Mitch Joel WARNING... LONG RANT! It takes a lot for me to both get angry and publish about it. Canada’s…
China – Hong Kong October 2020-
Housing in Hong Kong
(SCMP) With a population of over 7.5 million, more than 220,000 people live in cramped subdivided flats in Hong Kong, a city famed for being starved of space. Subdivided flats are on average 124 square feet, smaller than a car parking space, with the worst variants being called “coffin homes” by locals. The shortage of land available for residential development has fostered challenges for residents to tackle including sky-high property prices, inadequate living space and long waiting times for public housing that now exceed 5 years.
Hong Kong leader says democracy activists exiled in the West will be ‘pursued for life
(AP) — Hong Kong’s leader said Tuesday that eight pro-democracy activists who now live in the United States, Britain, Canada and Australia will be pursued for life for alleged national security offenses, dismissing criticism that the move to have them arrested was a dangerous precedent.
Chief Executive John Lee expressed his support for police efforts to arrest the eight. At his weekly media briefing, Lee said anyone, including their friends and relatives, who offered information leading to their arrests would be eligible for rewards offered by the police.
Two giant rubber ducks debut in Hong Kong in bid to drive “double happiness”
(Reuters) – A pair of Rubber Ducks made a splash in Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour on Friday, part of an art installation dubbed “Double Ducks” by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman, who says he hopes the ducks will bring happiness to the city.
The inflatable yellow ducks, 18 metres (59 feet) high, will sail on the harbour for two weeks and come a decade after Hofman’s “Rubber Duck” sculpture drew crowds in the Asian financial hub in 2013.
How a billion-dollar Hong Kong luxury tower highlights developer distress
In Hong Kong, the real estate market also froze due to population outflows brought on by protests, political tightening and travel restrictions.
(Straits Times) Suddenly, The Corniche was looking very pricey. Since sales began in January, the three units had been sold for between HK$164 million and HK$185 million
That translates to about HK$50,000 per square foot, nearly 79 per cent more expensive than Hong Kong’s benchmark luxury residence Bel-Air.
Logan and KWG each own 50 per cent of The Corniche. Both have creditors and banks lining up. Tension is brewing as the different parties tussle over a best solution.
Some of the biggest banks operating in Hong Kong provided HK$10.2 billion in loans to finance the project. They include HSBC Holdings, Standard Chartered and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (Asia). The companies held a call with lenders last week to discuss the loan.
Hong Kong to slash elected seats in setback to democracy
(AP) — Hong Kong’s leader on Tuesday stepped up a campaign to shut down further democratic challenges by unveiling plans to eliminate most directly elected seats on local district councils, the last major political representative bodies chosen by the public.
Chief Executive John Lee said the proposed overhaul will reduce the proportion of directly elected seats in the municipal-level organization to about 20% — from some 90% currently. That is even lower than the level when these bodies were first set up in the 1980s, when Hong Kong was ruled by Britain.
He said the rest of the 470 seats will be filled by government appointees, rural committee chairpersons and others elected by local committees that are staffed by many pro-establishment figures.
Hong Kong’s economy is recovering, but its freedoms are not
(AP) For the first time since the start of the pandemic, the city welcomed more than 2 million visitors in the month of March. Crowds of art collectors and dealers spilled across two floors of a convention center at the Art Basel Hong Kong fair in late March. Excited chatter returned to a dim sum shop at the high-speed rail terminus.
Living in Hong Kong today means juggling contradictory feelings. In 20 interviews, many said that when they focus on business indicators and everyday life, they see a recovery gathering pace after years of travel restrictions. But when it comes to anything political, the openness and freedoms that were once hallmarks of the Chinese-ruled former British colony seem permanently gone.
As Hong Kong dismantles the last of its Covid restrictions and begins reopening, the city still lacks a game plan for what to do with the shuttered quarantine camps that once held hundreds of thousands of people isolating in the throes of the pandemic. Some advocates say the camps could be repurposed into public housing to help alleviate the city’s housing crisis.
It could improve living conditions for the city’s poor, with some units bigger than Hong Kong’s “cage homes” and subdivided units that are as small as 60 square feet. The largest camps could last up to 50 years and be used for homeless shelters, according to the city. But transforming spaces designed to keep people apart into ones that bring them together won’t be easy, writes Kristine Servando.
Bloomberg CityLab: Hong Kong Is Shutting the Last of Its Covid Quarantine Camps. Now What?
In a city where the unaffordability of housing is among the most urgent issues, some are pressing the government to utilize the pandemic relics to alleviate the problem.
Hong Kong: Trial for largest national security case begins
(BBC) The trial for the largest national security case in Hong Kong has begun, with some 47 people accused of “subversion” for holding an unofficial primary election.
They include some of the city’s most prominent pro-democracy figures, such as activists Joshua Wong and Benny Tai.
Most of them have been detained for the past two years on security grounds.
Critics say the city’s controversial national security law is used as a tool to crush dissent.
Prosecutors charge that the unofficial primary election – held to select candidates to contest a legislative election – was a “vicious plot” to subvert the government.
The accused had a “massive and well-organised scheme” to gain a legislative majority and cripple the government by blocking the passage of laws, with the ultimate aim of overthrowing the Beijing-appointed chief executive.
The group, which has been charged with conspiracy to commit subversion, has maintained they were merely practising normal opposition politics.
