July 31, 2015
Activist who crossed police barricade says he may appeal against sentence as too harsh
PUBLISHED : Friday, 31 July, 2015, 2:57am
UPDATED : Friday, 31 July, 2015, 2:57am
Li was in Hong Kong to attend a forum in September to discuss the 2017 electoral framework set by Beijing, which pro-democracy activists opposed, saying it did not offer Hongkongers a real choice of candidates. Photo: EPA
A social activist who crossed a police barrier around a protest zone last year was ordered yesterday to perform 200 hours of community service after he was found guilty of resisting a police officer.
The activist, Cheng Ho-man, a 23-year-old member of the group Civic Passion, said outside Eastern Court that he would consider filing an appeal against the sentence.
Cheng was convicted on July 16 of one count of resisting an officer for the incident in September, when he was arrested for crossing a barricade police had erected around a designated protest zone during a visit by Basic Law Committee chairman Li Fei.
Magistrate Colin Wong Sze-cheung said: "This case involved a public assembly, and the defendant did rush to the road. The consequences could be serious, and it might cause danger to other people."
Prior to his sentencing, Cheng told an officer in a community service order report that he had reflected on his actions and would behave himself more calmly in protests in the future, Wong said during the hearing. Cheng might have faced a harsher punishment otherwise.
But outside the courthouse, Cheng said the punishment was still too severe because of the number of hours he was given.
Pro-democracy lawmakers hold up a banner and signs during a protest as Li Fei (seen on screen), deputy general secretary of the National People's Congress (NPC) standing committee, speaks during a briefing session in Hong Kong September 1, 2014. Photo: Reuters
His fellow Civic Passion member, Cheng Chung-tai, appeared with him outside court and accused the government of using the judicial system as a tool to suppress dissidents.
During the trial, Cheng's barrister, David Chu, said his client was only trying to make his way past the cordon near the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong hotel in Wan Chai, where Li was staying during his September 1 visit.
Li was in Hong Kong to attend a forum to discuss the 2017 electoral framework set by Beijing, which pro-democracy activists opposed, saying it did not offer Hongkongers a real choice of candidates.
Chu said a group of police officers had violently apprehended Cheng without asking him what he was doing.
Cheng was injured during the arrest, and taken to Queen Mary Hospital in Pok Fu Lam with red marks on his limbs, Chu added.
Cheng's co-defendant, Chu Po-sang, a 21-year-old Civic Passion member, was earlier acquitted of the same charge.
First electric buses (from mainland) will be on Hong Kong's roads by end of year as city tries to reduce pollution
Five single-deck air-conditioned buses manufactured by BYD and bought with government funding can travel about 250km on a full charge
NG KANG-CHUNG KC.NG@SCMP.COM
PUBLISHED : Friday, 31 July, 2015, 7:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 31 July, 2015, 8:38am
The vehicle has 31 seats and space for about 35 standing passengers. Photo: SCMP Pictures
Hong Kong commuters can expect to ride more on electric buses from later this year.
New World First Bus and Citybus on Thursday announced the arrival of the first of five battery-powered buses they had ordered from mainland manufacturer BYD.
The 11.6-metre-long single-deck K9R model bus is air conditioned and can travel about 250km after a full charge at the depot for about four hours, according to the bus companies.
The vehicle has 31 seats and space for about 35 standing passengers.
The bus operators ordered five such zero-emission buses from BYD last August using government funding.
A spokesman for the bus companies said: “It is too early to say which route the electric buses will run on, but we are confident the first one can be in service by the end of this year.”
The bus will undergo a series of tests before the remaining four are delivered, the spokesman said.
BYD said more than 5,000 K9 model buses had been sold globally and were used in 35 countries and regions.
New World First Bus and Citybus are jointly owned by Chow Tai Fook Enterprises and NWS Holdings.
Hong Kong saw the introduction of the city’s first battery-powered electric bus in 2013 when Kowloon Motor Bus put it through trial runs. That bus was also a single decker from BYD.
In Hong Kong, vehicle emissions are the major source of roadside air pollution.
To promote the use of electric vehicles in Hong Kong, the first registration tax for electric cars is being waived until March 2017.
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying announced in his policy address last year that the government would promote the use of electric vehicles and would fund the purchase by franchised bus companies of 36 single-deck electric buses.
