Press Highlights 29 June 2017

Our latest fortnight selection of press articles on what is making the news in Mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

 

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Source: Reuters

 

Keywords: Anbang Insurance Group, Liu Xiaobo, Internet court, Hong Kong’s Handover.

CHN finance

Chairman of China’s insurance giant under detention

Since 14 June 2017, the media reported that the chairman of Anbang Insurance Group Co., Wu Xiaohui, who is also the grandson-in-law of the CCP leader Deng Xiaoping, was under detention. Subsequently, many news reports confirmed that Anbang has been targeted by the authorities overseeing the financial sector, among other private companies which have been active in overseas acquisitions. Anbang was investigated for potential “economic crimes” it may have involved in and the source of funding for its overseas acquisition in recent years. Analysts such as columnist Henry Sender from Nikkei Asian Review argued that the company’s overseas acquisitions were regarded as risky as it heavily borrowed short-term money from the banks and injected them into long-term projects. On 27 June, Xi Jinping is reported to link outbound investment with “national security” for the first time.

  • //[w]ith scant explanation, Wu Xiaohui was said to be unable to perform his duties as chairman of Anbang Insurance Group Co. In a terse statement sent to reporters around 2 a.m. Beijing time, Anbang said only that Wu — who had spent more than a decade transforming the company into a global juggernaut — was no longer able to serve in his post because of personal reasons. […] The exact nature of Wu’s role in any government investigation has become the subject of widespread speculation. Before Anbang’s statement, Caijing Magazine, citing unidentified sources, reported that Wu had been taken away by Chinese authorities on June 9. The article, which said it was unclear whether Wu was assisting with a government investigation, was later deleted from the magazine’s website.// Source: Bloomberg, 14 June 2017.
  • //Anbang Insurance Group, whose chairman has been detained amid a police investigation, faces an added challenge as authorities asked banks to suspend business dealings with the insurer, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. […] Separately, at least six large Chinese banks have already stopped selling Anbang policies at their branch networks, according to people with knowledge of their operations. […] Chinese investigators are looking into the sources of funding for the company’s overseas acquisitions as well as “economic crimes”, people with knowledge of the matter said separately.// Source: SCMP, 15 June 2017.
  • //China’s banking regulator [The China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC)] has ordered a group of commercial banks to assess their exposure to offshore purchases by a handful of acquisitive Chinese corporate groups, two people familiar with the matter said on Thursday. The companies include HNA Group, Dalian Wanda Group Co., Anbang Insurance Group [ANBANG.UL], Fosun International Ltd and Zhejiang Luosen, the firm behind the purchase of A.C. Milan football club earlier this year, one of the sources said. Chinese financial journal Caixin reported on the investigation earlier on Thursday.// Source: New York Times, 22 June 2017.
  • //The China Insurance Regulatory Commission (CIRC) will strengthen oversight to ensure that new insurance firms operate according to company plans, funding provided by shareholders is authentic, and that their stakes are not transferred during the preparatory process of the companies, according to a CIRC statement. The commission will also more strictly evaluate the performance of company chairmen and senior management staff, and push the firms to improve regulatory compliance.// Source: Xinhua, 23 June 2017.
  • //[A]nbang has suffered from regulatory moves against a range of wealth management products based on insurance policies that have fueled out-of-control credit growth and asset bubbles, particularly in the property market. The danger of the invisible leverage that these products provide has been magnified by the fact that most are short term, while the money raised has gone into much longer-term projects. What appeared to be traditional life insurance products were actually high-risk investment products with no transparency about who, if anyone, stood behind them. […] Wu is one of a new generation of Chinese entrepreneurs who have taken advantage of political and regulatory connections to build corporate empires at home and then invest abroad. Others include Chen Feng, founder of Hainan-based HNA Group, a finance-to-aviation conglomerate, and Guo Guangchang, one of the founders of Shanghai-based Fosun International, an insurance and investment group. […] Wu differs from his counterparts at Fosun and HNA in ways that have made him more vulnerable. Other serial acquirers have relied on listings outside China and massive bank borrowings to finance their ravenous appetites for foreign assets, and have thereby become too big to fail. […] Wu has not borrowed as heavily from banks as HNA and Fosun. But he also had access to fewer financing alternatives outside China. In particular, Anbang lacked the transparency necessary for a flotation on an overseas stock market. […] Wu ultimately fell victim to a combination of two forces: Beijing’s determination to control capital outflows, and the poisonous politics of the capital. He alienated some of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s closest associates as well as the regulators. Although he married into the family of China’s former paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, he never had the family’s protection; he and his wife have lived separate lives for several years.// Source: Nikkei Asian Review, 22 June 2017.
  • //A top decision-making group headed by President Xi Jinping decided on Monday that Beijing would enhance its monitoring and supervision of overseas investment deals to safeguard China’s economic interests and national security. The latest order from the Central Leading Group for Comprehensive Reform, one of the many groups Xi has created to centralise decision-making around him, comes at a time the government is getting tough on the country’s big dealmakers, especially private enterprises that have borrowed heavily to finance overseas acquisitions. It is the first time the top leadership has explicitly linked outbound investment with national security. “The safety of overseas businesses and outbound investments is an important part of [securing] China’s overseas interests,” the official Xinhua news agency reported, summarising the leading group’s decision. “We must insist [on] the Communist Party’s leadership over the security of overseas businesses and outbound investments, and we must … improve statistics and monitoring of such businesses and investments to strengthen supervision,” the summary read.// Source: SCMP, 27 June 2017.

Background of Anbang Insurance Group:

  • //It wouldn’t be the first time a Chinese tycoon has allegedly fallen afoul of Chinese authorities. Prominent financier Xiao Jianhua was taken by agents from a Hong Kong hotel earlier this year and presumed to have been brought back to China, according to local media reports. […] Anbang’s story begins in 2004, when it was founded as a property-and casualty-insurer selling auto policies. While the firm was little-known to the wider world back then, Anbang had some powerful backers inside China. The company’s early shareholders included state-owned behemoths SAIC Motor Corp. and China Petroleum & Chemical Corp., known as Sinopec. […] Wu first turned heads outside China when Anbang offered to buy New York’s iconic Waldorf Astoria hotel in October 2014. Chinese media likened his approach — using insurance income to fund wider ambitions — to the model honed by Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s Warren Buffett. […] Anbang is controlled by a group of companies owned by about 100 people with ties to Wu, many of them hailing from his home county of Pingyang on the eastern Chinese coast, the New York Times reported last year. At least 35 of Anbang’s corporate shareholders can trace all or part of their ownership to relatives of Wu or his wife, according to the report.// Source: Bloomberg, 14 June 2017.


