February 29, 2016

HK police allowed to meet bookseller Lee Bo - RTHK - Express NewsToday, 18:37
A statement from Hong Kong police says they have met the missing bookseller Lee Bo. File photo: AFP
Hong Kong Police say they have met bookseller Lee Bo on Monday at an undisclosed location on the mainland.
The police statement said Lee told them he was not kidnapped and had "used his own method" to travel to the mainland voluntarily, aided by a friends. 
Police said two police officers and an immigration department official met Lee to take his statement.
The police said their Guangdong counterparts notified them on Sunday that Lee was willing to meet them. Police said Lee told them he was assisting in the investigation with a man surnamed "Gui", and was "safe and free" on the mainland. 
The statement quotes Lee as saying that he will return to Hong Kong after the matter was resolved and he did not need any assistance from the SAR government. 
The police statement said they have informed Lee's wife about the meeting and they will continue to follow up on the matter.
Lee was seen in Chai Wan in December and there are no records of him leaving Hong Kong.

Economic Daily News: Where's the G-20's beef?


G-20 finance ministers and central bank governors have just concluded their Shanghai meeting with a pledge to use all possible means to boost growth and avoid competitive depreciation of currencies. As an important forum controlling 85 percent of the global GDP and over 80 percent of world trade, its decisions naturally attract attention.

However, looking back at the G-20 finance ministers' goal in 2014 to boost the global GDP by 2 percent -- nearly US$2 trillion -- by 2018, we're not so sure that the G-20 governments are capable of delivering on their promises.

Over the past two years, the risk of G-20 economies slowing down has grown, with the IMF lowering its global growth forecast and warning that the financial market turmoil and economic slowdown in China could further dampen the world economy.

As most central banks have used up their policy means without achieving their aims, the IMF is urging major economies to increase financial expenditure and speed up economic reforms to enhance growth.

Many countries are now concerned about an escalation of the currency war among major exporting economies, especially as China is attempting to devalue its currency to boost its exports, which would throw the global financial market into turmoil, something that the latest G-20 meeting was trying to prevent.

China's Central Bank Governor Zhou Xiaochuan said at a press conference that there is no basis for the continued depreciation of the yuan, a statement that should have the quieted calls from some "hostile" countries for a new "Plaza agreement" to prevent China from further devaluing its currency.

As the G-20 member states often have conflicting national interests, their finance ministers were unable to come up with any substantial policies in Shanghai regarding the global economy.

It is expected that they will continue to seek an effective joint policy so that when they meet in Hangzhou, China next November they may be able to present a viable proposal. If G-20 leaders cannot solve the world's major economic problems, what can they do?

For now, we can only watch closely how things develop and wait to see what happens next. (Editorial abstract -- Feb. 29, 2016)

(By S.C. Chang) 

10 knife-wielding men attack 2 men in Sham Shui Po, robbing HKD270,000 worth of items

By Coconuts Hong Kong February 29, 2016 / 19:00 HKT

7 seater

Police inspect the seven-seater car. Photo:Facebook

A gang of 10 knife-wielding men reportedly attacked two men on Nam Cheong Estate in Sham Shui Po at around 9pm on Saturday evening.


Video: Apple Daily

Video of the incident – which was partially recorded by a witness – shows the attackers pulling the driver and passenger of a seven-seater out of the car before robbing them of HKD122,000 in cash, three phones worth a combined HKD7,300, a bag worth HKD20,000, and a Rolex watch worth HKD120,000.

Some of the assailants can also be seen kicking the car repeatedly on video.

The car's driver, a 22-year-old surnamed Chu, was punched and kicked for around two minutes, while his passenger, a 23-year-old surnamed Chan, ran away and escaped injury.

Police later arrived on the scene, while Chan was rushed to the hospital for treatment of his injuries.

The assailants, whom the police believe have gang backgrounds, reportedly included eight men of South Asian descent and two local men of Chinese descent. 

A source told Apple Daily that Chu and Chan were in the area to collect a debt, and did not rule out the possibility that the incident was a result of gang conflict.

At approximately 4pm yesterday, police from Sham Shui Po District's Anti-Triad Squad arrested a man surnamed Lin in Hung Hom to help in their investigations.

There is also a White House in Hong Kong (by Alan Lee)

EJ Insight » Hong KongToday, 17:04

The Victoria Road Detention Center, better known as the "White House", will soon undergo a drastic facelift despite opposition from heritage conservationists. Photo: HKEJ

The Victoria Road Detention Center, better known as the "White House", will soon undergo a drastic facelift despite opposition from heritage conservationists. Photo: HKEJ

While many commentators and politicians are drawing parallels between the recent Mong Kok clashes and the 1967 leftist riots, another development that is also associated with those notorious riots that took place almost 50 years ago has largely gone under the public radar.

It’s the commencement of the controversial revitalization project of the “White House” at Mount Davis.

Situated at the top of Mount Davis on the west of Hong Kong Island, the “White House” looks like an elegant mountain resort hotel that enjoys a panoramic view of the western Victoria Harbour. It has been used as the filming location of several blockbusters such as “Lust, Caution” by Oscar-winning director Ang Lee.

However, to many old leftist activists and dissidents who are still alive today, the compound was once hell on earth, and still serves as a haunting reminder of the dark age of British colonial rule even to this day.

Officially known as the “Victoria Road Detention Center”, but often dubbed the “White House”, the compound was originally built in the early 1950s as the clubhouse of the Royal Engineers Association.

Beginning in the late ’50s, the premises were taken over by the Special Branch (SB) of the Royal Hong Kong Police Force, the local division of the British MI5, and were later turned into a detention center for political dissidents, underground communists, separatists, leftist activists and spies working for either the Kuomintang or the Chinese Communist Party.

From the late ’50s until the early ’70s, hundreds of thousands of political prisoners were detained in the White House without proper trial, many of whom were interrogated repeatedly, tortured, and on some occasions, even secretly executed by British intelligence.

During and after the 1967 riots the White House was packed with leftist rioters and communist sympathizers. Among them was former Secretary for Home Affairs Tsang Tak-sing, who was locked up there for two years for distributing anti-government leaflets in his school.

As the political atmosphere in Hong Kong began to relax from the mid-’70s, the SB gradually stopped using the White House as a political detention center.