This year, Leung announced plans to set up low-emission zones in Causeway Bay, Central and Mong Kok by the end of the year in which franchised bus companies will only be able to deploy low-emission buses.
Hong Kong justice minister considers legal action after magistrate’s claim he was threatened in ‘breast assault’ case
TONY CHEUNG TONY.CHEUNG@SCMP.COM
PUBLISHED : Friday, 31 July, 2015, 11:33am
UPDATED : Friday, 31 July, 2015, 11:59am
Rimsky Yuen said if a defendant is unhappy about a verdict, they can consider legal action such as launching an appeal. Photo: Dickson Lee
Hong Kong’s justice minister has expressed concern over a magistrate’s revelation that he had been threatened since he found a woman protester guilty of assaulting a police officer with her breast.
Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung said his department would contact police and consider launching judicial proceedings if there is sufficient evidence to back up the magistrate’s case.
On Thursday, Deputy Magistrate Michael Chan Pik-kiu, of Tuen Mun Court, said he feared for his safety since convicting Ng Lai-ying, 30, of using her breast to bump against Chief Inspector Chan Ka-po at an anti-parallel trading protest in Yuen Long on March 1.
Ng was jailed for three months and 15 days yesterday but was granted bail pending an appeal, along with three other co-defendants.
This morning, Yuen said: “I understood that there were protests about [Chan’s verdict] and the posters and pictures used were insulting. There were also people chanting, including abuse, outside the court on the day of the verdict [a month ago].”
“Hong Kong is ruled by law, and to safeguard the rule of law, a verdict in court has to be respected,” Yuen said.
“No act, opinion or criticism should cross the legal boundary … and judges should not be insulted. If [an act] constituted contempt of court or other offences, the justice department would surely follow up … I don’t want this trend to worsen,” he added.
Yuen said if a defendant is unhappy about a verdict, they can consider legal action such as launching an appeal.
Additional reporting by Chris Lau
'I might as well deal with diseases': Top scientist quits HKU council feeling 'powerless' amid deputy head political controversy
TONY CHEUNG AND JEFFIE LAM
PUBLISHED : Friday, 31 July, 2015, 12:08pm
UPDATED : Friday, 31 July, 2015, 1:19pm
Professor Yuen Kwok-yung was a member of teams that made breakthroughs in treating the Sars and Mers viruses. Photo: Felix Wong
A top microbiology professor today confirmed he was the second member of the University of Hong Kong’s governing council to resign this month, saying he felt powerless to resolve the controversy over the appointment of a liberal scholar to a key position.
Professor Yuen Kwok-yung said he quit because he was “incapable of dealing with the politics in the university council”, after the body made a controversial decision to delay the appointment of moderate pro-democracy scholar and former law dean Johannes Chan Man-mun to the post of pro-vice-chancellor.
Yuen’s resignation came days after an HKU council meeting descended into chaos on Tuesday, when a group of students stormed the body’s meeting room and urged councillors to stop delaying Chan’s appointment.
But he declined to link his decision with the incident, saying it was “related to many things ... Even the storming was not caused by the students themselves, it was caused by the selection of a pro-vice-chancellor”.
I might as well go back and deal with infectious diseases and mucor spores instead
PROFESSOR YUEN KWOK-YUNG
“There were a lot of people outside [the university], a lot of political forces from outside trying to affect this situation, so in the end students barged into the meeting,” Yuen said.
He said he had been considering resigning in recent months, and only filed his resignation letter last night. He will stay on the council until a replacement is elected.
Yuen said that for decades, Hong Kong had been able to find a way out amid clashes of ideas, political beliefs and forces. But in recent years, it seemed the city had lost that ability.
“I don’t have any political training, but the council is a miniature version of society,” Yuen said. “In recent years, Hong Kong has been going through political turbulence, and politics was brought into the council ... I think I should let a capable person take my place.
HKU vice-chancellor Peter Mathieson looks on as students storm the university's council meeting on Tuesday night. Photo: Dickson Lee
“Having reached this stage, I don’t have the ability to change what has happened, no ability to turn the conflict ... into a positive thing. This is what a leader should do, but I don’t have that ability. I might as well go back and deal with infectious diseases and mucor spores instead.”
Mucor is a type of mould with six species, found in soil, plants, rotting fruit and manure.
Yuen followed postgraduate student representative Aloysius Wilfred Raj Arokiaraj out of the door, who yesterday confirmed he submitted a resignation letter to the council on July 3, three days after the body voted to delay Chan’s appointment.
