Press Highlights 5 FEBRUARY 2015

Keywords: anti-corruption, Western values, Hong Kong, Alibaba, Ko Wen-je, ideology, Human Rights

China

Human Rights Watch published reports detailing deepening repression in China

  1. // Under President Xi Jinping, the Chinese government and Communist Party have unleashed the harshest campaign of politically motivated investigations, detentions, and sentencing in the past decade, marking a sharp turn toward intolerance of criticism, […]“Under President Xi, China is rapidly retreating from rights reforms and the Party’s promise to ‘govern the country according to law,’” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch. “Repression of critics is the worst in a decade, and there appears to be no end in sight.” In 2014, the government imposed tighter curbs on the already limited space for media, internet, academia, and cultural expression. Authorities also cracked down on civil society activities – persecuting, arresting, and sentencing rights activists, lawyers, and critics, including many prominent ones; some of these individuals’ staged confessions were broadcast on national television. The Party has investigated or detained tens of thousands of government and Party officials for alleged corruption, often holding them in the Party’s own extra-legal detention system, known as shuanggui. // The report went on to highlight the persecution of rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang, Uighur economist Ilham Tohti and wife of Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo’s wife Liu Xia, as well as measures to tighten the state security apparatus and repression in Xinjiang and Tibet. It devoted a section to Hong Kong’s Occupy Central movement, and called the NPC “decision violates basic human rights guarantees and reneges on the promise of the basic law, the territory’s constitution.” Source: Human Rights Watch
  2. The report’s China section is available here
  3. In his introductory essay, HRW director Kenneth Roth shed light on China’s reaction on terrorism. // The Chinese government’s approach to Xinjiang, the northwestern province that is home to the Muslim Uighur minority, is to respond to complaints about human rights abuses with more human rights abuses and restrictions. Beijing claims that its crackdown is necessary to fight separatism and terrorism, but its tactic is to impose some of the most draconian and discriminatory policies against Uighurs, including prohibitions on wearing beards and veils, restrictions on fasting, and overt discrimination with respect to religious education. // Source: Human Rights Watch
  4. Similar concerns were voiced in Freedom House’s Freedom in the World 2015 report. // However, such initiatives were accompanied by hard-line policies on political freedoms and civil liberties and a rejection of judicial oversight of party actions. Harassment of previously tolerated civil society organizations, labor leaders, academics, and state-sanctioned churches intensified. Internet controls continued to tighten, and several activists who had been detained in 2013 were sentenced to prison on politically motivated charges. Crackdowns related to the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, the prodemocracy Umbrella Movement protests in Hong Kong, and an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Beijing resulted in hundreds of new detentions. Harsh state repression of the Uighur population’s ethnic and religious identity, combined with long-standing socioeconomic grievances, have apparently fueled an escalating cycle of radicalization, with several deadly attacks attributed to Uighur extremists during 2014. The government responded with heavy-handed collective punishment and more intrusive restrictions on religious identity. Meanwhile, Uighur scholar Ilham Tohti was sentenced to life in prison in September for supposedly inciting separatism, signaling the authorities’ intolerance of even peaceful advocates of Uighur rights and interethnic dialogue. // Source: Freedom House
  5. Freedom House’s report ran a separate section on Hong Kong. // Hong Kong received a downward trend arrow due to restrictions on press freedom and freedom of assembly surrounding protests against a Chinese government decision to limit candidate nominations for future executive elections. […] China’s growing political influence over Hong Kong encountered dramatic public resistance in 2014. In August, the Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) issued a decision that would allow a popular vote for chief executive in the territory for the first time in 2017, but would empower an effectively pro-Beijing committee to control nominations for the contest. Prodemocracy groups criticized the decision, arguing that it violated promises of eventual universal suffrage that China had made under Hong Kong’s Basic Law and in a corresponding 2007 NPC Standing Committee decision. Long-standing disagreements between the authorities and a large section of the population over the degree of free choice in future elections came to a head in response to the ruling. Large student-led protests broke out in September, with demonstrators establishing encampments and barricades at several points in the city center. The occupations continued for more than two months, though the police periodically attempted to clear them, at times using tear gas and batons. The police were also accused of enabling violence by counterprotesters with alleged links to organized crime groups. The last encampments were removed by mid-December. Meanwhile, the territory’s press freedom suffered a sharp decline. The number of physical attacks on journalists increased during the year, major businesses withdrew advertising from critical media outlets, and reporters acknowledged the growing practice of self-censorship. // Source: Freedom House

