Posts Tagged ‘Hong Kong’

China to widen foreign access to A-shares

August 16, 2018

China’s securities regulator said it will allow individual foreign investors working in the country to buy and sell yuan-dominated Chinese A-shares, the latest incremental step by Beijing to widen access to its long-cloistered equities markets.

The change would go into effect on September 15 and also applies to foreign employees of Chinese-listed companies who are working for those firms outside the country, the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) said in a statement issued late Wednesday.

© AFP | China has taken its liberalisation steps partly due to foreign pressure, partly to help promote the maturation of its often volatile markets, and partly to increase the global profile of its yuan currency

Previously, foreign access to Chinese stocks has been largely through B-shares, which are denominated in foreign currencies and geared toward international investors, while only qualified foreign institutional investors could buy into the larger pool of A-shares.

But a number of steps in recent years have widened the door, including the establishment of programmes under which international investors on Hong Kong’s more open stock market can buy some shares on China’s exchanges in Shanghai and Shenzhen, and vice-versa.

A similar connection between London’s exchange and the mainland Chinese bourses also has been proposed.

In June more than 200 Chinese companies debuted on the emerging market index compiled by MSCI, which is expected to lead to billions of dollars of new investment in those Chinese shares by global funds that match their portfolios with MSCI’s indices.

The CSRC said the move was being taken to “deepen the opening up of the capital market, enrich the investment sources in the capital market, broaden channels for capital access, and optimise the structure of the capital market.”

China has taken its liberalisation steps partly due to foreign pressure, partly to help promote the maturation of its often volatile markets, and partly to increase the global profile of its yuan currency.

China has made additional liberalisation pledges since the US administration of President Donald Trump began pressuring Beijing to open its markets.

The China-US trade confrontation has pressured Chinese stocks this year, pushing the Shanghai index to its lowest levels in around two and a half years.



Asian markets retreat, weighed by sinking tech stocks

August 15, 2018

Indexes in China, Hong Kong down 1% or more; Nikkei pulls back as yen weakens

Tencent shares fell ahead of earnings Wednesday.

By Market Watch


Asian stock markets started lowed Wednesday, even as worries eased over Turkey’s currency crisis. Benchmarks in Taiwan, Hong Kong and China were down about 1%, with tech stocks continuing to sell off.

Japan’s Nikkei NIK, -0.68%  fell 0.7% after jumping 2.3% Tuesday. The pullback comes as the yen has weakened some; the dollar USDJPY, -0.53%   was last at ¥111.30 versus ¥111.15 in late New York trade. The oil and coal-products sector was off 0.5% amid fresh declines in crude prices, with Japan Petroleum Exploration 1662, -1.43%   down 1.4%. Also, highflying SoftBank 9984, -2.63% pulled back 2.6%, as tech stocks retreated as well.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng Index HSI, -1.55%   fell 1.5%. Tencent 0700, -3.61%   dropped 3.6%, ahead of its after-the-bell second-quarter earnings report. Sunny Optical 2382, -0.92%  , which plunged a record 24% Tuesday following its second-quarter report, fell a further 0.9%.

Chinese stocks were down about 1% despite a liquidity injection by the People’s Bank of China. The Shanghai Composite SHCOMP, -2.08%   was off 2% and the Shenzhen Composite 399106, -2.12%   was off 2%. Nanjing Putian Telecom200468, -47.10%   resumed trading after a 16-month suspension, and plunged 31% to hit six-year lows. Meanwhile, troubled vaccine maker Changsheng002680, -5.05%   logged its 22nd-straight drop.

Taiwan’s Taiex Y9999, -0.99%   fell more than 1% as lens maker Largan Precision Co. 3008, -3.78%   dropped 3.7%, putting this week’s swoon at 13%. Taiwan Semiconductor 2330, -0.82%   sank 0.8%.

Australia’s ASX 200 XJO, +0.47%   bucked the trend, up slightly, although banking heavyweight Commonwealth Bank of Australia CBA, -2.47%   fell amid accusations that it broke pension-fund rules. Stocks in New ZealandNZ50GR, +0.17%   were up slightly as well.

Malaysia’s benchmark index FBMKLCI, +0.12%   was about flat, while Singapore’s STI, -0.27%   dipped. South Korea’s Kospi was closed for a holiday.

Hong Kong independence activist attacks Beijing at press club talk

August 14, 2018

Hong Kong independence activist Andy Chan attacked China as an empire trying to “annex” and “destroy” the city in a no-holds barred speech Tuesday at the city’s press club which Beijing wanted cancelled.

In comments that will incense Chinese authorities, Chan, who leads the tiny Hong Kong National Party, said Beijing was semi-autonomous Hong Kong’s “colonial master”.