During the storming of the council meeting on Tuesday, councillor Professor Lo Chung-mau injured his knee and Yuen accompanied him as he was taken to hospital.
Lo and Yuen are two of the four councillors elected to represent the university’s full-time lecturers.
In the aftermath of the storming, councillor Professor Arthur Li Kwok-cheung and pro-Beijing newspapersdescribed the episode as “Hong Kong Cultural Revolution”, referring to the 1966-76 turbulence when mainland Chinese students, known as Red Guards, persecuted and tortured intellectuals. Some historians believe that millions died in those 10 years.
Professor Arthur Li compared students to Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution. Photo: Dickson Lee
But Yuen dismissed such comparisons.
“The Cultural Revolution was initiated by Mao Zedong, and people were tied up with ropes, thrown into the river [and drowned] ... what happened on Tuesday was not initiated by Hong Kong’s leader and the nature was not as serious,” he said.
Yuen also suggested that the students’ storming was not conducive to solving the problem.
Yuen’s three-year term started in December 2012. He is one of the world’s premier virus fighters and was named an Asian hero by Time magazine for his work in fighting the 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak. His team later helped track how the virus that caused Sars passed from bats to humans via civet cats.
He is also a member of the HKU research team whose recent breakthrough study has found two existing drugs offer the best hope of beating the Middle East respiratory syndrome (Mers) coronavirus that has claimed hundreds of lives globally since its emergence three years ago.
Yuen and Arokiaraj’s resignations will leave the university council with 20 members, including vice-chancellor Peter Mathieson and 13 external members – six of which were appointed by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.
Meanwhile, 15 ex-presidents of the HKU student union issued a joint statement on Thursday night, offering their support to students as they urged the HKU council to safeguard the university’s autonomy.
I don’t have any political training, but the [HKU] council is a miniature version of society
PROFESSOR YUEN KWOK-YUNG
They said they regretted that Mathieson and 10 faculty deans had condemned the students’ protest on Tuesday.
“We think this is a righteous action of the students to safeguard the academic freedom and university’s autonomy. It might not be perfect but is still worthy of public support,” the statement read.
The former presidents also said the current composition of the HKU council had violated the principle of the university’s autonomy and offered room for government interference as only eight of the 23 members were staff and students of the university.
The signatories included Democrat Mak Hoi-wah, Cheung Yui-fai, executive committee member of the Professional Teachers’ Union, Laurence Tang Yat-long, member of the Basic Law Promotion Steering Committee and Yvonne Leung Lai-kwok, a former core member of the Federation of Students which co-led Occupy protests last year.
Additional reporting by Jennifer Ngo
HKU students hold placards demanding academic freedom before a council meeting ended in chaos Tuesday. Photo: HKEJ
A group of senior academics is warning the University of Hong Kong to abide by the principles of academic freedom and autonomy in an unprecedented challenge to its governing council over delays in the appointment of a key official.
The group, consisting of 10 deans of the university faculty, said such principles are protected by Article 137 of the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini constitution.
These apply to all aspects of the decision-making process, especially senior appointments, they said in a joint statement cited by Ming Pao Daily.
The statement came after a dozen students disrupted a meeting on Tuesday when the university council voted to reaffirm an earlier decision to delay naming a pro vice chancellor until after a deputy vice chancellor has been appointed.
The deans urged all parties to put the university’s interests first and redouble efforts toward consensus.
Council chairman Leong Che-hung welcomed the statement, saying senior academics and administrators of the university share the same goal of maintaining academic freedom and autonomy.
An unnamed senior professor said the deans are a powerful group that can influence decisions by the council.
In recent years, they have successfully lobbied against funding cuts, he said.
However, he said their statement is not a show of support for vice chancellor Peter Mathieson who is opposed to any more delays in the appointment of a vice pro chancellor.
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Dr. Leong Che-hung of the University of Hong Kong Council talks to students and alumni on Tuesday. Photo: HKEJ
July 28th was the darkest day in the history of the University of Hong Kong (HKU). What happened on that day makes the hearts of all HKU alumni and those who are concerned about its development ache.
Perhaps some people may wonder why the HKU alumni had to challenge the decision made by the HKU Council, which has been functioning so well for decades.
