pro-democracy lawmaker Eddie Chu.

“There used to be some distance, but now it’s more intimately felt.”

A day after Liu died, Hong Kong’s High Court disqualified four pro-democracy lawmakers from parliament following an unprecedented intervention from Beijing over the way they incorporated protests into their oaths of office last year.

Two lawmakers who advocate complete independence for Hong Kong — a concept that infuriates China — had already been ousted from the legislature.

Hong Kong still enjoys freedoms unseen on the mainland — thousands gathered for a memorial march to Liu on Saturday, while over the border even online tributes to him were removed.

But a string of incidents, including the disappearance of a city bookseller and a reclusive mainland tycoon, have heightened concerns of Beijing’s political overreach.

When it was handed back to China by Britain in 1997 under a semi-autonomous “one country, two systems” deal, some hoped Hong Kong’s colonial institutions, such as an independent judiciary and partially elected legislature, would lead to liberalisation over the border.

However, as China’s wealth and global clout skyrocketed, Hong Kong’s influence waned. Now it is seen by Beijing as a hotbed of subversion, particularly since mass protests calling for more democratic reform in 2014.

Xi warned any challenge to Beijing’s control over Hong Kong crossed a “red line” earlier this month when he visited the city to mark 20 years since the handover.

Jonathan Sullivan, director of the China Policy Institute at the University of Nottingham, described the current political environment as “increasingly circumscribed”.

“It remains to be seen if (the democracy movement) feels it can advance its agenda through the ‘legitimate’ political process. And if not will there be a resurgence of street politics?” asked Sullivan.

The movement itself is struggling for direction, having splintered between veteran activists calling for change across China and younger Hong Kong-centric “localists” who say the city must just fight for itself.

Analysts agree that by-elections for the seats of the ousted lawmakers will prove whether or not the pro-democracy message is alive and kicking.

Lawmaker Chu says the movement needs a clearer vision, but must also accept that change will not come quickly.

“Liu Xiaobo persevered, sacrificing even his life, not because he knew he would succeed but because he saw himself as part of a long-term process,” Chu told AFP.

“Maybe Hong Kong is like this too. It’s not about setting a goal for victory at a certain time.”

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by Joanna CHIU in BEIJING, and Aaron TAM and Elaine YU in HONG KONG

South China Sea, Update — China Air Forces Exercises, Indonesia Makes its Claim

July 17, 2017

BEIJING — Jul 17, 2017, 2:55 AM ET

By CHRISTOPHER BODEEN, ASSOCIATED PRESS

Image may contain: 1 person, eyeglasses and closeup

Philippine Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez

A look at recent developments in the South China Sea, where China is pitted against smaller neighbors in multiple disputes over islands, coral reefs and lagoons in waters crucial for global commerce and rich in fish and potential oil and gas reserves:

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EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a weekly look at the latest developments in the South China Sea, the location of several territorial conflicts that have raised tensions in the region.

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INDONESIA RENAMES PART OF SOUTH CHINA SEA TO SECURE EXCLUSIVE ECONOMIC ZONE

Indonesia has named waters in its exclusive economic zone that overlap with China’s expansive claim to the South China Sea as the North Natuna Sea, an assertion of sovereignty that has angered Beijing.

The decision announced Friday by the Ministry of Maritime Affairs has been in the works since mid-2016 and was vital to law enforcement at sea and securing Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone, said Arif Havas Oegroseno, the deputy minister for maritime sovereignty.

He said the name would reduce confusion and is already used by the oil and gas industry for the waters.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said at a regular news briefing that the “so-called change of name makes no sense at all.”

“We hope the relevant countries can work with China for the shared goal and jointly uphold the current hard-won sound situation in the South China Sea,” he said.

China claims most of the South China Sea, putting it in dispute with many Southeast Asian nations, and has carried out extensive land reclamation and construction on reefs and atolls to bolster its claims.

Indonesia doesn’t have a territorial dispute with China, but Beijing’s nine-dash line, which signifies its claims, overlaps with Indonesia’s internationally recognized exclusive economic zone extending from the Natuna islands.

“The map of Indonesia has clear coordinates, dates and data, and the government would not negotiate with other nations that make unconventional claims … including those who insist on a map of nine broken lines,” Oegroseno said.