China appoints hardliner Zheng Yanxiong as its top representative in Hong Kong
Zheng was among the officials sanctioned by the US for undermining Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedoms
China has appointed the head of the national security office in Hong Kong as its top representative officer in Hong Kong – a sign that Beijing will tighten its control over the city.
Zheng Yanxiong, 59, replaces another hardliner, Luo Huining, 68, as head of Beijing’s top representative office in Hong Kong, the State Council said in a notice.
China virus protests hit Hong Kong after mainland rallies
(AP) — Students in Hong Kong chanted “oppose dictatorship” in a protest of China’s COVID-19 rules Monday after demonstrators on the mainland issued an unprecedented call for President Xi Jinping to resign in the biggest show of opposition to the ruling Communist Party in decades.
Rallies against China’s unusually strict anti-virus measures spread to several cities over the weekend, and authorities eased some regulations, apparently to try to quell that public anger. But the government showed no sign of backing down on its larger coronavirus strategy, and analysts expect authorities to quickly silence the dissent.
Li Ka-shing’s Skyscraper Is 21% Empty as HK Vacancies Hit Record
Lingering Covid curbs and closed border with mainland have diminished city’s appeal as a regional hub and gateway to China.
(Bloomberg) Hong Kong’s most prestigious skyscrapers have more empty office space than ever before, underscoring the challenge facing John Lee’s government as he tries to revive the city’s standing as an international business hub.
Empty premium office space — or the so-called Grade-A stock — has almost tripled in three years to an all-time high of a combined 11.9 million square feet (1.1 million square meters) as of October, according to CBRE Group Inc. At Cheung Kong Center, a skyscraper owned by billionaire-developer Li Ka-shing, vacancy surged to 21% in September, from just 5.4% in mid-2020, according to Midland IC&I Ltd.
Though commercial-property slump is a global phenomenon after the pandemic ushered in the remote-work era, the record vacancy rates in Hong Kong point to other woes plaguing the world’s most expensive market
U.S. lawmakers slam Wall Street bankers’ plan to attend Hong Kong summit
(Reuters) – Two U.S. lawmakers on Thursday urged top American bankers to cancel their planned attendance at a Hong Kong financial summit next week, saying their participation would contribute to Chinese government rights abuses.
Hong Kong officials hope the event will signal a re-opening from COVID-19 border restrictions, but it has raised the ire of Hong Kong activists after authorities used a national security law to stifle dissent in the former British colony.
Their presence only serves to legitimize the swift dismantling of Hong Kong’s autonomy, free press, and the rule of law by Hong Kong authorities acting along with the Chinese Communist Party,” said the lawmakers, who lead the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China.
It would also give “political cover” to Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee, who has been placed under U.S. sanctions and has refused to cooperate with U.S. sanctions on Russian assets, they said in a statement.
Hong Kong will host a gathering of global financial heavyweights in November. Here’s what to expect, HKMA’s chief executive says
(SCMP) Hong Kong’s charm offensive to woo global financiers has been enthusiastically received by more than 200 invitees in a collective endorsement of the city’s appeal as a global financial centre, according to the de facto central bank.
Thirty CEOs of banks including Goldman Sachs, HSBC, Standard Chartered and UBS will attend the Global Financial Leaders’ Forum on November 1 and 2
Blackstone president Jonathan Gray, Goldman chairman David Solomon and UBS chairman Colm Kelleher will speak during a public forum on November 2
Patten’s ‘Hong Kong Diaries’: An Engaging Stroll Through the Handover Snake Pit
Reviewed by Colin Robertson
As Patten writes, you can learn a lot about how China would like to deal with the rest of the world by looking at how Beijing has dealt with Hong Kong.
(Policy) Patten’s Hong Kong Diaries cover his five years (1992-97) as the 28th and last British governor of Hong Kong, an assignment that was both enthralling and notoriously thankless under the circumstances. Insightful and intelligent, Patten’s Hong Kong diaries are the jottings of high life, low life, and family life, including the antics of their two Norfolk terriers, Whisky and Soda. Mostly, they are the story of his efforts to entrench Hong Kong with basic liberties and a more representative government ahead of the 1997 handover to China agreed in the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984 that ostensibly gave the former British colony 50 years of limited autonomy under the principle ‘One Country, Two Systems’. The subsequent Basic Law of 1990 guaranteed fundamental freedoms and human rights.
By his own admission, Patten’s efforts for the “good and brave people” of Hong Kong did not succeed. He would write (May 16, 1997), just weeks before the handover: “We have let them and others down. We should have delivered more explicitly what was promised in the Joint Declaration and given greater protection for the values which the great majority of Hong Kong Chinese citizens believe in and want to survive.”
These diaries complement Patten’s earlier book East and West: The Last Governor of Hong Kong on Power, Freedom and the Future (1998). At 580 pages, the diaries are a brick, but Patten’s breezy style and trenchant commentary make them an easy read. I recommend the audio version – 25 hours – that Patten reads himself, providing a much better sense of people, places and events. I would pop in the earbuds at bedtime and let Patten’s mellifluous voice put me to sleep.
Hong Kong slips into recession as economy shrinks by 1.4 per cent in second quarter
(SCMP) Hong Kong records a contraction in gross domestic product for a second consecutive quarter, meaning the city has fallen into an economic recession
Analysts say Hong Kong’s economy is likely to face further pressure unless borders with mainland China and the rest of the world fully reopens
(Al Jazeera) In following China’s zero COVID-19 policy, Hong Kong has been largely cut off from the rest of the world for more than two years.