True, the HKU alumni rarely questioned the judgment or decision made by the Council in the past, because under the University of Hong Kong Ordinance, the Council is the supreme governing and decision-making body of HKU, and as long as it makes its decision according to established procedures and due process, nobody would ever need to challenge its authority.
Unfortunately, as far as the recent controversy surrounding the appointment of the pro-vice chancellor is concerned, the Council didn’t follow standard procedures and observe the long-standing tradition of the university.
To make matters worse, the Council has continued to delay the appointment and refuse to take a stand on the recommendation made by the recruitment committee, on the ridiculous and mind-boggling grounds that they have to wait for the advice of a deputy vice-chancellor who is not even hired yet.
If one connects the dots between some recent events such as the relentless attacks launched by pro-Beijing newspapers against Professor Johannes Chan, who has been widely tipped for the pro-vice chancellor slot, and the rumors that the Chief Executive has been attempting to interfere in the appointment of key personnel in the HKU, it is not difficult to notice that political interference has once again reared its ugly head in the recent appointment scandal.
Having said that, the HKU alumni are fully justified in demanding that the appointment proceed promptly in accordance with standard procedures, and that the Council stand up against any external political pressure when it comes to the appointment of key personnel of the HKU.
Some may also doubt whether the HKU alumni are in a legitimate position to question the decision of the Council, and whether it constitutes another form of interference.
According to the rules, members of the HKU include not only its staff and students at present, but also its graduates. Therefore, even though graduates have no governing power, they have every legitimate right to express their views about HKU affairs.
Besides, since the HKU is a publicly funded institution, stakeholders and members of the public are entitled to give their views on the governance of the university and demand from the Council to set things right.
Unfortunately, the decision made by the Council on Tuesday was both heart-breaking and outrageous.
According to newspaper reports, 12 members of the Council voted against proceeding with the appointment which had been long overdue, regardless of the dissenting voices raised by 1,536 HKU alumni, 909 supporters and the 21 organizations which had co-signed an open letter urging the university to respect procedural justice.
Those members of the Council who cast their votes to stall the appointment again in fact have not only failed to live up to the expectations of the alumni, but also committed a serious breach of public trust, causing irreversible damage to the hard-earned reputation of the HKU as the most respectable tertiary education institution in the territory.
What is even more alarming is that what happened to the HKU may not be an isolated case, and it seems a powerful political force behind the scene is continuing to get its claws into other universities, and the autonomy and academic freedom on our university campus promised under the Basic Law have come under unprecedented threat.
In accordance with the University of Hong Kong Ordinance, all graduates of the HKU are members of the HKU Convocation, and we have already called upon the incumbent convocation to summon an urgent meeting to vote on three resolutions:
1. The HKU Council must confirm the appointment of the pro-vice chancellor based on the recommendation of the recruitment committee, or else it must provide a written explanation;
2. The HKU must review the role of the Chief Executive as the HKU chancellor, and his role should be of a ceremonial nature only;
3. Passing a vote of no confidence against Council member Professor Arthur Li Kwok-cheung.
“To manifest the greatest virtues of man and to push back the frontiers of knowledge.” That’s the HKU motto which originates from the ancient Chinese classic The Four Books.
It teaches all HKU graduates to stand by their principles and convictions and persevere with what is morally right even when the odds are against them.
The article first appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 30
Translation by Alan Lee
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Legislative Council member from the education sector
Scottish referendum could be lesson in political engagement for Hong Kong, says First Minister Nicola Sturgeon
Radio Free Asia - ChinaYesterday, 10:47 PM
China has approved a final draft law aimed at combating domestic violence, including the violent punishment of children by parents, but leading feminists said the draft they saw comes amid growing expansion of police powers and will likely have little effect on the situation of women.
China’s cabinet, the State Council, signed off on the bill after a public consultation process during which non-government organizations (NGOs) and charities pointed out numerous problems with the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s approach.
According to the state-run news agency Xinhua, the bill requires police to “intervene immediately” once such reports are filed.
It also “defines clear-cut responsibilities for different social groups to prevent domestic violence, including government, social organizations, communities, schools and medical institutions,” the agency reported.
Social organizations and individuals are also required to take steps to prevent and report “physical and psychological abuse within families,” Xinhua said, without giving details of how this would be achieved in practice.
The government-backed All-China Women's Federation (ACWF), estimates that nearly 25 percent of married women have suffered domestic violence, although this figure didn’t appear to include violence between unmarried couples.