CHN politics

Political Dissenter Liu Xiaobo diagnosed with end-stage liver cancer

Liu Xiaobo, a political dissenter who participated in the Tiananmen democracy movement and was jailed for eleven years for helping to draft the Charter 08 democracy manifesto, was recently diagnosed with end-stage liver cancer and allowed to have “medical parole” (bao wai jiu yi 保外就医) at one of the hospitals in Shenyang of Liaoning Province. As he has received a Nobel Peace Prize later in 2010 but not being able to collect it due to his imprisonment, the Norwegian Nobel Committee issued a statement, strongly regretting that it took serious illness for the Chinese authorities to release Liu from the prison. Human Rights organizations called for immediate release of Liu. Former leaders of the Tiananmen democracy movement, Wu’er Kaixi and Wang Dan issued a joint statement on 26 June which demands the Chinese authorities to give Liu proper medical treatment as well as allowing him to make contact with the outside world. On a separate platform, a number of Chinese intellectuals also organized an online petition (in Chinese) since 27 June in support of Liu’s immediate release with no strings attached and to urge the Chinese authorities to guarantee Liu’s freedom to choose medical treatment as well as his relatives’ right to see him. There are also other online petitions around the world (such as this one in the United States) for similar demands. Media reports reveal that Liu has been cut off from the information outside the prison during his imprisonment, although he was not very ill-treated according to his wife. In a recent development, Liu’s wife explicitly indicated Liu’s intention to leave China for medical treatment because he does not want his wife who has been psychologically unwell since his imprisonment to suffer further. In response to global calls for Liu’s release, the Chinese version of Global Times published an article (available only in print), which argues that it is unlikely the authorities will let Liu go to another country because his Nobel Peace Prize could be used against China. On 28 June, the Chinese authorities released a video showing Liu’s daily life and medical treatment in prison. Jerome Cohen, director of the U.S.-Asia Law Institute at New York University, contended that China pays little price for Liu Xiaobo’s imprisonment internationally due to the increase in China’s overseas investment. In a parallel development, the UN Human Rights Council has recently adopted a China-led resolution, which includes the concept of “development promoting human rights” for the first time on 22 June. There is a media censorship about Liu Xiaobo in Mainland China.

  • // Liu, who had been imprisoned in northeast China, was found in late May to have advanced liver cancer and was hospitalized soon after, said one of the lawyers, Shang Baojun, citing Mr. Liu’s relatives. Mr. Shang said the outlook for Mr. Liu appeared grim. “It seems to be very serious, very serious,” he said. “If it was an early stage of cancer, then that would be easier to treat. But at this late stage, the treatment seems much more difficult.” In a video released by Radio Free Asia, Mr. Liu’s distraught wife, Liu Xia, told a friend that his doctors “can’t do surgery, can’t do radiation therapy, can’t do chemotherapy,” apparently referring to his advanced cancer. […] News of Mr. Liu’s apparently terminal illness drew immediate and passionate calls from supporters and human rights groups for him to be freed. The Norwegian Nobel Committee said it was “delighted” to learn that Mr. Liu was out of prison but “strongly regrets” that it took serious illness for that to happen. […] Patrick Poon, a China researcher at Amnesty International, said the government should ensure that Mr. Liu received adequate medical care and access to relatives. “The authorities must also stop their shameful and illegal house arrest of Liu Xiaobo’s wife, Liu Xia,” Mr. Poon said, “and ensure that she is able to receive visitors, travel freely and reunite with Liu Xiaobo.”// Source: New York Times, 26 June 2017.
  • //Under Chinese law, it said, medical parole lasts six months after which the person’s condition is assessed. Depending on the result, parole can be extended or the person sent back to prison to serve the rest of the sentence. While prison authorities said Liu was being treated by “eight renowned Chinese oncologists”, international human rights groups demanded that he be allowed to seek medical care abroad if he chooses. Mo [Mo Shaoping, Liu Xiaobao’s lawyer] said people on medical parole usually cannot leave the country, but if Liu was treated as a “special case” it would be possible for him to seek treatment abroad, according to Chinese law.// Source: Hong Kong Free Press, 27 June 2017.
  • //Liu helped broker many protesters’ escape from Tiananmen Square during the June 4 1989 crackdown, and served several prison terms for his activism before receiving his current sentence eleven-year sentence for “inciting subversion” with his participation in the Charter 08 democracy manifesto. […] Liu’s wife, poet Liu Xia, has been held under strict house arrest since the Nobel Prize announcement in 2010, and her physical and emotional health have at times suffered gravely.// Source: China Digital Times, 26 June 2017.
  • //A video of Liu Xiaobo being treated in jail was released on YouTube late on Wednesday, in what a source close to the Nobel Peace Prize winning activist said was a move by authorities to counter growing concerns over his care behind bars. […] In the three-minute video, Liu is shown playing badminton outside, being given a physical exam by prison guards and receiving medical treatment from doctors, as well as being visited by his wife Liu Xia. In one clip, Liu speaks to Liu Xia via telephone as she sits behind glass in a visiting room. “I had a physical exam, they took blood, did Colour Doppler Imaging – it’s very good,” he says. […] When asked about the video, a source close to Liu and his wife told Reuters that Liu’s statements in the film are “quotes without context,” and noted that all the shots appeared to be taken with hidden cameras.// Source: Reuters, 28 June 2017.
  • //諾貝爾和平獎得主劉曉波患上末期肝癌,有指他與妻子劉霞希望出國就醫。美國明鏡集團創辦人何頻在Twitter公開了一封劉霞親筆信,可見她在四月曾向有關部門提出申請,要求在劉曉波陪伴下前往德國治療抑鬱病。該封劉霞親筆信的日期為49日,信中劉霞指自己身體及精神都到了極限,抑鬱病情一直沒有得到緩解,病情時有發生。醫生指徹底改變生活環境可能較有效。劉霞又指一直沒有向劉曉波透露病情,至一個月前才向他告知身體情況。而劉曉波非常擔心,並同意陪伴她出國就醫。劉霞又在信中指,透過朋友聯絡到德國政府,德國方面非常歡迎他們一家前往當地。// Source: Stand News, 28 June 2017.
  • //“The world community has largely forgotten Liu Xiaobo, ” said Jerome Cohen, director of the U.S.-Asia Law Institute at New York University. He said Mr. Liu’s fate was a sad reminder of longstanding oppression in China. In the years since Mr. Liu was arrested, Beijing has seen its international clout grow. Chinese investment has poured into Africa, across Asia and elsewhere and Beijing has become more assertive about wielding that economic influence to further strategic interests. Criticism of its imprisonment of Mr. Liu and other dissidents has grown fainter.// Source: Wall Street Journal, 26 June 2017.
  • //The resolution recognizes the common aspiration of the international community of building a community of shared future for human beings and affirms that development contributes significantly to the enjoyment of all human rights. It calls upon all countries to realize people-centred development of the people, by the people and for the people, and calls upon all States to enhance international cooperation and spare no effort in promoting sustainable development, in particular while implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, as it is conducive to the overall enjoyment of human rights.// Source: Xinhua, 23 June 2017.
  • //The UN Human Rights Council on Thursday adopted a China-led resolution on “The Contribution of Development to the Enjoyment of All Human Rights, the first time it had adopted a resolution on development issues, the official Xinhua news agency reported. The resolution was co-sponsored by more than 70 countries, Xinhua reported. “For a long time, the international rights process and conversation has been monopolized by Western governments,” the People’s Daily said in a Saturday editorial. “Some people from the West often use the pretense of human rights to export their own values and even to use them to meddle in other countries’ internal affairs,” it added. “The inclusion of the concept of ‘development promoting human rights’ into the international human rights system signifies a major shift in the global human rights conversation,” the paper said.// Source: Reuters, 24 June 2017.