“We are a nation that is quickly being annexed and destroyed by China,” Chan told a packed Foreign Correspondents’ Club.

He said he had been under increased “surveillance” by groups of people he did not know, who had been following him and knocking on his family’s door to take pictures of them in the lead-up to the speech.

Hong Kong enjoys freedom of speech and assembly unseen on the mainland under a handover agreement between Britain and China.

© AFP | The pro-Beijing groups gathered outside waved China’s national flag, chanting “Get out of Hong Kong! We Chinese people don’t welcome you!”, describing the FCC as “thieves”

But Beijing has become increasingly intolerant of any mention of independence for Hong Kong as President Xi Jinping emphasises territorial integrity as key to China’s resurgence.

Rival protesters gathered outside the FCC, with pro-independence activists clashing with police, saying they had been given no space for their rally, while dozens of pro-Beijing supporters chanted slogans including “Gas the spies!”

The lunch address — entitled “Hong Kong Nationalism: A Politically Incorrect Guide to Hong Kong under Chinese Rule” — drew objections from China’s foreign ministry and Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam, as fears grow that freedom of speech in the semi-autonomous city is increasingly under attack.

The club stood by its decision to go ahead with the event, saying the views of different sides in any debate must be heard.

Chan called on Britain and the United States to help Hong Kong and said Taiwan was an inspiration for his party as it had gone from a dictatorship to a democracy.

China still sees self-ruling Taiwan as part of its territory awaiting reunification, using force if necessary.

Ahead of Chan’s talk China’s foreign ministry had said: “We resolutely oppose any external forces providing a platform for ‘Hong Kong independence’ elements to spread fallacies.”

– Party ban –

The Hong Kong government said Tuesday that while it backs freedom of the speech and the press, it “deeply regrets” the event since advocating independence contravened the city’s Basic Law, or mini-constitution.

“It is totally inappropriate and unacceptable for any person to openly promote and advocate the independence of Hong Kong,” a spokesman said.

“As such, it is also totally inappropriate and unacceptable for any organisation to provide a public platform to espouse such views.”

Chants from protesters outside could be heard throughout Chan’s address.

A small group called the Students Independence Union turned out in support of Chan, waving independence banners outside the club in Hong Kong’s Central district.

Other pro-democracy protesters said they did not support independence but were supporting Hong Kong’s right to freedom of the press and freedom of speech.

The pro-Beijing groups gathered outside waved China’s national flag, chanting “Get out of Hong Kong! We Chinese people don’t welcome you!”, describing the FCC as “thieves” and demanding the government “take back” the colonial-era FCC building it leases to the club.

Chan’s Hong Kong National Party is facing a ban from city authorities who say it is a threat to public security despite having only a dozen core members.

It is the first time such a ban has been sought since Britain handed over Hong Kong in 1997.

Asked about whether Chan agrees with calls from some in the independence movement for radical action, Chan said he “condemned violence”.

Calls for the city’s independence have infuriated Beijing even though they attract little support.

Chan was banned from standing for office in 2016.

His talk was part of the FCC’s “club lunch” tradition which has seen an array of speakers, including Chinese officials, speak to members and the media.


Why does the Hong Kong National Party rile Beijing so much — The appeal of common sense, independence and democracy won’t go away

August 13, 2018

“Hong Kong was denied democracy not because of the local government, but China. That was when I began thinking of cutting our ties.”

In two years, Andy Chan has navigated the city’s politics into unchartered waters, not once but twice. But why are the authorities acting now and what has alarmed them?

Police are asking for “preventive measures” before any act or evidence of violence
“Fighting for democracy in Hong Kong is impossible as the central government would like to exert control on everything.” 
PUBLISHED : Monday, 13 August, 2018, 3:56pm
UPDATED : Monday, 13 August, 2018, 3:57pm

Long before he was caught in the political maelstrom of the moment, Andy Chan Ho-tin spent his Saturdays trying to outdo the singing aunties of Mong Kok.

But the young graduate was jostling with the boisterous buskers in the area’s famous pedestrian zone to the beat of his own ideological drum.

If the aunties were off-key in their melodies, as was often the case, Chan was low-key in his methods.

Sometime between 2015 and 2016, Chan and his clutch of 10 friends, distributed leaflets to the crowds each Saturday evening and took turns speaking into their portable microphones, their voices drowned out by the din but they were undeterred.

Those were the heady days after Occupy, the 79-day street demonstration to force political reform. The movement had ended with no closure and many student participants, spirits riding high, were determined to carry the fight forward. Chan was among them.

Andy Chan announces the establishment of the party in 2016. Photo: Nora Tam

Chan’s group was named “Common Sense”, taking inspiration from the title of a 50-page pamphlet penned by political theorist Thomas Paine in 1776 which had paved the way for the independence of America. Made up mostly of young graduates, the group peddled their views on political development each weekend in Mong Kok. Among their wares of ideas was the stunningly dangerous possibility of Hong Kong breaking away from China. The idea of secession goes against the very first article of the city’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, which states Hong Kong is an inalienable part of China.