After the SB had been officially dissolved in 1995, the White House was completely abandoned and placed under the management of the Government Property Agency, and the once notorious and fearsome political prison, along with its unpleasant past, soon faded out of the public eye completely.

It wasn’t until around early 2014 that the White House once again caught some public attention, when the University of Chicago Booth School of Business proposed to give the compound a facelift and rent it for 10 years as its first overseas campus in Asia.

According to the renovation proposal submitted by the Booth School of Business, it will spend HK$400 million to rebuild the compound, and under its building plan the entire block C of the White House will be demolished, its floor plan changed drastically and a giant glass ceiling built to cover almost half of the premises.

After completion, both the interior and exterior of the White House will have been changed almost beyond recognition.

During the public consultations in early 2015, the Town Planning Board received a lot of objections to the proposal from heritage conservationists, who argued that the White House represents a unique historical period of our city and therefore should be preserved as a historical site or museum.

Its original form and architectural elements should be kept and it should remain open to the public, they said.

Still, the Town Planning Board gave the green light to the Booth proposal, and construction is scheduled to begin later this year.

Sadly, the controversy over the fate of the White House didn’t gain much media coverage or public attention, and the vast majority of the public have remained largely indifferent to what is going to happen to the structure.

It seems inevitable that soon our city is going to lose yet another historical heritage, just like we lost the Old Star Ferry Pier, the Queen’s Pier and the Ho Tung Gardens.

Even though heritage conservation doesn’t necessarily mean freezing or fossilizing a historic building in time or banning its owners from doing anything with their properties, Booth’s proposal obviously doesn’t fulfill the goal of preserving the architectural essence and historical characteristics of the White House.

Some even suspect that the SAR government’s hasty approval of Booth’s plan regardless of public opposition is part of its secret agenda of “decolonization”.

Even more sadly, the majority of the public simply just couldn’t care less about the fate of the White House, and it appears both the government and the public are holding a double standard on heritage conservation.

I believe all historical sites or buildings deserve proper protection and conservation, whether they represent a pleasant or unpleasant period in our past, because they all form the collective memory of our society that makes us who we are today, and leaves behind an invaluable legacy for the coming generations.

It might be up to our children to judge our past, but it is definitely our responsibility to preserve our city’s history in its entirety, even though it might open old wounds, because history should neither be hidden nor distorted under all circumstances.

– Contact us at


February 16, 2016

Beijing Locals Give Unexpected Help to White Man Who Collapsed in Subway Station

by Juliet Song, Epoch Times

The Epoch Times » ChinaToday, 07:52

On Jan. 28, when a foreign man passed out and collapsed at a subway station in the Chinese capital, enthusiastic local passengers immediately flocked around to help him. A boy removed his jacket and draped it over the white man to keep him warm while a young woman called for emergency care. A middle-aged lady applied her knowledge of Chinese medicine by massaging his acupuncture points. The state-run Economic Daily reported that emergency response staff had arrived within five minutes.

(Sina Weibo)

(Sina Weibo)

(Sina Weibo)

Last August, the contrast could not be greater when an elderly Chinese man lost balance and fell when riding a scooter in Zhengzhou, northern China. No one lifted a finger to help him, even though he lay in ankle-deep water. According to the state-run Henan Television Network, the man eventually died where he lay of “unknown causes.”

The apparent double standard that exists between treatment of foreigners and locals in China became a topic of heated discussion on Chinese social media.

People in China are often reluctant to help strangers, who they fear may be out toswindle or accuse them. As one Internet userwrote: “many Chinese are actually enthusiastic to help others. … people trusted that this foreigner was not a swindler trying to fleece them. Praiseworthy but sad!”

MORE:Why the Common Sense Act of Helping the Elderly Is Not a Thing in China (+Video)In China, ‘Good Samaritan’ Insurance Protects You From the Conniving Elderly

Another wrote: “why there is no one to help when the same thing happens to a Chinese? Because we can’t afford it! Our help will cost at best tens of thousands of yuan, hundreds of thousands at worst.”

In a famous case that happened in 2006 in Nanjing, eastern China, a young man helped up an elderly woman who had fallen and hurt her thighbone. When the woman, Xu Shoulan, accused him of knocking her down, the court ordered the man, Yu Peng, to pay 45,000 yuan (about $7,000) as compensation.

Despite not having sufficient evidence to prove that Yu had actually done anything wrong, the court rested the case on the grounds that “no one would in good conscience help someone unless they felt guilty.”

The second internet user’s comment continued: “every Chinese is eating the disastrous fruit planted by our own hands.”

The ‘New Normal’ of China’s Economy

by Cheng Xiaonong

The Epoch Times » ChinaToday, 06:56

Last year the Chinese government coined a phrase “New Normal,” but didn’t explain what it meant. In fact, the “New Normal” means “farewell to prosperity.” It implies that the rapid growth seen in China over the past two to three decades is not likely to continue in the future.

The Chinese people may not even be aware of the causes behind China’s rapid growth over the past two to three decades. I will summarize it here into two stages. The first was the export boom, the second the construction boom.

Export Boom

The “export boom” mainly refers to the trend of many countries going to China with large investments, and transferring their manufacturing to low-wage countries as a result of economic globalization after China formally joined the World Trade Organization in early 2002. This led to China’s rapid export growth, five or six years in a row, of more than 25 percent and sometimes even 35 percent. Such growth was indeed astonishing.

The question is whether a country as big as China can sustain a continuous export growth rate of 25 to 35 percent for two decades. Looking at it rationally, we know it’s impossible. China has a large population and a quarter of the world’s labor force. If China maintained such an export growth, all factories in the world would have to close down, because the size of the world market has an upper limit.

In 2008, China’s export boom was halted by the subprime mortgage crisis in the United States.  Consumption in developed countries shrank rapidly. This stopped the boom after nearly seven years. At present, it is obvious that the golden era of China’s export growth has ended. A couple of years ago, China’s export growth dropped to 6 or 7 percent, and in 2015 it fell to 3 percent—the boom was completely over.

Construction Boom

With declining exports in recent years, why did China’s economy manage to sustain a high growth rate? The Chinese government, fearing that growth would dry up, released a four trillion yuan stimulus package after the 2008 subprime crisis. One of its key consequence was to authorize local governments to engage in real estate development using bank loans. This strategy was also adopted by China’s state owned enterprises.