New central guideline for governance of urban and rural communities announced for the first time

On 13 June 2017, the CCP and the State Council announced for the first time a guideline regarding the governance of urban and rural communities titled “Opinion Regarding the strengthening and Improving Community Governance in Urban and Rural Areas” (关于加强和完善城乡社区治理的意见). Gu Chaoxi, the Vice Minister of the Ministry of Civil Affairs (MCA), noted that the guideline aims to target rural gangs and bullies at the village level, and hope to improve urban and rural communities with better natural environment, cultural facilities, etc. Full text of the guideline is available in Chinese here. Chen Yueliang, head of the community building bureau of the MCA, also remarked that the central effort in strengthening community governance began in the urban and rural areas in 2010 and 2015 respectively, and now it is important to boost residents’ sense of belonging to the community they are living in. Some articles related to the problems with local governance appeared on the state-owned Chinese press recently. For example, Xinhua published an article which exposed the problems of some village-level party cadres who did not organize the villagers for consultations on major issues as supposed.

  • //The Ministry of Civil Affairs (MCA) said Tuesday that it targeted the issue following a recent central guideline on residential communities, which promised “harmonious, green, civilized and shared” communities for both urban and rural residents within the next 10 years. […] Gu vowed a relentless crackdown on village bullies and family forces that interfere with elections by threatening voters, offering bribes or causing havoc in voting stations, encouraging villagers to stand up for their rights and nurture civilized environments in their villages. Gu called for the creation of village affairs supervision committees to supervise rural land use, demolitions, exploitation of resources, and prevent village thugs from embezzling public funds and infringing on villagers’ interest. “Party governance in urban and rural communities must be strengthened to resolve the corruption issues that directly affect the people,” the guideline said. In some places, village officials themselves have become the source of the problem. […] Apart from eliminating village hoodlums, the guideline also focuses on a sound natural environment, cultural facilities, peaceful people-to-people relations and happy residential communities. Governance of both urban and rural communities will improve significantly by 2020 with public services, management and security assured by then, according to the guideline released by the CPC Central Committee and the State Council Monday. […]”The improvement will cover communities in both urban and rural areas, promoting coordinated development of cities and countries,” said Chen Yueliang, head of the community building bureau of the MCA. “Urban community improvement will focus on consolidating and upgrading the existing facilities, while for rural communities, the major tasks are increasing public facilities, while improving governance and the community service system.”// Source: China News Service, 15 June 2017.
  • //民政部副部长顾朝曦在发布会上表示,意见是新中国历史上第一个以党中央、国务院名义出台的关于城乡社区治理的纲领性文件,对加强和完善城乡社区治理作出了全面部署,为开创新形势下城乡社区治理新局面提供了根本遵循,对促进人民生活幸福、社会和谐稳定和国家长治久安具有深远意义。意见深刻领会创新、协调、绿色、开放、共享的新发展理念,提出了城乡社区治理的基本目标:努力把城乡社区建设成为和谐有序、绿色文明、创新包容、共建共享的幸福家园。// Source: Xinhua, 13 June 2017.
  • //顾朝曦介绍,《关于加强和完善城乡社区治理的意见》是新中国历史上第一个以党中央、国务院名义出台的关于城乡社区治理的纲领性文件。对于近年来一些地方“村霸”和宗族恶势力横行乡里的问题,顾朝曦表示,会加强和完善农村社区治理,预防惩治“村霸”和宗族恶势力。顾朝曦说,“村霸”和宗族恶势力与人民民主专政的国家性质是不相容的,民政部将进一步加强村委会换届选举指导监督,指导各地结合实际制定完善村委会成员候选人资格条件,引导农民群众坚决抵制并将“村霸”和宗族恶势力排除在候选人之外。// Source: The Beijing News, 13 June 2017.
  • //一边是村干部抱怨如今的村民会议“不好组织”,一边是村民直言许多事村干部碰碰头就定了,群众容易被会议遗忘。近日,《瞭望》新闻周刊记者走访河南郑州、漯河、许昌和开封等4地市发现,“村干部三天两头到乡政府开会”成常态,而在有的地方村民会议却难见踪影,多地村民说不清谁是本村村委会主任。受访专家指出,“村民无会”易让党的路线方针政策在基层陷于“悬空”,增加农村干群间隔阂,建议加强对村民代表推选的指导和监督,明确村民会议对村民代表会议的“授权”内容及议事规则,让村民会议实实在在开起来。// Source: Xinhua, 26 June 2017.