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A YEAR AFTER HAGUE ARBITRATION RULING, CHINA REMAINS DEFIANT

Filipino officials behind an arbitration case in which the Philippines won a resounding victory over China last year are expressing alarm that Beijing continues to defy the decision, in what they are calling a setback to the rule of law.

Last week, they urged President Rodrigo Duterte, who has indefinitely set aside the decision that invalidated China’s sweeping historic claims in the South China Sea, to explore diplomatic and legal means by which to pressure China into complying.

Duterte has promised to take up the arbitration ruling with China before his six-year term ends in 2022, but is also courting China as an economic partner and possible security ally. His administration says his pragmatic outreach has calmed tensions, revived dialogue and reaped pledges of huge Chinese investments and other benefits.

“Despite its friendlier face, we do not see restraint in China’s militarization and unlawful activity in the West Philippine Sea,” said former Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, who spearheaded moves to bring the Philippines’ disputes with China to international arbitration in 2013. He cited China’s moves to fortify its seven man-made islands in the Spratly group with missile defense systems.

Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio said China is reneging on its treaty obligation because it ratified the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea under which the arbitration decision was based.

China last week marked the anniversary of the ruling with the relatively mild language it has adopted toward the Philippines in recent months. “With the joint efforts by China and the Philippines over the past year, the dispute has been brought back to the peaceful settlement through dialogue and consolation, and bilateral ties have improved overall,” spokesman Geng Shuang said.

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PHILIPPINES SEES TRADE BENEFITS IN LOW-KEY APPROACH TO DISPUTES WITH CHINA

Philippine Trade Minister Ramon Lopez has predicted faster growth of economic ties with China following Manila’s decision to effectively shelve their territorial disputes.

Lopez said in an interview with Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post last week that the Philippines’ “realistic and practical” approach to those controversies would encourage Chinese trade and investment and help the country meet its ambitious economic growth target of 7-8 percent over the coming five years.

“I credit it to the wisdom of (Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte) to really be more realistic and practical, to consider the positive points of having a relationship with China renewed,” Lopez told the newspaper.

“He has mentioned in many of his statements that, ‘Why fight China when we can set aside the differences and focus on areas of cooperation, focus on how China and the Philippines can help in mutual growth?'” Lopez said.

Exports of Philippine bananas and mangos to China and Hong Kong grew by 34 percent in the first five months of this year following the lifting of Chinese restrictions, he said, much higher than the 14 percent rate for the rest of the world.

Lopez said he also backed allowing Chinese to visit for a week visa-free as a further boost to business ties.

“If you want to explore business opportunities and therefore you want to visit the Philippines and meet the people, that is something we can look at,” he said.

The Philippines has become “much safer” to do business in since Duterte launched his bloody war on drug dealers and addicts, with the crime rate dropping 53 percent over the past year, Lopez said. Some 5,000 suspects have died so far in the campaign, and human rights group have called for an independent investigation into Duterte’s possible role in the violence.

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Associated Press writers Niniek Karmini in Jakarta, Indonesia, and Jim Gomez in Manila, Philippines, contributed to this report.

Related:

 (Contains links to several more related articles)

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Dominance of the South China Sea, the Malacca Strait and the Indian Ocean would solidify China’s One Belt One Road project
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The international arbitration court in the Hague said on July 12, 2016, that China’s “nine dash line” (what Bill Hayton calls the U-shaped line) was not recognized under international law — making the Vietnamese and Philippine claims on South China Sea islands valid and lawful.
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China’s aircraft carrier Liaoning at Hong Kong
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 (Contains links to information about Vietnam’s renewed efforts to extract oil and gas from the sea bed)

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China to Punish Wanda for Breaching Investment Rules

July 17, 2017

Bloomberg

July 17, 2017, 2:11 AM EDT July 17, 2017, 2:48 AM EDT
  • Government is scrutinizing six Wanda deals, people say
  • Move is unprecedented setback for one of China’s richest men

China plans to punish billionaire Wang Jianlin’s Dalian Wanda Group Co. for breaching the nation’s restrictions on overseas investments by cutting off funding and denying the conglomerate with necessary regulatory approvals, according to people familiar with the matter.

The government has found violations of China’s restrictions in six investments, four of which have been completed and two are still pending, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the matter is private. The deals being scrutinized include a Wanda unit’s purchase of Nordic Cinema Group Holding AB and Carmike Cinemas Inc., the people said, without identifying the remaining transactions.