Southern Weekly losing its luster

  1. Chinese media politics scholar Maria Repnikova and former Southern Weekly journalist Kecheng Fang look at how the once influential paper has since been driven to the margins of Chinese media. // Instead, over the past two years, the Weekly has continued to lose its erstwhile status. Journalists’ hopes that a collaborative attitude towards authorities could buy more room for solid reporting in the wake of protests have not seemed to pay off. Tuo has remained in charge, and according to over ten staff reporters who currently work at the Weekly, tight censorship has persisted. As a result, the Weekly appears to be losing its luster in the eyes of Chinese literati. A number of media scholars, journalists, and Chinese officials alike observed that they now take the publication less seriously. “I no longer read the Weekly,” said a former high-ranking official speaking on background in March 2014. In January 2015, an expert in Chinese media who did not wish to be named said she had not read the Weekly directly in years, only looking at Weekly articles when friends posted them on social media. […] Economic pressures have accompanied the political pressures facing the Weekly, at which one of this article’s authors worked from July 2010 to July 2013 before quitting to pursue graduate study in the United States. Since October 2014, the price of the paper has almost doubled from about $.50 to about $.80, while the number of articles has shrunk, suggesting difficulty in garnering readership and advertising revenue. In a November 2014 article for Southern Media Studies, a media-studies journal, Wang Wei, the current editor-in-chief of the Weekly, wrote that both revenue and profit declined in 2013 compared to 2012 (full-year 2014 statistics are not yet available.) As its reputation for a source of popular exposés began to fade, so, apparently, has its appeal to advertisers.// Source: Foreign Policy

Western values “banned” in Chinese textbooks

  1. China’s Ministry of Education has unveiled new rules banning textbooks that promote western values. According to minister Yuan Guiren, ““Never let textbooks promoting western values appear in our classes, […] “Remarks that slander the leadership of the Communist Party of China” and “smear socialism” must never appear in college classrooms. Source: Guardian
  2. Chris Buckley, on the New York Times: // The strictures on textbooks are the latest of a succession of measures to strengthen the Communist Party’s control of intellectual life and eradicate avenues for spreading ideas about rule of law, liberal democracy and civil society that it regards as dangerous contagions, which could undermine its hold on power. On Jan. 19, the leadership issued guidelines demanding that universities make a priority of ideological loyalty to the party, Marxism and Mr. Xi’s ideas. // Source: New York Times
  3. The Central Party School’s journal, Qiushi, criticized several prominent university professors and scholars for espousing western values and ideas, including legal scholar He Weifang and painter/cultural critic Chen Danqing. // A commentary by Xu Lan, an official with the publicity office of Ningbo, Zhejiang province, and posted on Qiushi’s website, criticised Peking University legal professor He Weifang for defaming the mainland’s legal system through promoting “the rule of law” on Weibo. Xu also assailed well-known painter Chen Danqing, who also uses his Weibo account to criticise the current state of civil society on the mainland while glossing over US culture. Chen appeared to be “inducing Chinese people to go to the US”, Xu wrote. […] “It will be a disaster if we fail to set up standards and a bottom line to prevent high school and university teachers spreading Western values through internet platforms to defame our communist ideology,” Xu wrote. // Source: SCMP
  4. He Weifang responded and said the Qiushi article was “not only narrow-minded but also ignorant”. “Can a few academics and a bunch of microblogs really discredit China?” he said in the posting. Source: Reuters