Little change expected
Chinese feminists said they were unconvinced that the bill in its final form would usher in meaningful change for women.
Feminist activist Zhao Sile said she is worried that the bill will further extend police powers into the domestic realm, without offering genuine support for women’s rights.
“Right now, the National Security Law has already been passed, and it looks likely that the Overseas NGO Management bill will also pass into law,” Zhao said, in a reference to a draconian bill forcing overseas-funded NGOs to register with police or be ruled illegal.
Zhao said the government seems to be focusing on national security and “stability maintenance” concerns as a priority, while sweetening the latest package of legislation with some upgrades in public services. “But one thing that is very worrying about these upgrades in public services is that they could become another excuse for the abuse of police power, and add resources and legitimacy to a further inflation of the powers of police agencies,” Zhao told RFA.
“So, if you ask me … whether the passing of the Anti Domestic Violence Law will bring an improvement in domestic violence against women, I think that it will have some symbolic impact, and I think we can expect to see some stories [in the media] of successful police intervention in domestic violence cases next year,” she said.
“But it is a bit cosmetic, an attempt to make things look as if they are improving.”
Zhao’s comments came after police detained five feminist activists for planning an anti-sexual harassment campaign ahead of International Women’s Day on March 8.
Wu Rongrong, Li Tingting, Wei Tingting, Wang Man, and Zheng Churan, who have since been released on “bail," have written to the United Nations in a bid to make their release unconditional after their detention prompted an international outcry. They will continue to have police restrictions on their movements for a year after their release.
The women said they have struggled to rebuild their lives following their ordeal, which came amid a broader crackdown on the activities of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).
Zhao said the authorities’ approach is still one of “stability maintenance” rather than empowerment.
“I think they are trying to prettify the overall system by which the state controls its citizens,” she said. “As for expanding police powers, these will shrink individual freedoms in every aspect of life, and of course that includes the freedom of women.”
She said there are “problems with the attitudes” of the majority of Chinese police agencies when it comes to dealing with domestic violence, and the bill is unlikely to change that.
“They take a sort of stability maintenance approach, which could actually exacerbate domestic violence against women,” Zhao said.
Meanwhile, Xiong Jing, social media editor of the non-government group Gender in China, said there has been little transparency around the detailed wording of the bill so far.
“This bill has been in a consultation stage for the past few months, and yet there is very little detail being reported,” Xiong said. “Various NGOs, including ourselves, and individuals have put forward suggestions for amendments to the draft bill, but we don’t yet know whether or not our ideas were adopted.”
She added: “A lot of people thought there were a lot of issues with the previous draft, including its definition of what constitutes a domestic setting, as well as various forms of domestic violence; for example financial abuse, which wasn’t included in the original draft.”
Xiong said she welcomed the law in principle. But she said it might make little difference to Chinese women.
“It remains to be seen whether or not it will achieve a drop in domestic violence,” she said. “China has no lack of legislation; what it lacks is the ability to enforce it.”
The law is also aimed at preventing physical abuse of children by parents in the name of “punishment,” a widespread practice seen as part of good parenting in traditional Chinese culture.
A 2010 government study found that 34 percent of girls and 53 percent of boys polled had received "physical punishments" from their parents during the past year.
Reported by Yang Fan for RFA’s Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.
July 30, 2015
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 30 July, 2015, 4:24pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 July, 2015, 5:13pm
University vice-chancellor Peter Mathieson is surrounded by students after they stormed the council meeting. Photo: Dickson Lee
A commentary in the Beijing-based Global Timesnewspaper has described the University of Hong Kong students who stormed a university council meeting on Tuesday as “Red Guards”, who were notorious for purging intellectuals during the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution.
For the second day in a row, pro-Beijing newspapers in Hong Kong such as Wen Wei Po and Ta Kung Pao made the same comparison, but HKU student leader Billy Fung Jing-en said the comparison was wrong.
“The Red Guards were manipulated by Mao Zedong as tools of power struggle, but HKU students have a free mind and know what we are doing,” Fung said.
At the centre of the controversy is HKU’s former law dean Johannes Chan Man-mun, who was recommened for the job of pro-vice-chancellor at the university. But since the candidacy was revealed, pro-Beijing newspapers have criticised Chan for his working relationship with HKU legal scholar Benny Tai Yiu-ting, who co-founded the Occupy Central movement.
