Posts Tagged ‘mainland China’

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

April 3, 2018


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


Taiwan to call businesses home from China, says economic minister — Protecting Equities in Case of U.S.-China Trade War

March 30, 2018

Island braces for trade friction between Washington and Beijing

KENSAKU IHARA, Nikkei staff writer

Minister of Economic Affairs Shen Jong-chin

TAIPEI — Taiwan will move fast to disentangle its economy from mainland China’s in anticipation of worsening trade tensions between Washington and Beijing, Shen Jong-chin, the island’s minister of economic affairs, said in a recent interview with Nikkei.

Taiwanese businesses play an important role in U.S.-China trade, especially through contract manufacturing, and the island would suffer if a trade war were to ensue. Taipei will call on companies that have moved to the mainland to return home and will encourage them to spread out production among other Asian markets, Shen said.

The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump is investigating China’s trade practices and looking into slapping punitive tariffs on telecommunications equipment and other Chinese products for alleged violations of intellectual property rights. Washington and Beijing are pursuing negotiations on the matter. But the risk remains that supply chains will be disrupted, Shen said.

Apple sources semiconductors and other iPhone parts from Taiwan, for instance, and Taiwanese companies including Hon Hai Precision Industry— also known as Foxconn Technology Group — assemble the popular smartphones in China, as well as computers, game consoles and other electronics, and export them to the U.S. A trade war could dent Taiwan’s gross domestic product by nearly 2%, by some estimates.

Taiwan’s National Security Council began discussing responses shortly after Trump called for new sanctions last week, according to Shen. The island had come to rely too heavily on China as an export market and site for production hubs, and “from now on will distribute those through Southeast Asia and elsewhere,” said the minister. “We will support research and development in Taiwan” and encourage native businesses expanding in China to invest in the island, he added.

Shen expressed hope that U.S.-China trade tensions will be turned into an opportunity for the administration of Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen to further reduce the island’s reliance on China.

China, for its part, announced a large-scale package of measures, including tax breaks for high-tech companies, last month to lure Taiwanese businesses and workers. The enticements are “aimed at drawing away [the island’s] research and development capabilities and intellectual property, according to Shen.

Businesses including Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., the world’s biggest contract chipmaker, are expanding in China, but “a growing number of companies are avoiding China for fear of leaks of technology,” Shen said.

On March 16, Trump signed a law encouraging reciprocal visits between high-ranking officials in the U.S. and Taiwan, to the ire of China, which claims sovereignty over the island. Shen expressed a hope to capitalize on the law “to the extent possible.”

Shen also said that Taiwan aims to seize the opportunity presented by the revised Trans-Pacific Partnership, which was signed in March by 11 countries, including Japan but without the U.S.

“We are making ample preparations,” Shen said, suggesting that Taiwan will quickly apply to join once the deal is put into force.

Touching on concerns that China might try to block Taiwan from the pact through close countries, Shen said that Taiwan “can only do what it can.”

Publisher detained in China ‘confesses’, blames Sweden

February 10, 2018


© AFP/File | Gui was one of five Hong Kong-based booksellers known for publishing gossipy titles about Chinese political leaders who disappeared in 2015 and resurfaced in mainland China


Detained book publisher Gui Minhai has surfaced nearly three weeks after disappearing into police custody in China, confessing wrongdoing and accusing his adopted country Sweden of manipulating him like a “chess piece”.

It was unclear whether the Chinese-born Gui’s statement was genuine or made under duress, but a video of his confession shows him flanked by two police officers in a scene likely to prompt accusations of official coercion.

The Chinese-born Gui, 53, was arrested on a train to Beijing last month while travelling with two Swedish diplomats — the second time he has vanished into Chinese custody in murky circumstances.

Sweden, the European Union and the United States have called for Gui’s release, with Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom on Monday calling his seizure “brutal”.

But Gui accused Sweden of “sensationalising” his case.

“I have stated that I do not want Sweden to continue to sensationalise what has happened to me. But obviously, Sweden has not stopped doing so,” he said in the video.

“I felt that it was necessary for me to come out and say something.”

Gui was travelling by train to Beijing from the eastern China city of Ningbo, where doctors had said he may have the neurological disease ALS.

He was to see a Swedish specialist in the capital but was arrested aboard the train.

Gui said Friday that Swedish officials had pressured him to leave China despite being barred from doing so due to pending legal cases.

“I have declined a few times. But because they were instigating me non-stop, I fell for it,” said Gui.

“Looking back, I might have become Sweden’s chess piece. I broke the law again under their instigation. My wonderful life has been ruined and I would never trust the Swedish ever again.”

