Posts Tagged ‘mainland China’

Tens of Thousands March to Defend Hong Kong’s Rule of Law Against “Authoritarian Rule”

October 1, 2017

HONG KONG — Tens of thousands marched in China-ruled Hong Kong on Sunday in an “anti authoritarian rule” march that called for the resignation of the city’s top legal official over the recent jailing of young democracy activists.

The march, an annual fixture over the past few years on China’s October 1 National Day, comes at a time of nascent disillusionment with Hong Kong’s once vaunted judiciary.

“Without democracy, how can we have the rule of law,” the crowds yelled as they marched through sporadic downpours, from a muddy pitch to the city’s harbour-front government headquarters.

Organisers estimated about 40,000 people joined the march.

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Activists hold banners and placards as they take part in an annual protest march on China’s national day in Hong Kong on October 1, 2017. (Photo | AFP)

Many protesters, some clad in black, expressed dismay with Hong Kong’s Secretary of Justice, Rimsky Yuen, who Reuters reported had over-ruled several other senior public prosecutors to seek jail terms for three prominent democrats: Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow.

“We believe he (Yuen) has been the key orchestrator in destroying Hong Kong’s justice,” said Avery Ng, one of the organisers of the rally that drew a coalition of some 50 civil and political groups.

Around one hundred Hong Kong activists are now facing possible jail terms for various acts of mostly democratic advocacy including the “Umbrella Revolution” in late 2014 that saw tens of thousands of people block major roads for 79 days in a push for universal suffrage.

RULE OF LAW

While the October 1 march is a regular annual fixture, this was the first time the rule of law has been scrutinised like this, with the judiciary — a legacy of the British Common Law system — long considered one of the best in Asia and a cornerstone of Hong Kong’s economic success.

“It’s like mainland (Chinese) laws have intruded into Hong Kong,” said Alex Ha, a teacher of classical guitar, who was walking alone in the crowd.

Pro-democracy activists take part in a protest on China’s National Day in Hong Kong, China October 1, 2017. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index last week downgraded Hong Kong’s judicial independence ranking by five spots to number 13 in the world.

In response, however, Yuen stressed at the time that Hong Kong’s judiciary remained strong and independent.

“We cannot rely on subjective perceptions, we have to look at the facts,” he told reporters.

Hong Kong, a former British colony, returned to Chinese rule in 1997 with the promise that Beijing would grant the city a high degree of autonomy and an independent judiciary under a so-called “one country, two systems” arrangement.

But over two decades of Chinese rule, differences have deepened between Communist Party leaders in Beijing and a younger generation of democracy advocates, some of whom are now calling for the financial hub to eventually split from China.

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, Carrie Lam spoke of a need for unity during a speech to assembled dignitaries at a National Day reception to mark the 68th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China by the Communists.

“As long as we capitalise on our strengths, stay focused, seize the opportunities before us and stand united, I am sure that Hong Kong can reach even greater heights,” she said.

(Reporting by James Pomfret; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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Hong Kong democracy rally marks China national day

October 1, 2017

AFP

© AFP | The protest, dubbed an ‘anti-authoritarian rally’, comes after recent arrests of prominent pro-democracy activists have renewed anti-China sentiment in Hong Kong

HONG KONG (AFP) – Thousands of people took to the streets of Hong Kong Sunday to mark China’s national day with a pro-democracy rally and voice growing fears that the city’s liberties are under threat from Beijing.The protest which was dubbed an “anti-authoritarian rally” also comes after recent arrests of prominent pro-democracy activists, including a former lawmaker, have renewed anti-China sentiment.

A number of other activists, including founding members of mass pro-democracy rallies in 2014, which blocked thoroughfares for 79 days, are also facing charges and possible jail terms.

“Authoritarian rule has already become Hong Kong’s reality in Hong Kong,” Benny Tai, one of the founders of the movement told protesters.

“We are having today’s rally … because we hope more Hong Kong people will see the true nature of the government,” Tai, a law professor, said.