This move transformed the country into a big construction site. The Chinese economy went through a huge change from export oriented to real estate oriented. Related industries, such as steel, aluminum, building materials, cement, glass, and so on all flourished. China’s steel production, which supported large-scale domestic construction projects, more than doubled in a few years, reaching nearly a billion tons per year.

This real estate boom saved China’s economic prosperity for another several years. But can it be sustained? Not likely. Despite so many houses having been built, if they cannot be sold, the local governments and real estate corporations who borrowed money to build them will go bankrupt. This is exactly what China is facing right now.

According to a survey conducted by Peking University last year, over 60 percent of urban households in China already own one residence, 20 to 30 percent of whom own two or more residences—and then among them, several tens of millions own more than six residences. Yet these people purchase houses as an investment, not to live in. In the end they hope to sell their properties at a higher price than when they bought them for.

When houses are sold not for people to live in, but for rich people to hold as investments, this is of course a very unhealthy real estate market. This deformity of supply and demand has led to a short-lived real estate boom. Buyers plan to sell houses eventually, but who will buy them? Not many people can afford such expensive residences.

When housing prices so far exceed income, the real estate market becomes saturated and houses are no longer marketable. Real estate investment companies began suffering losses that resulted in broken funding chains and disillusionment with the real estate boom—this is what happened last year.

In 2015, China’s real estate boom ran into a serious crisis, and one decade of positive export growth went negative. With these two factors combined, the Chinese economy has stepped into a difficult stage, which has been called the “New Normal” by the Chinese government.

The New Normal

Specific factors and opportunities led to China’s past two decades of rapid growth. With all these factors now having gone away, China has entered a period of low economic growth from here on out. As far as how low it will be, we are unable to predict. Calamities, such as a real estate crash or further world economic turmoil, may cause the economy to slide down further.

Earlier in 2016, China’s National Bureau of Statistics announced that China’s 2015 GDP growth had declined over the previous year. In other words, the “new normal” may imply that the decline of China’s economic growth rate has no bottom, while the ceiling will not rise higher than the current level. Perhaps the present economic state is the best that China will see for a long time.

Dr. Cheng Xiaonong was trained as a sociologist at Princeton University. This article is an abridged translation of a Jan. 25, 2016 interview with Radio France International.

Mong Kok, the melting pot of Hong Kong where passions boil over

by Cannix Yau

South China Morning PostYesterday, 20:51

None of the Hongkongers who headed to Mong Kok on the first day of the Lunar New Year would have anticipated the events that unfolded.

Last Monday night should have been a festive occasion with people enjoying a traditional holiday experience – dining on local street delicacies prepared by hawkers.

But when their illicit trade on the bustling Portland Street, a notorious red light district, triggered shocking scenes of violence between police and radical “localist” supporters, the community was caught by surprise.

The unlicensed vendors had been taking part in a time-honoured tradition of being on the streets during new year, but tempers had flared when some of the crowd took umbrage at Food and Environmental Hygiene Department officers patrolling the area.

It turned into a bloody overnight confrontation, now known as the Mong Kok riot, in which citizens clashed with police for more than 10 hours.

About 130 people, including 90 police officers, were injured and at least 65 people were arrested on rioting and other charges.

For Mong Kok it was a return to the international spotlight following the Occupy Central movement in late 2014 and the latest chapter in the history of this complex and vibrant part of Hong Kong.

The district’s increasingly political nature drew global attention at that time when the densely populated locality served as a new front for protesters to gather forces in their fight for universal suffrage – as an alternative to their Admiralty base where they were tear-gassed and pepper-sprayed by police.

The civil disobedience movement called on thousands of protesters to block roads and paralyse traffic to demand what they called “real democracy”, not one decreed by Beijing.

The protesters of Mong Kok demonstrated their ingenuity using whatever objects were available – from bus stop posts to rubbish bins and construction waste – to build barricades, including in the form of marquees and religious shrines, blocking the busy streets of the district usually packed with tourists and shoppers.

The “Mong Kok spirit” exhibited – representing grittiness, toughness and a streetwise sense of defiance – made the protest site highly resilient, thus making its clearance difficult and prolonging the movement to 75 days.

Even Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying acknowledged Mong Kok was a unique part of Hong Kong, admitting that it was not easy to keep the unrest in the area under control with regard to clearance.

“As we all know, Mong Kok is not exactly the most genteel part of Hong Kong,” he said, during a TV interview in October 2014.

“Hong Kong generally speaking has a very low and falling crime rate but by comparison I have to say, by comparison, Mong Kok is different, and the forces, political or otherwise, operating in Mong Kok are very different, too ... So Mong Kok is a very different situation.”

Named the world’s busiest district by Guinness World Records with its extremely high population density of 130,000 people per sq km, how Mong Kok became the location for such politically charged scenes is certainly intriguing.

A place of extremes, it is popular with tourists, messy, yet lively with links to triads and is where the city’s underdogs, the sex trade and colourful entertainment flourishes. It is always viewed as the antithesis of the “high-brow” Hong Kong Island, which is a place for the intellectuals and the middle and higher class.

But it has its unique charm which is irresistible and its own distinct identity with a recognised “Mong Kok culture”, with youths who hang out in the area identified as “MK guys” and “MK girls”. From the world’s cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant to small quirky eateries; from upstairs bookstores to pirated CDs; from karaoke to brothels; from cheap fashion to trendy products; from goldfish to birds, Mong Kok has something to satisfy every taste and all budgets.

It is hard to imagine that this kaleidoscopic area, interconnected with a maze of narrow streets, was no more than a small farming village near the sea as a Hakka settlement more than 150 years ago.

Villagers, gathering around Bute Street, Tong Choi Street and Fa Yuen Street, made a living by growing vegetables and flowers as well as raising livestock.

From 1909, the colonial government started to develop the coastal region by reclamation and construction of roads, a railway station and a ferry pier, linking Mong Kok to the neighbouring villages of Yau Ma Tei on one side and Sham Shui Po on the other.