CHN Internet

New Internet Court to be established in Hangzhou of Zhejiang Province

A new type of court specialized in Internet-related cases will be established, following the CCP’s decision in the Central Leading Group for Deepening Overall Reform. According to the reports, the court will be based on the former online court of e-commerce in Hangzhou, and gradually be separated from the existing trial system to handle Internet-related cases in Hangzhou. The court will study Internet-related rules, help with Internet security, settle Internet-related disputes, etc. Xie Yongjiang, a professor at the Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, suggested that Hangzhou was chosen for the new establishment due to its vibrancy of Internet-related activities and the surge in the number of e-commerce lawsuits in recent years.

  • // The Hangzhou Internet Court will hear seven kinds of lawsuits, including those which involve online shopping, online debt contracts and online copyright disputes, according to its official website. […] All Internet-related cases in the city will gradually be separated from the existing trial system and be taken over by the new court, according to Chen Guomeng, president of the High People’s Court of Zhejiang. As Hangzhou is home to many Internet firms, such as Alibaba and NetEase it has a particularly high number of e-business lawsuits, Xie Yongjiang, a professor at the Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, told the Global Times. The number of Internet lawsuits handled by Hangzhou’s courts have been rising rapidly over the years, increasing from 600 cases in 2013 to over 10,000 cases in 2016. “Online courts significantly reduce lawsuits’ cost and length. A trial could be opened and resolved with every participant sitting in front of their computer,” Xie said, adding that specially trained legal personnel will be employed by the court. A judge in East China’s Jiangsu Province told the Global Times on condition of anonymity that many courts already offer online services but they lack of Internet-specialized personnel. The anonymous judge believes “the Hangzhou Internet Court is likely to someday directly intervene in trade disputes on popular shopping sites, such as Taobao.”// Source: Global Times, 27 June 2017.
  • // The move comes as the government ramps up legal scrutiny of the internet sector. The plan was passed during a meeting of the Central Leading Group for Deepening Overall Reform, headed by Chinese President Xi Jinping. […] Earlier in June, a district court in the city sentenced a man to five years and nine months in prison for running a business that provided fake reviews and sales for individual shops on Alibaba-owned e-commerce platform Taobao. That case was also a landmark in internet-related justice, as it was the first time such behavior was handled under criminal law. […] According to Xinhua, the internet court in Hangzhou will mull new rules for handling internet-related cases, improve how cases are handled, and make trials proceed more efficiently. It will also be charged with maintaining internet security, resolving online disputes, and improving the integration of the internet in society and the economy.// Source: Sixth Tone, 26 June 2017.
  • //今年1月份,浙江省高院院长陈国猛就公开表示,浙江法院将积极推动设立杭州网络法院,促进网络法治的健全发展。杭州网络法院是基于杭州法院原先的电子商务网上法庭而建,将涉及网络的案件从现有审判体系中剥离出来,构建专业的司法体系,专门审理和研判此类涉网案件在此之前,浙江高院2015年就主导建设了电子商务网上法庭,并确定杭州市西湖、滨江、余杭3个基层法院和杭州中院作为首批试点。试点期间,案件的受理范围是涉电子商务的交易类、金融类、著作权类案件。// Source: The Beijing News, 26 June 2017.

CHN society

Majority Chinese netizens refused refugee from the Middle East

On the annual UN World Refugee Day on 20 June, the UN official weibo account has share a video encouraging all people to stand with refugee. The UN call was soon echoed by some government agencies, such as a similar report by the People’s Daily (in Chinese), triggering a heated social debate on the social media about whether China should accept refugee from the Middle East. In an online survey with 150,000 respondents, over 97% went against the proposal. It is also reported that the Youth League in Guangdong Province also conducted similar survey but obtained similar result. Some Chinese netizens are worried that the popularization of the issue by the Chinese authorities is to lay the grounds for China to accept refugee from the Middle East and thus vociferously oppose it online. A Weibo user has published a long article arguing against the acceptance of refugee, which attracted enormous attention but was soon deleted by the authorities. A number of rumors regarding the attitude of the Chinese government toward refugee appeared online, prompting the Global Times to offer statements to dismiss them. Observers argued that the Chinese public in general is not mentally ready to take up this role. A researcher on Global Times echoed the majority of netizen’s view that refugee from instable regions could put huge pressure on China’s safety and stability. Many original posts related to the issue are no longer available on the Internet.