Wang Jianlin

Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg

A Wanda representative declined to comment. China’s banking regulator didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

The move represents an unprecedented setback for China’s second-richest man, who was among the country’s most prominent dealmakers up until last year by gobbling up Hollywood assets such as “Kong: Skull Island” producer Legendary Entertainment. For the government, targeting one of the country’s top businessmen represents an escalation of its broader efforts to crack down on capital outflows.

Wanda Properties International Co.’s 2024 notes declined as much as 4.8 cents on the dollar to 100.2 cents in afternoon trading in Hong Kong on Monday, according to Bloomberg-compiled data. Wanda Hotel Development Co. shares fell as much as 7.3 percent.

According to the people, the four completed deals will be subject to punitive measures including:

  • No financing from domestic banks
  • Assets will be barred from being injected into any listed entity in China
  • Wanda will be barred from injecting capital into those assets from within China or involve them in any restructuring with any of Wanda’s domestic units
  • No government approval will be given if Wanda attempts to sell those assets to any Chinese companies

On the two pending deals, related authorities won’t provide support with financing or foreign-exchange-related approvals needed to move money out of China, according to the people.

Wanda is among conglomerates including Fosun International Ltd.HNA Group Co.and Anbang Insurance Group Co. whose loans are under government scrutiny after China’s banking regulator asked some lenders to provide information on overseas loans to the companies, people familiar with the matter said in June.

Though cutting off funding may pressure Wanda, the group is poised to get some relief after it agreed to sell hotels, land and projects to Chinese developer Sunac China Holdings Ltd. in a 63.2 billion yuan ($9.3 billion) deal announced last week. For Wang, the sale of the bulk of his “Wanda City” projects — massive multi-billion-dollar complexes with theme parks and lodgings — represented a departure from the billionaire’s past predictions that he would build a tourism empire bigger than that of Walt Disney Co.

The Wall Street Journal earlier reported that China is restricting the completion of six overseas deals by Wanda Group following the government’s broader crackdown on offshore investments, citing documents.

— With assistance by Steven Yang, and Prudence Ho

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-07-17/china-is-said-to-punish-wanda-for-breaching-investment-rules-j57r4vzy

China Hammers Wanda — “Touched a red line concerning foreign investments”

July 17, 2017

China places Wanda under unprecedented scrutiny, closes off most loan options

By Xie Yu
South China Morning Post

Monday, 17 July, 2017, 2:58pm

China’s bank regulator has instructed the country’s largest state-owned lenders to put six of magnate Wang Jianlin’s overseas acquisition projects under an unprecedented level of scrutiny, because they have touched a red line concerning foreign investments, according to several sources familiar with the matter.

Four of the six purchases have closed. Of the two uncompleted acquisitions, Chinese government departments have been ordered to not approve any loan applications or foreign currency exchanges, for completing the deals, based on verbal instructions delivered at a June 20 meeting summoned by the China Banking Regulatory Commission in Beijing, according to sources familiar with the briefing.

Chinese banks are instructed to not lend any money to the four acquisitions that have closed, according to the briefing, made available to the South China Morning Post.

 Wang Jianlin at the opening ceremony of Harbin Wanda Cultural Tourism City on June 30. Photo: SCMP/Simon Song

Those projects are forbidden from injection into any of Wanda’s China-listed companies, and Wanda is barred from injecting any funds, or conducting any form of financial restructuring involving these assets, if they encounter operational difficulties, according to sources present at the June 20 meeting.

The unprecedented instructions would close off any available avenue of financing for the highly leveraged Wanda, which may have contributed to Wang’s decision last week to sell the majority of his hotel and theme park holdings — including a Harbin park that he’d opened barely two weeks earlier — to Shanxi magnate Sun Hongbin for US$9.3 billion, in what would turn out to be the largest single real estate sale in China’s corporate history.

Wang could not be reached to comment. A Wanda Group spokesman in Beijing declined to comment.

Wanda, founded in 1988 by Wang as a provincial developer in the coastal city of Dalian, has evolved into one of China’s biggest asset buyers around the world, in the process turning the 62-year-old former soldier into the country’s wealthiest businessman.

