Press Highlights 3 AUGUST 2015

Keywords: Ai Weiwei, Winter Olympics, Chinese Media, Taiwan Textbooks Controversy, Hong Kong government, Johannes Chan’s delayed appointment.

China

 Ai Weiwei and his visa problem

  1. After having his passport returned from the Chinese authorities after his 81-day detention in 2011, Chinese activist artist Ai Weiwei boarded a flight bound for Munich to meet his son. Shortly before taking off, he revealed an unexpected issue in his onward travel to the United Kingdom in a statement posted to Instagram. British immigration authorities had granted him a much shorter visa than he applied for, blaming his failure to disclose a supposed past criminal conviction. On his Instagram, Ai posted: // Ai Weiwei may not be able to attend his exhibition installation and opening at the Royal Academy of Arts in September 2015, due to the UK Visas and Immigration Department’s claim that Ai had submitted false information regarding his criminal records in his application for the UK business visa, and decision to issue a 20-day entry visa instead of the requested six-month business visit visa for London. In a letter, the department states that “It is a matter of public record that you have previously received a criminal conviction in China”, and in further conversations, referencing news about Ai’s secret detention by the Chinese authorities in 2011 and the tax case for Fake Design. Ai, who has never been charged or convicted of a crime, attempted to clarify this claim with the UK Visas and Immigration Department and the British Embassy in Beijing over several telephone conversations, but the representatives insisted on the accuracy of their sources and refused to admit any misjudgment. This decision is a denial of Ai Weiwei’s rights as an ordinary citizen, and a stand to take the position of those who caused sufferings for human rights defenders.// Source: Ai Weiwei’s Instgram account
  2. The Instagram statement suggests that consular officials mistook either his 2011 detention for a prison sentence, or the 2012 civil tax evasion verdict against the Fake Design company for a criminal conviction against Ai himself: // “Being subjected to residential surveillance is not the same thing as a criminal conviction. It’s what the Chinese authorities call a coercive measure. You can’t have a conviction without facing a court – even in China.” The immigration letter made clear that Ai’s request for a six-month business visa had been denied because of “a criminal conviction in China” that was a “matter of public record”, [legal scholar Joshua] Rosenzweig noted.“I would like to know what the public record is because I pay attention to these things and it is not ringing any bells.” // Source: Guardian
  3. Another possibility is that restriction was a deliberate move, with the apparent confusion over the supposed conviction merely a pretext. Human Rights Watch’s Maya Wang: // […] It is hard to escape the conclusion that this decision is political, linked to Chinese President Xi Jinping scheduled visit to the UK shortly thereafter. […] The UK welcomes scores of senior Chinese government officials – many of them implicated in human rights abuses. To deny comparable access to a peaceful critic of Chinese autocracy and repression, and do so on the basis of flawed Chinese judicial procedures, is inexcusable. // Source: HRW
  4. Financial Times argue that UK visa restriction on Ai Weiwei is a part of bigger game: // Over the past few years human rights activists and allies in Washington have become increasingly frustrated as UK Prime Minister David Cameron has set off in enthusiastic pursuit of the Chinese renminbi. Having angered Beijing in 2012 by having his photograph taken meeting the Dalai Lama, Mr Cameron has since been assiduous in courting the Chinese government. In 2013 he indicated he had no plans for further meetings with the Tibetan spiritual leader and sealed the rapprochement later that year by taking Britain’s largest ever trade delegation to China. Last year, Mr Cameron dismayed pro-democracy campaigners in Hong Kong with an apparent reluctance to criticise Beijing over its attempts to change the voting system in the province. George Osborne, the chancellor, is now leading attempts to forge trading links between the two countries. But again his key decision to sign up to the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, seen as a Chinese rival to the World Bank, has enraged the government’s allies. // Source: Financial Times
  5. Economist comments that the incident “is a curious, and convenient, coincidence.” Source: Economist
  6. British home secretary Theresa May has reversed a decision to grant Chinese artist Ai Weiwei a restricted visa based on his alleged failure to disclose a past criminal conviction. // A Home Office spokesman said: “The home secretary was not consulted over the decision to grant Mr Ai a one-month visa. She has reviewed the case and has now instructed Home Office officials to issue a full six-month visa. We have written to Mr Ai apologising for the inconvenience caused.” The artist is due to visit London in September for his first major institutional exhibition in Britain at the Royal Academy of Arts, whose director has described the original decision as “unspeakably unfortunate”. The landmark solo exhibition has a private preview on 15 September and the truncated visa meant that he would have been able to attend the opening but might not have been able to supervise its installation. The 20-day business visitor visa he was granted would have run out just before China’s president, Xi Jinping, is due to start a high-profile state visit in October.// Source: Guardian