Participants in Sunday’s rally singled out the city’s leader Carrie Lam and justice secretary Rimsky Yuen, along with Chinese President Xi Jinping with their pictures placed on placards saying “authoritarian clown”.

Others carried a black banner mimicking the Chinese national flag with five yellow stars drawn on it, with around 5,000 taking part in the rally, according to estimates by an AFP reporter at the scene.

University student Vince Ho, 21, said the authorities’ hardline approach was likely to spur others into action.

“I think it would even encourage more people to come out to redress the injustice,” she said.

Tens of thousands joined the Umbrella Movement which started in September, 2014 to call for fully free leadership elections in the city, but failed to convince the government to make concessions over political reform.

The face of the Umbrella Movement Joshua Wong, former lawmaker Nathan Law and fellow protest leader Alex Chow were sent to prison in August for their leading role in the initial protest that sparked the movement.

It was a blow to the pro-democracy campaign and seen as more evidence that Beijing was tightening its grip on semi-autonomous Hong Kong.

Their jailing has been criticised by international rights groups and politicians and has prompted accusations that the independence of Hong Kong’s courts has been compromised under pressure from Beijing.

City leader Lam on Sunday morning called for unity in her first national day speech since she became chief executive in July.

“I have been deeply impressed by the strength bestowed upon us by our country,” Lam said.

“As long as we capitalise on our strengths, stay focused, seize the opportunities before us and stand united, I am sure that Hong Kong can reach even greater heights,” she said.

In Hong Kong, Political Banners Reveal Gulf With Mainland

September 30, 2017

HONG KONG — The banners and posters were quietly hung in universities across Hong Kong, often appearing overnight, with bold white lettering calling out for change and testing the limits of the freedoms that Beijing will allow this freewheeling city.

“Hong Kong Independence!” one banner declared. “Fight for Our Homeland!” said another.

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To students from Hong Kong, the banners were a defiant insistence that their city is different from the rest of China, and that they can express themselves in ways unimaginable on the mainland.

But to many mainland students, the calls for independence were unpatriotic insults. Some pushed back in anger, ripping them from university bulletin boards and setting off shouting matches caught on videos that spread quickly on Chinese social media, exposing the widening gulf between Hong Kong and the mainland, which rules this former British colony.

The series of September clashes over the banners not only rekindled a debate over Hong King’s relative rights to free speech and protest — freedoms unseen on the mainland — they have also revealed deeper tensions between students from the city and those from the mainland. The issues are exacerbated by anxieties among Hong Kong’s youth over a perceived loss of job prospects to their mainland peers and the chilling effect the ruling Community Party has on campus discourse.

The student spat is one part of broader tensions surrounding Beijing’s relationship with Hong Kong as the city undergoes an increasingly tense 50-year transition to Chinese rule. Beijing created a special status known as “one country, two systems” for Hong Kong following its 1997 handover from Britain to mainland China, giving it wide autonomy and civil liberties. At the city’s universities, student union bulletin boards called “Democracy Walls” became filled with politics, polemics and youthful anger.

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In the years since then, increasing numbers of mainland students have come to the city to study, laying the groundwork for tensions.

In the last academic year, mainland students made up 76 percent of international students in public university programs, according to the government. Although there is a cap on undergraduate admissions of mainland students, the number of Chinese postgraduate students has doubled in the last decade, making them a much more visible presence on campuses.

“Hong Kong students think that mainland students are taking their learning opportunities and degrees from them,” said Chris Chan, an economics student at Hong Kong Baptist University.

Many locals like Chan fear that large companies and banks are more likely to hire mainland Chinese graduates, since Hong Kongers often don’t have as many connections to the mainland-dominated business community.

This anxiety over job prospects stems from deeper, systemic problems about skyrocketing rents and high costs of living. The influx of mainland Chinese has contributed to soaring housing prices in a city where a parking spot can now fetch up to $664,000, placing middle-class families and younger residents under intense financial pressure.