Through a string of offshore acquisitions that began in 2012, Wanda is now the world’s largest cinema operator, owning 8,200 screens all over the globe. It owns a yacht builder, a Spanish football club, a Hollywood movie studio, a string of shopping malls, hotels and theme parks across China, and the global rights to the Iron Man triathlon races.

The world took notice of Wang’s worldwide shopping spree. Harvard invited Wang to speak, twice. At a November 2015 speech to the Harvard Business School, Wang admitted that one of the shareholders in at least one of his unlisted units included Deng Jiagui, the brother in law of Chinese president Xi Jinping. Deng invested in a 2009 rights issue by Dalian Wanda Commercial Properties Co., and sold it before the company’s December 2014 listing in Hong Kong, Wang said at Harvard.

 The logo of the Wanda Group is pictured during a media event in Beijing, China March 2, 2017. Photo: Reuters

That may have raised the ire of the Chinese government, which was then half way through a campaign to crack down on corruption, influence peddling and any form of financial misconduct.

Wanda wasn’t the sole Chinese company to be put under the spotlight. The Anbang Group, Fosun Group, HNA Group and a Zhejiang-based company called Rossoneri Sport Investment have also been singled out for scrutiny.

Of the six projects singled out by the bank regulator, at least two are for cinemas abroad, which would dent Wang’s ambition to control one in every five of the world’s cinema screens by 2020. They include the US$930 million acquisition announced in January for the Nordic Cinema Group, which owns 664 screens in 118 cinemas in Sweden, Finland, Norway, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Also under scrutiny is the US$1.1 billion purchase of Carmike Cinemas, the fourth-largest American cinema operator, with 2,954 screens in 41 US states.

Wanda Commercial was delisted in Hong Kong on September 20 last year. Wang promised investors he’d list the developer’s assets on an exchange in mainland China, where the Shanghai bourse trades at a price-earnings ratio that’s four times higher on average than its stock in Hong Kong.

S&P Global Ratings on Monday placed the company’s BBB- long term corporate credit rating on watch, with negative implications.

“We placed the ratings on CreditWatch to reflect the risks that Wanda Commercial’s unexpected sale of its tourism projects and hotels could weaken its business position and have an uncertain impact on leverage,” according to the agency.

With reporting by Summer Zhen in Hong Kong, Zheng Yangpeng in Beijing.

http://www.scmp.com/business/companies/article/2102933/china-places-wanda-under-unprecedented-scrutiny-closes-most-loan

Commentary: Arresting the painful decline of Hong Kong’s financial centre — While decline seems endemic elsewhere in Hong Kong’s economy — China by-pass?

July 16, 2017

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Hong Kong marked 20 years since it was handed over to China on Jul 1, 2017. (Photo: AFP/Dale De La Rey)

Read more at http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asiapacific/commentary-arresting-the-painful-decline-of-hong-kong-s-9030492

Thousands march in Hong Kong in memory of Liu Xiaobo

July 15, 2017

AFP

© AFP / by Elaine YU, Laura MANNERING | Thousands took to the streets of central Hong Kong Saturday night holding candles as they marched in memory of pro-democracy Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo
HONG KONG (AFP) – Thousands took to the streets of central Hong Kong Saturday night holding candles as they marched in memory of pro-democracy Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.Veteran activists led the solemn gathering which wove its way from the commercial heart of Hong Kong Island to China’s liaison office, with some marchers in tears.

Liu’s ashes were buried at sea Saturday, depriving supporters of a place to pay tribute following his death Thursday from cancer while in custody on the mainland.

Hong Kongers have already held memorial events but Saturday’s was by far the largest.

It came the day after four pro-democracy legislators were disqualified from Hong Kong’s parliament, worsening fears that freedoms in the semi-autonomous city are under serious threat from an ever more assertive Beijing.

“Loving a country is wanting it to make progress,” said marcher Emily Chau, 24.

“But this is how he was treated for being so loyal to the country.”

Chau said she feared Hong Kong’s freedoms were also now in jeopardy.

“With the disqualification of the lawmakers yesterday, it’s like this place is decaying,” she told AFP.

“While we still have the chance, I want to play some kind of role.”

The city is ruled under a “one country, two systems” deal granting it freedoms unseen on the mainland, guaranteed in the handover agreement when colonial power Britain returned Hong Kong to China in 1997.

But Beijing stands accused of increased interference in a range of areas, from politics to media and education.