 Beijing wins the Winter Olympics bid

  1. Beijing will become the first city to host both winter and summer games in the history of the Olympics, with a voting mishap that roused some suspicion: // The Chinese capital was awarded the 2022 Winter Olympics on Friday, beating Kazakh rival Almaty 44-40 in a surprisingly close vote marred by technical problems, taking the games back to the city that hosted the summer version in 2008. Beijing was seen by the International Olympic Committee as a secure, reliable choice that also offered vast commercial opportunities in a new winter sports market of more than 300 million people in northern China. “It really is a safe choice,” IOC President Thomas Bach said. “We know China will deliver on its promises.” The IOC’s secret vote was conducted by paper ballot, after the first electronic vote experienced technical faults with the voting tablets and was not counted. The result of the first vote was not disclosed. There was one abstention in the paper ballot. Bach bristled when asked at a news conference about the possibility of any voting irregularities. // Source: AP
  2. While hopes are invested in Beijing’s ability to hold the Winter Olympics, there are worries the site selected for snow events may prove to be problematic. The Economist describes the remote city of Zhangjiakou: // […W]orrying is China’s ambition to stage the winter Olympics—and launch a winter sports industry—in an arid desert (Zhangjiakou is near the Gobi). Almost every winter Olympics venue uses artificial snow to supplement their own supply, and to ensure a plentiful supply of the best kind. But most have far more of their own to start with. Although China does have areas which are covered in the real stuff through the winter, but these lay further away from the capital, to the far north and northeast. The government has already quashed the growth of golf, another sport whose high water demands were deeded excessive. But it now plans to spend nearly $90m on water-diversion schemes to satisfy Olympic demand. The country has already invested in giant diversion schemes to channel water hundreds of miles from the south to quench the thirst of the capital; groundwater supplies are being used up too. Of greater concern to environmentalists than a two-week party in 2022 is the broader attempt to launch China’s own domestic ski industry. The sport is still very much in its infancy: on an average winter weekend most of the skiiers sliding down the fake snow at Zhangjiakou are beginners. It is also too expensive for most Chinese. Yet for months airports around the country, including in the balmy south, have been attempting to flog winter sports to Chinese consumers. It may also now persuade a few of them to practice rather hard. China not only needs to make some snow, it needs to make some gold-medal winners too. // Source: Economist

 Can China continue to dictate the news agenda online?

  1. Vincent Ni looks at how the Xi Jinping administration is managing to control the media message even as the media industry shifts from traditional outlets to the Internet: // Since Xi came to power, Chinese journalism has been affected by a wave of digitization. Even the state-owned news agency Xinhua maintains a big presence on Chinese social media, using modern techniques to attract younger readers. When referring to Xi Jinping, who is both president and party leader, Xinhua’s Weibo microblogging account will use the sobriquet ‘Xi Dada’, which means ‘Uncle Xi’. This contrasts with the sterner sounding, ‘General-Secretary Comrade Xi’ that is often used by newspapers and traditional media.
    These changes partly reflect a shift in global media trends, but also stem from a push initiated by Xi himself. In August 2014, Xi brought up the issue of the media for the first time in a meeting of the Central Leading Group on Comprehensively Deepening Reforms, a body set up to push his plans through all levels of China’s vast administration. […] The government is not the only source of funding for The Paper, which is part public, part private investment. According to the People’s Daily, investors in The Paper include the private equity firm Hony Capital, the Fortune Global 500 property developer Shanghai Greenland Group and the official Shanghai United Media Group (SUMG), which alone has reportedly spent at least $16 million. Even before its official launch, The Paper published a few pieces of investigative journalism: it exposed the health problems of workers at a mercury mine in Guizhou province. A week later, two online pieces in Guangxi and Anhui provinces prompted the courts to take action. The Paper’s use of lively language and its eye-catching scoops have made it a financial success. According to Qiu Xin, the party secretary of SUMG, The Paper and its sister financial website, Jiemian, are expected this year to earn more than $16 million in advertising revenue. Whether this is evidence of progress is moot, but it does tell us something interesting about the media landscape in China. While stringent controls and censorship may still be the first line of defence against dissent, technology has also given the authorities new levers to operate. // Source: Chatham House
  2. At ChinaFile, David Bandurski looks at how the Chinese government guides public opinion over disasters, comparing the work to the art of controlling floods: // And so we return to China’s most recent tragedy, the capsizing late at night on June 1, 2015 of the Oriental Star cruise ship on the Yangtze River. […]This was, essentially, a classic combination of “guidance” and “channeling.” First, news was shut off at the source. Next, information flow was moderated through official state media. Finally, with the fountainhead effectively controlled, a tame fountain of information was directed through news outlets across the country, which meant the authorities were able to harness the power of websites and commercial media to get out their own “authoritative” version of the facts. […]But here is the Chongqing Evening News, a commercial spin-off of the municipality’s official Chongqing Daily, with an arresting front-page treatment in which the characters for “Oriental Star” float just beneath a dark watery surface. The lower portion of the final character, “star,” emerges hopefully from the water, becoming the bright white character for “life.” […]It is easy enough to dismiss these treatments as superficial—and in freer news environments they would be just that. But as the Party leadership seeks to appropriate feeling and channel it toward more triumphal themes like heroism and tenacious leadership, with a single uniform face presented to the entire nation, the act of exposing the human face of tragedy can be defiant, even if indirectly so.
    […] The slight variations in coverage we see among papers along the Yangtze River, from Chongqing to Shanghai, show us that not exactly all media slavishly followed the facts dished out by Xinhua News Agency and China Central Television. But nor does this coverage break significant ground. It hardly qualifies as what Chinese journalists call “hitting line-balls,” or da cabianqiu, meaning coverage that sends the chalk flying—still technically in bounds, but somehow, to mix in our own metaphor, pushing the envelope. What we should find most interesting—and perhaps troubling—about the universe of coverage on the Oriental Star tragedy is just how close it was to total, deafening uniformity. It is imaginable that at some point in months to come, a magazine like Caixin Weekly will surprise us with a probing cover story about the complex web of contributing factors. But I, for one, will not be holding my breath. Why not? Because I have a hunch this silence is chronic, or—to return to that favored Chinese metaphor—that Xi Jinping has erected and reinforced such decisive barriers to online speech and professional journalism that the seasonal waves of public opinion we have seen in the past in China are, for the time being, effectively obstructed. This is not how comparable disasters have played out in the more recent past, even under China’s strict regime of “guidance” and “channeling.” // Source: ChinaFile

