Tag Archives: Hong Kong

China to suspend US Navy visits to Hong Kong over bill

China announced Monday that it will suspend U.S. Navy visits to Hong Kong in retaliation over President Trump’s decision to sign legislation that supported the city’s pro-democracy protesters who have taken to the streets since June.

Beijing took its first step to make good on its promise to employ “countermeasures” against the U.S. in light of the bills that it blasted as “hegemonic” in nature and ignorant of the facts on the ground.

The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which was sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., requires that the U.S. conducts yearly reviews into Hong Kong’s autonomy from Beijing. If ever found unsatisfactory, the city’s special status for U.S. trading could be tossed.

“I signed these bills out of respect for President Xi, China, and the people of Hong Kong,” Trump said in a statement. “They are being enacted in the hope that Leaders and Representatives of China and Hong Kong will be able to amicably settle their differences leading to long term peace and prosperity for all.”

China also announced on Monday that it sanctioned Human Rights Watch for its support of the violence in the city, ,Hua Chunying, a ministry spokesman, told Reuters.


China suspends R&R visits by US warships over Hong Kong bill

China said Monday it had suspended rest and recuperation visits by American warships in Hong Kong in response to a US bill supporting pro-democracy protesters in the semi-autonomous city.

“In response to the unreasonable behavior of the US side, the Chinese government has decided to suspend reviewing the applications for US warships to go to Hong Kong for recuperation as of today,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a regular press briefing.

China also said it would impose sanctions on US-based NGOs that have acted “badly” over the recent unrest in Hong Kong.

The sanctions will apply to NGOs including the National Endowment for Democracy, Human Rights Watch and Freedom House, foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a regular press briefing.


China tells U.S. and Britain to stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs

China’s ambassador to London on Monday accused foreign countries including the United States and Britain of interfering in Chinese internal affairs through their reactions to the violent clashes taking place in Hong Kong.


Chinese soldiers leave Hong Kong barracks in rare clean-up cameo

Soldiers from the Chinese People’s Liberation Army briefly left their Hong Kong barracks on Saturday to help the clean-up after a week of disruption caused by pro-democracy protests, a rare and highly symbolic troop movement unsolicited by the city’s embattled government.

The action saw scores of soldiers from the garrison, which is confined to the barracks under Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, with crewcuts and identical gym kits conduct a lightning-quick removal of bricks and debris near their base.

Chinese state media has repeatedly warned that troops could be deployed to quell an unprecedented crisis in the semi-autonomous city that has entered its sixth month.

Confirming the brief deployment on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like social media platform, the PLA said it acted to open a debris-strewn road outside their Kowloon Tong barracks to traffic, winning “applause from residents” in the process.

The last time soldiers assisted in the city was in 2018 to clean up after a typhoon.

A spokesman for Hong Kong’s embattled government said the troop movement had not been requested by city authorities but was instead a “voluntary community activity initiated by themselves.”

Their appearance on Hong Kong’s streets raised tensions in a city rocked by a week of intensified violence and chaos.

“Today they come to pick up rocks, tomorrow they will come to take our lives,” said one Hong Kong Facebook user under a video showing the troops in clean-up action.

The city remains strewn with debris and barricades following a week-long campaign of roadblocks, vandalism and protest that has shut down large chunks of the train and metro network and forced schools to shut and universities to cancel classes.

On Saturday night, protesters and police clashed again near Hong Kong Polytechnic University, where volleys of tears gas were fired and petrol bombs thrown.

– Divided city –

The increasingly ugly scenes this week prompted China’s President Xi Jinping to warn the “one country, two systems” model governing Hong Kong was being jeopardised by the protests.

Semi-autonomous Hong Kong enjoys more freedoms than the mainland, although many feel those liberties are being chipped away.

Article 14 of the Basic Law — Hong Kong’s mini-constitution since its handover from Britain to China in 1997 — allows the local government to request help from PLA garrisons in the city in the event of a public order breakdown.

Although it was not requested, the PLA’s cameo “sends a subtle message that China is behind” the government, said political analyst Dixon Sing.

“It also gives a hint to the protesters… that if things really turn sour, China can still use the PLA in a more naked manner,” he added.