Marchers of all ages carried floral wreaths and white chrysanthemums, bowing three times in front of a makeshift memorial to Liu outside the liaison office, a traditional sign of respect at funerals.

Some brought their children and grandchildren with them.

Steven Wong, 45, had travelled from Singapore to attend the march, saying he had respected Liu for many years.

Wong was born and grew up in Beijing and was a high school student there in 1989, the year of the brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in the city’s Tiananmen Square.

He said he remembered burned-out tanks and blood smeared on lamp posts the day after. Shortly afterwards his family moved to Singapore.

“He was a great scholar who woke up young people, especially of my generation,” Wong said of Liu.

“He made me think deeply about what we can do as a Chinese (person) and what we can teach our students,” said Wong, who is now an arts researcher.

Former Hong Kong lawmaker and long-time democracy advocate Alan Leong called for Liu’s wife, Liu Xia, to be freed.

He also said Hong Kong was facing a “dire situation” as Beijing was “committing treachery” against it.

“We just stay calm and carry on,” Leong told AFP.

by Elaine YU, Laura MANNERING

Ruling Threatens Hong Kong’s Independence From China

July 15, 2017

HONG KONG — Nearly three years after sweeping pro-democracy protests filled the streets of Hong Kong, a local court delivered the struggling movement a severe blow on Friday, removing four legislators from office and assuring China greater influence over the city’s government.

The pro-democracy lawmakers were dismissed from the Hong Kong Legislative Council because they had used unacceptable words or even dubious tones in taking oaths of office that require declarations of loyalty to China. The ruling means that democracy advocates in the semiautonomous city’s legislature will no longer have enough votes to block legislation from their pro-Beijing counterparts.

“Voters entrusted us with the task of monitoring the government,” said Leung Kwok-hung, one of those unseated. “We’ve lost that power.”

Hong Kong has been rattled by episodes that have raised fears that China is reaching deeper into the city to enforce its will. A bookseller who sold lurid titles about China’s leaders was abducted and taken to mainland ChinaXiao Jianhua, a prominent billionaire who grew up in China, was snatched from a high-end hotel and brought to the mainland.

And when President Xi Jinping of China visited Hong Kong two weeks ago for the 20th anniversary of its return to Chinese sovereignty, he mixed reassurances about the city’s special status with an unmistakable warning not to test Beijing’s will.

Since 1997, China’s economy has become less dependent on Hong Kong, while the territory’s prosperity has become more entangled with the mainland. As the political and economic power imbalance grows, and Hong Kong is drawn tighter into China’s orbit, Beijing’s leaders are less willing to offer Hong Kong the same degree of deference they once showed it.

But through it all, people in Hong Kong have been comforted by the fact that the city has its own legal system — based on British common law, unlike China’s — that is proudly independent. That legal system remains robust, and it is one reason investment flows to Hong Kong. But Friday’s ruling will deepen worries that Chinese influence is weakening judicial protections.

Since pro-democracy protesters occupied major streets in Hong Kong for months in 2014 — a movement that came to be known as the Umbrella Revolution — Mr. Xi’s government has sought to strengthen its grip on the city. But the democratic lawmakers held enough seats in the legislature to frustrate the city’s pro-Beijing administration with filibustering and veto power over bills introduced by pro-Beijing lawmakers.

The court ruling was “a disturbing and ominous development,” said Willy Lam, a political analyst and adjunct professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Like many critics of the decision, he suggested that the judge had bent over backward to create a decision pleasing to Beijing.

“It’s a direct interference in Hong Kong’s internal affairs, a breach of both its judicial independence and separation of powers,” Mr. Lam said.

Read the rest:

After Liu Xiaobo’s Death, Chinese Democracy Dream Fights for Survival — Fractured activist community at its weakest in a generation as the Communist Party tightens its grip

July 14, 2017

China’s activist community at its weakest in a generation as the Communist Party tightens its grip on society

A makeshift altar for Liu Xiaobo outside the Chinese government’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong.
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A makeshift altar for Liu Xiaobo outside the Chinese government’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong. PHOTO: KIN CHEUNG/ASSOCIATED PRESS
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July 14, 2017 6:33 a.m. ET

BEIJING—Nearly three decades after a bloody military assault ended student demonstrations in Tiananmen Square, China’s democracy movement faces a new reckoning.