China seeks digital control, from U.N. to CPU

  1. China Digital Times collected recent articles on China’s latest attempts to assert sovereignty over the Internet. // Over the past year, Beijing has become ever more assertive in promoting “Internet sovereignty”—its right to control the Internet within China’s borders, fitting “brakes” to ensure that it “becomes Ali Baba’s treasure cave for humankind, and not Pandora’s box.” Since the start of 2015, authorities have pushed even harder to realize this vision at every level from international norms and Internet traffic down to software and the hardware it runs on. //
  2. Alex Grigsby at the Council on Foreign Relations noted the submission to the U.N. earlier this month of a proposed International Code of Conduct on Information Security jointly submitted by China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. // China, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan first circulated an International Code of Conduct on Information Security for the consideration of UN member states in 2011. China and Russia framed the promotion of the code as their contribution to the then nascent debate on the promotion of norms for state behavior in cyberspace. Many Western countries, including the United States, largely dismissed the code, arguing that it was an attempt by the four countries to justify greater state control the Internet’s governance structures and online content.
    Overall, the new text seems to simply update the 2011 code to take into account developments that have occurred since then. Not surprisingly, Moscow and Beijing have altered or selectively quoted the text to promote their longstanding positions on cyber issues, such as the need for new international law for cyberspace and the concept of “cyber sovereignty.” For example, the code references a line in paragraph sixteen of the GGE report that says that “additional norms could be developed over time” without mentioning the same GGE report stresses that “international law, and in particular the Charter, is applicable and essential” to promoting peace and security in cyberspace. The same thing happens in article seven of the code, which begins by referring to the Human Rights Council’s affirmation that “the same rights people have offline must also be protected online,” but then concludes on how those rights may be restricted to protect national security, public order, health or morals. // Source: Council on Foreign Relations
  3. Andrew Jacobs at the New York Times notes China’s tightened grip on the Internet, illustrating how it affected China’s educated elites and younger generation and warning stricter controls might stifle economic growth. // Jing Yuechen, the founder of an Internet start-up here in the Chinese capital, has no interest in overthrowing the Communist Party. But these days she finds herself cursing the nation’s smothering cyberpolice as she tries — and fails — to browse photo-sharing websites like Flickr and struggles to stay in touch with the Facebook friends she has made during trips to France, India and Singapore. Gmail has become almost impossible to use here, and in recent weeks the authorities have gummed up Astrill, the software Ms. Jing and countless others depended on to circumvent the Internet restrictions that Western security analysts refer to as the Great Firewall. By interfering with Astrill and several other popular virtual private networks, or V.P.N.s, the government has complicated the lives of Chinese astronomers seeking the latest scientific data from abroad, graphic designers shopping for clip art on Shutterstock and students submitting online applications to American universities. “If it was legal to protest and throw rotten eggs on the street, I’d definitely be up for that,” Ms. Jing, 25, said. […] But earlier this week, after a number of V.P.N. companies, including StrongVPN and Golden Frog, complained that the Chinese government had disrupted their services with unprecedented sophistication, a senior official for the first time acknowledged its hand in the attacks and implicitly promised more of the same. The move to disable some of the most widely used V.P.N.s has provoked a torrent of outrage among video artists, entrepreneurs and professors who complain that in its quest for so-called cybersovereignty — Beijing’s euphemism for online filtering — the Communist Party is stifling the innovation and productivity needed to revive the Chinese economy at a time of slowing growth. // Source: New York Times
  4. NYT’s Paul Mozur reported on strict new security requirements for technology vendors to China’s banking sector. // The Chinese government has adopted new regulations requiring companies that sell computer equipment to Chinese banks to turn over secret source code, submit to invasive audits and build so-called back doors into hardware and software, according to a copy of the rules obtained by foreign technology companies that do billions of dollars’ worth of business in China. The new rules, laid out in a 22-page document approved at the end of last year, are the first in a series of policies expected to be unveiled in the coming months that Beijing says are intended to strengthen cybersecurity in critical Chinese industries. As copies have spread in the past month, the regulations have heightened concern among foreign companies that the