But no one seemed to be buying the idea. After a year of not making much progress and even fewer converts, Chan decided to change his strategy.

“The impact was way too small,” the Polytechnic University graduate, now 27, recalled of the sultry Saturday evenings spent fighting for the attention of indifferent shoppers.

“What would be more influential than forming our own party and running for elections? Someone had to break this taboo, I felt,” Chan told the Post in a recent interview.

The timing could not have been better. The 2016 Legislative Council election was just months away.

Chan and his friends knew they were risking the wrath of the central government when they announced the formation of the Hong Kong National Party (HKNP). They had a suspicion they might be barred from contesting – they just did not know how – and as it turned out, they were right. A last-minute declaration form for candidates whipped out by the government effectively blocked them from even getting to the starting block.

Protesters are out in force after the election ban on Chan. Photo: Sam Tsang

From that brief foray into the limelight, Chan retreated back into obscurity over the ensuing months as others more well-known were disqualified from Legco or from even contesting.

But last month Chan and the HKNP found themselves thrust into the spotlight again. Police decided to invoke a clause in the Societies Ordinance – a law passed by the British colonialists to target pro-China political parties in the past but more often used to ban triads – to propose dissolving the party in the name of national security. Their decision was based on two years of monitoring the party, never mind the inconvenient fact the HKNP has never been legally registered as a society.

Police claimed what the HKNP did – such as “propaganda” through media channels, “school infiltration”, street booths, alongside Chan’s quashed bid to run in the Legco polls and his declarations on the use of violence – was tantamount to being an “imminent threat” to national security and public safety.

The party has up to September 4 to show cause why it should not be banned.

In two years, Chan has navigated the city’s politics into unchartered waters, not once but twice – forming a party pledging to take up the cudgels against the Communist Party of China to separate Hong Kong from the motherland and now being possibly the leader of a banned political party. Just who is he, anyway? And why are the authorities so alarmed? Why act now?

Andy Chan, rebel with a cause larger than Occupy

Before his Mong Kok days, Chan was one of the thousands of students who took to the streets during Occupy. An emotional low point for him – and many others – was seeing police use tear gas on fellow Hongkongers. Chan decided there and then, there was no turning back.

Like the others who continued to press on after Occupy ended, Chan said it was during those nights out on the streets that he had the epiphany the only way for the city he loved to be free to do what it wanted was to secede from China.

“I was completely apolitical before. I didn’t know anything about universal suffrage when I took part in the movement. I came out only for the feeling that Hongkongers were being bullied by China – it was more about an identity issue,” he said.

He recalled the confusion he felt one day in the occupied zone in Admiralty, when several protesters near him suggested they tore off a national flag that was on a truck.

“I was puzzled at the time. I saw no reason to do that as we were only there to fight for democracy,” Chan recalled. “But soon after I realised Hong Kong was denied democracy not because of the local government, but China. That was when I began thinking of cutting our ties.”

Andy Chan. Photo: Reuters

After Occupy, he made the headlines briefly when he pushed for his university’s student union to pull out from the Hong Kong Federation of Students – one of the movement’s key leaders – because he felt it was feckless. While waiting for the weekends to come around so he could mobilise in Mong Kok, Chan also hosted a current affairs programme at the online My Radio, an outfit with close ties to localist group Civic Passion.

In March 2016, Chan called a press conference at a Tuen Mun factory office of about 1,000 sq ft – an impressive size given he was the only one present – to announce the setting up of the HKNP. He pledged to use “whatever effective means” to achieve their cause.

I realised Hong Kong was denied democracy not because of the local government, but China. That was when I began thinking of cutting our ties

“Staging marches or shouting slogans is obviously useless now. Regarding using violence, we would support it if it is effective to make us heard,” Chan declared then.

“Effective means” also meant beating up someone to “vent his anger” at lawmakers, he went on to suggest on a radio show later that week.

“When someone asked [the legislature] to approve the funding request concerning hundreds of millions of dollars, it would be great if we could at least punch him,” he said. “We might not be able to block [the funding request] but at least we could vent the anger by hitting him.”

Another unnamed member of the group said on the same radio show they could emulate opposition parties in Kosovo by releasing tear gas inside the chamber.

Police fire tear gas at protesters at the start of the Occupy campaign in 2014. Photo: SCMP

Since then, only Chan and HKNP spokesman Jason Chow Ho-fai are known to the media. The group claims to have 30 to 50 members but has declined to produce them, citing fears for their safety. Some of them had already become victims of surveillance, Chan claimed in the interview with the Post. Chow could not be reached for an interview. When the Post visited the office unit, which property agents estimated costs about HK$7,000 a month to rent, the door was locked and junk mail was stacked on the grilled gate. Chan said in the recent Post interview the unit was borrowed from a friend.