  • //An internet user started the survey on Weibo by using its social media polling functions on Wednesday. Within a day, 150,000 respondents had voted and only 3,798 had said “yes” to receiving Middle Eastern refugees. The rumours about China taking in refugees began with media coverage of the plight of the tens of thousands of people displaced by recent wars in the Mid-East. […] Earlier, the UN agency for displaced people, the UNHCR, hosted a film screening on their plight. State media like CCTV have also recently run shows hailing the nation’s relief efforts in the humanitarian crisis in the Middle East. However, some mainland internet users said the coverage was meant to “set the agenda” to prepare people for taking in more refugees. […] China has been conservative in terms of accepting refugees, according to Shi Yinhong, an international affairs specialist at Renmin University. “The Chinese public is not mentally prepared to allow in refugees,” he said. “And I haven’t heard that the government has any plan or policy to shelter the Middle Eastern refugees.”// Source: SCMP, 23 June 2017.
  • //這一微博的轉發評論數量很快破萬,但隨即被相關管理部門刪除。不過,網絡中與其意見一致的聲音非常多,形成異常強大的反對聲浪,更有網友直言:造勢中國應接收難民的人別有用心。一些投票調查顯示,這些似乎代表了中國民間社會的集體意志。// Source: Hong Kong 01, 23 June 2017.
  • //在超過15萬人投票的微博問卷調查中,5%的網民認為中國不應該接收難民,表示中國基層社會問題嚴峻貧富分化,人口壓力巨大,貿然接收難民只會造成社會動盪,慷他人之慨的聖母情結脫離社會現實。反對中國政府接收難民的微博獲得了八萬多的分享轉發。聯合國難民署中國親善大使姚晨更因為轉發難民署微博,被指呼籲中國接收難民,受到網民口誅筆伐。外交部長王毅日前表示難民不是移民,中國會為難民回歸創造必要條件,在聯合國框架下為難民接收國提供力所能及的幫助。// Source: The Inititum, 26 June 2017.
  • //浙江义乌为数千战乱国家难民发暂住证: 这其实是一条彻头彻尾的谣言,消息的源头则是新加坡的《联合早报》。该报宣称义乌在2016年向9675名外国人发放了“暂住证”,其中4000余份签发给来自伊拉克、也门、叙利亚、阿富汗等战乱国家公民。不过,早在2个月前义乌方面就已经辟谣了:只有持合法证件、符合中国法律法规的外国人才能在义乌经商或生活,网传的“难民暂住证”可能是对义乌“商友卡”的误解。所谓“商友卡”,提供也只是一些具有支付公交车费、租借公共自行车等功能的便利化生活服务。一直对中国大规模接受难民持反对立场的商务部国际贸易经济合作研究院研究员梅新育当时也对我们《环球时报》表示,到义乌的外国人并没有“难民”,基本上都是来寻找商机的商人。他说,从也门到伊拉克、叙利亚,这些国家确实存在战乱,但不等于缺少有商业才能的国民。(本报早前曾发表题为《义乌”为数千难民发暂住证”?这消息是怎么来的 ?》的文章进行了辟谣。)// Source: Huanqiu Shibao, 22 June 2017.
  • //Mei Xinyu, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, said that the reason Chinese society has reacted so vehemently to this issue is because the advantageous policies enjoyed by foreigners in China is harming Chinese society. “Refugees’ impact in a host country is stronger than normal foreigners who enter and exit a place. The refugee crisis in Europe since 2015 has provided a destructive example for the world,” he said. He said if refugees from regions with unstable politics and bad safety records come to China in increasing numbers, it’s a lot of pressure on China’s safety and even stability. At the end of 2016, there were 317,923 persons of concern in China, according to UNHCR statistics. The category is an umbrella term for refugees, asylum-seekers, stateless persons and others. The biggest group among these is some 300,000 Indo-Chinese from Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, who came in the early 1980s and are ethnically Chinese, the UN said. China is a party to two international refugee pacts – the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol.// Source: The Global Times, 23 June 2017.

HK politics

1st July 2017: 20 Years after the Handover in 1997

There are many celebrative events held in Hong Kong and Beijing for the 20th year of Hong Kong’s sovereignty handover to China. Exhibitions are held in Beijing and China’s President Xi Jinping will visit Hong Kong for the ceremony. There are many articles on the press to review many aspects of Hong Kong’s development after 20 years of the Handover in 1997 by local, Chinese, and foreign media alike. A brief summary of some media reports as well as some commentaries on a variety of issues, including Hong Kong-Mainland Relationship, identity, democratization, judicial independence, media, social development and economy are noted below.

a) “One Country Two Systems” and Hong Kong-Mainland Relations

Xinhua emphasized that the OCTS has proven the best solution to solve the historical problems with Hong Kong and the best institutional arrangement for the Handover.

  • //During the last 20 years, “one country, two systems” has proven not only to be the best solution to the Hong Kong question left over from history, but the best institutional arrangement for Hong Kong’s long-term prosperity and stability since its return, Xi said.// Source: Xinhua, 26 June 2017.

Meixin Pei, a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College, argued that the central government puts greater emphasis on “One Country” over “Two Systems” in the formula, and the many clashes between Hong Kong and Mainland China are political in nature.

  • //Evidence that political factors are responsible for the deteriorating conditions in Hong Kong is hard to miss. All street demonstrations, a rarity in pre-1997 Hong Kong, have explicit political demands, such as the direct election of the city’s chief executive and reform of the electoral system that picks the city’s legislative council. Of the most critical events in the last two decades that contributed to Hong Kong people’s loss of trust in Beijing, all are political in nature. For instance, the severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, epidemic that hit Hong Kong in 2003 originated in Guangdong, and Hong Kong became a victim of the cover-up by Chinese authorities of the rampaging viral epidemic. The largest anti-Beijing rally, with about half a million demonstrators, took place on July 1, 2003 in protest of the city administration’s heavy-handed attempt to ram through a national security law that would threaten Hong Kong’s civil liberties. The Occupy Central movement and the Umbrella Revolution, which paralyzed parts of Hong Kong for weeks in 2014 and resulted in the worst clash between protesters and the police in the post-1997 era, were a response by Hong Kong’s youth to Beijing’s refusal to reform the system of selecting the city’s chief executive despite its commitment to “universal suffrage,” a Chinese pledge enshrined in the Basic Law of Hong Kong, the city’s mini-constitution.// Source: Nikkei Asian Review, 27 June 2017.

Simon Young Ngai-man, associate dean in the Faculty of Law, the University of Hong Kong, noted that there has been continuous tension and conflict from the internal perspective of Basic Law, between the “one country” camp and the “two systems” camp, he contended that a new perspective, an external perspective of Basic Law which highlights the Basic Law’s role in serving China’s interests in the global community as a common ground between different camps.