authorities are trying to force them out of one of the largest and fastest-growing markets. In a letter sent Wednesday to a top-level Communist Party committee on cybersecurity, led by President Xi Jinping, foreign business groups objected to the new policies and complained that they amounted to protectionism. […] For most computing and networking equipment, the chart says, source code must be turned over to Chinese officials. But many foreign companies would be unwilling to disclose code because of concerns about intellectual property, security and, in some cases, United States export law. The chart also calls for companies that want to sell to banks to set up research and development centers in China, obtain permits for workers servicing technology equipment and build “ports” to allow Chinese officials to manage and monitor data processed by their hardware. The draft antiterrorism law pushes even further, calling for companies to store all data related to Chinese users on servers in China, create methods for monitoring content for terror threats and provide keys to encryption to public security authorities. […] Some of America’s largest tech companies could be hurt by the rules, including Apple, which is making a big push into the country. Apple has used new encryption methods in the iPhone 6 that are based on a complicated mathematical algorithm tied to a code unique to each phone. Apple says it has no access to the codes, but under the proposed antiterrorism law, it would be required to provide a key so that the Chinese government could decrypt data stored on iPhones. // Source: New York Times
    i. Quartz discusses the implications for surrendering source code. // “Handing over source code [would] mean that the Chinese government will know exactly how an Apple software works,” said Percy Alpha, a pseudonymous founder of the anti-censorship group GreatFire.org. Inside knowledge would make it much easier for the Chinese government to find bugs and vulnerabilities in Apple’s products, he said, and “the government can then exploit such vulnerabilities to hack iPhone or MacBooks.” Hackers tried to infiltrate Apple’s iCloud servers in China in October, according to GreatFire, in an attempt to steal user credentials. In November, Apple blocked access to apps that were designed to steal data from Chinese iPhone users. Most alarmingly, Alpha added, an agreement would mean that “Apple users world-wide are much more vulnerable to spying from the Chinese government.” // Source: Quartz
  5. Cybersecurity concerns are helping to shape a new wave of technological development. The Wall Street Journal reported that China is cultivating its domestic chip industry, partly in order to cut reliance on foreign components. // Cybersecurity concerns are helping to shape a new wave of technological development in China, adding another impetus to a well-financed government campaign to reduce the country’s dependence on foreign components. Semiconductors have emerged as a focus, both because of their economic importance and in controlling key functions of smartphones, televisions, computers, networking equipment and other products. Most recent disclosures about intelligence-gathering have focused on software vulnerabilities rather than computer chips, which are much more difficult to modify. But Chinese officials are nonetheless trying to reduce the risks, following revelations about U.S. surveillance activities by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. // Source: Wall Street Journal
  6. Wall Street Journal’s China Real Time quoted a widely re-circulated Global Times article, which credited the successes of domestic tech companies to the Great Firewall. // In a press conference this week, Ministry of Industry and Information official Wen Ku declared that China’s Internet companies owe their successes to the “good policy environment” created by the Chinese government. It’s a message that was promptly recirculated, notably on Wednesday, in a Global Times piece that said the “Great Firewall,” as the country’s sophisticated Internet filtering system is commonly known, was in fact misunderstood. “The firewall blocks certain overseas websites in a targeted fashion, rather than isolating China’s internet from the overseas one,” the column ran. The column repeated an argument often made by tech analysts: that the success of China’s biggest Internet giants — Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent, the so-called “BAT” of the country, with billions of dollars in market value – could be credited to the firewall. Conventional wisdom in China tech circles holds that blocking of sites like YouTube, Twitter and Google has provided Chinese Internet giants with the space they needed to grow. Without the firewall, Global Times said, “China would become the realm of Google China, Yahoo China and Facebook China.” // Source: Wall Street Journal, Global Times