Local media recently reported that the government was mulling resuming quarantine-free travel for overseas arrivals in November, when the city is hoping to resuscitate its international image with a finance summit and the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens.
Hong Kong activists in Canada, U.S. and U.K. announce plans to form exile parliament
(Globe & Mail) A group of Hong Kong activists living in Canada, the United States and Britain say they will hold elections to a parliament-in-exile next year, aiming to create a democratic body to represent Hong Kongers around the globe as China continues to crack down on political freedoms in the former British colony.
The challenges of such a project are vast, not least in ensuring confidence in an election that will, owing to the dispersed nature of the Hong Kong diaspora, have to be conducted online, raising many security concerns. Organizers will not only have to protect their system from Chinese state-backed hackers and other potential malicious actors, but also reassure voters, especially those in Hong Kong itself, that their personal information will not be compromised.
Anyone taking part in the parliament project who still lives in Hong Kong will almost certainly be breaching the city’s draconian national security law, which criminalizes secession, subversion and collusion with foreign forces.
30 June – 1 July
Xi Jinping hails China’s rule over Hong Kong on 25th anniversary of handover
Chinese president says ‘one country, two systems’ will endure and democracy flourishes after unprecedented unpicking of freedoms
We were too lenient on pro-democracy politicians – Regina Ip
Timeline: the Hong Kong handover
(The Guardian) After swearing in a new hardline chief executive, John Lee, in a solemn ceremony on Friday morning, the Chinese president laid out his vision for the city and its administrators.
On his first trip outside mainland China since the pandemic began, he vowed that “one country, two systems” – a governance model under which Hong Kong was promised it would retain some autonomy and freedoms for 50 years – would endure.
The Hong Kong ‘unofficials’ who advised Britain on the handover – and were ignored
China’s Leader Hails a Hong Kong ‘Reborn From Ashes’ Amid Crackdown
Before Xi Jinping’s tightly controlled appearance, Hong Kong sent officials, diplomats and others to hotels for days of isolation and Covid tests.
(NYT) …[Xi Jinping arrived] in Hong Kong for a tightly scripted visit aimed at reinforcing his authority over the city.
Mr. Xi’s decision to visit Hong Kong despite a recent rise in Covid infections in the city underscores the importance of signaling his control over the former British colony. This is Mr. Xi’s first time in Hong Kong since pro-democracy protesters mounted a serious challenge to Beijing’s rule in 2019 that roiled the territory for months. In the years since, Mr. Xi has enforced a sweeping crackdown on dissent, with the arrests of thousands of people, including leading opposition figures, lawmakers, academics, newspaper editors and a retired Catholic bishop.
Farewell to Hong Kong and Its Big Lie
Falsehoods, gaslighting, and endless fabrications in the city are equaled only by the cowardice of the people partaking in the insulting ruse that it is still free.
By Timothy McLaughlin
Why is China denying Hong Kong was a UK colony?
(AP) — Hong Kong is preparing to introduce new middle school textbooks that will deny the Chinese territory was ever a British colony. China’s Communist rulers say the semi-autonomous city and the nearby former Portuguese colony of Macao were merely occupied by foreign powers and that China never relinquished sovereignty over them.
It’s not a new position for China, but the move is a further example of Beijing’s determination to enforce its interpretation of history and events and inculcate patriotism as it tightens its grip over Hong Kong following massive protests demanding democracy in 2019.
“Hong Kong has been Chinese territory since ancient times,” says one new textbook seen by the AP. “While Hong Kong was occupied by the British following the Opium War, it remained Chinese territory.”
“The Communist Party has a monopoly of the truth and of history in China,” said Steve Tsang, a Chinese politics specialist at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. “In the Xi approach to history, facts are merely incidental. Only interpretation matters. And only one interpretation is allowed.”
The Dismantling of Hong Kong Since 2019, my hometown has slowly transformed into a brutal, unrecognizable place. Then came Omicron.
By Karen Cheung
(New York) When I say I miss Hong Kong, what I mean is the city as I remember it between the years of 2014 and 2019. In the aftermath of the 79-day pro-democracy occupation protests in 2014, every neighborhood across the city set up its own grassroots form of civic engagement: Residents self-organized home repairs for the elderly and ran historical walking tours to build stronger community ties. When friends visited the city, we’d eat curries at Chungking Mansions, then walk over to Sai Yeung Choi Street, a popular shopping district, where political parties across the spectrum set up street booths and handed out flyers and balloons. On one weekend, I might have headed to Lamma Island to meet an artist from Milwaukee who ended up in Hong Kong because of his love of Wong Kar-wai films; the next weekend, I could have wound up at a mini-music festival hosted atop a mountain peak, at an industrial warehouse, or inside a cha chaan teng (tea café) in Yau Ma Tei with the shutters pulled down. Every June 4, we’d commemorate the Tiananmen massacre at Victoria Park with a candlelight vigil, then head to the dai pai dong (open-air food stall) above a wet market for beers.