Many young people believe that in contrast to their parents’ generation, “we do not have any upward social mobility,” Chan said.

The failures of the 2014 Occupy Central protests, which demanded Hong Kong’s right to elect its own leader, resulted in further disillusionment among young people.

The growing worries over the political and economic future of the city have fueled a deep resentment among many Hong Kong students, with some derisively referring to mainlanders as “locusts,” for their voracious buying of luxury goods, apartments and even baby formula.

It has also made more young people anxious for a separate Hong Kong identity. The proportion of 18-19 year-olds who describe their ethnic identity as “Chinese” has fallen from 32 percent in 1997 to just 3 percent this year.

These divisions are exacerbated by language, with Mandarin dominating in mainland China and Cantonese in Hong Kong. For some Hong Kong youth, simply hearing someone speak Mandarin can be infuriating.

As a result, said Howard Liu, a student at Hong Kong Baptist University, many of his fellow mainlanders rarely get to know local young people, choosing to socialize among themselves.

“Their main focus is to get through university, study hard and get a good job,” he said.

But it’s not just Hong Kong’s young people who worry about politics.

Many mainland students, accustomed to a culture where political protest is very rare, are too afraid to even get involved in the divide.

“Mainland students tend to stay away from getting involved with politics,” said Ming Li, a lecturer at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. “They’ve been taught to keep quiet about political issues.”

One person who spoke against the grain was Tang Lipei, a 24-year-old mainland student studying at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. When Tang went on the Chinese social networking site Weibo to criticize another mainlander for tearing down independence posters, he was attacked by a flood of patriotic mainlanders and the state-run newspaper Global Times, which criticized what it called his “chilling behavior.”

A week later, he issued an online apology, affirming his “deep affection for the country I was born and raised in.”

The student who ripped down the poster, meanwhile, was praised by Beijing’s state media and the Communist Youth League.

It’s a situation that often leaves mainland students in a no-win situation. “Radical pro-independence students will perceive them instantly as colonizers and fiery nationalists back home perceive them as traitors to their race,” said Li.

For these students, the best course of action is often silence, no matter what they believe. Because as Li explains, quoting a Chinese proverb, “The shot will only hit the bird that pokes its head out.”

Hong Kong’s ‘One Country, Two Systems’ Framework Under Pressure: Britain

September 14, 2017

HONG KONG — “Important areas” of Hong Kong’s “One Country, Two Systems” framework are coming under growing pressure, illustrated by developments such as reports of mainland security officials operating in the autonomous city, a British government report said on Thursday.

The “One Country, Two Systems” principle, implemented as the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997, promises the city a high degree of autonomy, an independent judiciary and a range of freedoms not enjoyed in mainland China.

The former colonial power has been issuing reports on Hong Kong every half a year since then, and the latest, which covers developments in the first six months this year, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said the guiding principle has “generally functioned well.”

“However, at the same time, we cannot ignore that important areas of the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ framework are coming under increasing pressure,” Johnson wrote.

Examples include “further reports of mainland security officials operating within” Hong Kong, he said, without elaborating, as well as reports of the local Beijing representative’s office heightening its influence in the city.

But for the first time, the half-yearly report stopped short of raising concern over five Hong Kong booksellers who disappeared in late 2015 and later mysteriously re-emerged in mainland Chinese custody. One of the five men, Swedish citizen Gui Minhai, is still in Chinese detention.

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Gui Minhai

The report also touched upon the “apparent abduction” of Chinese billionaire Xiao Jianhua, who in January disappeared from his downtown Hong Kong apartment in a wheelchair with his head covered.

Although Hong Kong authorities said there was no evidence to suggest mainland law enforcement agents had acted on Hong Kong soil, Johnson noted that “many in Hong Kong and internationally highlighted the numerous similarities between Xiao Jianhua’s apparent abduction and the case of the Hong Kong booksellers.”

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Xiao Jianhua

He also said he looked forward to welcoming the city’s newly sworn-in leader, Carrie Lam, to visit London to discuss closer co-operation between the UK and Hong Kong “as the UK prepares to leave the EU.”