  • //Looking at the Basic Law from different perspectives may yield different results. For the past 20 years, most people, including myself, have understood the Basic Law to be a legal instrument intended to continue and preserve Hong Kong’s way of life for at least 50 years under Chinese sovereignty. I call this the internal perspective, which looks at how the Basic Law serves the interests of Hong Kong and Hong Kong people. However, the internal perspective has proven to be divisive, one that sees continuous tension and conflict between the “one country” and the “two systems”. […] In contrast to the dismal internal perspective, there is another perspective of the Basic Law rarely mentioned. The external perspective sees the Basic Law as serving national interests and the nation’s interests in the global community. […] The vision in the external perspective remains largely unfulfilled because there are few opportunities for Hong Kong people to participate in the management of state affairs. It is doubtful that the central government trusts Hong Kong people with such responsibilities. […] As we mark the first 20 years and reflect on the next 20, it is time for all to take a fresh look at the Basic Law to get beyond the conflict of the internal dimension. The very survival of the Basic Law beyond 2047 may well depend on finding common ground in a new perspective.// Source: SCMP, 27 June 2017.

b) Political reform and democracy

  • //When the British handed over Hong Kong to China in 1997, Beijing promised to allow universal suffrage as an “ultimate aim”, along with other freedoms, under a “one country, two systems” arrangement agreed with London. […] China did offer a contentious electoral reform package in 2014, which allowed Hong Kong a direct vote, but only of candidates pre-screened by Beijing. The city’s pro-democracy lawmakers vetoed the package, which critics called “fake democracy”. And so Hong Kong’s next leader was again chosen this year by a small electoral college stacked with pro-Beijing loyalists. “There will be no second chance,” said a source in Beijing with ties to the Chinese leadership, who declined to be named given the sensitivity of the matter. “We can’t afford to do it all over again. It’s too painful and a waste of time and resources.” A senior Hong Kong official said even if China changed its mind, Beijing wouldn’t back down on its requirement that candidates be vetted, effectively shutting out pro-democracy contenders for the top job.// Source: Reuters, 27 June 2017.

Former student leader of the Umbrella Movement Alex Chow and former Civil Human Rights Front convener Yeung Ching-yin in an article on the Inititum (in Chinese) proposed a new way to pursue Hong Kong’s democratization, arguing that it is of vital importance to foster dialogue with other factions of the non-establishment camp, consolidating a clear common political objective, and fostering mutual trust. Nevertheless, not all echoed their call for unity as reflected in the coordination of events on 1st July between localist groups and traditional democracy groups.

  • //回憶過去以開展未來,肯定成就,避免錯誤,克服弱點,當屬必要。然而過往一段時間,我們的反思大多聚焦在雨傘運動,而較少討論之前長達兩年的「讓愛與和平佔領中環」運動。儘管「佔中」有路線之爭,也被批判在實踐上不夠民主,但其願景及方法卻發揮了黏合非建制派(縱使非建制派對如何佔領、何時佔領有不同意見,但非建制派的討論都圍繞着佔中運動推進的,並各自結盟,在同一運動內推進;而集體公開辯論,在香港更是可貴的嘗試)、促進社會內聚溝通及提出共同政治目標的功效,為其後的雨傘運動累積龐大的政治能量。以上三個特徵,恰恰是現在民主運動最需要的東西。// Source: The Initium, 23 June 2017.
  • //The student unions of 12 Hong Kong universities and tertiary institutions will not join this year’s July 1 democracy march, the unions announced in a joint statement on Tuesday. Instead, they will hold a discussion forum featuring academics and localist figures on the 20th anniversary of the city’s transfer of sovereignty. […] Explaining the unions’ collective decision at the press conference, University of Hong Kong student union president Wong Ching-tak said the groups were sceptical about advocating the Basic Law as a way of protecting the city. “The Civil Human Rights Front… is still talking about how the Basic Law can protect Hongkongers’ interests,” he said. “This is different from what we believe.” Confirmed guests at Saturday evening’s forum include Hong Kong studies scholar Brian Fong Chi-hang, the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party’s convener Andy Chan Ho-tin, and localist writer Lewis Loud.// Source: Hong Kong Free Press, 28 June 2017.

c) Local identity vs. national identity

Venus Wu and Tyrone Siu from Reuters recorded the major historical incidents which contextualized the Hong Kong youth’s change of the sense of belonging to China in recent years.

  • //According to a University of Hong Kong survey released on Tuesday that polled 120 youths, only 3.1 percent of those aged between 18 to 29 identify themselves as “broadly Chinese”. The figure stood at 31 percent when the regular half-yearly survey started 20 years ago. […] In 2012, a skinny 15-year-old student named Joshua Wong led tens of thousands of Hong Kong residents to protest against a mandatory national education curriculum they claimed would “brainwash” students by promoting Chinese patriotism. The curriculum was eventually shelved. Two years later, the “Occupy” movement, with Wong at the helm, sought to pressure Beijing to allow full democracy in the election of its leader, demands that were ultimately ignored after 79 days of street protests. The abduction of several Hong Kong booksellers by mainland agents and China’s efforts to disqualify two young lawmakers who support Hong Kong independence have also shaken confidence in the “one-country, two systems” arrangement.// Source: Reuters, 27 June 2017.

Leung Yan Wing, Adjunct Associate Professor of the Education University of Hong Kong, argued that the recent central policy to treat education in Hong Kong as integral to national sovereignty protection, which implies a greater control over many aspects of educational system, could backfire on the goals of winning the hearts and minds of the youth, because he observed that the youth is worried about greater infringement from the central government on Hong Kong and repression of values upheld in Hong Kong.

  • //一些中央領導人立時再度指摘香港教育未能做好國民教育,甚至有評論指香港教育仍未「去殖化」,反而「去中國化」,故此特區政府要加大力度推動國民教育、推動學生交流、將中史成為獨立科、在幼兒教育加強國民教育,以強化學生的國民身分。呂秉權近期指出,有內地論述甚至將「教育主權」提升至「維護國家主權」的層次,認為可以不理會《基本法》所保障香港的教育自主 權,加強雙方在師資、課程、教材、教學、考評、督導各方面的合作。但在權力不對等的關係下,所謂「加強合作」,很大可能會變為權力大者全面控制權力弱者。但這些藥石亂投的處方,根本不能解決青少年的離心問題,反而更可能惡化離心的情况!// Source: Mingpao, 28 June 2017.

d) Independence of Judiciary

Cliff Buddle, a columnist from SCMP, reviewed the status of judicial independence in Hong Kong after the Handover, recording both old and new anxieties about the extent to which the legal system in Hong Kong can be maintained. The establishment of the Court of Final Appeal, which enjoys the power to interpret the Basic Law in the jurisdiction of Hong Kong’s self rule, has a number of tense moments with the National People’s Congress which holds the ultimate power to interpret the Basic Law.