These days, Hong Kong is a different city altogether. In the wake of the 2014 mass protests, a series of events foreshadowed the encroachment from China that was to come: legislators disqualified from parliament for altering their oaths to express discontent toward Beijing, booksellers kidnapped and detained in China. In 2019, Hong Kong proposed an extradition bill that would allow the city to send “criminals” to China, sparking alarm that the judiciary would no longer be independent from the Communist regime and spurring mass protests that transformed our streets into guerrilla battlefields; in June 2020, Beijing implemented in Hong Kong the national security law, a broad tool for silencing dissent that could outlaw a political slogan one day then censor films and books the next. Under the guise of pandemic social-distancing, public gatherings were banned, and protests disappeared from the streets. Later in 2020, a teacher had his license revoked after showing his class a documentary featuring a pro-independence activist; in the years since, prominent commentators, including Apple Daily writer Fung Wai-kong and academic Hui Po Keung, have been arrested at the airport while attempting to leave the city. New election rules implemented in 2021 now dictate that only “patriots” can administer Hong Kong. By early 2022, at least 50 civil organizations have disbanded in the ongoing crackdown, including a pro-democracy trade-union coalition and an activist group that commemorates the Tiananmen massacre.
Hong Kong arrests 90-year-old cardinal on foreign collusion charges
The Hong Kong national security police arrested 90-year-old Cardinal Joseph Zen, the most outspoken senior Roman Catholic cleric in Hong Kong and the city’s bishop emeritus, along with three other people Wednesday for their involvement in a humanitarian relief fund, according to lawyers involved in the case.
Zen, senior barrister Margaret Ng, scholar Hui Po-keung and popular singer Denise Ho were arrested under the security law for allegedly colluding with foreign forces by serving as trustees for the now-disbanded 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund.
Hong Kong’s John Lee: Ex-security chief becomes new leader
(BBC) John Lee has been named Hong Kong’s new leader, after a closed voting process in which he was the sole candidate.
His appointment is being widely seen as a move by the Chinese government to tighten its grip on the city.
Known as a staunch Beijing supporter, Mr Lee oversaw the sometimes violent crackdowns on pro-democracy protestors in 2019.
Mr Lee replaces outgoing chief executive Carrie Lam, who had served since 2017.
Hong Kong’s leaders are selected by a closed-circle committee of around 1,500 members, who are nearly all pro-Beijing loyalists – although this time there was only one contender for them to elect.
Coronavirus: home quarantine for arrivals into Hong Kong with 3 vaccine jabs?
(SCMP) Government health advisers suggest scheme amid optimism as city records lowest number of cases in 3 months
Top infectious disease expert Professor Ivan Hung, convenor of a vaccine committee, says tracking wristbands and regular PCR tests can accompany move
Saturday’s 278 Covid-19 cases is lowest daily caseload since February 4, while no deaths were reported in Hong Kong for the first day since February 15
Hong Kong plunges to 148th in world press freedom rankings
Asia’s one-time bastion of free speech has been battered by national security legislation, says media watchdog.
Hong Kong security official to stand as chief executive
(The Guardian) John Lee’s bid for top political post is sign of the growing influence of security officials
Hong Kong chief secretary John Lee, a security official during the global financial hub’s prolonged and often violent 2019 pro-democracy protests, has resigned in a bid to run in an election in May to become the city’s new leader.
Lee, 64, a former deputy commissioner of police, was promoted to the role in 2021 in a move that some political analysts said showed Beijing’s priorities for Hong Kong were security rather than the economy.
He is the first government official to announce a bid for the Chinese-ruled city’s top job, with media reporting that he will be the only candidate in the chief executive election due to take place on 8 May.
Hong Kong leader Lam won’t seek new term after rocky 5 years
(AP) — Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said Monday she wouldn’t seek a second term after a rocky five years marked by huge protests calling for her resignation, a security crackdown that has quashed dissent and most recently a COVID-19 wave that overwhelmed the health system.
Her successor will be picked in May, with the city’s hard-line security chief during the 2019 protests seen as a likely choice.
“I will complete my five-year term as chief executive on the 30th of June this year, and I will also call an end to my 42 years of public service,” Lam said at a news conference. The 64-year-old career civil servant said she plans to spend more time with her family, which is her “sole consideration.”
Hong Kong News Outlet to Close Amid Crackdown on Dissent
(VoA) A Hong Kong online news site said Sunday that it would cease operations in light of deteriorating press freedoms, days after police raided and arrested seven people for sedition at a separate pro-democracy news outlet.
Citizen News announced its decision in a Facebook post Sunday. It said it would stop updating its site on Jan. 4, and be shuttered after that.
Citizen News is the third news outlet to close in recent months, following pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily and online site Stand News. Authorities have moved to silence dissent in the semi-autonomous city, once known as a hub for vibrant media outlets, after Beijing implemented a sweeping national security law following massive pro-democracy protests in 2019.
How democracy was dismantled in Hong Kong in 2021
By ZEN SOO and HUIZHONG WU
(AP) — As the days of 2021 dwindled, so did any remaining traces of democracy in Hong Kong.
On Wednesday, a vocal pro-democracy media outlet — one of the last openly critical voices in the city — closed after a police raid. Earlier in December, the opposition was shut out from elections under a new law that puts all candidates to a loyalty test. And monuments commemorating the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 were taken down.
Again and again throughout the year, the city’s authorities and the central government in Beijing stamped out nearly everything the pro-democracy movement had stood for. Activists fled abroad or were locked up under the draconian National Security Law imposed on the city 18 months ago. Unions and other independent organizations closed down.
Hong Kong pro-democracy news site closes after raid, arrests
(AP) — A vocal pro-democracy website in Hong Kong shut down Wednesday after police raided its office and arrested seven current and former editors, board members and a journalist in a continuing crackdown on dissent in the semi-autonomous Chinese city.