The protests started against a now shelved bill to allow extradition to China but have billowed into wider calls for democracy.

Two people have died this month as the violence worsened, while the financial hub has been pushed into a recession by the turmoil.

Meanwhile universities have emerged as bases for a movement previously defined by its fluid, unpredictable nature with stockpiles of weapons and supplies.

Hong Kong is a city divided and reactions to the movement from inside the PLA garrison reflected that schism.

A woman in her 50s who gave her name only as Lee applauded the clean up effort near the Kowloon Tong PLA base, saying it felt “so good” to see them.

“How did a Hong Kong that was doing just fine become like this?” she added.

But pro-democracy protesters, who remained in the streets as night fell, read the hour-long action from the barracks as a warning.

“We don’t touch them (the PLA barracks) we don’t know what kind of weapons they have and their mindset is also different from Hong Kong police,” said a 24-year-old student protesters who identified himself by the surname Leung.

Arguments and scuffles also broke out on Saturday between pro-government and pro-democracy activists during clean-ups across the city.

At the Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Kowloon, student protesters insisted they wanted to maintain an occupation of the campus and keep control of one of the major tunnels to Hong Kong Island.

“We are here for the long term,” a 20-year-old student who identified himself only as E said.

Earlier on Saturday morning a group of around 500 people, mostly middle-aged and senior citizens, rallied outside the Hong Kong government’s headquarters to show support for the police, who have been heavily criticised over their handling of the crisis.


China’s PLA soldiers on Hong Kong streets in ‘voluntary’ clean-up

Soldiers belonging to China‘s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) have briefly left their barracks to help Hong Kong residents clean up debris left over from anti-government demonstrations in a rare and highly symbolic troop movement unsolicited by the city’s embattled government.

Saturday’s action saw scores of soldiers from the garrison sporting crewcuts and identical gym kits conduct a lightning-quick removal of bricks and debris near their base, the AFP news agency reported.

Confirming the brief deployment on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like social media platform, the PLA said it acted to open a debris-strewn road outside their Kowloon Tong barracks to traffic, winning “applause from residents” in the process.

A city spokesman meanwhile said the Hong Kong government did not request assistance from the PLA, which has previously stayed confined to its garrison during months of protests, but the military initiated the operation as a “voluntary community activity”.

The presence of PLA troops on Hong Kong’s streets could stoke further controversy over the Chinese-ruled territory’s semi-autonomous status.

Demosisto, a pro-democracy organisation, said Saturday’s clean-up operation could set a “grave precedent” if the city’s government invites the military to deal with internal problems, the Reuters news agency reported.

The developments followed some of the worst violence seen during more than five months of anti-government demonstrations after a police operation against protesters at the Chinese University of Hong Kong on Tuesday.

The authorities have since largely stayed away from at least five university campuses that had been barricaded by thousands of students and activists who stockpiled petrol bombs, catapults, bows and arrows and other weapons.

Many protesters appeared to have left the campuses by late Saturday though some remained behind to man barricades. Hong Kong’s Cross-Harbour Tunnel was still blocked by protesters occupying Polytechnic University.

Months of unrest

The months-long protests that have rocked Hong Kong have been fuelled by widespread anger at the perceived Communist Party meddling in the former British colony, which was guaranteed its freedoms when it returned to the Chinese rule in 1997.

The protests started against a now shelved bill to allow extradition to China but have billowed into wider calls for democracy.

Beijing, for its part, denies interfering in Hong Kong and has blamed the unrest on foreign influences.

Chinese state media repeatedly broadcast comments made on Thursday by President Xi Jinping, in which he denounced the unrest and said “controlling chaos while restoring order” was the territory’s “most urgent task”.

Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive, has meanwhile condemned protesters as the “enemy of the people”.

In recent weeks, clashes between protesters and police have become increasingly violent.

Two people have died this month as the clashes intensified, while the financial hub has been pushed into a recession by the turmoil.

A 70-year-old street cleaner died on Thursday after being hit on the head a brick police said had been thrown by rioters. On Monday, police blamed a rioter for dousing a man in petrol and setting him on fire. The victim is in critical condition.

On the same day, police shot a protester in the abdomen. He was in a stable condition as of Saturday.