The episode in HKU looked a bit like a Hong Kong version of the Cultural Revolution
SHAN RENPING OF THE GLOBAL TIMES NEWSPAPER
On Tuesday, Fung and a group of students stormed the venue where the university’s governing body was meeting after it voted down a motion calling on it to stop delaying the appointment. During the chaos, one of the councillors, Professor Lo Chung-mau, fell down, saying his knee had been injured. He was taken to hospital.
Referring to the incident, Global Times commentator Shan Renping wrote today that “the episode in HKU looked a bit like a Hong Kong version of the Cultural Revolution, and the students the ‘Hong Kong Red Guards’”.
During the 10-year turbulence, Red Guards were notorious for dragging intellectuals to political rallies to be denounced and tortured. Some historians believe that millions were either killed, executed by authorities or committed suicide in the face of persecution.
Shan also accused Chan of mobilising students behind his back.
“It’s just a pro-vice-chancellor post. Since the council postponed the appointment, can Chan show some guts and shout ‘I don’t want the job’? This person seems to have a big [desire] for official posts,” he wrote.
Fung said Shan had misunderstood the students’ demand. He said: “We are not supporting any individual candidate, we are just asking the council [not to delay and] deal with the appointment.”
Many residents say they choose to live in a subdivided flat because it is near the school or their place of work. Photo: Reuters
About 37.5 percent of residents of subdivided flats in Hong Kong said they moved into their current units to be able to go to school or place of work more conveniently, according to a survey conducted by the Census and Statistics Department (CSD).
Only 17.4 percent of the respondents said they opted to live in these flats because of financial difficulties, Ming Pao Daily reported on Thursday.
The findings contradicted the common perception that mainly old people reside in such places.
The survey also found that 69.8 percent of the residents are engaged in economic activities, meaning they are either employed or operate their own business.
The median household income stood at HK$11,800, with rent taking away 30.8 percent of their total earnings, it said.
Edward Yiu Chung-yim, associate professor of the Department of Geography and Resource Management at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said suggestions to build more public housing estates in remote places in the New Territories may not work for these people.
“They might not consider it as an option as they might lose their job living too far away from their work locations,” Yiu said.
A report published by Yiu’s department last month pointed out that the average living space for these residents is less than 48 square feet per person, which is almost identical to the size of a prison cell managed by the Hong Kong Correctional Services.
The CSD report said the average size of living space for occupants of subdivided flats was 61.8 square feet, which is 27 percent bigger than a standard prison cell, but still lower than the 75 square feet for public housing residents.
Up to 195,500 people are living in 86,400 sub-divided flats across the city.
The number of subdivided flats increased by 30 percent during the last six months of 2014.
The report said 38.6 percent of the residents in these subdivided flats are aged between 25 and 44, while 23.9 percent are in the 45-64 age group.
Those under 15 years old and those aged between 15 and 20 each make up less than 20 percent of the residents, while those aged 65 or above represent a mere 6.4 percent, the report said.
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Last Updated: July 29, 2015 11:19 pm
A man in a shirt with the Blagoveshchensk State Pedagogical University and Confucius Institute logos in an undated photo. (Screen shot/Sinocenter.ru)
China’s Confucius Institute, a controversial arm of the Chinese regime’s public diplomacy apparatus, is coming under pressure in Russia, with prosecutors from the city of Blagoveshchensk in the far east of the country calling for the local branch to be closed because it is not properly registered with the authorities.
In a complaint to the city court on July 27, a Blagoveshchensk prosecutor said that the Confucius Institute branch in the local Blagoveshchensk State Pedagogical University (BSPU) should be formally registered as a foreign cultural center, reports Moscow Times. He added that the institute is presently violating Russian law because it is avoiding taxes in hiring foreign teachers as an unregistered non-commercial organization. There are 11 native Chinese teachers, of whom 4 are volunteers, at the Blagoveshchensk Confucius Institute, according to itswebsite.
In response, BSPU says that the institute, which is run as a joint project with a college in the neighboring northern Chinese city of Heihe, is part of its own organization, according to a statement on Amur.info, a local news website. Also, “the institute’s activities do not pose any threat to the social and political structure of Russia,” the BSPU statement read.
But in the past two years, educational institutes in Russia and other countries have come to a very different conclusion about Confucius Institutes, a Beijing-run and funded Chinese language and culture promotion program that is integrated with universities and schools overseas since its establishment in 2004.