The loss of the country’s most prominent dissident, Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, who died of cancer under police guard at a Shenyang hospital on Thursday, leaves China’s fractured activist community at its weakest in a generation as the Communist Party tightens its grip on Chinese society.

A steady shrinking of space for political action that began in late 2008, with the arrest of Mr. Liu for helping to draft and promote a pro-democracy manifesto, has intensified significantly under President Xi Jinping.

How China’s Loudest Voice for Political Change Was Silenced
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, who embodied the hopes of the 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy movement, died on July 13 while serving an 11-year prison sentence for inciting subversion. Photo: AFP/Getty.
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As Mr. Liu and other activists have disappeared behind bars, lawyers and legal workers who had picked up the torch have faced mass detentions. Some are still in prison. Labor-rights campaigners have been detained, and popular critical voices on China’s social media have been silenced.

Two days after the death of Mr. Liu, Chinese political-reform advocates hope to welcome the release from prison of Xu Zhiyong, a legal scholar some consider Mr. Liu’s successor as head of the threadbare movement.

The founder of a loosely organized civic group known as the New Citizens Movement was detained in 2013 for organizing protests over corruption and access to education. Even if he is let out on Saturday as scheduled, he is likely to be under watch by security agents and his activities curtailed.

“Under the current circumstances, you can’t assume he’ll be free,” said an associate of Mr. Xu who said police have warned him against talking publicly about the scholar.

The Beijing Municipal Bureau of Justice didn’t immediately respond to request for comment about Mr. Xu’s release.

China’s Fractured Democracy Movement

The death of Liu Xiaobo, who had been China’s loudest voice for political change, comes as Beijing has tightened its grip on dissent and as the country’s activist community finds itself severely weakened.

Democracy WallAt the opening of China’s reform era following the death of Mao Zedong and end of the 10-year Cultural Revolution, people are briefly allowed to post criticism of Mao and the ‘Gang of Four’ that sought to succeed him on a wall in Beijing. After this leads to calls for democracy, authorities take down posters and arrest some activists.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

Tiananmen Square ProtestsStudents lead pro-democracy protests in Beijing that are crushed by the military. At least several hundred protesters are killed.PHOTO: CATHERINE HENRIETTE/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

China’s government, which rejects Western democracy as unsuited for the country, has depicted human-rights lawyers and activists as tools of foreign governments threatened by China’s rise.

The ground has shifted so much since Mr. Xi’s crackdown began that some veteran members of the democracy movement say they don’t know how to move forward.

“It’s been 28 years since the ‘89 democracy movement. That’s an entire generation,” said Liu Suli, a Tiananmen participant and founder of an independent bookstore in Beijing who befriended Liu Xiaobo in prison in 1989. Over the years, he said, the Communist Party has grown both more confident on the world stage and more fearful of instability at home.

“Under these conditions, if you play the political game using traditional methods, you’ll lose,” he said.

Such attitudes are a far cry from 2010, the year Liu Xiaobo was awarded his Nobel. Chinese activists saw the award as a signal of international support and vindication. Some portrayed Mr. Liu as a Mandela-like figure who would emerge from his 11-year prison sentence to take the reins of a new, multiparty China.

Instead, China moved in the opposite direction. Mr. Liu’s name was erased from the internet by government censors and his family members were muzzled. Activists who had been criticized by others in the movement for being too moderate suddenly found themselves in prison.

That was the case with Mr. Xu. A former visiting scholar at Yale University, he stopped short of Mr. Liu’s calls for a complete overhaul of China’s political system. Instead, he organized protests and dinner discussions aimed at cultivating a “citizen consciousness,” which he believed could be used to pressure the Communist Party to abide by China’s constitution, which guarantees freedom of speech and assembly.

Mr. Xu and more than a dozen other activists affiliated with the New Citizens Movement were arrested in the first half of 2013 in Mr. Xi’s first major strike against dissent. Lawyers, scholars, writers and women’s-rights activists were detained over the following years, some of them shown confessing to crimes in jailhouse videos broadcast on state TV.

“Rights defenders under Xi Jinping are regarded as enemies of the state,” says Eva Pils, a researcher of China human-rights issues at King’s College London. Where once Chinese officials were more circumspect about punishing critics, she says, now “they are very open about how they target the people who express dissent.”

Some activists in China’s democracy movement blame their predicament partly on withering support from Western countries afraid to confront Beijing over human-rights abuses, given China’s growing economic sway.