In response to the report, the Hong Kong government said foreign governments should not interfere in the internal affairs of the city.

“Since the return to the motherland, the HKSAR (Special Administrative Region) has been exercising a high degree of autonomy … This demonstrates the full and successful implementation of the ‘one country, two systems’ principle, which has been widely recognized by the international community.”

(Reporting by Venus Wu, editing by Larry King)

Peace and Freedom Note: Hong Kong is as safe a haven as beijing. No more. No less.

Thousands take to the streets in Hong Kong to rally behind jailed activists

August 20, 2017

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Hong Kong — Demonstrators march in protest of the jailing of student leaders Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow, who were imprisoned for their participation of the 2014 pro-democracy Umbrella Movement, also known as “Occupy Central” protests, in Hong Kong China August 20, 2017. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu REUTERS

By Venus Wu
Reuters

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Thousands of people took to the streets of Hong Kong on Sunday to protest against the jailing of three young democracy activists, with many questioning the independence of the Chinese-ruled city’s judiciary.

On Thursday, Joshua Wong, 20, Nathan Law, 24 and Alex Chow, 27, were jailed for six to eight months for unlawful assembly, dealing a blow to the youth-led push for universal suffrage and prompting accusations of political interference.

Thousands of people marched in sweltering temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius (86°F) to the Court of Final Appeal, carrying placards and banners denouncing the jailing of the activists.

Former student leader Lester Shum, who helped organize Sunday’s rally, said the number of protesters was the highest since pro-democracy protests in 2014 that paralyzed parts of the financial hub for 79 days.

“This shows that the Hong Kong government, the Chinese Communist regime and the Department of Justice’s conspiracy to deter Hong Kong people from continuing to participate in politics and to protest using harsh laws and punishments has completely failed,” Shum said.

Protesters brandished a large banner saying: “It’s not a crime to fight against totalitarianism.” They shouted: “Release all political prisoners. Civil disobedience. We have no fear. We have no regrets.”

Ray Wong, 24, leader of pro-independence group Hong Kong Indigenous, said the issue is uniting government opponents.

“Since the Umbrella movement, the radical and milder forces walked their own path,” he said, referring to the 2014 democracy movement. “We’re now standing together. It is a good start.”

In Sunday’s protests, some signs said “Shame on Rimsky”, referring to Justice Secretary Rimsky Yuen, who Reuters reported last week had overruled other legal officials who initially advised against pursuing jail terms for the three activists.

Wong and his colleagues triggered the 2014 mass street protests, which attracted hundreds of thousands at their peak, when they climbed into a courtyard fronting the city’s government headquarters.

They were sentenced last year to non-jail terms including community service for unlawful assembly, but the Department of Justice applied for a review, seeking imprisonment.

Demonstrators march in protest of the jailing of student leaders Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow, who were imprisoned for their participation of the 2014 pro-democracy Umbrella Movement, also known as “Occupy Central” protests, in Hong Kong China August 20, 2017. Tyrone Siu

On Friday, Yuen denied any “political motive” in seeking jail for the trio.

The former British colony returned to China in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” agreement that ensured its freedoms, including a separate legal system. But Beijing has ultimate control and some Hong Kong people are concerned it is increasingly interfering to head off dissent.

The jail terms for Wong, Law and Chow disqualify them from running for the legislature for the next five years.

Lau Siu-lai, one of six legislators expelled from the city’s legislature this year over the manner in which she took her oath of office, said the sentences were unreasonably harsh.

“It appears to be political suppression to strip away young people’s right to stand in elections,” she said.

“I hope people will pay attention … We need to protect Hong Kong’s’ rule of law.”

Another protester carried a placard of Lady Justice with a red blindfold.

“Hong Kong’s Lady Justice and the rule of law… are now being controlled by communists, and are now being twisted and she is now blind,” said 50-year-old artist Kacey Wong.