Gui was one of five Hong Kong-based booksellers known for publishing gossipy titles about Chinese political leaders who disappeared in 2015 and resurfaced in mainland China.

Gui was on holiday in Thailand at the time.

He eventually re-emerged at an undisclosed Chinese location, confessing to involvement in a fatal traffic accident and smuggling illegal books into mainland China.

China has given scant details on his arrest but acknowledged on Tuesday that Gui was in custody under criminal law, without offering further specifics.

Chinese criminal suspects often appear in videotaped “confessions” that rights groups say sometimes bear the hallmarks of official arm-twisting.

Gui’s family members could not immediately be reached for comment about his confession, but they have previously expressed fears that he will receive a lengthy prison sentence, jeopardising his health.

But on Friday, Gui said no doctors had diagnosed him with ALS, saying “I think Sweden has exaggerated this and manipulated (me).”

“I have seen through the Swedish government. If they continue to create troubles, I may consider giving up my Swedish citizenship,” he said.

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

February 6, 2018

By Venus Vu

Image may contain: 1 person, eyeglasses and closeup

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

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

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

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

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

Image may contain: 3 people

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See also Hong Kong Free Press:

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

February 1, 2018


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wife of Taiwan activist jailed in China barred from visiting

January 30, 2018


© AFP/File | Lee Ching-yu was barred from boarding a plane to visit her husband in a Chinese prison

TAIPEI (AFP) – The wife of a Taiwanese democracy activist who was jailed in China in a case which further strained relations was Tuesday barred from boarding a flight to visit him in prison.Lee Ming-cheh — an NGO worker arrested during a trip to the mainland last March — was sentenced in November to five years in prison by a court in the central province of Hunan on charges of subverting state power.

Human rights and democracy activists have been targeted in Chinese President Xi Jinping’s crackdown on dissent since he took power in 2012.

Taipei had called Lee’s jailing “unacceptable” and a serious blow to cross-strait relations, while his wife Lee Ching-yu called his trial a “political show”.

She received a visitation notice from Chishan prison in Hunan but was told at the airport on Tuesday she could not board as she does not have the necessary travel permit.

Lee Ching-yu had her mainland travel permit cancelled last April when she was trying to locate Lee, who was held incommunicado for months before his trial.

Since then, Chinese authorities had only granted her single-entry visas to attend the trial and sentencing.

Taiwan authorities urged China Tuesday to issue the necessary permits for her.

“It is regrettable that China did not allow Ms Lee to board the plane to China today,” the Mainland Affairs Council, which handles official contacts with Beijing, said in a statement.

“Granting of visitation rights to relatives is a guaranteed basic human right,” it said.

Lee had admitted the charges during his trial in September, stating that he had written and distributed online articles that criticised China’s ruling Communist Party and promoted democracy, among other topics.

He had shared “Taiwan’s democratic experiences” with his Chinese friends online for many years and often mailed books to them, according to the Taiwan Association for Human Rights.

Lee Ching-yu — who tattooed her husband’s name on her arm before his trial — has appealed for overseas support and testified at a US Congressional hearing last May.

Outraged Hong Kong Baptist University students plan Friday march after suspension of pair — Other universities join in

January 25, 2018

Student union accuses university bosses of abuse of procedures after controversy surrounding Mandarin requirement

By Peace Chiu and Elizabeth Cheung
South China Morning Post

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 January, 2018, 10:12pm
UPDATED : Friday, 26 January, 2018, 12:14am

The controversy surrounding Hong Kong Baptist University’s suspension of two undergraduates before investigations were completed over alleged threats to staff last week has escalated, with a large march organised by students expected on campus on Friday.

Members from other universities are lending their support to pressure university president Roland Chin Tai-hong to retract the suspensions, with students set to participate in the rally and a confederation of staff unions issuing condemnation’s of his decision.

Materials containing vulgarities targeting Chin also appeared on two university campuses on Wednesday, but they were taken down by Thursday evening.

The latest development came as at least five students involved in an eight-hour stand-off with staff at the school’s Language Centre last week were summoned for a disciplinary hearing.

They were part of a group of about 30 students who stormed the centre to demand that a mandatory Mandarin module they must pass to graduate be scrapped. They also seek greater transparency for an exemption test for the course, which was introduced last year. During the incident last week, union president Lau Tsz-kei was filmed using foul language directed towards a centre staff member.

Can any senior members from the university, if they have some sense of conscience, ask the president whether there was a problem with his … penalty?

Seventy per cent of those who sat the test failed, leading to questions over whether the test was too difficult or the evaluation too harsh. Students were also unhappy they were forced to take the module to graduate.