Stand News said in a statement that its website and social media are no longer being updated and will be taken down. It said all employees have been dismissed.
The outlet was one of the last remaining openly critical voices in Hong Kong following the shuttering of the Apple Daily newspaper, which closed after its publisher, Jimmy Lai, and top editors were arrested and its assets frozen.
Wednesday’s arrests also followed the removal of sculptures and other artwork from university campuses last week. The works supported democracy and memorialized the victims of China’s crackdown on democracy protesters at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989.
China accuses Australia of ‘violent’ interference in Five Eyes response to Hong Kong election
Allies voice grave concerns about ‘erosion of democratic elements’ after overhaul of electoral system
Pro-Beijing candidates have been confirmed to occupy nearly every seat in Hong Kong’s new legislature after an overhaul of the electoral system that authorities said would ensure “patriots run Hong Kong”.
Elections on Sunday were marred by record low voter turnout and held 18 months after authorities began a crackdown on political dissent in the name of national security.
The Australian foreign affairs minister, Marise Payne, joined with her counterparts from the US, the UK, Canada and New Zealand to say Sunday’s vote had reversed the trend of candidates with diverse political views having contested elections in Hong Kong.
They said the overhaul of Hong Kong’s electoral system had reduced the number of directly elected seats and established a new vetting process to severely restrict the choice of candidates on the ballot paper – which “eliminated any meaningful political opposition”.
The Chinese embassy in Canberra said the new members of Hong Kong’s legislative council had been “elected smoothly” and it was a “crucial” moment in “the transition period of Hong Kong from chaos to stability and prosperity”.
Pro-Beijing ‘patriots’ sweep HK election amid record low turnout
Chief Executive Carrie Lam says she doesn’t expect everyone to agree with the city’s ‘improved electoral system’
(Asia Times)… many democratic voters boycotted the polls after Chinese authorities changed electoral rules to ensure that only “loyalists” could run. … On Monday, Beijing issued a 57-page white paper claiming victory for Hong Kong’s “high-quality democracy” and lauding the 1.35 million people who voted in a show of support for what it termed an “improved electoral system.”
As Hong Kong sinks deeper into isolation, foreign firms despair
The city’s “zero COVID” policy, which requires most arrivals to undergo 21 days of hotel quarantine, is prompting many expats to leave or draw up exit plans, placing a question mark over the long-term viability of the semi-autonomous territory’s claim to being “Asia’s World City”.
While hubs such as New York, London and Singapore have opened their borders, Hong Kong, which built its reputation on its connectivity, low tax rates, free-flowing capital and a British-inherited legal system, has doubled down on a zero-tolerance approach, hoping to persuade Beijing to resume cross-border trade and travel.
The city’s growing isolation comes as the former British colony already faces questions about its future following Beijing’s imposition of a draconian national security law – a response to often violent pro-democracy protests in 2019 – that has wiped out practically all political opposition, dramatically curtailed civil society and silenced critical media.
Many observers view Hong Kong’s deadlock as driven more by politics than public health amid speculation China could keep its borders closed well into 2022, possibly until after a key Communist Party meeting in October at which Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to extend his term.
There are two Hong Kongs. China is betting one can survive without the other.
By Keith B. Richburg, director of the University of Hong Kong Journalism and Media Studies Centre and a former Washington Post correspondent.
(WaPo) One Hong Kong is populated by bankers and financial services professionals, real estate developers and property owners, and businesspersons whose primary pursuit is trade with mainland China. In this universe, times are good and getting better.
The stock exchange this year reported its best quarter on record, fueled by nearly $30 billion worth of new IPO listings. Profits are up 26 percent in the first half of the year. Property sales are up, interest rates are low and new developments are being launched. Big banks are all on a hiring spree and offering new products to take advantage of China’s rapid post-pandemic economic recovery.
And the national security law, which came into effect in July 2020? It has restored calm and stability after a year of often-violent anti-government protests.
The other Hong Kong is populated by people in the public space — politicians, journalists, teachers, labor leaders, artists, filmmakers, those active in civil society groups as well as many students and young people. To them, Hong Kong has become unrecognizable, a place where dissent is crushed and debate stifled. They see no future here and no hope.
More than 100 people have been arrested under the national security law, and thousands more still languish in jail or are on bail for various offenses related to the 2019 protest movement. The city’s most popular newspaper, Apple Daily, has had its assets frozen and its owner and top editors sent to jail. Political parties, student and teachers unions, human rights groups and civic organizations have all been targeted and some forced to disband. Even a popular Cantopop singer had a venue cancel her bookings for an upcoming concert series.
Britain, U.S. and others highly concerned by possible new Hong Kong media laws
(Reuters) – “We are highly concerned by the possible introduction of new legislation that is intended or could risk being used to eliminate scrutiny and criticism by the media of the government’s policies and actions,” the statement, published by Britain on behalf of the Media Freedom Coalition, said.
The coalition is made up of Australia, Austria, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Slovakia, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
The Chinese Communist Party’s anniversary is Hong Kong’s funeral
(WaPo Opinion) On Thursday, Chinese President Xi Jinping personally led nationwide celebrations to mark the 100-year anniversary of the establishment of the Chinese Communist Party. …
But most people in Hong Kong did not celebrate. For them, this day marked the loss of their freedoms and democratic institutions. Since 1997, July 1 has been the high point of a series of annual protests and rallies celebrating Hong Kong’s once-flourishing civil society. But not this year. Last summer, the CCP implemented a national security law for Hong Kong that has destroyed its judicial independence, the safety of its businesses, and allowed Hong Kong authorities to imprison would-be protest organizers as well as the journalists who would have covered them. This July 1, propaganda banners celebrating the CCP’s 100-year anniversary stood where pro-democracy signs would otherwise have been. This year, the streets were filled with police, not celebrators.