In 1930 when the area gradually became an industrial district with textile and tobacco factories, the colonial government formally changed its name to “旺 角”, meaning “prosperous corner”, from its original “芒角”, named for its plentiful supply of ferns in the past. Its English transliteration “Mong Kok” remains unchanged.

Its street names also tell a nostalgic story revealing the past activities on the street such as Reclamation Street; Sai Yee Street and Yim Po Fong Street referring to the clothes washing and dyeing activities. Tong Choi Street refers to a vegetable known as morning glory or water spinach; Sai Yeung Choi Street referring to watercress and Fa Yuen (Garden) Street, home to a street market.

Mong Kok lived up to its name as commercial development started to boom and construction of “tong lau” shop and houses on Shanghai Street turned the area into a major shopping and trading area.

Today, this is the busiest and most crowded part of Hong Kong, a shopping and entertainment district, transport hub, business centre and residential zone packed into a relatively small patch of land.

Shoppers now bargain hunt zealously at Tung Choi Street, nicknamed Ladies’ Street – a key hawking zone for cheap women’s clothing, accessories, cosmetics and other trendy products – a fascinating shopping area which began life due to a policy change about hawking introduced in the mid-70s.

During this period, Hong Kong’s economy was taking a nosedive, forcing many unemployed people to hawk their wares at Tung Choi Street. Hoping to help out-of-work people earn a living during the recession, the colonial government turned the district into a Hawker Permitted Area for 400 unlicensed hawkers, laying the foundation for Mong Kok’s booming hawking business.

This was also the time when the independent spirit of hawkers, mostly men and women in their early 20s, began to take root there. Several of them interviewed by the Post in 1977 said they would rather work as hawkers than in offices or factories because they enjoyed being their “own bosses”.

The area is considered to be a model bazaar because hawkers have to move their wares out of the street after trading every evening to allow the street to be thoroughly cleaned.

That was how Ladies’ Street became a success story and has also made Mong Kok remarkable for its eye-opening shopping experience with an array of markets, small shops and food stalls.

However, the booming hawking business also attracted triads – particularly the Wo Shing Wo and 14K. Many of the stall spaces were in fact “bought” from triads when the street was made a permitted area in 1975 while many hawkers simply became triads for reasons of self-protection.

The triads had another, more lucrative, business to take care of, namely the vice business in Portland Street, the city’s most famous red light district serving mostly local Chinese clientele and being a popular feature in triad movies.

Underneath an array of neon signs, prostitutes mostly from mainland China and Asian countries like Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines serve in massage parlours, nightclubs, karaoke lounges, bars and brothels.

The vice business, controlled by the city’s four big gangs – Wo Shing Wo, 14K, Sun Yee On and Shui Fong – thrived in the 1980s and 1990s. It was estimated that turnover in the district's 400 vice dens was as high as HK$2.4 billion a year in the 90s.

However, because of infighting among triads, police stepped up their crackdown on the sex trade, especially before the launch of the Langham Place office-rental-hotel complex in July 2004.

To make way for this upscale development, many brothels were moved to other streets and by 2006 it was estimated that the number of vice dens was down to 150.

Mong Kok also has a reputation for alternative street culture and a political side due to the introduction of the Mong Kok Pedestrian Zone on weekends and public holidays on Sai Yeung Choi Street in August 2000.

The pedestrianised area draws crowds and is highly popular with salespeople promoting mobile phones, political campaigners, street performers and even beggars expressing themselves.

“Music performers, actors on talent shows or even members of political parties are free to use the streets,” Yau Tsim Mong district councillor Chris Ip Ngo-tung once said, describing it as “a form of freedom of expression”.

Music, speakers, sirens and horns compete for attention, while political activists such as “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung like to give speeches and hold public forums with Falun Gong practitioners adding to the tumult with large posters.

Maybe the free exchange of political views and ideas facilitated by the zone explains why Mong Kok has been getting political in recent years and MK guys and girls more expressive and daring about their fight for democracy and the protection of individual rights.

China's Embassy in Washington Could Find Itself on 'Liu Xiaobo Plaza'

Radio Free Asia - China news in EnglishToday, 04:52

A human rights activist holds a banner during a rally marking the 60th birthday of imprisoned Chinese dissident and Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo in Hong Kong on Dec. 28, 2015.

China's official media has hit out at moves by U.S. politicians to rename the street in Washington where its embassy is located after jailed Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo, accusing the Senate of "provoking" Beijing.

Last Friday, the Senate unanimously passed legislation to rename the plaza in front of the Chinese embassy in Washington "Liu Xiaobo Plaza."

"Detained in 2008, Dr. Liu continues to be unjustly imprisoned under the authority of [Chinese] President Xi Jinping," the Senate said in a news release after the vote.

The bill is now headed to the House of Representatives for consideration, it said.

The nationalist tabloid Global Times, which has close ties to the ruling Chinese Communist Party, said the move was "rash" and "provocative."

"The apparently provocative move intends to outrage and unsettle China,” the Global Times said in an editorial on Sunday.

"But this is no big deal. In addition to anger, it will enable us to learn more about the U.S. from another perspective: The U.S. has big problems in abiding by the rules and keeping self-respect and its Congress acts so rashly," it said.

Senate Bill 2451 was authored by Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, and is intended to honor Liu, who is currently serving an 11-year sentence for "incitement to subvert state power."

Liu, 60, is unlikely to qualify for parole, because he has never admitted to committing any crime.

Since his Nobel prize was announced in 2010 to the fury of Beijing, Liu's wife Liu Xia has remained under house arrest and close police surveillance at the couple's home.

Reminder to 're-think this issue'

Independent writer Liu Di, who is a close friend of the Lius, welcomed the move.

"I very much welcome this decision by the U.S. Senate, because it [could mean] that they see Liu Xiaobo's name every time they get a letter, which will act as a reminder to the Chinese government to re-think this issue," Liu Di said.

"I hope this would be helpful, although I couldn't rule out the possibility that the opposite would be true," she said. "But I think it could have the effect of improving their circumstances."

She said it was unclear how the move would affect Liu Xia, however.

"What happens to Liu Xia largely depends on what happens to Liu Xiaobo," Liu Di said. "And even if they released Liu Xiaobo, they could still keep them under house arrest."