Tensions intensified on Wednesday when Chin announced the suspension of union president Lau Tsz-kei and Chinese medicine student Andrew Chan Lok-hang before investigations were completed. Chin explained that the decision was in accordance with school guidelines, arguing the two posed a danger to staff.

The move prompted Baptist University’s student union to announce on Thursday that it would hold a march beginning at the school’s Jockey Club Courtyard on Friday afternoon to protest against what they called management’s abuse of procedures. But the student group said there were currently no plans for class boycotts.

The student unions of Lingnan University and Education University indicated they would take part in the rally, while those of the University of Hong Kong and Chinese University shared details of the event on their Facebook pages.

Teachers, including a university administrator, also weighed in on the matter. The Confederation of Tertiary Institutes Staff Unions, which represents staff unions from six universities including HKU and CUHK, also issued a statement on Thursday. It urged the school to allow the two students to continue studies until investigations were completed. The group said Baptist University was “delivering a verdict before a trial”.

 Police inspect graffiti near the wall of the Baptist University Sports Centre in Kowloon Tong. Photo: Winson Wong

Benson Wong Wai-kwok, an assistant professor and a Baptist University council member, asked: “Can any senior members from the university, if they have some sense of conscience, ask the president whether there was a problem with his … penalty?”

Professor Lo Ping-cheung, associate dean at the university’s faculty of arts, said in a Facebook post that he was saddened by the decision and juxtaposed how universities were vigorous with discipline while the government had a tolerant attitude towards senior officials who broke the law.

Meanwhile, a public petition calling for a reversal of the suspension and led by Clarisse Yeung Suet-ying, a district councillor who has been assisting Chan, was gaining traction among members of the public. More than 1,000 signatures were gathered as of Thursday evening.

Lawmaker Shiu Ka-chun said the school should invite alumni and other members of the public to form an independent investigative panel to look into the incident.

But Roger Wong Hoi-fung, a member of Baptist University’s governing council and a member of the teaching staff, believed the video indicated that staff were threatened. He said some workers had even cried when he spoke to them about the incident.

While Wong believed the suspension was based in the school’s disciplinary procedures, he said it should avoid having students stop classes.

Acting Chief Executive Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said any profanity directed by students towards teachers was unacceptable.

Cheung urged the public not to get emotional and politicise the matter, and to give more time and space for the university to handle the matter.

But an article in the WeChat account of Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Dailycalled on Baptist University to severely punish students involved in the stand-off.

Separately, Chan said he received an email from the disciplinary panel on Thursday to attend a hearing in mid-February.

“[The panel] said I had obstructed the school’s teaching or management, my behaviour was indecent and I had posed harm to the safety of members at the university,” he said.

 Activists protest at Baptist University. Photo: Winson Wong

The school’s student union said four other students, including Lau, had informed it about being summoned for a disciplinary hearing.

A Baptist University spokesman said a five-member disciplinary panel would meet involved students individually, review evidence and verify events with staff members who were at the scene.

The spokesman added that the university respected students’ right to express their opinions and urged them to stay peaceful, rational and abide by the law. The university would closely listen to the school community’s opinions, he said.

Fergus Leung Fong-wai, external affairs secretary of the HKU student union, which manages the wall where supporting banners were posted, said the union did not know who had put up the poster containing foul language.

But he noted that the A4 size paper containing the one crude word was taken down a few hours later. Leung said the union’s executive committee did not know who had taken it down.

He also said the committee would not look into who put the posters up as they did not breach the rules of the wall, adding he believed the message was “emotional”. Leung said the committee would not look into who took down that part of the poster either.

Cheryl Chu On-ni, Chinese University’s student union’s external vice-president, said it had taken down the posters on the grounds they did not comply with union rules stipulating a name be attached to them.

A Chinese University spokeswoman said its members must exercise their freedom of speech on campus without intruding on another person’s dignity or rights.

Posters making abusive and personal attacks on others that appeared on the university’s democracy wall ran contrary to the principle of mutual respect, she added.

Education minister Kevin Yeung Yun-hung said he was pained by a student using inappropriate language towards teachers and urged the public to give space to the school to settle the matter.

Additional reporting by Ernest Kao and Danny Mok

Hong Kong democracy activist Joshua Wong jailed over protest

January 17, 2018


© AFP/File / by Elaine YU | Pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong, 21, became the face of the 2014 Umbrella Movement calling for greater democracy in Hong Kong


Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong was jailed for the second time Wednesday for his role in mass pro-democracy protests as concern grows that prison terms for young campaigners are shutting down debate in the semi-autonomous city as Beijing increases control.