 “Picking Quarrels” in China

  1. The New York Times’ Edward Wong highlights growing use of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” charges under Xi Jinping: // An oil-field worker in this Gobi Desert town posted poetry online memorializing the victims of the Tiananmen Square crackdown. An artist in Shanghai uploaded satirical photographs of his wincing visage superimposed on a portrait of the Chinese president. A civil rights lawyer in Beijing wrote microblog posts criticizing the Communist Party’s handling of ethnic tensions. In each case, the men were detained under a broad new interpretation of an established law that the Chinese authorities are using to carry out the biggest crackdown on Internet speech in many years. Artists, essayists, lawyers, bloggers and others deemed to be online troublemakers have been hauled into police stations and investigated or imprisoned for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” a charge that was once confined to physical activities like handing out fliers or organizing protests. The increasing use of that law to police online speech, which appears to have become more common in recent months, is a piece of President Xi Jinping’s strategy to deploy the legal code to silence dissent and clamp down on civil society. […] The legal definition of “picking quarrels” was expanded in late 2013 by the nation’s top legal bodies, the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, to encompass online behavior. The court said the charge could apply to anyone using information networks to “berate or intimidate others” and spread false information. First-time offenders can be sentenced to up to five years in prison. The Dui Hua Foundation, a human rights advocacy group based in San Francisco, said that the interpretation was a “major elaboration” on the charge and that it treated online space “not only as a platform through which to incite others to disrupt social order but as a kind of public space itself that can be thrown into disorder by certain kinds of acts.” The expanded interpretation also made unlawful any “defaming information” that is reposted 500 times or viewed 5,000 times, actions generally beyond the control of a post’s author. That definition was reiterated in the draft of a cybersecurity law released this month. […] Not everyone detained on the picking quarrels charge is such an outspoken critic of the system. Dai Jianyong, a conceptual artist in Shanghai, is known for taking photographs of himself with his eyes tightly shut in a wincing face. His fans call him Chrysanthemum Face, which also means Anus Face in Chinese. His online photo albums show him making that face while standing next to the Statue of Liberty, Facebook headquarters in Silicon Valley and models at a Shanghai car show. But the photo that crossed the line was one that digitally merged his face with that of President Xi. Mr. Dai was detained in late May after he posted the new photograph online. He had also posted a sticker print of the photo outside the Shanghai Sculpture Space, a gallery near his home. // Source: New York Times
  2. NYT interviewed Chinese legal scholar Chen Zhonglin on the legal significance of picking quarrels: // First, the suspects must be aware that the information they are disseminating is false. Second, the dissemination must have jeopardized social order. Here I think “social order” means actual order. How can falsehoods or rumors affect order on the Internet, when this is just virtual reality? So it should mean the rumors or falsehoods you’re deliberately spreading online actually cause social turmoil, or serious injury to individuals. Then you should be prosecuted. However, if law enforcers ignore reality and instead charge people with “picking quarrels” on the basis of how many times their comments have been reposted, that is absolutely wrong. When dealing with routine cases of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” the first resort should be the Public Security Administration Punishments Law. This stipulates that people who brawl, chase or intercept others, forcefully take things from others or deliberately damage or appropriate public or private property and engage in other forms of picking quarrels and provoking trouble can be detained for five to 10 days and fined up to 500 renminbi. In aggravated circumstances, they can be detained for 10 to 15 days and fined up to 1,000 renminbi. When a suspect can be dealt with under the Public Security Administration Punishments Law, or even without judicial measures, it is absolutely wrong to apply Criminal Law and throw him or her into jail. // Source: New York Times
  3. A Dui Hua Foundation study found a 40% drop in state security charges such as inciting subversion since 2008, as less politically loaded public order charges like “picking quarrels” became more prevalent. Source: Wall Street Journal