From day one, Chan has insisted members fund the party’s operations from their own savings. In 2016, he claimed the party had no more than HK$100,000 (US$12,820) in its accounts.

When the party was formed, pro-Beijing media commentators tripped over themselves trying to condemn Chan and company. One sneered that it was “a revolution launched by a group of mentally ill patients” while another called them clowns.

After one controversial attempt to hand out fliers outside secondary schools and a public rally that same year, the party remained largely low profile. Chan went to Taiwan and Japan for exchange tours.

Despite attacks from pro-Beijing media over his Taiwan visits, police though have maintained the case against the HKNP remains focused on it posing a threat to national security, rather than its connections with foreign political outfits, which potentially could trigger a ban under the same Societies Ordinance.

Andy Chan still wants to foster a sense of identity among Hongkongers. Photo: Jonathan Wong

Meanwhile, Chan claimed that even as they shifted focus to building overseas connections because of increasing restrictions in Hong Kong, the party had throughout remained active in the city.

Chan emphasised that no money changed hands between the Taiwanese organisations and his party, saying at most the civil groups had only subsidised his trip.

Pressed on how he would go about pushing for independence when it seemed a futile cause, Chan said he would still want to foster a sense of identity among Hongkongers and, with time, persuade them if they cared for democracy then they should seek to resist the Chinese Communist Party’s control as it would not tolerate democracy for the city. Asked if he was making it tougher for others with more modest plans to keep the “one country, two systems” policy firmly in place, he shrugged it off as the price to be paid.

With the exception of pro-Beijing media occasionally hectoring them, Chan had been ignored by just about every other politician in town – until now.

A calculated move?

Pan-democrats and legal scholars have slammed the police’s case, arguing strenuously that the move would put Hongkongers’ freedom of association and expression at risk.

Many are baffled that the authorities have decided on a sledgehammer approach to crush an almost inactive, isolated and barely influential party at a time when any semblance of a pro-independence sentiment is on the wane.

One look at the mild-mannered, fresh-faced Chan and the cognitive dissonance that he could pose a security threat is apparent.

Things, however, are not so simple and the political calculations far more intricate.

Of course, Chan provided easy fodder with his talk on violence. Even if empty, security agencies will see it as a red flag to future action.

For some pan-democrats, the proposed ban is a move designed to force them to denounce pro-independence groups unequivocally and draw a firm red line not just on action, but more worryingly, speech.

Andy Chan was banned from running in the 2016 Legco election. Photo: Winson Wong

Many are therefore finding themselves having to tiptoe around the issue, balancing between speaking up fiercely against the ban but also at once stating up front their anti-independence stance. It is a nuanced position that has just ended up making them look mealy-mouthed, some indicated to the Post.

So, while they have forged a united front to condemn the ban which they argue will erode the city’s freedoms, many laced their salvoes with solemn statements about being against the independence movement. Worse than that, the ban could be the Trojan horse to assail other players in the pro-democracy camp, they warned.

“The authorities are trying to portray a picture that the notion of Hong Kong independence has won a lot of support here as an excuse to further crack down on the pro-democracy bloc,” said a lawmaker who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“We have to speak up for the party as the government is trying to set a precedent in using the same trick to ban others in future, but at the same time we have to be very careful to avoid being framed.”

The conundrum has forced the camp to be cautious. At a protest against the ban held last month, only six lawmakers showed up among the hundreds of others – a small demonstration by most standards.

The lawmaker described the authorities as “very cunning” by targeting the HKNP. Being neither active nor popular, they know they can act with impunity as there will be little public support for the party.

The question being asked nervously in their circles: who will be next?

Chan said he believed Demosisto, the political group co-founded by Occupy student leader Joshua Wong Chi-fung, could be the next target, just ahead of district council elections due next year.

Demosisto has not called for independence but self-determination for Hong Kong – an agenda which the authorities earlier cited as grounds to ban its member, Agnes Chow Ting, from contesting in elections.

Joshua Wong (left), Agnes Chow and Nathan Law Kwun-chung of Demosisto. Photo: Felix Wong

Political watcher Ma Ngok, of Chinese University, said the proposed ban was coming at a time where Hongkongers were getting used to the government’s tougher approach to dissent.

He cited a 2013 journal article by Alberto Simpser, in which the Mexico-based political scientist argued that while government’s manipulation in elections would trigger public backlash, the “legitimacy loss” it suffered declined time after time as citizens’ determination to resist wore thin.