In December 2014, Sweden’s Stockholm University announced the closure of its Confucius Institute, which was set up in 2005, on grounds that better links with China made the institute redundant and what they said was the “questionable” practice of allowing a foreign-funded institute remain a part of the university.
In North America, several colleges—the University of Chicago and Pennsylvania State University in the United States, and McMaster University and the University of Sherbrooke in Canada—too cut ties with their Confucius Institutes between 2013 and 2014 after local controversies which highlighted the overtly political nature of the institutes.
In 2010, a college in the far eastern Russian republic of Sakha closed its Confucius Institute because it was found to have “promoted the penetration of the Chinese ideology and economic expansion to the territory of Russia,” according to Russian newspaper “The Businessman” (Kommersant).
The Party itself has admitted that Confucius Institutes are part of the regime’s soft power projection efforts abroad—former Party propaganda chief Li Changchun said they are “an important part of China’s overseas propaganda set-up.” Many commentators have likened Confucius Institutes to a Chinese Trojan Horse because Communist Party rhetoric and worldview—Taiwan is part of mainland China, criticisms of the Dalai Lama, labeling Uyghur rights activists as “terrorists”—are spread to countries under the guise of culture.
Confucius Institutes also exports Party censorship. For instance, it discriminates against practitioners of Falun Gong, a traditional Chinese spiritual discipline that is being persecuted in China—the most notable case being that of Sonia Zhao, a former teacher at McMaster University who was required to sign a statement promising that she would not practice Falun Gong in order to obtain her position.
Russian and Chinese education ministries discussed the case in Beijing the day it went to court, said the institute’s director Nikolai Kukharenko to Moscow Times. It is unclear if any resolution was reached, but the case will resume again on Aug. 4.
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 30 July, 2015, 3:42pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 July, 2015, 4:20pm
First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon attended a signing ceremony between Chinese health companies and Scottish universities in Shanghai on Wednesday before making the trip to Hong Kong. Photo: AP
Scottish First Leader Nicola Sturgeon was in Hong Kong on Thursday to officially open a centre aimed at promoting the adoption of low carbon and sustainable technologies in the city and the Pearl River Delta, which extends into south China’s Guangdong province.
The centre is being run in partnership with the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation, part of the University of Edinburgh. This brings together governments, businesses and universities to develop and implement low-carbon ideas for sustainable economic development.
“This is the first education institution in the world to establish a low-carbon research and innovation centre in another country and I am delighted that it is a Scottish university that is leading the way and setting the standard," said the prominent Scottish National Party politician.
“Like the Hong Kong Science and Technology Park, the University of Edinburgh has a world-class reputation and I’m confident that this relationship will help provide Scottish companies with a route into Hong Kong and, through its strong links with China, act as a gateway into China.”
The centre is being hosted by the HKSTP in a partnership that is also designed to advance technologies in areas such as “smart cities”, which eye greater digital connectivity.
Their goals include working to "commercialise environmentally friendly innovations, information and communications technology and material, and precision engineering,” said Andrew Young, chief commercial officer of the company running the park.
“China produces 26 to 27 per cent of the world’s carbon, and Hong Kong is a key gateway, and an important centre in its own right,” said Ed Craig, deputy director of the centre.
Almost 20 Scottish businesses have been brought over to Hong Kong in the past three months. They focus on areas like air pollution and the environment. Six more are due to arrive soon under the new agreement.
Hong Kong businesses and researchers will be invited to work with the centre in Edinburgh, which also has partnerships with Edinburgh Napier University and Heriot Watt University, the centre said.
The centre has helped thousands of small companies in Scotland to reduce their carbon footprint and create profit from waste, Craig said.
This relates to the concept of a circular economy, which aims to phase out waste and shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, among other changes.
Craig used the example of Celtic Renewables, which has worked with the centre to produce bio fuels using two waste products from Scotland’s whisky industry that were previously dumped in the sea or on land.
“They’re looking at the waste product and saying we can make a second or a third income from [it], which also makes our [main] product much more environmentally sustainable and financially sustainable,” he said.
Craig identified Hong Kong’s transport system, building standards and energy consumption as ripe for innovation.
Hong Kong uses 4,200 buses made by Scottish company Alexander Dennis, which carry about 4 million passengers every day, according to its website.
Craig described these as “relatively low carbon” but said improvements can be made as the company is already starting to introduce hydrogen buses in Scotland.