Religious Affairs Bureau to probe Shaolin abbot

  1. CDT: // The abbot of Henan’s Shaolin Monastery, the Chan Buddhist institution famous for being the birthplace of China’s first institutionalized form of Kung Fu, will be investigated by the local religious affairs bureau on order of the central government for alleged fraud and sexual misconduct. Shi Yongxin, who also holds an MBA, has long been controversial for his leadership style—one that has done much to boost the temple’s commercial success but is seen by some to directly conflict with Buddhist doctrine. // Source: China Digital Times
  2. // Chinese authorities are investigating allegations of misbehavior made online against the controversial abbot of China’s famed Shaolin Temple. The religious affairs bureau under the Denfeng city government says it was asked by the national body to look into the claims against Master Shi Yongxin. “Our bureau takes this extremely seriously and will swiftly clarify … and ensure a correct understanding of the matter,” the bureau said in a one-sentence notice issued late last week and viewed on the city government website Monday. The notice didn’t specify any of the claims, although media reports say the accusations include that Shi fathered children with at least two women and embezzled temple funds. Shi could not be reached for comment and calls to the temple in Henan province south of Beijing rang unanswered. A statement posted on the temple website dismissed the claims as “untrue rumors” fabricated by people seeking to harm Zen Buddhism. It said the temple has already contacted legal authorities about bringing a libel case against those publishing the claims.// Source: AP

China’s Global Ambitions, With Loans and Strings Attached

  1. The New York Times looks at how China’s global engagement is changing as the nation continues to gain economic clout. The feature uses increasing economic interaction with Ecuador as a case study to show how Beijing is simultaneously shoring up resources and challenging the Western-dominated paradigm of global finance with a willingness to offer loans to autocratic and economically embattled countries with few environmental and political stipulations: // Ecuador, with just 16 million people, has little presence on the global stage. But China’s rapidly expanding footprint here speaks volumes about the changing world order, as Beijing surges forward and Washington gradually loses ground. […] While China has been important to the world economy for decades, the country is now wielding its financial heft with the confidence and purpose of a global superpower. With the center of financial gravity shifting, China is aggressively asserting its economic clout to win diplomatic allies, invest its vast wealth, promote its currency and secure much-needed natural resources. […] With its elevated status, China is forcing countries to play by its financial rules, which can be onerous. Many developing countries, in exchange for loans, pay steep interest rates and give up the rights to their natural resources for years. China has a lock on close to 90 percent of Ecuador’s oil exports, which mostly goes to paying off its loans. […] China also has a shaky record when it comes to worker safety, environmental standards and corporate governance. While China’s surging investments have created jobs in many countries, development experts worry that Beijing is exporting its worst practices. // Source: New York Times

 