Several streets remain strewn with debris, barricades and scarred by scorch marks from petrol bombs thrown during the demonstrations.


Hong Kong’s Cathay defers Airbus plane deliveries as demand falls

Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd has said it would defer the delivery of four Airbus SE narrowbody planes in 2020 as it cuts capacity to deal with falling demand due to anti-government protests in its home city.

In addition to delaying the arrival of three A321neos at its regional arm Cathay Dragon and one A320neo at budget carrier HK Express, it said on Thursday it would retire one Boeing Co 777-300ER and one Cathay Dragon A320 earlier than expected.

The airline said on Wednesday the short-term outlook remained “challenging and uncertain” as it lowered its profit projections for the second time in less than a month.

Anti-government protests paralysed parts of Hong Kong for a fourth day on Thursday, forcing school closures and blocking highways and other transport links amid a marked escalation of violence.

Cathay said the unrest was expected to lead to a small post-acquisition loss for HK Express, which it bought this year from Chinese conglomerate HNA Group for 4.93 billion Hong Kong dollars ($629.7m).

The airline said last week it planned to allocate half its order for 32 A321neo aircraft to HK Express as it looks for growth opportunities in the budget market, but made no mention of any changes to the delivery schedule.

An Airbus spokesman said delivery schedules change from time to time by mutual agreement with customers, declining to provide further details of the timing.

Meanwhile, an annual gathering of the heads of Asia’s airlines, planned to take place in Hong Kong next week, has been cancelled.

The Association of Asia Pacific Airlines said in a statement its decision to scrap the event scheduled for November 21-22 “reflects the unpredictability of the situation in Hong Kong”. The meeting was organised by the association in conjunction with Cathay Pacific.

The protests, which began in earnest in June in opposition to a proposed criminal extradition bill, have driven away tourists and badly hurt the city’s hotels, shops and restaurants. The bill has been officially withdrawn, but it became a lightning rod for broader discontentment over growing inequality and unaffordable housing.


Hong Kong mops up following violent clashes that marred China’s National Day celebrations

Hong Kong awoke to widespread damage on Wednesday (Oct 2) and calls for more protests following some of the most violent clashes in nearly four months of unrest, including the shooting of a teenage demonstrator by police.

Anti-government protests turned violent early on Tuesday and continued into the night, with intense cat-and-mouse skirmishes marring celebrations in Beijing to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China on Oct 1.

Images of police firing tear gas and water cannon at petrol bomb-throwing protesters were beamed live to the world in areas spreading from the popular shopping district of Causeway Bay to the Admiralty area of government offices, over the harbour to Kowloon and beyond to the New Territories.

Secondary schools in Hong Kong staged a mass class boycott on Wednesday in response to the shooting of an 18-year-old man that was captured in dramatic video footage.

Protesters have previously been hit with bean bags rounds and rubber bullets and officers have fired live rounds in the air, but this was the first time a demonstrator had been shot with a live round.

Police said the officer involved was under serious threat and acted in accordance with official guidelines. The man was conscious when taken to hospital, police added, but his condition was not immediately available on Wednesday.

MTR Corp shut nearly 50 stations to stop protesters moving around on Tuesday, making the rail operator once again a target of vandalism. Demonstrators have stepped up attacks on the MTR, which has been blamed for closing stations at the government’s behest.

By early Wednesday, all metro stations were open although some lines were running slower than normal as MTR workers tried to repair damage to ready the service for the nearly 6 million people who use it every day.

Many stores and business had closed on Tuesday after demonstrators vowed to seize the opportunity on China’s National Day to propel their calls for greater democracy onto the international stage.

The protests have plunged the former British colony into its biggest political crisis in decades and pose the gravest popular challenge to President Xi Jinping since he came to power.

The demonstrations have also taken a growing toll on the city’s economy as it faces its first recession in a decade and comes as the central government is already grappling with a US-China trade war and a global slowdown.

Protesters are angry about what they see as creeping interference by Beijing in their city’s affairs despite a promise of autonomy.

China dismisses those claims and has accused foreign governments, including the United States and Britain, of fanning anti-China sentiment.