  • // As we mark the 20th anniversary of the return to China, which has a very different legal system, there are fresh anxieties. The fallout from the Occupy pro-democracy protests of 2014, Beijing’s crackdown on independence advocates and abusive attacks on judges have all raised concerns. […] In many respects the legal system has remained unchanged. The common law continues to be applied, the judiciary remains independent, and rights and freedoms are upheld. Crucially, judges continue to exercise their power to ensure the government and legislature act within the law. Most court cases are conducted pretty much the same way they were before the handover. More are heard in the Chinese language and the creation of the Court of Final Appeal means there is no longer a need to take cases to London. The top court, featuring eminent foreign judges as well as local ones, has developed a sound reputation. […] One source of conflict lies at the point where one country and two systems meet. The Basic Law protects and insulates the city’s legal system from the one on the mainland. [] [b]ut the ultimate power to interpret lies with the National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) in Beijing. [] This power of the NPCSC to interpret the Basic Law has since been used as a tool by Beijing to assert its will and to settle disputes. It has used the power sparingly, but in a way which has raised concerns about the rule of law. Four of the five NPCSC interpretations have had an impact on court cases. Only one was requested by the Court of Final Appeal. The most recent, last year, saw Beijing issue an interpretation, on its own initiative, on the legality of lawmakers’ oaths.// Source: SCMP, 27 June 2017.

e) Media

Chan King-cheung, former mingpao chief editor of Mingpao, pointed out that there are multiple factors which affect media freedom in Hong Kong over the past two decades. He contended that the rise of online media has fundamentally changed the media sector in Hong Kong and abroad. For example, there have been closure and change of ownership of many traditional print media, including SCMP. Hong Kong’s media freedom has declined in rank, according to Reporters Without Borders, and print media practice self-censorship, which, he argued, is attributed to the new owners of these media who are usually businessmen with ties with Mainland China, but could be offset by the rise of online channels for view expression. He also observed that the space for independent media has been increasing, while decreasing for traditional media in Hong Kong.

  • //過去20年,多家本地媒體易主,有些更結業關門,強如TVB和壹傳媒都出現業績大倒退;2015年12月,老牌英文報章《南華早報》易手,被阿里巴巴以20億元收購;而陪伴着幾代香港人成長的TVB,也轉手予上海傳媒大亨。[…] 記協在今年6月引述無國界記者發表的全球新聞自由指數調查,香港排名由2002年第18位,跌至今年第73,意思很清楚,本地的新聞自由在不斷倒退。新聞自由空間收窄,原因之一是媒體擁有權轉變。傳統媒體包 括紙媒和電子媒體過去20年大部分都易主,新東家都是生意人,跟內地有業務往來,或本身就是內地商人。利之所在,媒體不能影響生意,媒體老闆在「重要關 頭」很自然就要歸邊,社論要配合主旋律節奏。記協在記者會上說「紅色資本操控了31%港傳媒」,看來太過保守(不像記協「一貫立場」);香港傳媒,尤其所 謂「主流傳媒」,雖然不是由「紅色資本」直接控制,但直接或間接,基本上已是「全港一片紅」。[…] 過去被主流傳媒封殺、失了地盤,就如無處容身,失去了「話語權」。但是要多謝互聯網:利用網上平台,沒有人可以封殺你、沒有老闆可以令你噤聲。[…] 未來的轉變,我認為有幾件事如果發生,對香港傳媒界應該是好事。首先,是「自媒」會愈來愈多,新組合的網媒也會乘勢而起。[…]在新舊交替的年代,傳統媒體正在收縮,要在傳統媒體找份「好工」愈來愈不容易。// Source: Mingpao, 21 June 2017.

f) Social development

Law chi-kwong, a former professor in social work and social administration of the University of Hong Kong and the incoming Secretary for Labour and Welfare Bureau of the HKSAR Government, reviewed the social development in Hong Kong over the past 20 years and argued that there is little improvement in the living standard of the local working population given the slow real wage increase. He also pointed out that the healthcare system in Hong Kong is reactive and little development has been seen in how to finance the increasing medical expenditure in the face of the ageing population. In the area of social welfare, new measures were introduced to help the local people in poverty. In housing, Hong Kong has suffered from the lack of long-term planning since 2003. In labour protection, the introduction of minimum wage protects only 2% of the labour force, and the amount is probably the lowest in the developed world.

  • //That income disparity is growing in Hong Kong is indisputable. The slow growth in real wages – less than 0.7 per cent on average a year over those 18 years – indicates a slow improvement in the living standards of the city’s working population. […] In health care, policymakers have been reactive in meeting the ever-greater challenges facing our health care system. Discussions on improving health care financing, including through a series of consultations since 1993, have not seen any real progress. […] In the years to come, apart from the escalation of health care costs due to technological advancements and rising public expectations, our ageing population will also be a growing challenge. […] Growing income disparity and poverty have become important items on the policy agenda since the 1990s. The Commission on Poverty, re-established in 2012, took on the work of setting an official poverty line in 2013. That same year, the Old Age Living Allowance was introduced, and the Low Income Working Family Allowance was launched in 2016. These are significant milestones in the city’s social security system. […] In the early years of the SAR government, housing benefited from the colonial government’s long-term housing strategy. […] Under Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, the Long Term Housing Strategy has been revitalised. Many people believe the policy has come too late, although it is better late than never. […] Given that the housing supply takes years to materialise, Carrie Lam’s administration will have a lot to do to catch up. Lastly, the SAR government has taken one significant step in its labour policy: the establishment of the statutory minimum wage, even though it is probably the lowest in the developed world and currently protects only about 2 per cent of the labour force. The issue of standard working hours remains very controversial and it is unlikely that the unions and employers will reach an agreement.// Source: SCMP, 21 June 2017.

g) Business, commerce and external relations

Xinhua said the central government supported Hong Kong to keep its position as a world’s financial, trade, shipping as well as international exhibition centre, and regional legal service and dispute resolution centre. China’s leader continued to urge Hong Kong to focus on economic development, especially in helping with national development, instead of focusing on politics.