Taiwan

Taiwan students protest over textbook changes

  1. // Protests in Taiwan over textbook revisions which students say aim to brainwash them into accepting a “one China” view of history underscore the island’s growing sense of independence from its vast neighbor and geopolitical foe. Hundreds of youths stormed the ministry of education compound on Friday and dozens were still camped out in the courtyard as students met the education minister on Monday in a bid to repeal changes to history books likely to hit school shelves this week. The protesters said they could accept delaying the new curriculum, but the ministry did not back down, prompting some students to break down in tears and storm out of the meeting in anger. […] The drama followed months of smaller protests in which students have thrown paint balloons, shouted slogans and staged sit-ins in front of the ministry. Last month, dozens were arrested for scaling ladders and breaking into the building. One later committed suicide, though the motivation was unclear.// Source: Reuters
  2. Another report from the New York Times
  3. The Ministry of Education was briefly occupied on July 23, leading to arrests: // As the deadline approached and following a series of fruitless meetings between ministry officials and student organizations nationwide, high school activists launched a brief occupation of the Ministry of Education on July 23. As a result, 33 persons were arrested, including 24 students – 11 of them under the age of 18. Three journalists were also detained, leading to accusations that police were once again trying to muzzle the press following similar incidents in recent years. Echoing language it had used during last year’s Sunflower Movement occupation of the Legislative Yuan, the KMT accused the DPP and its presidential candidate, Tsai Ing-wen – whom they likened to ISIS, Mao Zedong, and a “gangster” – of orchestrating the protests. // Source: Diplomat
  4. See J. Michael Cole’s overview article at the Diplomat: // The campaign against the “fine tuning” of the textbooks, which began in early 2014, has gained momentum in recent months, with several protests being staged at schools and education offices across Taiwan. Students from as many as 150 schools around Taiwan have called on the MOE to withdraw the proposed changes. Activists, academics, and teachers argue that the “minor” adjustments, which apply mostly to the period after 1949, misrepresent history, gloss over the KMT’s role in the 228 Massacre and the White Terror, and impose a China-centric curriculum. They also claim that the process by which the guidelines were arrived at was conducted without proper oversight and accountability. The ministry has countered that the changes do not constitute “de-Taiwanization,” but rather “de-Japanization” of the curriculum. Some of the individuals in charge of the revisions are also well known for their pro-China ideology, which has very little resonance among young Taiwanese. One of them is the convener of the task force that formulated the changes, Wang Hsiao-po, a professor of Chinese language and Chinese philosophy professor at Shih Hsin University and vice chairman of the Alliance for the Reunification of China. Although the MOE had organized a number of meetings in recent months to consult with its critics, several were cancelled and Wu often failed to show up after being repeatedly confronted. The activists argue that they have not been taken seriously, and that the ministry has yet to provide a proper response to their demands. In return, the MOE has said that street protests are not the “best way” to resolve the matter and that both sides should sit down together to “better understand each other.” Critics of the government’s response have pointed out that the government’s attitude towards the young activists is similar to that which led the Sunflower Movement to escalate in 2014. // Source: Diplomat
  5. Foreign Policy has another overview article “Taiwan Has Its Own Textbook Controversy Brewing”: // The controversy over history education in Taiwan has been simmering for some time. In late 2013, a team headed by Wang Hsiao-po, a professor of Chinese philosophy at Shih Hsin University and a close friend of Beijing-friendly Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou, began reviewing what it called a “fine-tuning” of Taiwan’s history program. The public announcement came in February 2014; the changes are slated to go into effect in August 2015. According to calculations by Chou Wanyao, a professor of Taiwanese history at National Taiwan University, over 60 percent of all text relating to Taiwan’s history will be affected, with most alterations relating to the period after 1949, when the KMT lost out to the Chinese Communist Party in the civil war on the mainland and fled to Taiwan. While some of the proposed changes are clearly technical, including corrections to textbook copy, other additions will not be minor adjustments at all, at least according to critics. It’s enough to stir up a new wave of controversy in Taiwan. Students from more than 150 high schools have demanded that the Education Ministry withdraw the guidelines. Small-scale protests have already taken place in cities including Taichung and Taoyuan, and hundreds of students attended a protest in Taipei on July 5. Even Sun Lih-chyun, the spokesman of the Executive Yuan, remarked in a video published by the Executive Yuan on June 15 that the controversy surrounding the curriculum has intensified “as if a small fire has become a blaze.” The new curriculum appears to emphasize links between Taiwan and mainland China, which views the island as sovereign territory destined one day to fall again under mainland control. One of the more controversial changes revolves around Zheng Chenggong, also known as Koxinga, the famous Chinese warrior who drove away Dutch settlers in 1662 and established the first Han Chinese rule in Taiwan. (Han are the ethnic majority in the Chinese mainland.) Under the new guidelines, the period during which Zheng and the government he established ruled Taiwan will be called the “Ming Zheng” period, instead of the “Zheng Dynasty.” The change, critics say, suggests a connection between Taiwan and mainland China dating back to the Ming Dynasty, which ruled the mainland from 1368 to 1644. In fact, the island was never part of the Ming Dynasty, as Taiwan wasn’t under the administrative control of the mainland until the Qing Dynasty navy secured the surrender of Zheng Keshuang, the grandson of Koxinga, in 1683. Other critics accuse the new history curriculum of portraying the KMT in a more favorable light. The so-called 228 Incident in February 1947, when a large number of Taiwanese protesting against the KMT were killed, as well as the nearly four decades of brutal martial law known as the White Terror that followed, will still be covered. But critics allege that the Education Ministry glosses over the KMT’s culpability for the White Terror — when communists were weeded out as a pretext to suppress dissidents — and takes too much credit for the island’s democratization. “When discussing the 228 Incident and the White Terror era, the guidelines stress that it was a result of the civil war between the KMT and the Chinese Communist Party. Therefore, the government had no choice but to crush the uprising and arrest so many people,” Chen Tsui-lien, an academic specializing in Taiwanese history at National Taiwan University, told Foreign Policy. “The new curriculum also does not discuss the waves of social movement fighting for democracy in Taiwan [during the terror period] and simply says the bans on media and political parties were lifted under the KMT rule,” implying it was a result of KMT beneficence. She characterized the textbook revisions as “politically motivated.” // Source: Foreign Policy
  6. DPP president and presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen visited the students yesterday.