Infuriate Beijing further

Hong Kong activist Richard Choi, of the the Alliance in Support of the Patriotic Democratic Movement in China, said any change of the embassy's address would likely infuriate Beijing further.

"It's hard to say how a name change [if it happened] would affect Liu Xia, but some international attention and concern is always better than no international attention or concern, where Chinese right activists are concerned," Choi said.

"Liu Xia has been cruelly treated over the past few years, and ... more focus on her case will, I think, definitely have a positive effect," he said.

A literary critic and former professor, Liu was awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize "for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China" in a decision that infuriated Beijing, which says he has broken Chinese law.

He has been held since 2008 after helping to draft Charter 08, a manifesto calling for sweeping changes in China's government that was signed by thousands of supporters.

Reported by Xin Lin for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

Hong Kong Government Rejects Calls For Inquiry Into 'Fishball' Riots

Radio Free Asia - China news in EnglishToday, 04:21

Members of the media surround a car as supporters (top C) help escort a protester (not visible), who is facing charges of taking part in a riot on Feb. 9 in the district of Mongkok, after a court hearing in Hong Kong on Feb. 11, 2016

Hong Kong officials on Monday rejected growing calls for an independent inquiry into last week's violence in the working-class district of Mong Kok which has been compared to the "Star Ferry" riots of 50 years ago, but which Beijing has branded the work of "radical separatists inclined to terrorism."

"Following the disturbances in Hong Kong in the 1960s, a commission of inquiry was set up by the government at the time," the government said in a statement on its official website.

"But the Government considers it inappropriate to make direct comparisons between the incident and the Mong Kok riot," it said.

Hong Kong officials are viewing the unrest, which was sparked by confrontations between unlicensed food vendors and police last Monday, as a "serious violent incident," and has vowed to round up all of the "culprits."

"Hong Kong now enjoys free access to information and is a highly democratic and transparent society," the statement said. "People are entitled to freedom of speech and can express their opinions and aspirations on social problems and government administration through different channels."

The statement followed an open letter from some 40 academics citing the inquiry into the Star Ferry riots of 1966, and the 1967 violence in which supporters of late supreme leader Mao Zedong played a key role, as a precedent under the British colonial regime.

Hundreds of others also added their names to the letter in an online petition.

"There are a lot of things that remain murky about [the Mong Kok] incident, for example, who was working in the background, but the government is refusing to diagnose the problem so as to take measures to fix it," letter signatory To Yiu-ming, associate professor of journalism at the Hong Kong Baptist University.

"All we are allowed to see is the surface phenomena; the fact that some people got violent, but there's no attempt to address the causes of that violence," To said. "That means it will be hard to avoid a recurrence in the future."

To said more than 1,000 people had signed the petition to date.

Meanwhile, Mak Hoi-wah of the Hong Kong City University said unemployment and a lack of prospects for young people could be factors behind the unrest.

"The big picture could be that their income isn't stable, and some people are beginning to feel that they have lost out, that the benefits that should be available to them aren't," Mak said.

"Maybe they couldn't get the jobs or the college places they wanted, and so they have a certain amount of anger towards society," he said.

"But we won't know exactly why until we research it in depth."

'Radical separatists'

Beijing's top official in Hong Kong on Monday condemned the Mong Kok protesters as "radical separatists," however.

"We strongly condemn those radical separatists whose behaviors got more and more violent and even showed terror tendencies," Beijing's central government liaison office chief Zhang Xiaoming was quoted as saying by the state news agency Xinhua.

"We strongly condemn those remarks and sophistries that agitate for violence and confuse right and wrong, and even attempt to shift the blame onto other people," he said.

And in Hong Kong, the pro-Beijing establishment camp appeared to be taking a similar line, with a former security chief branding the Mong Kok protesters as "not human beings," and "monstrous."

Lee, who also represents Hong Kong in Beijing's parliament, the National People's Congress (NPC), said the violence suggests Hong Kong's police force needs more crowd-control weapons in its arsenal.

"They were throwing things at police, hitting them with sticks, and yet the police were unable to fire in the face of these attacks," Lee said. "I don't think it would have been considered outrageous if the police had hurled a few of those bricks back at them."

"After a few of these incidents, we need to think about buying some water cannons, which mean the police can keep demonstrators at a greater distance," he said.

Edited and removed

The current government under chief executive Leung Chun-ying is unlikely to welcome comparisons between last week's violence, when crowds set fire to trash in the street and hurled bricks at armored riot police, and the unrest of the late 1960s.

An official history of Hong Kong's police force was recently edited to remove any reference to leftist agitators and Mao-inspired unrest, according to the Economic Journal.

The Hong Kong Police official website was edited last September to remove all reference to the Cultural Revolution across the border in Maoist China, and to bomb attacks, marches with Mao's "Little Red Book" and the killing of several police officers and journalists, the paper reported.

Paragraphs referring to to communist militia, communist sympathizers, bomb-making and Maoist slogans were all removed, it said, as well as the name of the group blamed for the violence, the Hong Kong and Kowloon Committee for Anti-Hong Kong British Persecution Struggle, the paper reported.

Hong Kong current affairs commentator Wu Yisan accused the ruling Chinese Communist Party of agitating the unrest in the first place.

"They are orchestrating social tension, because they want to destabilize Hong Kong," Wu said. "That way, they'll be able to increase the level of interference in Hong Kong's affairs."

"They don't want Hong Kong to become an advertisement for democracy and universal values like the rule of law, because that really isn't in their interest," he said.

Beijing's hard line in Hong Kong

Former City University politics professor Joseph Cheng said Beijing is continuing to tighten its grip on the city, which was promised a "high degree of autonomy" after the 1997 handover to Chinese rule.

"This has been going on for the past two or three years now, and Zhang Xiaoming's comments are supportive of Beijing's hard line in Hong Kong," Cheng said.

"They are supportive of the Communist Party's unwillingness to allow Hong Kong to become the vanguard of democracy."

Reported by Lin Jing for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Yang Fan for the Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

February 15, 2016

HSBC keeps China at arm’s length

FinanceAsiaToday, 02:22

HSBC’s 10-month long identity crisis is finally over; not only has it decided to remain a London-headquartered bank, it has also pledged to cease periodically navel-gazing about the matter.