Tear gas, water cannon fired at Hong Kong demo

Hong Kong police fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse anti-government protesters who threw rocks, broke windows and blocked a key road near the local headquarters of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

A series of protests in the Chinese-ruled city for and against Communist Party rulers in Beijing is planned ahead of the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic on Tuesday, October 1, including at the consulate of former colonial power Britain.

The protesters, many dressed all in black and wearing masks, took cover under umbrellas from the water cannon and fled after the demonstrations had taken a familiar turn into clashes with police as they have done regularly over more than three months.

Police fired blue water, used in other countries to help identify offenders, as protesters regrouped 100 yards (metres) away.

They had smashed windows of government offices and tried to break in, shouting obscenities and daubing slogans on shop-fronts. They had also shone lasers at a helicopter hovering overhead.


Hong Kong protests threaten billionaires’ ties with Beijing

Less than a decade ago, Hong Kong’s richest man, Mr Li Ka-shing, was granted an exclusive audience with China’s then-President Hu Jintao, a rare honour.

State television lauded the September 2010 meeting, saying Mr Hu lavished praise on the tycoon for contributing to the city’s prosperity and stability.

These days, as Hong Kong reels from months of violent demonstrations, China’s government is weaving a much harsher narrative around the billionaires who dominate the business and politics of the city.

In recent weeks, it’s linked them to the rising inequality it blames for the social unrest, a new stance that threatens the close ties Hong Kong dynasties have forged with Beijing.

While most of Hong Kong’s wealthiest families have sprawling property holdings, they also dominate industries from telecommunications to retail, giving them outsize influence.

The 20 Hong Kong tycoons tracked by the Bloomberg Billionaires Index – including moguls like Mr Li and property magnate Lee Shau Kee – have a combined net worth of more than US$200 billion (S$276.06 billion). So any shift in China’s posture toward those wealthy families has the potential in coming years to ripple through the city’s US$360 billion economy.

In a scathing article posted on social media earlier this month, China’s Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission, the nation’s most powerful law-enforcement body, lashed out at Hong Kong’s property tycoons for “hoarding land and grabbing money”.

Next, the Communist Party’s mouthpiece, the People’s Daily, said the government should take away land from Hong Kong developers through compulsory acquisition.

“It is very clear that Beijing’s attitude toward Hong Kong’s property tycoons has changed,” said Mr Joseph Wong, who was secretary for commerce, industry and technology under the city’s former leader, or chief executive, Mr Donald Tsang.

China appears to be encouraging state-backed enterprises to expand in Hong Kong, a special administrative region, and, over the coming years, these companies likely will play a leading role in industries the tycoons have controlled, Mr Wong said.

China Mobile Ltd, the mainland’s biggest carrier, has increased its subscriber base in Hong Kong by more than 50 per cent since 2016, according to data compiled by Bloomberg News.

Mainland developers, including China Resources Land Ltd, bought almost 60 per cent of the residential land sold by Hong Kong’s government in the first half of this year.

Representatives at family holding companies of Mr Li and Mr Lee didn’t respond to requests for comment.

While much of their power comes from these informal relationships, members of the wealthiest families in Hong Kong also have official positions, including on the election committee of about 1,200 people that selects the city’s leader.

Hong Kong business people sit on the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, an advisory body that meets once a year in Beijing.

Chinese leaders were friendly toward the tycoons when the mainland economy was opening up because they wanted to encourage them to invest across the border, said Mr Ding Yifan, a former senior government researcher who now teaches world economy at Beijing Foreign Studies University.

“Now that things have hit the fan, they realise there are many things quite unfair in Hong Kong,” he said.

“Of course they need to deal with these problems.”

Hong Kong’s protests erupted in June in response to a proposed Bill that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China.

They’ve continued even after that legislation was shelved, with protesters making other demands, including universal suffrage and an investigation into police actions toward demonstrators.

China’s office for Hong Kong and Macau affairs this month said it would support Hong Kong’s leader, Ms Carrie Lam, in efforts to address social problems such as the housing shortage, the large wealth gap and the difficulty in upward social mobility. Hong Kong has the world’s least affordable housing.

At the end of July, about half of Hong Kong’s new apartments for sale came from five of its largest developers – including the Li family’s CK Asset Holdings Ltd; Henderson Land Development Co of the Lee family; and Sun Hung Kai Properties Ltd, controlled by the Kwok family – according to an analysis of data from realtor Centaline Property Agency.