There’s a sense of fatalism in Washington these days about Hong Kong and what, if anything, the international community can still do. Hong Kong activists insist that their democracy movement is not dead, it’s just been forced underground. The world’s democracies can still help by raising the pressure on Beijing to reverse course and raising the costs for China if it insists on crushing Hong Kong. [Nathan Law, a Hong Kong pro-democracy student activist now living in exile in London] says the struggle between democracy and autocracies is playing out in Hong Kong now, and if the world abandons Hong Kong, an emboldened Xi will soon continue on to Taiwan.
‘They can’t speak freely’: Hong Kong a year after the national security law
Powerful chilling effect as dissenters are detained, often without charges, and face life in prison
(The Guardian) One year after Beijing imposed a national security law (NSL) on Hong Kong, the city has been drastically and fundamentally changed. Political opposition has been largely crushed, pro-democracy newspapers have been forced to close or self-censor, political and advocacy groups have disbanded. Thousands of residents have fled overseas.
At least 128 people have been arrested under the NSL or by its dedicated police department, including three minors, dozens of politicians, and journalists. More than half have been charged with national security offences that carry up to life in prison, and only 17 were granted bail.
But with the first case reaching trial just last week, the law – which broadly outlaws acts of secession, subversion, foreign collusion and terrorism – remains untested. Analysts say the rushed arrests and slow prosecutions are a deliberate strategy designed to stoke fear, and that interventions in due process risk the right to a fair trial.
In Pictures: Tears and selfies at airport as Hongkongers bid a permanent farewell to troubled city
“I don’t seem to see any hope in the city,” said 23-year-old freshgrad Wan. “If I have the chance, I would like to make a life elsewhere and contribute to Hong Kong when I have the ability.”
‘Obey the Party’: The CCP steps out of the shadows in Hong Kong
Once forced into a low-key existence, the Chinese Communist Party has become increasingly assertive in the former British colony,
(Al Jazeera) It is the governing party that has remained an underground organisation even in part of its own territory, but as the Chinese Communist Party marks its centenary this week there are signs it is stepping out of the shadows in Hong Kong, China’s most restive city.
“For the CCP, it’s paramount that the people in Hong Kong recognise China’s achievements under the party’s leadership,” said Bruce Lui, senior lecturer at Hong Kong Baptist University and a veteran political commentator. “Anyone failing to do so falls short of loving the party and the nation.”
For more than half of the last century, Hong Kong served as a sanctuary for generation after generation of mainland Chinese fleeing Communist rule.
First came the moneyed class, after the civil war ended in 1949. Industrialists from Shanghai and the nearby prosperous coastal cities as well as landowners and merchants moved south fearing the prospect of collectivisation.
The next to arrive were the intelligentsia, targets of political purges in the 1950s. Then came the exodus of common folks driven out by famines and the violence of the Cultural Revolution.
Apple Daily’s closure is a warning to the world
Amy Lai teaches and conducts research on freedom of speech at Freie Universitat in Berlin, Germany, and is the winner of Pen Canada’s Ken Filkow Prize for freedom of expression.
(Globe & Mail) Apple Daily, Hong Kong’s popular pro-democracy Chinese-language newspaper, issued its final edition last week after the arrests of five senior executives and the freezing of its assets by the Hong Kong government. The forced closing of the 26-year-old business, which issued its first edition in the British colonial era, turned the world’s attention back to China’s ruthless and determined attempt to snuff out dissent, which never stopped despite the pandemic.
In its early years, Apple Daily was controversial, despite its wide readership. Because of its paparazzi-style photos and sensational reports on the entertainment industry and social issues, it was viewed by many with contempt.
But Apple Daily found a way to successfully blend infotainment along with serious journalism. The global and local news sections were run by a dedicated group of journalists, many of whom graduated from top programs and fearlessly exposed government corruption in both China and Hong Kong.
Hong Kong leader calls criticism of Apple Daily raid an attempt to ‘beautify’ security threats
(AP) Foreign governments are “beautifying” acts that endanger national security in Hong Kong when they criticize the recent crackdown on a pro-democracy newspaper, the leader of the semi-autonomous Chinese territory said Tuesday.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam’s comments come as some countries including the U.S. condemn the arrest of editors and executives at Apple Daily and the freezing of its assets as the latest examples of eroding freedoms in the former British colony.
Hong Kong tycoon Jimmy Lai jailed again as Tiananmen vigil banned
Case comes on same day judge suggests speaking critically in foreign media could breach security laws
The rulings came a week before the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Authorities have banned a vigil for the second year in a row, citing pandemic concerns about crowding, despite allowing other crowded events in recent days.
… In a separate hearing on Friday, a Hong Kong judge, Esther Toh, denied bail to two former pro-democracy legislators, Andrew Wan and Claudia Mo. In her reasoning, the judge referred to WhatsApp conversations between Mo, 64, and members of the foreign press as evidence Mo presented a risk of committing national security offences if freed.