 

Hong Kong

Two top government ministers replaced

  1. // Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying […] announced he would replace two ministers in an unexpected and widely questioned cabinet reshuffle that the Post has learned was because both Leung and Beijing were unhappy with their performance. In separate statements, Secretary for Home Affairs Tsang Tak-sing, 66, said he was “glad to retire”, while Secretary for the Civil Service Paul Tang Kwok-wai cited “unforeseeable family circumstances” for his departure. A source familiar with the shake-up said Beijing officials blamed Tsang for his “inadequate” work among Hong Kong’s youth that helped fuel last year’s Occupy protests. Tang was described as “too laid back” as head of the government workforce to ensure a harmonious relationship between the administration and civil servants’ unions. The chief executive fuelled speculation by refusing to clarify whether the two ministers were fired or had resigned. The outgoing home minister’s elder brother, Jasper Tsang Yok-sing, said he was shocked by the news. “I guess he should be relieved to step down from the job,” said the Legislative Council president, who has been unusually critical of the Leung administration in recent days. Leung executed his biggest cabinet reshuffle just a week after his specially arranged meeting in Beijing with central government officials, including National People’s Congress chairman Zhang Dejiang , who has the final say on the appointment of Hong Kong’s ministers. // Source: SCMP
  2. Abrupt and secretive? Civil servants question CY’s appointment of ‘inexperienced’ officials: // The sudden appointment of two inexperienced officials made by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying have been called into question by current and former members of the civil service. Former head of the civil service, Joseph Wong Wing-ping, said the sudden resignation and swift appointment of replacement figures on Tuesday was unusual, highlighting that the two outgoing politicians had not gone before the press to explain their decisions. Wong questioned whether there were “behind-the-scene issues” that kept the pair out of the media gaze, adding that the two should now come forward and explains the specifics behind their decisions to resign. A representative for a civil servants union said: “There is a huge question about how much the government respects the civil service system.” // Source: Hong Kong Free Press
  3. Joseph Lian argues that the replacement of Tsang Tak-sing, an “old patriot”, reflects a rift between the “new left” and the “old left”: // 曾德成離任,不能簡單推測作「請辭」或「炒魷」,而必須視為以梁營為代表的「新愛國」與「老愛國」即傳統左派之間的派系鬥爭的階段性結果。這個鬥爭是殘酷的,不留一點情面。就從「無縫交接」那一點看,大家已可知其八九。現今當權派裏,有所謂「老愛國」和「新愛國」之分,視乎從什麼時候開始「愛國」,分野是1967「反英抗暴」的終結到「保釣運動」的開始這段時間;之前已經參與「愛國陣營」的,叫「老愛國」,之後才加入的,叫「新愛國」。兩造人裏的最積極分子,都會被黨吸收,但因為香港沒有地上黨員,筆者分別把黨在本地吸收了的新、老愛國積極分子稱作「是黨員的非黨員」和「不是黨員的黨員」(關鍵形容詞是開頭那個「是」和「不是」)。 // Source: HKEJ

Pro-Beijing DAB met Zhang Dejiang in Beijing

  1. A 34-member delegation of Hong Kong’s biggest pro-Beijing party DAB visited Beijing in the second last week of July, first one since the last visit in 2006. // After giving them a pat on the back, Beijing handed a tough mission to leaders of Hong Kong’s biggest pro-establishment party yesterday – gain wider recognition in the city and work with your allies to win two-thirds of Legco seats in next year’s election. “I hope the DAB find out what is good and hold fast to it and make a difference,” said National People’s Congress chairman Zhang Dejiang , the state leader in charge of the city’s affairs, in opening remarks before his meeting with the 34-member delegation at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. “It should have a clear-cut stand on loving the country and Hong Kong … and be willing to take on heavy responsibilities.” It is understood Zhang also urged the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong to back Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. While acknowledging its achievements and praising it as one of the “most important groups” in the city, he called on the party to gain more recognition in society to unite pro-establishment forces ahead of the elections. Party veteran Ip Kwok-him said: “Zhang hopes the Beijing-friendly camp can win no less than two-thirds of seats in the Legco election next year as only under such circumstances could the political reform package be passed [in future].” // Source: SCMP
  2. Their Beijing trip also featured a visit to the United Front Work Department: // Hong Kong’s biggest pro-establishment party has told Beijing officials it needs more encouragement and recognition for its “hard work” as it was urged to take a “leading role” in uniting fellow loyalists after the city’s failed political reform process. Members of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong made the request to the United Front Work Department yesterday, according to three party sources. // Source: SCMP
  3. DAB’s visit was an interesting comparison with Leung’s previous meeting with Zhang. DAB received high-profile coverage from the media, but Leung’s visit was played down. An SCMP report quoted sources that said Leung’s meeting with Zhang Dejiang should not be read as signs that Beijing supports Leung’s second term: //The state leader who oversees Hong Kong affairs urged Leung Chun-ying to unite various sectors in the city during their meeting in Beijing two weeks ago, the South China Morning Post has learned. However, another mainland official handling Hong Kong affairs said the expression of support for the chief executive from National People’s Congress chairman Zhang Dejiang should not be seen as backing for Leung’s bid for a second term. Leung, on his part, cited Zhang as telling him at the July 13 meeting that he was “very satisfied” with the chief executive’s performance over the past 20 months in trying to reform the city’s political system. Speaking at the end of his two-day trip, Leung dropped a strong hint he would seek a second term, pledging to make the greatest efforts to serve Hong Kong “if there is room and opportunity”. A person with knowledge of the closed-door talks said Zhang reminded Leung to “unite, unite and further unite various sectors” in Hong Kong. // Source: SCMP