View image on Twitter

  protesters hit out at Justice Sec. Rimsky Yuen, rumoured to have ordered sentence review for jailed activists.

Britain said it hoped the sentencing would not discourage “legitimate protest” in future.

While the decision to impose tougher sentences on the activists attracted widespread criticism in Hong Kong and overseas, the Hong Kong Bar Association and Law Society defended the court’s decision.

“Unfounded comments that judicial decisions were made or influenced by political considerations originating outside Hong Kong are unjustified and damaging to our legal system, and to Hong Kong as a whole,” they said in a joint statement on Friday.

Additional reporting by James Pomfret; Writing by Anne Marie Roantree; Editing by Richard Borsuk

***************************************

Marco Rubio and Nancy Pelosi condemned the judgement.

But Beijing defended the sentences. “Hong Kong people are fully entitled to rights and freedoms. But no one can use the excuse of so-called democracy and freedom to conduct illegal violent activities,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Friday.

Judge Wally Yeung said in sentencing that there had been an “unhealthy trend” of people in Hong Kong breaking the law for the sake of their ideals and having what he described as “arrogant and self-righteous ideas”.

The justice ministry, which brought the re-sentencing bid, said the judgement could “provide guidance to future cases of similar nature”, but insisted there was no political motive, according to an Agence France-Presse report.

Hong Kong’s No 2 official on Saturday (Aug 19) launched a strong defence of the city’s courts in jailing young pro-democracy activists, hitting out at “biased” reports by foreign media, and insisting the fallout would not harm the government’s efforts to reach out to alienated youth.

Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said judicial independence remained the cornerstone of the city’s success, reported South China Morning Post.

Although the sentencing reviews were lodged by the department of justice last year, Mrs Lam, who took office on July 1 this year, was destined to be affected by the “political bombs”, according to commentators.

Chinese University political scientist Ivan Choy agreed that society is becoming polarised, making it harder for Lam to untie the knots.

“The ruling can work as a deterrent for outsiders of the democracy movements. But for the imprisoned student leaders and their teammates, their mistrust and [hate] for the government would only increase,” Choy told the Post.

http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/east-asia/thousands-took-to-streets-in-hong-kong-to-rally-behind-jailed-activists

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Crowds rally in Hong Kong after activists jailed — Joshua Wong is in a high security prison

August 20, 2017

AFP

© AFP | The three activists were handed jail sentences for their role in 2014’s massive Umbrella Movement protests, which called for fully free leadership elections and were an unprecedented challenge to Beijing
HONG KONG (AFP) – Thousands of supporters of three jailed young democracy activists took to the streets in Hong Kong Sunday to protest their sentences.

Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow, leaders of the 2014 Umbrella Movement rallies, were sentenced to six to eight months in jail Thursday for their role in a protest that sparked the months-long demonstrations calling for democratic reforms.

People took on the summer heat to stream from the eastern district of Wan Chai to the Court of Final appeal in the heart of Hong Kong Island, protesting the jail terms.

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Joshua Wong — File Photo

They held signs including: “Give back hope to my children” and “One prisoner of conscience is one too many” as they gathered in one of the biggest recent rallies the city has seen.

William Cheung, an engineer in his 40s, described the ruling as “the beginning of white terror” in Hong Kong.

“These young people are our hope for the future. We shouldn’t treat them like this,” Jackson Wai, a retired teacher in his 70s, told AFP as he teared up.

Rights groups and activists called the case against the trio “political persecution” and more evidence that an assertive Beijing is tightening its grip on the semi-autonomous city.

The Beijing-backed Hong Kong government brought the case for harsher sentences against the three, saying previous non-custodial terms were too light and did not serve as a deterrent to activists undermining stability.

University student Ann Lee said the government’s efforts to overturn the previous sentences were “attempts to intimidate us from taking part in acts of resistance.”

Hong Kong enjoys freedoms unseen on the mainland after being handed back to China in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” deal, but there are growing fears Beijing is trampling the agreement.