Wong, 21, who became the face of the 2014 Umbrella Movement, was handed a three-month sentence on a contempt charge for obstructing clearance of a major protest encampment, to which he had pleaded guilty.

He was already on bail pending an appeal over a six-month sentence for another protest-related offence.

Judge Andrew Chan described Wong’s involvement in obstructing the clearance in 2014 as “deep and extensive” in his written judgement.

“He played a leading role on that day,” he added. “The only appropriate punishment for Mr Wong is immediate imprisonment.”

Fellow activist Raphael Wong was jailed for four months and 15 days over the same incident.

Chan denied both bail but defence lawyers pushed for him to reconsider his decision and were granted a further hearing Wednesday afternoon.

Meanwhile both activists were taken into custody by security guards.

“Our determination to fight for democracy will not change!” Raphael Wong shouted as he was led away.

Fourteen other defendants including leading activist Lester Shum were given suspended sentences on contempt charges.

Campaigners fear that the raft of cases against activists and the jail terms handed down to democracy leaders are discouraging young people from expressing their views and exercising their right to peaceful protest.

Freedom of speech and demonstration is protected by the city’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law.

– ‘No regrets’ –

Ahead of the hearing, Joshua Wong — who became the teenage face of the Umbrella Movement — said he had “no regrets” about his involvement.

“They can lock up our bodies but they can’t lock up our minds,” he told reporters.

Dozens of supporters gathered outside the High Court, chanting: “Civil disobedience, no fear!” and “I’m a Hong Konger, I want universal suffrage!”

They were countered by a small group of pro-Beijing protesters waving the national flag of China and supporting Hong Kong’s department of justice. They displayed a banner calling the activists “mobsters” and saying they must “pay the price” in jail.

The Umbrella Movement was an unprecedented rebuke to Beijing as tens of thousands of protesters brought parts of the city to a standstill demanding fully free leadership elections to replace a system where the chief executive is selected by a pro-Beijing committee.

They failed to win concessions and since then leading activists have been charged over their involvement.

Beijing has been further incensed by the emergence of some activists calling for independence for Hong Kong since the failure of the Umbrella Movement to win reform.

Wong’s party Demosisto wants self-determination for the city.

Hong Kong has been governed under a “one country, two systems” deal since 1997, when Britain handed the territory back to China.

The agreement allows citizens rights unseen on the mainland, including freedom of speech and a partially directly elected parliament, as well as an independent judiciary, but there are concerns those liberties are being eroded.

Wong was jailed for six months in August on unlawful assembly charges for involvement in the storming of a fenced-off government forecourt known as Civic Square in September 2014, which sparked the wider Umbrella Movement rallies.

Wong and fellow campaigners Nathan Law and Alex Chow were originally given non-custodial sentences by a lower court over that incident, but after the government’s intervention they were jailed by the Court of Appeal.

The government’s move was seen as further evidence of Beijing’s growing influence over Hong Kong.

Their appeal against their sentences is currently being considered by Hong Kong’s top court.

by Elaine YU

Joshua Wong and fellow Occupy Hong Kong student leaders made to wait as top court reserves judgment on jail terms appeal

January 16, 2018

Lawyers for Joshua Wong Chi-fung, Nathan Law Kwun-chung and Alex Chow Yong-kang claimed their sentences were too harsh

By Chris Lau and Jasmine Siu

Couth China Morning Post

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 January, 2018, 8:03am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 January, 2018, 6:00pm

Three Hong Kong student pro-democracy leaders – including Joshua Wong Chi-fung – were on Tuesday awaiting their fates after their lawyers made a last-ditch effort against jail terms imposed on them last year over their actions in the run-up to the 2014 Occupy protests.

The lawyers earlier that day told the city’s top court that lower appeal judges had erred in interpreting matters of fact rather than points of law, and in weighing the trio’s political motives.

The Court of Final Appeal reserved judgment after hearing the ultimate appeal lodged by Wong, Nathan Law Kwun-chung and Alex Chow Yong-kang against their sentences, which were handed down to replace earlier non-custodial sentences after a government appeal.

Their bail was extended to the date of judgment.

The appeal, which touched upon whether motives such as civil disobedience should be taken into account in sentencing, is expected to set a legal precedent in a city increasingly split by divided political views.

If the five top justices – Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma Toa-li, and justices Roberto Ribeiro, Joseph Fok, Tang Kwok-ching and Leonard Hoffmann – rule against them, the trio would have to return to prison immediately to serve the rest of their sentences.

Writing on his Facebook page ahead of Tuesday’s decision, Chow said: “Whether justice will be done will be revealed [on Tuesday] … with the whole city and world watching.”