  • // [H]ong Kong is more active in international activities and the central government has successfully supported Hong Kong in expanding external exchanges and cooperation, Song [Song Ru’an, deputy commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR)] said, adding that Hong Kong has attended about 1,600 international conferences as a member of the Chinese government delegation. Efforts have been made to keep Hong Kong’s position as a world financial, trade and shipping center, and other efforts have been made to support Hong Kong in building itself into an international exhibition center, and regional legal service and dispute resolution center, Song noted.// Source: Xinhua, 23 June 2017.
  • //In a meeting with a delegation of Hong Kong businessmen in Beijing, Li [Li Yuanchao, China’s Vice-President] said the most outstanding and important problem facing the city was how to speed up its development. He was later quoted as saying that the city needed to transform and innovate, as it had spent a lot of energy on political issues recently and this might have shaken people’s confidence in Hong Kong’s ruling principle of “one country, two systems”.// Source: SCMP, 27 June 2017.

Tom Holland, a columnist from SCMP, reviewed what has changed over the past 10 years in Hong Kong, with particular focus on the implementation of competition law among other issues.

  • //The 2007 story got other things badly wrong, too. It imagined a city in which a rigorously enforced competition law had forced the break-up of Hong Kong’s all-pervasive monopolies and cartels. With barriers to entry lowered, newcomers had entered the market, bringing down prices for everything from electricity to groceries, and raising standards of service. Alas, it was another fantasy. The government’s competition policy has proved almost entirely toothless. Entrenched cartels continue to control much of the city’s economy. As a result of these failures, Hong Kong today falls far short of the “most livable city in Asia” our story envisaged 10 years ago. In this year’s “quality of living” ranking compiled by the consultancy Mercer, Hong Kong managed only 71st in the world. Singapore was 25th, and almost every city you can think of in Japan, including industrial Nagoya, was rated more livable than Hong Kong.// Source: SCMP, 19 June 2017.

Reporters from United Daily News in Taiwan pointed out that the economic ties between Taiwan and Hong Kong continue to flourish, although there has been a decline in trade and logistics but financial service and convention exhibition business are on the rise.

  • //香港仍是兩岸間接貿易的重要轉口港,近五年有百分之六點六的成長率,至去年底兩岸轉口貿易總值占兩地貿易總值的百分之廿二點三,台港經貿仍繼續受惠於兩岸經貿的成長。然而,廿年前我國對港出口占比超過兩成,至去年底已下滑至百分之十三點五。香港台北貿易中心主任巫英臣分析,台商早就南向發展,我方對東協等新興市場出口占比也愈來愈高,使我對港出口占比下滑。台港間貿易物流往來相對減少了,但金融服務業及會展經濟則蓬勃發展,「香港一直在創造新的價值」// Source: United Daily News, 26 June 2017.

TWN politics

Congressional Hong Kong Caucus to be set up to support Hong Kong’s democracy

On 12 June, 18 pro-independence lawmakers in Taiwan announced a new platform called “Congressional Hong Kong Caucus” (台灣國會關注香港民主連線) to support the democracy movemenet in Hong Kong, in close collaboration with some non-establishment lawmakers in Hong Kong. Such move unsurprisingly attracted criticisms from Hong Kong’s establishment camp. In defending their positions, Alex Chow and Joshua Wong, two student leaders involved in the umbrella movement, argued that the continued re-interpretation of the Basic Law in favor of the Beijing Government and the inability of the UK Government to honor the Sino-British Joint-Declaration of 1984 suggest that Hong Kong must seek help overseas to guarantee the ultimate outcome of democracy and protection of human rights as promised in the Basic Law.

  • //Some 18 pro-independence Taiwanese lawmakers have set up a platform to support Hong Kong’s democratic development and foster closer ties with pan-democratic and localist legislators. […] Founded by New Power Party’s chief Huang Kuo-chang, who led protests against greater trade links with mainland China three years ago, it comprises his party colleagues and legislators from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party. “The Beijing government has continuously suppressed Hong Kong’s fight for democracy, undermining human rights and freedom in Hong Kong,” Huang said on Monday as he announced the setting up of the Taiwan Congressional Hong Kong Caucus at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei. Huang hoped the platform would support Hong Kong’s democratic fight and facilitate exchanges between legislators on policies such as youth and town planning as the city marked the 20th anniversary of its sovereignty changeover to Beijing. DPP legislator Wang Ting-Yu said: “Only Hong Kong people can change Hong Kong … but we can support by sharing Taiwan’s experiences and history.” He said he hoped Hongkongers could freely advocate the city’s independence or unity with China. Three Hong Kong lawmakers – Raymond Chan Chi-chuen, Nathan Law Kwun-chun and Eddie Chu Hoi-dick – attended a press conference to announce the move, along with former student leaders of the 2014 Occupy movement, Joshua Wong Chi-fung and Alex Chow Yong-kang.// Source: SCMP, 12 June 2017.
  • //早前台灣立法院委員成立「台灣國會關注香港民主連線」,筆者聯同3名香港立法會議員參加交流會,惹來左派陣營群起攻之,「勾結台獨勢力」;而部分論者也以為香港民主運動只屬中港之事。[…] 在統獨的偽命題外,不可不察的是,香港主權移交20年,民主運動的世界連結愈益重要,要守護中港台三地的民主、自由及人權,必須共同推動三地的民主運動。[…] 在統獨的偽命題外,不可不察的是,香港主權移交20年,民主運動的世界連結愈益重要,要守護中港台三地的民主、自由及人權,必須共同推動三地的民主運動。[…] 與此同時,北京又聲明香港沒有「剩餘權力」,解釋權盡歸人大,既拒絕公正尊重地對待香港,又要求港人遵從,構成京港兩地權力不平衡。當英國被「銀彈政策」反制衡,聯合聲明更不知從何談起。中英聯合聲明及基本法的漏洞,實在有目其睹。如果一國兩制及基本法要重見公正平等、健康運作,港人必須內部自強,同時在世界上清楚闡明基本法及一國兩制的不義、漏洞之處。港人走出世界,廣泛連結各方,就是要促請各方監督中英聯合聲明的實踐及基本法當須民主化、人權不下主權。// Source: Mingpao, 26 June 2017.

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