  7. SCMP’s George Chen argued that digital isolationism will become a serious drain on China’s economic vitality: // The price Beijing will pay for its “closed-internet” policy will be huge. Many mainland scholars are now limited to do their research as they can rely mostly on domestic search engines and online research tools where English-language information is limited. Students also find it difficult to stay in touch with foreign universities or employers after the blocking of Google’s email service. Ironically, as Beijing stepped up its push to block VPN services last week, Vice-President Li Yuanchao made a rare comment that he believed he was a victim of “overseas online rumours”. Indeed, Li has been widely reported overseas for the past few weeks as the next potential target in President Xi Jinping’s anti-graft probe. For Li, does that mean the “closed-internet” policy can save his reputation? We know a Chinese proverb ” yan er dao ling”, which means “to plug one’s ears while stealing a bell”. If Beijing thinks shutting down the internet will make everything look good, it may sound too simple and too naive. // Source: SCMP
  8. The editorial board of New York Times echoed Chen’s view: // [… T]his push for greater control could cost China dearly. The country’s businesses and professionals say it has become increasingly difficult for them to communicate with customers and suppliers abroad or to obtain scientific data and research from the rest of the world. Executives at Chinese banks are reportedly worried that they will have to rely on substandard domestic computer equipment that could make their systems more vulnerable to hacking by criminals, foreign rivals and others. Foreign businesses and governments are rightly saying these new policies amount to protectionism. The changes also seem to make a joke of China’s commitment to abide by global trading rules established by the World Trade Organization and of its stated desire to deepen trade and investment ties with the United States and other countries. Officials from China and the United States are negotiating a bilateral investment treaty that is supposed to make it easier for companies from each country to do business in the other nation. American officials should use those talks to put China on notice that its latest security policies are wrongheaded and unacceptable. Source: New York Times
  9. A discussion is going on in the ChinaFile: Is China’s Internet Becoming an Intranet? Source: ChinaFile
    i. George Chen argued the VPN ban was part of China’s ideology war and highlighted China’s double standard on the use social media: // The most interesting thing about banning VPNs is not the ban itself but its timing. Why now? VPN have existed for many years. Beijing clearly knows about their popularity, especially among expatriates living in China. Now, it seems the government feels it can no longer tolerate the existence of VPN as President Xi Jinping intensifies his efforts to tighten control of ideology in all areas of society, from cyberspace to the university, where lecturers now are forbidden from promoting Western values and students must take Marxism studies seriously. […] The VPN ban is a part of China’s ideology war and Beijing is not going to give up anytime soon. We might soon see someone get charged with and sentenced for using or providing “illegal VPN services.” […] Ironically, Beijing has adopted a double standard where global social media are concerned. In recent months, state-owned media organizations such as the official Xinhua News Agency and China Central Television launched official and verified Facebook and Twitter accounts. On the one hand, Beijing tries to tell 1.3 billion citizens they can’t get on Facebook and Twitter inside China. On the other hand, Beijing allows and most likely encourages state media to occupy foreign social media platforms to better tell the China story now that the nation is firmly in the spotlight as the world’s No.1 economy. Beijing’s double standard Internet policy will cause embarrassment. The young generation of Chinese is not stupid or naïve. Naturally, some smart kids will doubt such a double standard. //
    ii. Xiao Qiang highlighted authorities’ fears that VPN could help import Chinese political rumours from outside the Great Fire Wall. // Those “information brokers,” with the aid of VPNs and other circumvention tools, are playing a vital role in shaping the unofficial media environment inside of China, where a ferocious political cleansing campaign under the name of anti-corruption is on going at the highest levels of power. //
  10. The double standard on social media is perhaps illustrated by this article on China.org.cn, entitled “China diplomacy weak in social media”. // But in China, “the social media diplomacy by China’s government and other entities are lagging behind on Twitter and Facebook,” she said. “For example, by the end of 2013, we didn’t find any Twitter accounts for the Chinese embassies in the United Kingdom and the United States. Some progress was made in 2014, as I know about 10 Chinese embassies in foreign countries have started using Twitter by now.” According to a survey conducted on Sept. 10, 2014, BBC Worldwide had 7.81 million likes on Facebook and 7.27 million followers on Twitter. It also had 856,938 subscribers on YouTube, and its videos were viewed 856 million times. By comparison, China’s CCTV News had 125,969 likes on Facebook, 27,500 followers on Twitter and 6,337 subscribers on YouTube, and its videos were viewed only 4.37 million times. Zhu Chengming, an official from the State Council Information Office who attended the roundtable, admitted that foreign embassies and organizations did far better jobs on China’s microblogging sites, flooding into China’s social media and opening accounts. // Source: China.org.cn