The government’s unprecedented legal bid to unseat six pro-democracy lawmakers last year for their improper oath-taking had already left young people frustrated and the Occupy generation out in the cold, Ma said.

“The administration probably found the ‘legitimacy loss’ to be triggered by the proposed ban would not be huge,” he said.

In other words, fatigue has set in and resistance will be futile.

But another stark fact about the timing is this – doing nothing was not an option for the Hong Kong government and dithering and delaying any action was also not possible. It had to act because the directive came from the top. In July last year, when he visited the city, President Xi Jinping warnedHongkongers against crossing the “red line” of undermining Chinese sovereignty even as they disagreed with the central government issues.

“Although some Hongkongers might find the HKNP insignificant, Beijing has zero tolerance over any attempts to take advantage of the ‘two systems’ to harm the ‘one country’,” said Tam Yiu-chung, the city’s sole delegate to the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, the country’s top legislative body.

“Such a bid has to be suppressed, no matter if it has prevailed or not.”

And Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has had no choice but to act, he said.

A slippery slope

Scholars said the proposed ban had once again underscored the difficulties of implementing “one country, two systems” – the guiding principle for Hong Kong until 2047.

While Beijing will not tolerate any separatist attempts, Hongkongers’ freedoms and rights – enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – are protected by the city’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law.

Observers suggested that the latest move showed the authorities were now willing to resort to what critics have labelled “draconian laws” which they had resisted from doing in the past.

The HKNP claims to have 30 to 50 members. Photo: David Wong

Two past incidents of such restraint are noteworthy. The first was during the lobbying by the pro-Beijing camp for the Falun Gong to be banned in Hong Kong after the sect was prohibited in mainland China in 2001.

Authorities reportedly studied the possibility of crushing the sect under the Societies Ordinance – which states such a ban could be justified in the name of national security or public safety – but they did not push ahead after finding no evidence of illegal action.

Second, during the 2003 debate over the aborted national security law, the city’s officials tried to soothe the public by repeatedly emphasising that speech alone – in the absence of violence or illegal acts – would not be prosecuted. The bill was eventually shelved after half a million Hongkongers took to the streets.

But with the proposed ban on the HKNP, police are asking for “preventive measures” before any act or evidence of violence.

Johannes Chan Man-mun, former law dean of the University of Hong Kong, argued that given there was no clear definition of “national security” or “territorial integrity” under the Societies Ordinance, these concepts should be narrowly defined lest they be abused to be a catch-all to curb all manner of dissent. Therein lay the danger of the slippery slope of citizens’ freedom of expression being restricted, he warned.

The definition of territorial integrity has not been clearly defined. Photo: David Wong

If not properly defined, there was the risk that “even speaking for independence of Taiwan, Tibet or even saying the Diaoyu Islands should belong to Japan, could very well fall under the definition in the law”, he said.

Chan also warned that the authorities’ move could put the court in the invidious position of having to deal with what is meant by “national security” if it is asked to decide such a ban is legitimate. What happened if the court chose to disagree with the ban? Would Beijing then intervene by interpreting the Basic Law, he asked.

Senior Counsel John Reading, the city’s former deputy director of public prosecutions, said the case against the HKNP was “a bit of a stretch” as there was no treason or sedition law in force.

“Triads are banned because they are put together for an illegal purpose, [such as] drug trafficking, gambling [and] all sort of things,” Reading said.

He cautioned that it might be hard to argue the HKNP’s purpose had breached any existing criminal law.

Maria Tam says there was sufficient evidence the party was ‘plotting something’. Photo: Simon Song

But Grenville Cross, previously the city’s director of public prosecutions, said the Societies Ordinance had defined “national security” in terms of safeguarding “the territorial integrity and the independence” of China, and thus the concerns of the police over the HKNP could not be dismissed as illusory.

“No civilised society, however great its commitment to democratic rights, can be expected to tolerate organisations which directly threaten its national security or the safety of its people,” he said, citing Britain’s effort in 2016 to proscribe National Action, a neo-Nazi group, and the decision of South Korea’s constitutional court to ban the United Progressive Party, which was accused of supporting North Korea-style socialist systems and posing a threat to the country’s liberal democracy.

The latter ban, however, sparked criticism in South Korea with Amnesty International arguing security concerns must never be used as an excuse to deny people the right to express different political views.

Cross, however, argued such a limitation was observed by international civil rights guarantees, which recognise freedoms and rights are not absolute.

Maria Tam Wai-chu, vice-chairwoman of a committee advising Beijing on Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, also said there was sufficient evidence from their activities that the HKNP was “plotting something” and therefore the ban was legally justified.

For now, however, another side battle has erupted to put September 4 in the background while all eyes turn to another date – August 14.

Andy Chan will give a talk at the FCC. Photo: K.Y. Cheng

That is when Chan is due to give a lunch talk at the city’s Foreign Correspondents’ Club. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has asked the club to cancel the talk, a request it roundly rejected.