The reaction within HSBC and among its peers and clients was agreement and relief, as the alternative may have crippled decision-making with red tape. Investors seemed pleased too, with HSBC's share price in Hong Kong closing up 4.47% on Monday at HK$50.25 and adding 1% in morning London trade.

“London has an internationally respected regulatory framework and legal system, and immense experience in handling complex international affairs,” HSBC said in a statement on Sunday unveiling its decision.

In contrast, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority is woefully undermanned to monitor Europe’s biggest bank by market capitalisation and ill-equipped to understand its global business, said senior bankers in Hong Kong who regularly interact with the Territory’s banking regulator.

If HSBC had relocated its domicile to Hong Kong then decisions to make a large loan to, say, Africa would have had to have been explained to the HKMA, thereby slowing down the process, said the bankers who spoke toFinanceAsia on condition of anonymity given the sensitivity of relations with regulators.

One senior banker at an international institution with a presence in Hong Kong said it took much of his time explaining to HKMA officials why the bank was moving capital around and why they were using different vehicles to do so. He noted that the HKMA’s primary focus and the bulk of its work is regulating local, smaller Hong Kong banks.

HKMA’s chief executive officer Norman Chan said in a statement: "The HKMA appreciates that for a large international bank such as HSBC, relocation of domicile is a very major and complicated undertaking.”

Another senior banker in Hong Kong who counts HSBC among his major clients said he was relieved by the news it will remain lead-regulated by Britain, even though he had expected the status quo to prevail. He said the decision means collaboration on projects with HSBC are now less likely to become bogged down in bureaucracy.

Close but not too close

HSBC is also taking a long-term view on the direction of regulatory oversight in Hong Kong. It said in its statement that it would not continue to review the location of the group’s headquarters every three years as it has done in the past.

As China opens up its financial markets it is becoming more interconnected with Hong Kong. In the past year the HKMA has been coordinating with mainland China’s banking regulator, the China Banking Regulatory Commission, on projects such as providing oversight for clearing systems for the Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect and the accumulation of renminbi deposits in Hong Kong.

To be sure, the bankers FinanceAsia spoke to said that they had not seen examples to date of the CBRC unduly influencing the HKMA but they thought it only a matter of time before the HKMA becomes a unit of its mainland peer.

“It would be very dangerous to be beholden to Beijing’s regulators who don’t understand global markets and won’t for a long time,” said the first Hong Kong-based banker.

HSBC generated about 60% of its pre-tax profits in Asia in the nine months to September 30. Hong Kong is its single biggest market globally. 

One senior banker within HSBC noted that mainland regulators’ handling of financial liberalisation over the past 12 months has dented confidence in their abilities.

“What has been happening in China’s markets over recent months has had to have made Hong Kong a less attractive destination,” he said. 

HSBC sought in its statement to balance lauding the benefits of London as the ideal location to support international trade while defending the pivot to Asia.

“Having our headquarters in the UK and our significant business in Asia Pacific delivers the best of both worlds to our stakeholders,” said HSBC group chief executive Stuart Gulliver in the statement.

HSBC plans to add 4,000 jobs in China’s Pearl River Delta region over the next three to four years.

A second senior banker at HSBC in Hong Kong said that the push in China will not be impacted by the decision on where to domicile. 

"We are not expecting any negative reaction from regulators ... will there be any impact on our growth in the Pearl River Delta and Asean, absolutely not," he said over the phone. 

HSBC said in the announcement that the review process, which kicked off in April, not only considered regulation but also the scale of HSBC’s presence by jurisdiction, economic importance, future growth, and financial impact.

The main financial benefit from a shift to Hong Kong would have been a reduction in the size of the UK bank levy. However, it was announced in the 2015 UK Summer Budget that the bank levy would be charged only on a bank's UK liabilities from 2021 onwards, so HSBC should be able to capture much of this benefit without the need to change headquarters.

“Hence we believe the announcement is in line with market expectations,” Martin Leitgeb, a London-based bank analyst at Goldman Sachs, said.

Traditional Chinese characters an advantage and here’s why

by Mark O'Neill

EJ Insight » Hong KongToday, 09:54

Important meanings are sometimes lost in simplified Chinese characters. Take the word love for example. Ai (love) 愛 became 爱 by removing the character for heart 心 -- how can you love without the heart? Photo: Internet

Important meanings are sometimes lost in simplified Chinese characters. Take the word love for example. Ai (love) 愛 became 爱 by removing the character for heart 心 -- how can you love without the heart? Photo: Internet

When I worked in Shanghai, I used to bring back from Hong Kong books and magazines for my mainland colleagues so that they could see material unavailable at home.

They would take them excitedly and start to read.

Thirty minutes later, I would turn round and find them looking again at websites on the computer, with the magazines set aside.

“Not interesting?” I would ask. “No, the characters are too difficult. I gave up.”

I was sad.

My colleagues were smart, well-read and university-educated — the cream of society — but they could not easily finish one of the many excellent articles in a Hong Kong magazine.

How was it that a stupid gweilo could understand it and an intelligent Chinese could not?

I thought back to the teachers in the Mandarin school in Taipei in the 1980s.

“You must use only the traditional characters,” they said. “The simplified ones are not standard Chinese. Once you learn the traditional ones, then you can easily master the simplified ones.”

They called the traditional characters Zhengtizi (正体字 — standard characters) and did not use the term used in the mainland term (繁体字); “fan” means numerous, implying a difficulty in writing them.

They asked what logic was used to do the simplification other than reducing the number of strokes.

For example, ai (love) 愛 became 爱 by removing the character for heart 心 — how can you love without the heart?

How right my teachers were and how much we thank them now.

Later, it was easy to read the simplified characters, especially since they were formed out of the traditional ones.

That is what I would say to the students of Hong Kong; what worked for this stupid gweilo works for you.

You are fortunate to live in an environment surrounded by traditional characters — on the streets, in the media, your computer and your school textbooks.

How quickly you can learn them. Even better, you have computer software to help you write them.

As a result, you can read and understand the treasures of everything written in the world in the Chinese language.

Because of the censorship in China, much of the best material is published outside the mainland — and you can read it all.

When Beijing simplified the characters in the 1950s, it had a good motive — to lower the high level of illiteracy and enable ordinary people, especially the poor, the farmer and the worker, to read.