Minsheng Bank president investigated for corruption

  1. //China Minsheng Banking Corp. said on January 31 that its president has resigned, shortly after people close to the matter say the Communist Party is investigating him for corruption. Minsheng said in a statement that Mao Xiaofeng had quit as president for personal reasons. The bank named its chairman, Hong Qi, its acting president. Mao was taken away on January 25 by the Central Discipline Inspection Commission (CDIC), the party’s graft buster, to help with an inquiry, sources close to the matter said on January 29. Mao has been out of contact since January 27, a source close to Minsheng said. […] Mao’s case is linked to an investigation into Ling Jihua, a former vice chairman of the country’s top political advisory body, several sources close to the matter said. The CDIC said on December 22 it had started an inquiry into Ling. […] Before joining Minsheng, Mao worked for the Communist Youth League in the central province of Hunan and in the capital. Minsheng was founded in 1996 and is seen as the first privately owned lender in China. The bank had total asset of 3.2 trillion yuan at the end of 2013 and net profit of 42.3 billion yuan for the year, its website said. Minsheng listed in Shanghai in 2000 and Hong Kong in 2009. // Source: Caixin
  2. Global Times says Mao’s probe is a sign of wider graft war. // The investigation into Mao Xiaofeng, the youngest-ever president of a listed bank in China, could presage a focus on corruption busting in the financial sector in 2015, experts have said. […] Judging from the publicly available information, the probe into Mao may imply a widening of the anti-graft campaign, said Cao Heping, a professor of economics with Peking University. If the investigation is verified, it is likely to be testing the waters ahead of a further crackdown of corruption in the financial sector, if significant information can be obtained from Mao with regard to uncovering deeper graft convictions. […] The fall of Mao might herald sweeping anti-graft probes into the financial sector this year, read a post seen Sunday on the public WeChat account of Luo Changping, former deputy managing editor of Caijing Magazine. According to Luo, there is a “secret club” inside the CBMC, with the bank paying salaries to a dozen relatives of high-level officials who do not carry out any actual work. People in the club included Ling’s wife Gu Liping and Yu Lifang, wife of Su Rong, former vice chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference’s National Committee. // Source: Global Times
  3. On Tuesday, a Bank of Beijing director is also put under investigation. // A director of the Bank of Beijing is under investigation by authorities, the second Chinese bank chief targeted by the country’s graft busters. In a late night announcement on Monday, the Shanghai stock exchange said Lu Haijun, a board member of the bank, is being investigated by authorities for “serious breach of discipline” – shorthand for corruption-related wrongdoings in China. // Source: SCMP

Xi Jinping: work harder to implement the “rule of law”

  1. // President Xi Jinping has ordered governors and ministers to work much harder to implement “rule by law”, saying some cadres were not doing enough to drive the rollout, state media reported. Xi delivered the criticism during his keynote speech at a seminar on the topic at the Central Party School in Beijing on Monday, according to Xinhua. “[We will] seize the ‘critical minority’ of top cadres to promote rule by law across the nation,” Xi told the assembled Communist Party officials. They would be held accountable for its implementation and cadres would be judged on whether they adhered to the law, he said. “Some leading cadres lack a sense of rule by law, some don’t abide by the law, some don’t follow the law strictly, and some bend the law for personal gain,” Xi said. // Source: SCMP
  2. The article also noted Xi’s growing influence by appointing officials to senior government roles in replacement of those taken out by anti-graft drive. // In another possible sign of Xi’s growing influence, at least 46 appointments to senior government roles were made during the recent sessions of provincial people’s congresses and advisory bodies, The Beijing News reported. The changes were made across the nation, affecting 28 provinces and regions. In several instances, the promotions were made to replace officials taken out by Xi’s anti-graft drive. Nine of 12 vacancies created by the campaign in top provincial roles had been filled, including those in Sichuan and Yunnan provinces, as well as Tianjin and Xinjiang. Analysts said the shake-up would further strengthen Xi’s power base, noting also that many of those promoted were experts in their fields, reflecting his ambition to for a more performance-led administration. // Source: SCMP

Taiwan

Foreign Policy interviewed Taipei mayor Ko Wen-je, sparking controversy

  1. Ko’s comment on colonialism apparently backfired. // For the [world’s] four Chinese-speaking regions — Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Mainland China — the longer the colonization, the more advanced a place is. It’s rather embarrassing. Singapore is better than Hong Kong; Hong Kong is better than Taiwan; Taiwan is better than the mainland. I’m speaking in terms of culture. I’ve been to Vietnam and mainland China. Even though the Vietnamese are seemingly poor, they always stop in front of red traffic lights and walk in front of green ones. Even though mainland China’s GDP is higher than that of Vietnam, if you ask me about culture, the Vietnamese culture is superior. // Source: Foreign Policy
  2. Ko later apologized. Source: Apple Daily Taiwan
  3. Ko previously made an indiscreet remark on a timepiece given by a visiting British minister. //A British minister was left red-faced after giving the mayor of Taipei the gift of a watch – a taboo act in Chinese culture – only for him to joke he would “sell it to a scrap dealer”. Ko Wen-je, a high-flying surgeon and mayor of Taiwan’s capital, made the remark after he was handed the pocket timepiece by British transport minister Lady Kramer, who was visiting Taiwan on a trade exchange. When asked by a local reporter to comment on the gift, Ko said he might give the watch to someone else or “sell it to a scrap metal dealer for some money, because it would be useless to me.” // Source: Guardian