Former chief executive Leung Chun-ying then joined the fray, crossing swords with the club’s first vice-president Victor Mallet, who argued that the value of the FCC centred on a system that differed from the mainland’s. Press freedom, Mallet said, was endorsed locally and views from people across the political spectrum were permitted.

Leung charged that the club’s move to invite Chan “had nothing to do with press freedom”, and, upping the ante, he suggested the FCC had its leased premises by the generosity of the government and most private landlords would not welcome tenants who hosted such speakers. Why should the Hong Kong government be any different, he asked, taunting the club.

Incumbent leader Carrie Lam also described the club’s move as “regrettable and inappropriate”.

Chan at a rally in 2016. Photo: Sam Tsang

Ironically, even as the government maintains drawing the red line on separatists is not about curbing freedom of speech, the sideshow with the FCC is threatening to reduce the issue to just that.

Chan can be expected to protest his stance at the talk, just as he insisted to the Post he had done nothing wrong in crossing the red line.

He declined to reveal his next moves but admitted going underground might be inevitable. Now an employee of an engineering firm, he said he had been stalked for some time and had received several dubious calls the night before the police visited his home last month to inform him of the ban. He believed the callers might have wanted to track his location. His family members, including his mother, sister and her boyfriend, also received calls allegedly from authorities wanting to confirm their residential address.

Shrugging his slight shoulders, the 27-year-old declared that the burden of pushing for the cause of independence was not his alone to bear.

His failure was everyone else’s, he suggested. “Many people said fighting for independence is not a viable option … but actually fighting for democracy in Hong Kong is equally impossible as the central government would like to exert control on everything,” he said.

Additional reporting by Alvin Lum

Turkey currency crisis sends darkness over Asian markets: Asia equities slide as fallout ripples through

August 13, 2018

Turkey currency crisis fuels risk-off mood in Asia
Yen and bonds rise while rand and Asia equities slide as fallout ripples through markets

Image may contain: 1 person

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan greets his supporters in Rize, Turkey © Reuters

By Edward White in Taipei

Equities and currencies moved lower while haven assets were in demand across Asia Pacific as fallout from Turkey’s currency crisis rippled through markets.

The moves came as the Turkish lira continued to slide in spite of a promise by the country’s finance minister that a plan to calm the markets would be unveiled on Monday morning. That pledge came hours after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan railed against high interest rates and described the plunge in the country’s currency as a foreign “operation”.

The lira was down 5.7 per cent at 6.7896 against the US dollar, having earlier weakened beyond 7 to hit an all-time low of 7.2149.

Hot topic
The latest bout of lira selling — which took the year-to-date loss for the currency to more than 44 per cent — came after Mr Erdogan said the financial “storm” had been caused by “an operation against Turkey”.

Investors had hoped Turkey would detail a plan to deal with the growing crisis, potentially including interest rate rises and other measures to staunch rapid inflation and growing economic imbalances.

Late on Sunday, Turkish finance minister Berat Albayrak was quoted in the Hurriyet newspaper as saying: “From Monday morning, our institutions will take the necessary actions with the aim of calming the markets and will share the necessary announcements with the markets.” However, he did not specify what measures would be taken.

The lira pulled back slightly in Asia-Pacific trading after Mr Albayrak’s comments and an announcement by the country’s banking regulator that it would limit swaps transactions.

The South African rand touched a two-year low against the dollar as concerns over the Turkish lira’s stability spread into other emerging market currencies.

The rand fell as much as 10.4 per cent to 15.5517 per dollar, the lowest level since June 2016, before pulling back to be down 3.3 per cent in morning trading in Hong Kong.

In China, the onshore renminbi exchange rate, which moves within a trading band of 2 per cent either side of a daily mid point set by the People’s Bank of China, fell 0.4 per cent to Rmb6.8728 per dollar. The offshore rate was down 0.3 per cent at Rmb6.8858 per dollar.

The Australian dollar was 0.3 per cent weaker at $0.7280 against its US counterpart while the UK pound and the euro, usually thinly traded in the Asia morning session, did not escape unscathed. The euro was off 0.2 per cent at $1.1382 while sterling was down 0.1 per cent at $1.2758.

The Japanese yen, typically a haven during market uncertainty, was 0.7 per cent stronger at ¥110.19 against the dollar and at its highest point in more than six weeks. The US dollar index, measuring the greenback against a basket of peers, rose 0.1 per cent to 96.413.

Sovereign bonds made gains, with the yield — which moves inversely to price — on 10-year US Treasuries down 2 basis points at 2.857 per cent. The yield on the Australian equivalent was down 2 at 2.568 per cent.

Asia’s main equity benchmarks were in negative territory.