The three were convicted in 2016 over their role in the storming of a forecourt of the government complex on September 26, 2014, two days before the civil disobedience movement began. While Wong, 21, and Chow, 27, were found guilty of taking part in an illegal assembly, Law, 24, was convicted of inciting others.

All were originally given either a community service order or suspended sentence by a lower court. But prosecutors, deeming the sentence too light, took them back to court in a controversial move to ask the Court of Appeal to jail them.

Wong, Law and Chow were subsequently jailed for six, eight and seven months respectively, with the court issuing new sentencing guidelines for unlawful assembly.

Five months on, their lawyers argued on Tuesday that the Court of Appeal had overstepped boundaries of what it is entitled to do and, in Wong’s case, neglected that he was a minor at the time of the crime when considering his punishment.

His counsel Philip Dykes SC said the Court of Appeal may not alter the trial magistrate’s finding of facts when prosecutors had had the chance to correct them earlier.

Law’s counsel Robert Pang Yiu-hung SC, on the other hand, said the new sentencing practice may have “a chilling effect” on political participation among younger Hongkongers, citing the University of Hong Kong’s recent student union elections, which did not receive any nominations, as possible evidence of such a chill.

“Reports in the press suggest students simply don’t want to get involved,” he added.

But Lord Justice Hoffman noted: “The Court of Appeal is entitled to say, ‘You’ve got to be more careful’, and to make sure of that point by saying, ‘In the future you’ll get a higher sentence.’”

Ma, the chief justice, added: “We’re talking about violent unrest here, not the right to demonstrate.”

Still Ma also observed there was “quite a big jump” from a community service order to a six-month jail term.

Director of Public Prosecutions David Leung Cheuk-yin SC replied that it was not unprecedented for unlawful assembly convictions to result in imprisonment.

But being fully appreciative of the jump, Leung later added: “Your Lordship may substitute a sentence which would enable the applicants immediate release.”

Given the trio had already been remanded 69 to 83 days in prison and assuming that all of them are entitled to remission, Leung noted that they have all served close to or more than 50 per cent of their respective jail terms.

On the issue of civil disobedience, Edwin Choy argued for Chow that it can be a powerful mitigating factor when the acts involved were not very violent and were motivated by just causes that promote a pluralistic and tolerant society.

“Civil disobedience is always relevant unless you overstepped the mark,” the chief justice replied. “The query in each case is what ‘overstepping the mark’ means.”

Outside court, a hopeful Law said: “We expect a positive result. Hopefully the court will adopt our lawyers’ arguments.”

But Wong added: “It’s hard for me to be overly optimistic since I have to face another case tomorrow at High Court.”

 A pro-democracy protester steps on defaced portraits of local politicians at the government headquarters in Hong Kong. Photo: Reuters

Wong is expected to be sentenced on Wednesday over a separate case, in which he admitted to contempt of court for obstructing a court-ordered clearance of a major Occupy protest site.

Taiwan demands immediate halt to new China flight routes

January 4, 2018

Beijing has cut off official communications with Taipei since Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen came to power in May 2016. (AFP)

TAIPEI: Taiwan on Thursday demanded China immediately close new flight routes launched close to the island, calling it a “reckless” and politically motivated move.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) announced Thursday that it is opening four routes to help ease congestion in its airspace over the Taiwan Strait, which separates the island from mainland China.
But Taipei said Beijing had not consulted it over the move which “ignores flight safety and disrespects Taiwan.”
“We believe … this is purposefully using civil aviation as a cover for improper intentions regarding Taiwan politics and even military affairs,” Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council said in a statement.
Critics say that the main route in the dispute, M503, runs too close to the island’s airspace.
China’s first attempt to open the route in 2015 sparked protests that prompted Beijing to move it closer to the mainland and use it only for north-to-south flights.
“The rapid growth of flights in western Taiwan Strait airspace in recent years has caused increasingly serious delays,” CAAC said Thursday.
The M503 can now be used for south-to-north flights too, it announced, adding the four new routes are only for civilian flights and that China will maintain technical communications with Taiwan.
Taiwan’s defense ministry said Thursday that the military will intercept, warn and repel if necessary any planes that cross into Taiwanese airspace and threaten the island’s security.
China and Taiwan split after a civil war in 1949 and the island has been self-ruled since. But Beijing still claims the island as part of its territory to be brought back into its fold — by force if necessary.
Beijing has cut off official communications with Taipei since Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen came to power in May 2016, as it does not trust her traditionally pro-independence party.
Beijing has also exerted military pressure on Taiwan’s airspace by stepping up drills around the island.