Hong Kong

Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters returned to the streets on Feb 1, with low turnout

  1. // The front put turnout for the march from Victoria Park in Causeway Bay to Central at 13,000. Independent academics put the turnout at 11,000 to 12,000, while police said 6,600 left the park, with a peak turnout of 8,800. Chan had expected 50,000 people to show up. About 30,000 turned out for the New Year’s Day march last year, the front said. […] “This [turnout] only shows that Hongkongers are no longer satisfied with conventional ways of protest,” [Civil Human Rights Front convenor Daisy] Chan [Sin-ying] said. “If people are tired of marches, it’s not the front which is in trouble but the government.” Chinese University political scientist Ivan Choy Chi-keung also said the turnout could be a sign the protest was “too moderate” for supporters fired up by the 79-day Occupy street blockades. “They may also need more time to rest [after Occupy] … or do not feel the urgency to take to the streets again,” Choy said. // Source: SCMP
  2. Chris Buckley and Alan Wong, on the New York Times: // But the march was a tentative test of how much support the pro-democracy groups could muster in the new year for their campaign to force the government into accepting open elections for the city’s top official. […]For both the protest organizers and the police, the demonstrators’ return to the streets presented a delicate challenge. Though many Hong Kong residents support general demands for unfettered democracy, growing numbers had grown tired of the street occupations by the time they ended in December. // Source: New York Times

Hong Kong posts worst retail sales figures since SARS in 2003

  1. // Hong Kong’s annual retail sales figures fell for the first time since the Sars outbreak in 2003, declining 0.2 per cent last year – mainly due to lower sales of luxury products and some durable items as tourists left less cash behind. […] Caroline Mak Sui-king, chairwoman of the Retail Management Association, attributed the decrease in sales value to the central government’s crackdown on graft and a drop in non-Chinese tourists. // Source: SCMP

Jack Ma announced the setup of a HK$1 billion fund to support young Hong Kong entrepreneurs on his visit to Hong Kong