– ‘Ashcan of history’ –

The three jailed protest leaders were found guilty last year on unlawful assembly charges for storming a fenced-off government forecourt known as “Civic Square” as part of a protest calling for fully free leadership elections in September 2014.

Wong and former legislator Law, who was disqualified from parliament last month following Beijing intervention, had expressed their intentions to run for office in future elections, but will be prevented from standing for five years because their jail terms exceeded three months.

Wally Yeung, one of the panel of three judges that handed down the jail terms, said in a written judgement there had been an “unhealthy trend” of people in Hong Kong breaking the law for the sake of their ideals and having what he described as “arrogant and self-righteous ideas”.

Former colonial governor Chris Patten slammed the government’s move to persecute the activists.

“The names of Joshua Wong, Alex Chow and Nathan Law will be remembered long after the names of those who have persecuted them have been forgotten and swept into the ashcan of history,” wrote Patten in a letter to the editor at the Financial Times Saturday.

Wong, 20, is currently held in a high security prison for young male offenders. Law and Chow are at a maximum security holding centre.

Hong Kong Democracy Leader Defiant as Three Jailed for Months

August 17, 2017

HONG KONG — An appeals court jailed three leaders of Hong Kong’s democracy movement for six to eight months on Thursday, dealing a blow to the Chinese-ruled city’s youth-led push for universal suffrage and prompting accusations of political interference.

Joshua Wong, 20, Alex Chow, 24, and Nathan Law, 26, were sentenced last year to non-jail terms including community service for unlawful assembly, but Hong Kong’s Department of Justice applied for a review, seeking imprisonment.

Wong was jailed for six months, Chow for seven months and Law for eight months. Law had been the city’s youngest ever democratically elected legislator before he was stripped last month of his seat by a government-led lawsuit.

The three appeared stern but calm as their sentences were delivered by a panel of three judges.

The former British colony, which has been governed under a “one country, two systems” formula since it was returned to Chinese rule in 1997, was rocked by nearly three months of mostly peaceful street occupations in late 2014, demanding Beijing grant the city full democracy.

The so-called “Umbrella Movement” civil disobedience movement, that drew hundreds of thousands of protesters at its peak, was triggered after Wong and his colleagues stormed into a courtyard fronting the city’s government headquarters.

They were later charged with participating in and inciting an unlawful assembly.

Just before sentencing, a defiant Wong told around one hundred supporters who thronged into the High Court lobby, some weeping, that he had no regrets and urged them to keep fighting for full democracy.

“I hope Hong Kong people won’t give up. Victory is ours. When we are released next year I hope we can see a Hong Kong that is full of hope. I want to see Hong Kong people not giving up. This is my last wish before I go to jail.”

Wong also told Reuters earlier that Hong Kong’s democratic movement was facing its “darkest era” and that he’d lost confidence in the city’s vaunted legal system, long considered one of the best in Asia.

The Department of Justice said in an earlier statement that the trio were not convicted for exercising their civil liberties, but because their conduct during the protest included “disorderly and intimidating behaviour”.

It added there was “absolutely no basis to imply any political motive”.

Critics disagreed.

“The outlandish application seeking jail time is not about public order but is instead a craven political move to keep the trio out of the Legislative Council, as well as deter future protests,” China director at Human Rights Watch, Sophie Richardson, said in a statement on Wednesday.

Hong Kong enjoys a free judiciary, unlike on the mainland where the Communist Party controls the courts which rarely challenge its decisions.

The jail terms will curtail the political ambitions of the trio, barring them for running for seats in the legislature for the next five years.

In recent months, dozens of protesters, mostly young people, have been jailed for their roles in various protests, including a violent demonstration that the government called a riot in early 2016.

(Reporting by Venus Wu and James Pomfret; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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Three Young Hong Kong Democracy Leaders Jailed for Months

August 17, 2017

HONG KONG — A Hong Kong appeal court on Thursday jailed three prominent young Hong Kong democracy leaders for several months for “unlawful assembly” linked to the city’s months-long pro-democracy protests in 2014.