The Topix in Tokyo was down 2.1 per cent and Hong Kong’s broader Hang Seng index slid 1.9 per cent with all segments in both markets declining. The S&P/ASX 200 in Sydney was off 0.4 per cent with the key basic materials and financials sectors dropping 1.3 per cent and 0.6 per cent, respectively.

China-focused stocks fell, with the CSI 300 index of major Shanghai- and Shenzhen-listed stocks dropping 1.9 per cent while in Hong Kong, the Hang Seng China Enterprises index was off 2.1 per cent. Further weighing on Chinese stocks, the Shanghai stock exchange on Friday announced the clampdown on trading halts by companies listed on the bourse.

Brent crude was down 0.2 per cent at $72.65 a barrel while West Texas Intermediate was off 0.1 per cent at $67.59.

The price of gold was down 0.3 per cent at $1,207 an ounce.

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U.N. Aware of Human Rights Abuses in China Against Uighurs — “Massive internment camp — shrouded in secrecy”

August 10, 2018

A U.N. human rights panel said on Friday that it had received many credible reports that 1 million ethnic Uighurs in China are held in what resembles a “massive internment camp that is shrouded in secrecy”.

Gay McDougall, a member of the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, cited estimates that another 2 million Uighurs and Muslim minorities are forced into so-called “political camps for indoctrination”.

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She was addressing the start of a two-day regular examination of the record of China, including Hong Kong and Macao.

A Chinese delegation of some 50 officials made no immediate comment on her remarks at the Geneva session that continues on Monday.


Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay, Editing by Tom Miles and Alison Williams

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Ethnic Uighur children in the old town of Kashgar, in the far western Xinjiang province © Getty




Asian markets bounce back, led by gains in Hong Kong

August 6, 2018

Hang Seng up more than 1%; Nikkei advances behind manufacturers

Aug 5, 2018 11:24 p.m. ET

AFP/Getty Images
People relax on a hilltop in the Shek Kip Mei district as the sun sets in Hong Kong on Sunday.


After slumping at the end of last week, Asian stock markets were higher in early trading Monday, following wide gains in the Americas and Europe on Friday after the U.S. jobs report. Investors seemed to brush off threats from China on Friday to impose retaliatory tariffs on $60 billion of U.S. goods.

Japan’s Nikkei NIK, +0.45%   was up 0.4% despite declines by major banks, with Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group 8316, -1.16%  down 1.1% and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group 8306, -1.40%   slipping 1.4%. Manufacturers gained though, with Honda Motor 7267, +1.09%   up 1% and robot-maker Fanuc 6954, +1.51%   up 1.5%

Hong Kong stocks rebounded strongly to start the week, after leading the region after fresh selling last week on U.S.-China trade worries. The Hang Seng Index HSI, +1.13%   was up 1.1%. Tencent 0700, +1.60%  rebounded 1.6%, putting it barely into positive territory for August, while fellow heavyweight HSBC0005, +1.52%   recovered 1.3% ahead of its second-quarter earnings report. And after skidding 15% on Thursday and 16% on Friday, biotech Ascletis 1672, +3.99%   started its fourth public trading day with a 2.4% gain.

Chinese stocks saw volatile early action as trade worries continued to weigh. The Shanghai Composite SHCOMP, -0.32%   was about flat after spending a bit of time in negative territory, helped by a near-1% rebound in financial stocks. Smaller-cap stocks in Shenzhen 399106, -1.06%   fell more than 1% initially, and the index was last down 0.5%. Health-care stocks remained weak, with drug-related names still feeling pressure from the country’s vaccine scandal. But BGI Genomics 300676, +4.56%   bounced 4.8% after property veteran Wang Shi was appointed co-chairman.

South Korea’s Kospi SEU, +0.38%   was on track for its sixth gain in the past eight sessions, with heavyweight Samsung Electronics 005930, +0.44%   climbing 0.8%. Taiwan’s Taiex Y9999, +0.14%   rose 0.2%, although Taiwan Semiconductor 2330, -0.61%   fell 0.4% after it had it to shut a number of chip factories over the weekend due to a computer virus. Benchmarks in Singapore STI, +0.92%   and Malaysia FBMKLCI, -0.04%   gained as well.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 XJO, +0.61%   was 0.6% higher, with the materials sector rebounding nearly 1% following last week’s softness. New Zealand’s NZX 50NZ50GR, +0.52%   was up 0.15%.

Hong Kong press club pressured by China to cancel talk — “Most feared man in China” will not be allowed to talk

August 5, 2018


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Hong Kong’s leader joined mainland China Sunday in urging the city’s Foreign Correspondents’ Club to cancel a planned speech by a Hong Kong independence advocate whose party is threatened with a ban.