The shock ruling appeared to confirm fears that critical interviews with international media could be considered a national security offence, and also raised concerns that the law was being applied – or at least considered – retrospectively, given several of Mo’s WhatsApp conversations were from prior to the law’s implementation.
UK receives 34,000 visa requests from Hong Kong in two months
Residency route was launched in response to national security law imposed by Chinese government
Hong Kong’s Jimmy Lai and his media empire face uncertain future
Analysis: Tycoon and pro-democracy activist’s 14-month jail sentence is only the start of his problems
The sentencing of the high-profile Hong Kong activist Jimmy Lai may offer a foretaste both of his own future and of the media empire he built.
For the 73-year-old tycoon, the 14-month prison sentence handed down on Friday is only the start. He faces six remaining charges, two of which relate to the new national security law, which is deemed draconian by pro-democracy activists but which Beijing argues is necessary.
… It also sends a chilling message to Lai’s media conglomerate and challenges wider press freedom in Hong Kong, they argue. On the same day as Lai’s sentencing, a commentary in the Hong Kong-based pro-Beijing newspaper Ta Kung Pao called for a ban on Lai’s tabloid Apple Daily in order to close “national security loopholes”.
Beijing cuts Hong Kong’s directly elected seats in radical overhaul
Measures are passed to increase Beijing’s control of city, including vetting of election candidates
China has passed sweeping changes to Hong Kong’s electoral system that tighten Beijing’s grip on the city, while leaving a facade of democratic structures in place.
Beijing has amended Hong Kong’s Basic Law, or constitution, to almost halve the proportion of directly elected representatives in the city’s legislature, which already had limited powers, and require all candidates to be vetted for political loyalty.
The changes will also strengthen China’s control over the “election committee” that chooses Hong Kong’s chief executive, expanding its size and abolishing seats that had been held by directly-elected district councillors.
Although these councillors have very limited power, mostly dealing with hyper-local issues such as transport or waste disposal, they are the only officials in the city elected by a direct and universal franchise. Pro-democratic politicians won control of most councils in a landslide victory in 2020 elections.
With new mass detentions, every prominent Hong Kong activist is either in jail or exile
(WaPo) …on Sunday afternoon, the Hong Kong pro-democracy activists fanned out to police stations across the territory, where more than 40 of them were officially charged with “conspiracy to commit subversion” under the national security law, according to police. They were detained immediately, will be held overnight for a court session on Monday and face life in prison if found guilty.
The charging of such a large group represents the harshest and widest use of Beijing’s national security law in Hong Kong to date, dramatically increasing the number of people taken under the draconian legislation. Friends and family fear they will be denied bail and instead remain in detention before trial, like the five previously detained under the law — a significant departure from Hong Kong’s common law system.
The charges mean that every prominent, and even moderate, opposition voice in Hong Kong is either in jail or in exile, crushing the city’s democratic aspirations as Beijing tightens its grips around the city’s core institutions.
… Last week, the Hong Kong government, following a pronouncement from Beijing, further tightened laws to ensure only “patriots” run for office — defined as those loyal to the Communist Party.
Fearing Beijing crackdown, thousands flee Hong Kong for the U.K.
(AP/CBC) Some are leaving because they fear punishment for supporting pro-democracy protests. But many others, like her, say China’s encroachment on their way of life and civil liberties has become unbearable, and they want to seek a better future for their children abroad. Most say they don’t plan to ever go back….
Applications for the British National Overseas visa officially open Sunday, though many…have already arrived on British soil to get a head start. Eligible Hong Kongers can currently come to the U.K. for six months, but from Sunday they can apply for the right to live and work in the country for five years. After that, they can apply for settled status and then British citizenship.
Britain’s government said some 7,000 people with British National Overseas (BNO) status have arrived since July. It estimates that over 300,000 people will take up the offer of extended residency rights in the next five years.
Homes as Small as 60 Square Feet Worsen Hong Kong’s Covid Crisis
(Bloomberg) Stuffy, poorly designed and sometimes no bigger than a single bed, the units were a ticking time bomb, according to non-profit organizations like Concerning Grassroots’ Housing Rights Alliance and Kwun Tong Methodist Social Service. That bomb just exploded, sending the city into its first lockdown since Covid was initially detected there in January 2020.
On Jan. 23, the government restricted about 10,000 residents to their homes in the Yau Ma Tei and Jordan areas of Kowloon to carry out mandatory Covid testing. In the first three weeks of the year, 162 infections were confirmed in 56 buildings there — a small number by the standards of many large urban centers, but still 17% of all cases in the city of 7.5 million. Days later, a second lockdown was imposed nearby.
Mass arrests of former Hong Kong opposition lawmakers, activists for alleged national security law violations
Occupy Central co-founder Benny Tai detained along with former legislators James To, Lam Cheuk-ting, Andrew Wan, Alvin Yeung and Wu Chi-wai
The pan-democratic camp held primary contests last July in five constituencies to determine who would run in the Legislative Council election in September
(SCMP) The “35-plus” strategy, if successful, would have enabled the camp to form a powerful bloc in Legco, allowing them to block budgets, stall bills and effectively paralyse the government.
According to the Democratic Party, the police said during the arrests that the strategy was an act of subversion under the national security law imposed by Beijing in June, half a month before the primaries were held.
Dozens of Hong Kong democracy activists arrested under national security law
(WaPo) Dozens of Hong Kong pro-democracy politicians and activists were arrested Wednesday under the national security law, rounded up in an early morning sweep in the most far-reaching and chilling use of the Beijing-imposed law since it was passed in June.