The three are 20-year-old Joshua Wong, former student leader Alex Chow, 26, and Nathan Law, 24, the youngest ever democratically elected lawmaker in Hong Kong. They were jailed for six, seven and eight months respectively.

The former British colony, which last month celebrated the 20th anniversary of its return to Chinese rule, was gridlocked by nearly three months of street protests in 2014’s “Umbrella Movement” that failed to convince Beijing to allow full democracy in the city of 7.3 million.

(Reporting by Venus Wu and James Pomfret; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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).

Hong Kong’s first female leader has Beijing’s backing but pro-independance and human rights groups call her “a nightmare for Hong Kong’s freedoms”

July 1, 2017

HONG KONG — Carrie Lam, who was sworn in as Hong Kong’s first female leader on Saturday, is a former student activist who climbed the rungs of the civil service over 36 years, and a tough, capable and possibly divisive Beijing-backed leader.

Lam, most recently Hong Kong’s number two official, has to unify the Chinese-ruled city as public resentment swells at Beijing’s growing interference in its affairs despite being promised a high degree of autonomy.

She also has to reinvigorate the economy and address growing social inequalities and high property prices, issues Chinese President Xi Jinping highlighted at her swearing-in ceremony.

Several sources who have worked with Lam say she’s intelligent, hard-working and able to push controversial government policies, earning her the trust of Beijing factions who strongly lobbied for votes on her behalf when she was chosen in March.

But her hardline and pro-Beijing tendencies, say critics and opposition democrats, risk sowing further social divisions in the former British colony that returned to China 20 years ago under a “one country, two systems” formula that guarantees it wide-ranging freedoms.

“Carrie Lam … is a nightmare for Hong Kong,” said student activist Joshua Wong in March, one of the leaders of the student-led “Umbrella Movement” protests in 2014 which blocked the streets for 79 days demanding full democracy.

“Theoretically, the chief executive is a bridge between the central government and the Hong Kong people. But Lam will be a tilted bridge. She will only tell us what Beijing wants, and won’t reflect what the people want to the communist regime.”

Lam, dubbed “the fighter” by media, was once the most popular official in the cabinet of staunchly pro-Beijing former chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, who in 2012 won a similar election restricted to just 1,200 voters.

“Picking Carrie as chief secretary was Leung’s best appointment,” said a senior government official who declined to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the media. But she could also sometimes be a “bully”, he added.

SOFTER IMAGE

Lam’s popularity began to slip just as a younger generation of protesters rose to prominence, and tumbled further during the course of her election campaign this year.

 (AP Photo/Vincent Yu). Chief executive-elect Carrie Lam wipes her eyes as Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, right, and her husband Lam Siu-por, center, stand during the flag raising ceremony to mark the 20th anniversary of the Hong Kong handover to China

Her attempt to push through a planned Palace Museum in Hong Kong, showing artefacts from the museum in Beijing’s Forbidden City, was criticized for being presented as a done deal without public consultation, highlighting what some describe as her “autocratic” style, according to a source who knows her.

She is not well regarded by the opposition democratic camp, with most of the 300 or so democrats seen having voted for former Financial Secretary John Tsang.

The bespectacled Lam was also criticized by student leaders for being “vague” after their televised meeting failed to defuse the 2014 protests. The demonstration ran out of steam two months later and ended with police clearing the streets.

(AP Photo/Ng Han Guan). Pro-democracy activists paste the words "Chinese Communist Demon Claws" on a defaced photo of Chinese President Xi Jinping before attempting to march in protest towards the venue where official ceremonies are held to mark the 20...
(AP Photo/Ng Han Guan). Pro-democracy activists paste the words “Chinese Communist Demon Claws” on a defaced photo of Chinese President Xi Jinping before attempting to march in protest towards the venue where official ceremonies are held to mark the 20th Anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong from Britain to China

During her campaign, Lam attempted to present a softer, more populist image, but was ridiculed for gaffes including not appearing to know how to use subway turnstiles.