  1. Ma addressed an audience of almost 7,000 on the invitation of the think tank Our Hong Kong Foundation, which was set up by former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa. Ma serves an adviser to the think tank.
  2. …Ma said his fund will not exclude occupiers. // Ma was asked if his fund would be open to those who had taken part in the mass sit-in for universal suffrage, which paralysed some of the city’s major roads for 79 days. “Why not? This is for Hong Kong’s young people,” Ma said. // Source: SCMP
  3. Mingpao chief editor Chong Tien Siong reportedly replaced a headline on a new Tiananmen archive with Ma’s talk. // The Ming Pao Staff Association issued a statement Monday on their Facebook page detailing chief editor Chong Tien Siong’s seemingly arbitrary decision to pull the day’s lead story—a report on recently released Canadian embassy memos on the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre—and replace it with an article about Alibaba CEO Jack Ma’s HK$1 billion ($129 million) fund for young Hong Kong entrepreneurs. Chong, who was supposedly on leave, showed up at the Ming Pao office Sunday and joined the evening’s editorial team meeting. Chong didn’t raise objections when the editorial team agreed to make the Tiananmen story the lead. But close to 11:00 p.m. local time (10:00 a.m. Eastern standard time), Chong suddenly demanded that the Alibaba story be made the top article, and refused to listen to any appeals from the editorial team. Chong’s action, said the Association’s statement, reflects a “lack of mutual trust” between the chief editor and the staff, as well as a failure to respect the group consensus. // Source: News Hong Kong
  4. Chinese regular SAIC issued a white paper last week, which // accused e-commerce giant Alibaba of failing to crack down on the sale of fake goods, bribery and other illegal activity on its sites in a rare public dispute with one of the country’s most prominent companies. The claims—which prompted Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. Wednesday to accuse a senior official at a government agency of misconduct and threaten to file a formal complaint—highlight a major risk for the company that last year raised $25 billion from global investors in the world’s largest initial public offering. Alibaba has long grappled with allegations that Taobao, its biggest e-commerce platform, is rife with counterfeit goods. The accusations from the Chinese government could lend further force to those complaints and damage Alibaba’s reputation among investors and brands overseas, while the highly public spat could hurt the company’s relationship with the government, experts warn. // Source: Wall Street Journal
  5. Alibaba blasted the SAIC report, // calling it an “inaccurate and unfair attack”, as the e-commerce company reported lower than expected revenue that sent the shares down more than 10 per cent on Thursday. // Source: Financial Times
  6. For Alibaba, SCMP’s George Chen argued that a dispute with Chinese regulator SAIC suggests its not-so-good relations with lower level government bodies. // Doing business in China is all about politics. For Ma, it was completely a surprise to see the State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC) suddenly attack Ma on his company’s reputation just days after he returned from the World Economic Forum in Davos where Ma was clearly portrayed as the most important business leader from China. What surprised and probably worried Ma deeper may be the fact that SAIC first revealed to the whole world there was a closed-door meeting and a white paper about Alibaba’s quality problems just ahead of Alibaba’s mega US listing late last year. Then for the sake of the company’s listing plan, the SAIC decided to hold off the white paper. Alibaba didn’t disclose this particular detail as one of the investment risks for its investors during the listing roadshow and that became a significant question about Alibaba’s information disclosure. Several US law firms immediately acted on this before the SAIC later clarified the white paper didn’t have legal status and was “just for internal reference”. The U-turn in such a rare public dispute between Alibaba and the SAIC within just 24 hours late last week made the whole incident even more mysterious. It is believed that the drama has caught enough attention from top leaders inside Zhongnanhai, China’s White House, and Beijing wants to end this unexpected crisis immediately to avoid losing face and money for both sides. // Source: SCMP
  7. Ma said problems with the SAIC are resolved for now. // Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. resolved its problems with China’s State Administration of Industry and Commerce “at the first stage,” billionaire founder Jack Ma said during a speech in Hong Kong today. The SAIC’s actions weren’t supported by “certain government officials,” Ma said, without elaborating. Alibaba has 2,000 full-time employees to help monitor counterfeits and has helped send 400 people to prison for violations, he said. “We looking for how we can communicate with the rest of the world,” Ma said. “We don’t want to be misunderstood by the world that we are not transparent. We don’t want to be misunderstood that Taobao is a platform for selling fake products.” Ma said he’s “much more tired and frustrated than people think”; he didn’t elaborate. // Source: Bloomberg

Former HKU law dean Johannes Chan criticized by pro-Beijing media

  1. // Continuing attacks by the pro-Beijing media against a former University of Hong Kong law dean are an attempt to block him from taking up a key managerial position in the university, the scholar wrote in the Chinese press yesterday. It is the first time that Professor Johannes Chan Man-mun has addressed reports that he was recommended for the newlycreated pro-vice chancellor position in charge of academic staffing and resources. It is understood that a search committee recommended Chan in December. Chan also asked if the “upper echelon of government” cooperated with pro-communist newspapers by prematurely releasing confidential reports upon which their stories were based. “Leftist newspapers have launched ferocious attacks against the university’s law faculty and myself,” Chan wrote in Ming Pao. […] Last week, Wen Wei Po and Ta Kung Pao dedicated several pages to the faculty’s poorer research grading compared to Chinese University in the latest assessment by the University Grants Committee (UGC). It also attacked Chan for “poor performance”. // Source: SCMP
  2. In his Mingpao op-ed, Chan criticized pro-Beijing press of interfering with academic freedom and repressing freedom of speech. // 左派報章以這種批鬥的方法向大學施加壓力,已屬嚴重干預院校自主,影響的不只是港大而是所有大學的自主。對敢言的學者的打壓,更是企圖壓制言論,侵害香港的核心價值 […] 教資會的報告極度機密,連委員也只能目閱,為何左派報章在報告發表前兩天已能取得報告?在傳媒多翻追問下,教資會仍拒絕透露報告是否事前提交教育局和特首辦,如果這次事件涉及政府高層,那便是非常嚴重的干預學術與言論自由的事件。 // Source: Mingpao, permanent link

SCMP’s feature on 100Most, Hong Kong’s satirical magazine

  1. // At a time when publishers are battered by falling ad revenues and readers increasingly expect free content, the weekly 100Most is a marvel. It began in March 2013 and quickly gained popularity for its irreverence, acid humour and ability to tap into current youth culture. // Source: SCMP

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