Several countries urged China to let Mr. Liu seek treatment abroad, but few leaders publicly voiced such requests during his final days.

Photos: Chinese activist Liu Xiaobo 

A prominent iconoclast for decades, dissident Liu Xiaobo dies while on medical parole

Protesters calling for the release of Mr. Liu and other jailed activists in Hong Kong on June 30, as Chinese President Xi Jinping visited for the 20th anniversary of the handover of sovereignty from Britain to China.
Protesters calling for the release of Mr. Liu and other jailed activists in Hong Kong on June 30, as Chinese President Xi Jinping visited for the 20th anniversary of the handover of sovereignty from Britain to China. ROMAN PILIPEY/EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
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Poet and literature professor Liu Xiaobo at a doctoral-thesis defense at Beijing Normal University in 1988.
Poet and literature professor Liu Xiaobo at a doctoral-thesis defense at Beijing Normal University in 1988. OPEN MAGAZINE
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Teaching at Columbia University in 1989, Mr. Liu returned to Beijing to join the Tiananmen Square democracy protests, where he played a prominent role that included going on a hunger strike. Here, before it began, Mr. Liu—in the pale blue shirt—and fellow strikers talked with journalists in front of the Monument to the People’s Heroes.
Teaching at Columbia University in 1989, Mr. Liu returned to Beijing to join the Tiananmen Square democracy protests, where he played a prominent role that included going on a hunger strike. Here, before it began, Mr. Liu—in the pale blue shirt—and fellow strikers talked with journalists in front of the Monument to the People’s Heroes. REUTERS
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Mr. Liu addressing the Tiananmen crowd, with Mao Zedong’s mausoleum in the background. After the government crushed the protests June 4, he was imprisoned on a charge of ’instigating counterrevolutionary behavior.’
Mr. Liu addressing the Tiananmen crowd, with Mao Zedong’s mausoleum in the background. After the government crushed the protests June 4, he was imprisoned on a charge of ’instigating counterrevolutionary behavior.’ DAVID TURNLEY/CORBIS/VCG/GETTY IMAGES
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Mr. Liu, right, and his friend Bei Ling, a poet and essayist whose works include a biography of Mr. Liu.
Mr. Liu, right, and his friend Bei Ling, a poet and essayist whose works include a biography of Mr. Liu. DPA/ZUMA PRESS
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Mr. Liu and his wife, Liu Xia.
Mr. Liu and his wife, Liu Xia. LING LING/ROPI/ZUMA PRESS
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Pro-democracy Hong Kong lawmakers wearing paper masks of Mr. Liu in the Legislative Council chamber in January of 2010, a few weeks after a Chinese court sentenced him to 11 years in prison. Mr. Liu had been detained a year earlier and charged with subversion over his role as lead author of Charter 08, a manifesto that called for freedom of speech and multiparty elections.
Pro-democracy Hong Kong lawmakers wearing paper masks of Mr. Liu in the Legislative Council chamber in January of 2010, a few weeks after a Chinese court sentenced him to 11 years in prison. Mr. Liu had been detained a year earlier and charged with subversion over his role as lead author of Charter 08, a manifesto that called for freedom of speech and multiparty elections.BOBBY YIP/REUTERS
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A plainclothes policeman making photography difficult outside the home of Ms. Liu in October 2010, after her husband was named recipient of that year’s Nobel Peace Prize. She has been under house arrest since.
A plainclothes policeman making photography difficult outside the home of Ms. Liu in October 2010, after her husband was named recipient of that year’s Nobel Peace Prize. She has been under house arrest since. PETER PARKS/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
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A poster of Mr. Liu at an exhibition at the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo on Dec. 9, 2010, the day before the awarding of the prize. With Mr. Liu in prison and Ms. Liu prevented from leaving China—and Nobel Committee rules stipulating that the prize can be collected only by laureates themselves or close family members—it was only the second time no one was on hand to accept the prize.
A poster of Mr. Liu at an exhibition at the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo on Dec. 9, 2010, the day before the awarding of the prize. With Mr. Liu in prison and Ms. Liu prevented from leaving China—and Nobel Committee rules stipulating that the prize can be collected only by laureates themselves or close family members—it was only the second time no one was on hand to accept the prize. ODD ANDERSEN/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
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Nobel Committee Chairman Thorbjørn Jagland after placing the Nobel Peace Prize diploma and gold medal on the vacant chair reserved for Mr. Liu during the ceremony in Oslo on Dec. 10, 2010. The only other similar case came in 1936, when Germany’s Nazi government prevented Carl von Ossietzky, recently moved from a concentration camp to a hospital, from leaving the country.
Nobel Committee Chairman Thorbjørn Jagland after placing the Nobel Peace Prize diploma and gold medal on the vacant chair reserved for Mr. Liu during the ceremony in Oslo on Dec. 10, 2010. The only other similar case came in 1936, when Germany’s Nazi government prevented Carl von Ossietzky, recently moved from a concentration camp to a hospital, from leaving the country.HEIKO JUNGE/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
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In June, more than seven years into his sentence, Mr. Liu—diagnosed with advanced liver cancer—was released from prison on medical parole and moved to a hospital in the northeastern city of Shenyang. Here he was fed by Ms. Liu.
In June, more than seven years into his sentence, Mr. Liu—diagnosed with advanced liver cancer—was released from prison on medical parole and moved to a hospital in the northeastern city of Shenyang. Here he was fed by Ms. Liu. ASSOCIATED PRESS
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An online video of unclear provenance—but certainly shot by Chinese authorities—showing Mr. Liu receiving medical treatment, an apparent response to criticism that Beijing was failing to provide sufficient care.
An online video of unclear provenance—but certainly shot by Chinese authorities—showing Mr. Liu receiving medical treatment, an apparent response to criticism that Beijing was failing to provide sufficient care. ANDY WONG/ASSOCIATED PRESS
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Protesters calling for the release of Mr. Liu and other jailed activists in Hong Kong on June 30, as Chinese President Xi Jinping visited for the 20th anniversary of the handover of sovereignty from Britain to China.
Protesters calling for the release of Mr. Liu and other jailed activists in Hong Kong on June 30, as Chinese President Xi Jinping visited for the 20th anniversary of the handover of sovereignty from Britain to China. ROMAN PILIPEY/EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
Poet and literature professor Liu Xiaobo at a doctoral-thesis defense at Beijing Normal University in 1988.
Poet and literature professor Liu Xiaobo at a doctoral-thesis defense at Beijing Normal University in 1988. OPEN MAGAZINE