She was also lampooned for a late-night hunt for toilet paper which took her to her posh former home on the Peak after she failed to find any at a convenience store.

The daughter of a Shanghainese immigrant who worked on ships and a mother who had never received a formal education, Lam grew up in a cramped apartment shared by four siblings and several families.

A devout Catholic and a student of sociology at the University of Hong Kong, Lam took part in social activism before joining the government. She is married with two sons.

Lam joins a select group of female leaders who have risen to the top job in Asia in recent years including Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, hugely distrusted by China, and ousted South Korean president Park Geun-hye, who angered Beijing with her plans to deploy a U.S. missile defense system to counter the threat from North Korea.

(Reporting by Venus Wu; Editing by James Pomfret and Nick Macfie)

(AP Photo/Ng Han Guan). Pro-democracy activists try to march with a replica of a casket with the word meaning "Respect for the dead" towards the venue where official ceremonies are held to mark the 20th anniversary of Chinese rule over Hong Kong in Hon...
(AP Photo/Ng Han Guan). Pro-democracy activists try to march with a replica of a casket with the word meaning “Respect for the dead” towards the venue where official ceremonies are held to mark the 20th anniversary of Chinese rule over Hong Kong.
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The Latest: Xi vows no tolerance for anti-China acts
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HONG KONG (AP) – The Latest on the swearing-in of Hong Kong’s new leader (all times local):

10:45 a.m.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is vowing no tolerance for any acts seen as jeopardizing Hong Kong and China’s stability and security.

In his address during a swearing-in ceremony for Carlie Lam, the semi-autonomous Chinese region’s chief executive, Xi pledged Beijing’s support for the “one country, two systems” blueprint under which Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

However, he said Hong Kong had to do more to shore up security and boost patriotic education, apparently referencing pieces of legislation long-delayed by popular opposition.

And he warned that anyone threatening China or Hong Kong’s political stability would be crossing a red line and their actions would be considered “absolutely impermissible”- words certain to concern those already wary of tightening restrictions on political life in the city.

Xi was due to return to Beijing midday Saturday. His three-day visit aimed at stirring Chinese patriotism had prompted a massive police presence. Protesters fear Beijing’s ruling Communist Party is increasing its control over the city’s political and civil affairs, undermining a pledge to permit it retain its own legal and other institutions for 50 years.

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9:15 a.m.

Carrie Lam has been sworn in as Hong Kong’s new leader on the city’s 20th anniversary of its handover from British to Chinese rule.

Lam became the semi-autonomous Chinese region’s chief executive Saturday in a ceremony presided over by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Lam and her Cabinet swore to serve China and Hong Kong and to uphold the Basic Law, the territory’s mini-constitution.

The life-long bureaucrat was selected through a process decried by critics as fundamentally undemocratic, involving just a sliver of a percent of Hong Kong’s more than 3 million voters.

A little over a kilometer (mile) away, a small group of activists linked to the pro-democracy opposition clashed with police and counter-protesters. Protesters fear Beijing’s ruling Communist Party is increasing its control over the financial center’s affairs.

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HONG KONG — When crowds calling for greater democracy occupied the streets of Hong Kong three years ago, a skinny teenager led them. When voters went to the polls last year, they elected a 23-year-old legislator, the youngest in the city’s history. And when calls for Hong Kong’s independence from China gained momentum, young people were again at the forefront.

Many of the most influential voices in Hong Kong today belong to those who have little or no memory of this former British colony’s return to Chinese rule two decades ago. But this generation’s identity has been shaped by the handover.

People between the ages of 18 and 29 in Hong Kong are more likely than at any time since 1997 to see themselves broadly as Hong Kongers, according to a survey by the University of Hong Kong. Only about 3 percent now describe themselves broadly as Chinese, the lowest level since the handover.

By contrast, Carrie Lam, who will be sworn in Saturday as Hong Kong’s new chief executive, says she wants to make sure that children will learn from an early age to say, “I am Chinese.”

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