Hong Kong’s Democratic Party, one of the main opposition parties whose members recently resigned en masse from the legislature over the ouster of their pro-democracy colleagues, said their alleged crime was participation in an informal election in July. The election was a primary for pro-democracy candidates, a contest to determine who would run in legislative elections scheduled for September. More than 600,000 people took part in the primary, which saw the rise of a younger generation of political leaders, including Joshua Wong, who won in his district. Wong, who is serving a prison sentence, also was charged with the others on Wednesday.
Beijing slams ‘criminal-shielding’ Danish politicians for supporting former Hong Kong lawmaker’s exile bid
(SCMP) Beijing has accused Danish politicians of harbouring criminals and meddling in China’s domestic affairs by supporting the exile-seeking former Hong Kong opposition lawmaker Ted Hui Chi-fung, a day after he revealed his plan to resettle in Britain.
Pro-establishment legislators back home said on Friday that Hui – who is on bail and faces nine criminal charges in Hong Kong – was evading the legal consequences of his past behaviour, while allies described his decision to flee as a reflection of the dwindling faith in the city’s court
Wanted in Hong Kong, ex-opposition lawmaker Ted Hui makes exile bid overseas, raising prospect of tighter leash on activists awaiting trial back home
Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong jailed for 13 and a half months over protest
Agnes Chow and Ivan Lam also sentenced over pro-democracy protest at police HQ last year
The high-profile Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong will spend more than a year in jail over an unauthorised protest outside police headquarters in June last year, a court in the city has ruled.
Fellow activists Agnes Chow, 23, and Ivan Lam, 26, were sentenced to 10 months and seven months respectively.
Wong said last week he expected to be jailed after admitting organising the event early on in Hong Kong’s recent protest movement, which began with millions marching against an extradition bill before growing into a broader pro-democracy push.
Hong Kong protests: show arrested youth some mercy, to begin the healing process in society
Simon Young, William Hayward and Paul Yip
Greater discretion by police and prosecutors towards those arrested – whether they are under or over 18 – would represent a significant step to rebuilding trust and harmony
The underlying causes of the protests remain unaddressed, and genuine reconciliation must occur or the unrest might return at any time
(SCMP) The civil behaviour and good order that has characterised Hong Kong for generations seemed to disappear overnight. Road blocks, tear gas and confrontation between demonstrators and police became part of the lifestyle of the city during that period.
There are many concerns in the community about the enactment of the national security law
and its impact on many of Hong Kong’s freedoms. At least some of the violent confrontations have subsided for the moment, but the roots of the problems that led to them have not been addressed. Genuine reconciliation within society needs to occur, otherwise further social unrest might come back at any time.
Since the social unrest began, there have been more than 10,000 arrests, of which around 2,300 have been brought to the court charged with various offences. In court hearings recently, some people have been sentenced to jail while others were acquitted because of insufficient evidence. Sometimes the court found police had not provided reliable evidence
Allen Carlson: Why Xi Jinping’s muscular approach in Tibet, Xinjiang and Hong Kong will backfire
The clamping down on the rights of those living in China’s periphery is not unprecedented, but the resurgence of these policies may make tensions even more intractable, instead of leading to long-lasting stability
US and Five Eyes allies express ‘serious concern’ over ousting of Hong Kong lawmakers
Foreign ministers from Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand join US in asking China to reinstate city’s disqualified legislators
Joint statement says Beijing’s move appears to be part of a concerted campaign to silence critical voices
Hong Kong and China could face fresh US sanctions over ousting of lawmakers
Washington accuses Beijing of ‘flagrant violation’ of commitments and says one party, two systems ideal is ‘now merely a fig leaf’
Hong Kong and Chinese officials could face further sanctions from the United States over a new law that disqualified four pro-democracy legislators as “unpatriotic” and prompted a mass resignation by the pro-democracy caucus.
The measure, passed by China’s highest legislative body on Wednesday, bars anyone from Hong Kong’s legislative council who supports independence, opposes the national security law, refuses to recognise Beijing’s sovereignty over Hong Kong, seeks help from “foreign countries or foreign forces to interfere in the affairs of the region” or commits “other acts that endanger national security”.
From ‘favourite’ to ‘spoiled child’ – what’s next for Hong Kong?
As Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s recent trip to Beijing showed, the days of receiving preferential treatment are over
Hong Kong will have to rebuild its ‘can do’ spirit and leverage its unique role in the Greater Bay Area, which will require strong leadership
Academics warn of ‘chilling effect’ of Hong Kong security law
Exclusive: global scholars on China call for agreement to resist interference in research
(The Guardian) Some of the world’s leading scholars on China have called for a united international front in defence of university freedoms, amid claims of an increased Chinese threat to academic inquiry since the passing of Hong Kong’s national security law.
Individual universities will be picked off unless there is a common agreement to resist Chinese state interference in academic research and teaching on China, a group of 100 academics including scholars in the US, UK, Australia and Germany say.
They highlight the threat posed by article 38 of the sweeping national security law, which states that the law is applicable to individuals who live outside the territory and individuals who do not come from there.
The law was imposed on Hong Kong by Beijing in June after more than a year of pro-democracy protests.
The academics say article 38 raises the unsettling prospect that students travelling through Hong Kong and China face being handed lengthy prison sentences on the basis of academic work deemed to be subversive by Chinese authorities.