“I think it’s shocking how few heads of state have weighed in on behalf of a Nobel Peace Prize winner,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch.

The hopes of many Chinese democracy advocates have shifted in recent years to Hong Kong. However, the city has increasingly felt the presence of the Chinese security apparatus, including with the abduction of employees of a Hong Kong store selling books critical of China’s leaders.

“If they think China’s human-rights abuses stay inside China’s borders, they have not been paying attention,” Ms. Richardson said of the silence of foreign leaders.

After Mr. Liu’s death, hundreds of people gathered outside the Chinese government’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong. Passersby laid flowers and signed a condolence book underneath a makeshift altar with a large photograph of him.

With eyes now on whether Mr. Xu can play a unifying role, the experiences of others in the New Citizens Movement suggest it will be a struggle.

Zhang Kun, an activist who helped Mr. Xu organize dinners, has been jailed multiple times since his first detention in 2014. He has been unreachable since March. Several other supporters of Mr. Xu, including Wang Gongquan, a venture capitalist who helped fund the movement, have refrained from political activity after being released from detention.

“I hope Zhiyong recovers his health, and enthusiastically sets about creating a new life for himself,” said Mr. Wang, who is currently working on a travel startup.

Some activist groups have switched tactics, said Teng Biao, a lawyer who along with Mr. Xu helped launch the rights-defense movement among Chinese lawyers.

“Everyone has adopted the approach of activities without centralized leadership,” said Mr. Teng, who is now based in New York.

Last Sunday marked the second anniversary of one of the Xi administration’s most aggressive moves: a nationwide sweep of human-rights lawyers and their associates in which hundreds were interrogated, jailed and, in some cases, tortured. The only large event to commemorate the date was held in New York, organized by lawyers living in de facto exile in the U.S.

Write to Josh Chin at josh.chin@wsj.com and Eva Dou at eva.dou@wsj.com

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https://www.wsj.com/articles/after-liu-xiaobos-death-chinese-democracy-dream-fights-for-survival-1500028406