It points to the great advances in literacy — rising from 20 per cent in 1950 to 85 per cent in 2001 and 96 per cent now.

Since the 1950s, it has made the simplified characters the only standard; in a mainland bookshop, you will rarely find a book with traditional ones.

They are also the standard of Confucius Institutes and other official bodies abroad. Beijing wants to make it the global standard of Chinese.

The issue of which characters to use is emotive.

On Jan. 8, at the Grand Hall at the University of Hong Kong, eminent writers and poets from Hong Kong and Taiwan launched a festival profiling seven literary celebrities.

One was Pai Hsien-yung (白先勇), from Taiwan, one of the most famous Chinese writers in the world, whose books are read by people all over the Chinese world.

“Language is a great rallying force and I hope the original characters practised in Taiwan and Hong Kong will live on forever.”

His words provoked the loudest cheers of the evening.

That is the consensus view in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

In December 2009, Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said his government would apply to UNESCO to have the traditional characters receive World Heritage status.

“As the culture with the longest history, richest content and widest influence, Chinese culture has been able to survive and thrive for thousands of years mainly because of its use of a beautiful writing system to pass down traditions,” he said.

“I am afraid that this beautiful language that has documented China’s history for 3,000 years is giving way to the simplified one.”

You students of Hong Kong are in the ideal position.

Here you can learn the traditional characters at school, through the media and on your computer.

Then you can easily understand the simplified ones, if you go on to work in the mainland and read material in it.

Knowing the two enables you to read everything that is published in Chinese in the world.

Why give up something that gives you such a competitive advantage, personally and professionally?

– Contact us at


Petition for independent inquiry into Mong Kok clashes launched

EJ Insight » Hong KongToday, 12:19

The Hong Kong government is being urged to set up an independent committee to investigate the clashes in Mong Kok on the night of Feb. 8. Photo: Bloomberg

The Hong Kong government is being urged to set up an independent committee to investigate the clashes in Mong Kok on the night of Feb. 8. Photo: Bloomberg

Nearly 30 academics and professionals have launched an online campaign calling for the government to set up an independent committee to look into the clashes between protesters and police in Mong Kok on the night of Feb. 8.

They include Joseph Wong Wing-ping, former secretary for the civil service; Eric Cheung Tat-ming, principal lecturer in the department of law at the University of Hong Kong; and Kenneth Leung Kai-cheong, lawmaker for the accountancy constituency, Apple Daily reported Monday.

By 8 p.m. Sunday, they had collected more than 600 signatures, the report said.

While the government condemned the incident — in which more than 100 people, mostly police officers, were injured — a “riot”, it has not made an in-depth investigation into the way police dealt with it, a joint statement by the campaign’s organizers said.

They said the clashes might have resulted from public discontent with the government, which should find out the root of the conflict instead of handling its aftermath with suppressive methods, which might only instigate more violent resistance and do no good to society.

Citing the fact that the government formed an investigative committee soon after the riots in 1967 as an example, the group urged the government to do the same this time, not only to clarify the truth but also to prevent similar incidents from recurring in the future.

Edward Yiu Chung-yim, associate professor in the department of geography and resource management at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and one of the campaign’s organizers, was quoted by Ming Pao Daily as saying an independent committee with credibility can help find a way out for the divisions in society.

The Civic Party and the Democratic Party expressed their support for the campaign.

But Ip Kwok-him, a lawmaker from the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said the organizers of the campaign were trying to switch the focus from the incident to governance issues.

He said that what needed to be probed as regards what happened that night was only how police deployed their officers, and the force can do that through an internal investigation.

Democratic Party legislator James To Kun-sun said such a committee could provide a “fair assessment” but admitted it would not be easy for it to be formed, as the government might try to exclude potential members who are opposed to it.

– Contact us at


Labels are no way to respond to violence

by SC Yeung

EJ Insight » Hong KongToday, 15:33

Zhang Xiaoming (inset) is blaming last week's violence in Mong Kok on 'radical separatists' the same term Beijing uses for militants in Xinjiang and activists in Tibet. Photo: HKEJ

Zhang Xiaoming (inset) is blaming last week's violence in Mong Kok on 'radical separatists' the same term Beijing uses for militants in Xinjiang and activists in Tibet. Photo: HKEJ

Seven days after the Mong Kok clashes between protesters and the police, Beijing’s top official in Hong Kong broke his silence by blaming “radical separatists” for the incident.

Zhang Xiaoming, director of China’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong, said radical separatists have become “increasingly violent, even carrying out activities that showed terror tendencies”.

Many Hong Kong people are wondering if Zhang was specifically referring to the protesters and whether he considers them supporters of separatism.

Voters in New Territories East will get a chance to weigh in on the issue in a by-election in two weeks when the opposing political camps will face their first public test since the violence.

Already, Beijing’s propaganda chiefs are trying to link pro-democracy activists and politicians to the incident to try to paint them as a threat to social stability.

They are determined to win the hearts and minds of the silent majority.

But why the rush to label the protesters? 

The term “radical separatists” is being used by Beijing to describe militants blamed for recent violent attacks in Xinjiang and for opponents of central government rule in Tibet.

The question is, are the Feb. 8 Mong Kok clashes comparable to either of those circumstances? If those protesters are “radical separatists” what are they trying to separate from?

The only reason they gathered in Mong Kok that night was to support street vendors who were facing a police crackdown during the Lunar New Year holiday.

Sure, they had no license but that did not bother the police in previous years.

But in this particular instance, the protesters are being accused of inciting separatism.

Beijing is making no distinction between that and localism, which is about maintaining Hong Kong’s uniqueness.

That is why many ordinary Hong Kong people are starting to feel like they are being tarred with the same brush as those involved in the violence.

How long will it take before the fight for rule of law, free speech and individual freedoms become a bad omen?   

To be fair, the police had to respond to stop the violence.

That is plainly what we saw. Similarly, the causes of the violence should not be overlooked.

In fact, public anger has been simmering in recent years, for instance after the government spent hundreds of billions of dollars to build white elephant infrastructure projects that mainly serve Beijing’s political goals.

These include the high-speed rail link, the Hong Kong-Macau-Zhuhai Bridge and the third airport runway.