Delayed appointment of Johannes Chan as pro-vice-chancellor

  1. // The University of Hong Kong’s (HKU) management came under the spotlight after its governing body decided in June to defer the appointment of liberal scholar Professor Johannes Chan Man-mun as one of five deputies of vice-chancellor Peter Mathieson. This is despite Chan being recommended by the school’s select committee. Chan, who is pro-democracy, had handled the controversial donation his colleague Benny Tai Yiu-ting, an Occupy Central co-founder, received when he served as the school’s law dean. HKU’s decision to defer the appointment triggered outcry from students, alumni and the public. // Source: SCMP
  2. More than 1,500 University of Hong Kong alumni – including several ex-government officials – have signed a full-page petition in newspapers urging HKU’s governing body to stop deferring the appointment of Chan. // The petition, signed by some 2,400 people, came to light ahead of the HKU council’s meeting at 5pm – which students have threatened to storm in protest at the delay in the appointment of former law dean Johannes Chan Man-mun as pro-vice-chancellor until a supervisory provost was hired. […]Describing the council’s decision to “wait for the provost” as “extremely ridiculous”, the petition urged the governing body to confirm the candidate recommended by the search committee – understood to be Chan – as pro-vice-chancellor in accordance to the procedures as soon as possible. It also called on an overhaul of the current system, where the chief executive is the chancellor of all public universities, to minimise the chance for the government to destroy HKU’s autonomy. // Source: SCMP
  3. As the petition came to light, a closed-door meeting of the governing body ended in chaos on July 29 when angry students stormed the venue upon learning that members were sticking to their guns in deferring the appointment of Chan to the deputy head post. // HKU council member Dr Lo Chung-mau, one of those who supported the controversial deferral, collapsed in the middle of the shouting and shoving in the overcrowded room. It was unclear whether he fainted or was pushed to the ground. An ambulance was called to take him to hospital, but the university said it was blocked at the entrance of the car park for more than 30 minutes. // Source: SCMP
  4. The storming of the council meeting stirred huge controversy. Pro-establishment figures and Beijing newspaper criticized student’s actions. // A commentary in the Beijing-based Global Times newspaper has described the University of Hong Kong students who stormed a university council meeting on Tuesday as “Red Guards”, who were notorious for purging intellectuals during the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution. […] Referring to the incident, Global Times commentator Shan Renping wrote today that “the episode in HKU looked a bit like a Hong Kong version of the Cultural Revolution, and the students the ‘Hong Kong Red Guards’”. // Source: SCMP
    • Another People’s Daily editorial published on August 3 criticized as “radicals” brainwashed by the opposition: //   这些激进学生之“无法无天”和完全失去理智,原因之一是思维激进,原因之二是反对派的“洗脑”和煽动或教唆,原因之三就是过往同类案例判刑判罚全无阻吓作用。“占中”以来,涉及政治暴力的案件,即使定性为刑事性质,大多数都“高高举起,轻轻放下”。若犯案者是大中学生或年轻人,更获得仁慈宽大的处理,其判罚或刑期,在大众眼中非常之“象征性”。媒体反问,如此情状,何来阻吓性?这里有一个可供学生和家长深思的问题:为了反对派要将陈文敏“捧”成港大副校长,身为学生者甘冒触犯刑事罪的风险去进行暴力冲击,值得吗?倘若被拘捕、检控、定罪及留下案底,那就是一辈子的影响,值得吗? // Source: People’s Daily
    • At both the SCMP and Mingpao, Lawrence Lau, an economics professor and former vice-Chancellor of CUHK, also husband of HKU Council member Ayesha Macpherson, describes the chaos as reflection of a worrying mob mentality among young people. // I am also not writing to comment on the appropriateness of the decision to delay the appointment of a pro-vice-chancellor at the university. That is something that should be left to the university to decide in accordance with its established process and procedures. As a society that prides itself on its commitment to the rule of law, Hong Kong can and should do no less. However, I am profoundly disappointed by the behaviour of some of our young people on that night, and I despair over their future as well as the future of Hong Kong. […] The mob behaviour exhibited on Tuesday night raised the question of whether these young people are ready to assume the responsibilities of adulthood. It raised doubts about whether they had been raised and educated properly. It also raised doubts about the motives of “adults” who used them and egged them on. Ultimately, it would raise doubts about whether Hong Kong taxpayers’ money should continue to be used to coddle these self-centred “spoiled brats” who have no respect and consideration for other people’s freedom and rights. […] I am also very sorry to have to conclude that the incident of Tuesday night indicates to me that not all the people of Hong Kong are ready for true democracy. Democracy is not about who can shout the loudest or who can cause the most disruption to other people’s lives. One prerequisite for the success of a democratic system of government is the full acceptance, and not the selective acceptance, of the rule of law. Selective acceptance of the rule of law can degenerate quickly into rule by mob. // Source: SCMP