Meanwhile, half of the city’s mobile phone users subscribe to providers controlled by the Li and Kwok families, according to government data and earnings reports.

In some industries, the wealthiest Hong Kong Chinese families share power with dynasties that are a holdover from the British.

The Li family’s AS Watson Group and Dairy Farm International Holdings Ltd, linked to the Keswick family, control 70 per cent of the supermarkets, according to data from Euromonitor International. Representatives for the Kwok and Keswick family businesses declined to comment.

Beijing’s priority has shifted toward pursuing social equality, said Professor Li Xiaobing of Nankai University in Tianjin, who has written on Chinese regional politics.

“The central government wishes tycoons to contribute more to society,” Prof Li said.

That shift has come as China searches for answers to end Hong Kong’s protests.

On Wednesday, developer New World Development Co, run by the billionaire Cheng family, announced that it will donate 3 million square feet of land to help ease Hong Kong’s housing crisis.

In recent weeks, several tycoons, including real-estate and casino magnate Lui Che-woo, have attempted to show Beijing their loyalty by issuing statements or placing newspaper advertisements condemning violence and pledging full support to the government.

Mr Li earlier this month called for the government to “have mercy” on Hong Kong’s young people and for the youth to show more understanding. But China’s highest law-enforcement body lashed out, accusing Mr Li of encouraging crime. The 91-year-old billionaire then said his remarks were misinterpreted.

Hong Kong’s billionaire families long hedged their risks because they knew their political and economic favours wouldn’t last forever, said Dr Joseph Fan, a professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong who studies family-run businesses.

Some tycoons, in recent years, sold their businesses to mainland firms. In 2018, former city Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa’s family sold its stake in a shipping line to state-owned Cosco Shipping Holdings Co.

That year, the real-estate arm of Mr Li’s business group sold its stake in an office tower, The Centre, for about US$5 billion to a consortium controlled by mainland companies.

Mr Michael Tien, a pro-Beijing lawmaker in Hong Kong and a deputy to China’s National People’s Congress, expects more mainland firms to play leading roles in Hong Kong industries traditionally controlled by tycoons.

“In the long run, we all know that the future belongs to mainland Chinese capital,” he said.


Protesters in Hong Kong unrest gather at British consulate, demand intervention

Anti-government protesters in Hong Kong have staged a rally outside the British consulate in the Chinese city, calling for support from the territory’s former colonial ruler.

The protesters, in their hundreds, demanded on Sunday that London meddle in the crisis that has crippled the international hub over the past months.

Waving Union Jack flags and chanting “God Save the Queen”, the protesters claimed that China was not honoring the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration and that the “one country, two systems” policy did not work anymore.

“We ask UK to take immediate action on China not honoring the Sino-British Joint Declaration and acknowledge one country, two systems is not functioning,” the rally organizers said.

Beijing, however, rejected the accusations and said it was fully committed to the joint declaration, which ensures special freedoms for the city after its return to China in 1997.

Earlier this month, the protesters marched on the US consulate, calling on Washington to intervene in the ongoing political standoff.

The protests initially began in June over a bill, which would have allowed criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China.

The bill was suspended later that month, but the agitation has expanded into a broader unrest amid calls for the city’s pro-China leader to step down.

China has said foreign countries, mainly the United States and Britain, have been provoking the unrest by issuing statements of support. Beijing has asked the two countries to stop meddling in Hong Kong’s domestic affairs.

Chinese media has called the protests a “color revolution” aimed at overturning the government in Hong Kong, which has seen masked people attack police officers and occupy airports and rail terminals, crippling the city. 

Beijing has warned that it would not sit idly by as officials have warned of violence pushing Hong Kong to the precipice of “a very dangerous situation”. 

Violent protests are taking a big toll on the leading commercial hub, scaring off tourists and biting into retail sales and investment.

Hong Kong has been governed under a “one-country, two-system” model since the city — a former British colony — was returned to China in 1997.

The unrest comes amid a brewing trade war which President Donald Trump has made one of the major undertakings of his administration in order to arrest China’s economic rise.