“We respect the international media and respect the Foreign Correspondents’ Club’s activities in Hong Kong,” said Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam, expressing “regret” at the planned event.

“I hope our friends in the FCC will also respect that the Hong Kong SAR is an inseparable part of the People’s Republic of China,” she said, noting that its historic club building was government-owned.

Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous Special Administrative Region of China, enjoys freedoms unseen on the mainland under a handover agreement signed by Britain and China.

But concern is growing that these freedoms including freedom of speech are being eroded by an increasingly assertive China.

The FCC is due to host a talk by Andy Chan, convenor of the tiny pro-independence Hong Kong National Party, on August 14. Authorities formally applied last month to ban the party.

It was the first time such a ban has been sought since Britain handed over Hong Kong in 1997 and was the latest move to stifle calls for the city’s independence, which have infuriated China even though they attract little support.

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China’s foreign ministry recently requested a meeting with the FCC and asked for the event with Chan to be cancelled, a source told AFP.

In a statement issued Friday the ministry said: “We resolutely oppose any external forces providing a platform for ‘Hong Kong independence’ elements to spread fallacies.”

The talk is part of a “club lunch” tradition which has seen an array of speakers, including Chinese officials, speak to members and the media.

The club said it had no plans to scrap Chan’s talk.

“We stand for freedom of the press, we stand for freedom of information… we are very keen to hear everybody speak from all sides of the political debate,” FCC vice president Victor Mallet told AFP.

“We of course have often had Chinese officials and others making their case at the club, but also their opponents. And this applies to every country, not just China,” Mallet added.

Hong Kong’s former leader Leung Chun-ying — whose administration faced down major youth-led democracy protests in 2014 — weighed in on Facebook, saying that discussion of Hong Kong independence “is an absolute and clear red line”.

In a separate post addressed to Mallet, Leung wrote: “We ought to be gravely concerned if this is the policy of your Club because before long you will invite advocates for Taiwan independence to speak publicly at your Club.”

Perched on the slopes of downtown Central and housed in a colonial-era building, the FCC has served as a venue for debates and media gatherings since its arrival in the city in 1949.

Hong Kong police last month sought to ban Chna’s party — which promotes the city’s independence from China but only has a core membership of around a dozen people — citing it as a national security threat.

The city’s security chief had said he was considering the police’s request while the party was given a few weeks to make representations.


See also:

Beijing tells Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents’ Club to call off talk by separatist party leader Andy Chan Ho-tin

China Makes Sure The Space Is Smaller for Free Speech and a Free Press in Hong Kong

July 30, 2018

The room for free speech and a free press is becoming increasingly limited in Hong Kong, one year after the territory marked the 20th anniversary of its handover to China, Hong Kong Journalists Association chairman Chris Yeung (楊健興) said yesterday as the group released its annual report on freedom of expression.

The report, Candle in the Wind — National Security Law Looms Over Diminishing Freedoms, which was released in Chinese and English, covers topics ranging from the increased influence of state-owned digital media and government efforts to condemn “pro-independence views” to the threats that journalists face and staged confessions of political suspects.

Beijing’s increased emphasis on the notion of “one country” and national security was a “knife hanging over the heads of Hong Kong people,” Yeung said.

In the past year, the Chinese government has repeatedly mentioned enacting Article 23 of the Basic Law regarding national security and condemned Benny Tai (戴耀廷), a law professor and a cofounder of the Occupy movement, for discussing Hong Kong independence, Yeung told Hong Kong’s Ming Pao.

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Benny Tai

“The red lines are redder than ever and the bottom lines are moving higher,” he said.

Members of the public are avoiding being interviewed for fear of being punished, while reporters are self-censoring, and the result is less freedom of the press, he said.

“When reporters do a long story that involves digging into some politically sensitive issues, they might be categorized as trying to promote certain ideologies. To avoid troubles they may not cover things related to those issues,” he added.

The report called on the government to not enact Article 23 of the Basic Law and not to pass a national security bill, which it said would severely restrict the public’s freedom of expression.

It urged the government to pass a law on the freedom of information and work on protecting “the safety of Hong Kong reporters when reporting in the mainland.”

Senior China diplomat says does not welcome interference on Hong Kong

July 30, 2018

Senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi said on Monday affairs of Hong Kong are domestic affairs of China, adding Beijing does not welcome outside interference on the matter.

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Britain’s Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt (L) is greeted by China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi before their meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, China July 30, 2018. Andy Wong/Pool via Reuters

Wang, speaking during a joint press briefing with visiting UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, told reporters that China will stay committed to the “one country, two systems” arrangement that promises it a high degree of autonomy and freedoms not enjoyed in mainland China, including an independent judiciary.


Reporting by Ben Blanchard; writing by Beijing Monitoring Desk; Editing by Neil Fullick