  5. HKU professor Lo Chong-mau accused of ‘diving’. Lo originally said he was kicked by students, but later said he was not sure whether he hit someone or was hit by someone: // A University of Hong Kong council member who collapsed on Tuesday night when students stormed the body’s meeting may need surgery on his twice-injured knee, a doctor said today. Medical professor Lo Chung-mau, whose fall triggered online ridicule in memes comparing him to “diving” soccer players, left Queen Mary Hospital this afternoon using a walking stick. Dr Frankie Leung Ka-li, of the hospital’s department of orthopaedics and traumatology, said there was a visible bruise and skin abrasion on Lo’s right knee when he arrived for treatment on Tuesday. He said the injury swelled up gradually. // Source: SCMP
  6. Meanwhile, HKU student leader refuses to rule out more protests: // The University of Hong Kong’s student leader today said his union would not rule out storming the HKU council meeting again, if that was what it took “to block decisions that hurt the institution”. The warning from HKU student union president Billy Fung Jing-en came a day after HKU vice-chancellor Peter Mathieson reprimanded students for forcing their way in to a meeting of the university’s governing body on Tuesday night. […]Fung was asked whether he would apologise to the public for the chaos on Tuesday, when he said: “I regret that our action did not achieve [what we hoped], but we will continue to do this … I will discuss the details of our next steps with students, but personally I hope to stop [councillors] from making decisions that would hurt the university.” // Source: SCMP
  7. 10 HKU deans published a rare joint statement to urge upholding academic freedom and to express dismay at the protesting students: // All 10 deans of the University of Hong Kong issued a rare joint statement yesterday, calling for an adherence to the principles of academic freedom and institutional autonomy in resolving the row over a controversially delayed managerial appointment. They also expressed “dismay” at students who stormed a university council meeting on Tuesday and asked “all parties to put the interest of the university first” as they seek a consensus. […]In the joint statement, the deans said: “Academic freedom and institutional autonomy, guaranteed by Basic Law Article 137, are the absolute bedrock of higher education in Hong Kong. “We cannot emphasise more strongly the importance of adhering to these principles in all that the university does.” But they added they “cannot condone uncivil activity that seeks to disrupt normal operations of the university” and urged all parties to “find a consensual way forward as quickly as possible”. Science dean Professor Kwok Sun, one of the five HKU councillors who previously wrote to ask council chairman Dr Leong Che-hung not to delay the pro-vice-chancellor’s appointment, was involved in the statement. // Source: SCMP
  8. A top HKU professor quitted the Council, saying that he is not trained in politics: // A top microbiologist who is quitting his role on the University of Hong Kong’s governing council said yesterday that the city had “failed to find a way out” of the clashes of values and political beliefs that have manifested under the guiding principle by which Beijing governs. Professor Yuen Kwok-yung, who is known worldwide for his role in discovering how the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) virus infected humans, made the remarks as he confirmed that he had tendered his resignation as a member of the HKU council. He said he quit because he felt powerless to resolve the controversy over the appointment of moderate democratic scholar Johannes Chan Man-mun to the post of pro-vice-chancellor. Yuen said that for more than a century Hong Kong had “been very successful in amalgamating the seemingly contradictory values and cultures” of the people who live here. But in the past three years, it seemed the city had lost that ability. He said that under Beijing’s “one country, two systems” formula for Hong Kong, compromise had been difficult to achieve. // Source: SCMP
  9. SCMP gives an overview on the incident, seeing the post as a new battle ground for democracy activists: // The controversy took on shades of the Occupy unrest on Tuesday night, when students stormed a meeting of the University of Hong Kong’s governing body after it decided again to defer the appointment of liberal scholar Johannes Chan Man-mun as a pro-vice-chancellor. In a further fallout, two out of four candidates shortlisted for the post of provost, who will supervise Chan or whoever gets the pro-vice-chancellor job, have withdrawn their applications for the No2 position at HKU. // Source: SCMP
  10. Hong Kong University’s appointment controversy explained in 6 points. Source: SCMP

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