The government, together with its pro-Beijing allies in the legislature, has used its dominance to get funding for these projects.

If the government did not get legislative approval, it pressed ahead anyway by skirting the legislature altogether.

There is your recipe for mass disaffection with a government that has no hesitation to use the tyranny of the majority to stifle dissenting voices.

But instead of listening to this disgruntled section of the populace, the government is alienating them by painting them as troublemakers bent on hiving Hong Kong from the rest of the nation.

The high-pressure rule by Beijing is no doubt forcing the political opposition, especially the younger generation, into a defensive mindset.

Older Hongkongers might remember the Feb. 28, 1947 massacre in Taiwan in which tens of thousands of people were killed by the Kuomintang government for opposing its rule two years after the end of the Japanese occupation.

There is no indication such extreme governance is about to happen in Hong Kong.

But it’s worrying that both sides in the Mong Kok clashes — the violent protesters and communist loyalists — are threatening more violence to achieve their agenda.

The authorities in Beijing should think carefully how to respond to violence in our streets but simply labelling the perpetrators as radical separatists is not a response.

It’s just a convenient excuse to supplant one form of violence with another.

– Contact us at


Faulty piles to further delay HK-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge

EJ Insight » Hong KongToday, 16:42

Experts voice doubt on whether the project can be completed in 2017 as scheduled. Photo: Bloomberg

Experts voice doubt on whether the project can be completed in 2017 as scheduled. Photo: Bloomberg

Seven of the underground piles for the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge will have to be reconstructed, causing further delays to the ongoing project, Apple Daily reported on Monday, citing sources with knowledge of the matter.

A local contractor, which has already manufactured over 1,000 of the bridge piles, will have to bear the cost of reconstructing seven of them, the newspaper said.

Each underground pile is estimated to cost over HK$2 million, the sources said.

The Highways Department has confirmed that some of the piles had to be reconstructed, but did not say why. It also did not identify the contractors involved, and which parts of the bridge are affected.

Authorities said the large-scale project requires a huge number of massive underground piles, and consultants have been hired to monitor the project to make sure contractual requirements are fulfilled.

Sources said one of the seven problematic piles was located at an artificial island on the Hong Kong side.

The pile, about 3 meters in diameter and up to 70 meters in length, was installed by a contractor hired by China Harbour Engineering Co. Ltd., the report said.

Greg Wong, former chairman of the Hong Kong Institute of Engineers, explained that the piles are intended to support the weight of the bridge and are usually planted up to several dozens of meters into the ground.

The slurry inside a pile is then extracted before a steel cage is put inside and cement is poured to fill the pile, he said.

Wong said it is probable that slurry was not completely removed from the seven problematic piles or air spaces were detected in the cement fillings.

Both scenarios would cause problems to the strength and structure of the piles, he said.

However, he noted that having seven faulty piles out of the more than 1,000 needed for the project is not too bad since that would mean a replacement ratio of less than 1 percent.

Other sources said the contractors and workers often work 24-hour shifts at the project site in order to make up for lost ground from the series of delays over the past few years.

Still, the same sources express doubt on whether the project can be completed in 2017 as scheduled, noting that hundreds of piles have yet to be built along with the bridge piers and surface.

– Contact us at


Man arrested despite following police orders, video shows

EJ Insight » Hong KongToday, 17:24

A line of uniformed police officers warned Wong (right) to leave the scene. One of the officers came forward toward Wong, who was soon surrounded even though he was walking slowly away. Photo: YouTube

A line of uniformed police officers warned Wong (right) to leave the scene. One of the officers came forward toward Wong, who was soon surrounded even though he was walking slowly away. Photo: YouTube

An online video showing a man being arrested by police during the clashes in Mong Kok on the night of Feb. 8 despite following their orders went viral over the weekend, Next Plus magazine reported Sunday.

Wong Sai-kit, 32, who was initially arrested for resisting or obstructing police officers in the execution of their duties, has now been charged with participating in a riot, along with 35 other people. 

A Mong Kok resident who works as a chef, Wong said he went to the scene of the conflict early Tuesday only to see what was going on.

The video, taken at Sai Yee Street, opposite the Water Supplies Department, shows Wong being confronted by more than 10 special tactical squad officers, who shout at him to back off.

Wong seems resentful and complains he was scolded by a policewoman and pushed by a police officer with a shield.

The police tactical officers continue to warn Wong to leave the scene.

They are quickly replaced by a line of uniformed police who bear down on Wong.

As he is seen leaving slowly, one of the officers starts a countdown.

The police then chase Wong, surround him and arrest him. 

The netizen who took the video said he was initially filming something else at the scene, so he didn’t know the background to what was captured on the video.

Wong, who is on bail, told Ming Pao Daily in a telephone interview he is innocent, as he did not buy anything from street hawkers nor take part in the clashes that night.

He said he was at Argyle Street and about to cross the road when police shouted at him, grabbed his collar and took him to the area in front of the Water Supplies Department.

Wong admitted he felt resentful and talked back to the police.

He told the newspaper he was ready to leave after being warned by the police but was arrested anyway.

Wong said he has no political stance and there was no reason for police to charge him with participating in a riot.

Poon Siu-to, a veteran journalist and Commercial Radio host, commented on his Facebook page that although Wong was seen leaving the scene in accordance with police orders, police still arrested him.

It was uncertain in the first place if he refused to cooperate with the police, Poon said, but it is ridiculous that he has been charged with participating in a riot.

Poon said the police had failed to locate the masterminds behind the clashes and were making innocent citizens scapegoats instead.

He cited the case of four people arrested in Kwai Chung at a recycling center that has now been labeled as a possible weapons warehouse for the Mong Kok clashes by the authorities.

Police refused to rule out a connection between potential weapons found at the recycling center and the protests in Mong Kok, RTHK reported Saturday.  

Go to video

– Contact us at


Economists React: China’s Weak January Trade Data Points to Shaky Start for 2016

China Real Time ReportToday, 15:14

A man rides a bicycle past containers at a port in Shanghai in this December 10, 2008 file photo.

China posted a worse-than-expected January trade data Monday, pointing to a shaky start for the year and more downward pressure on the economy. Both imports and exports weakened last month in the world’s second-largest economy, while China’s trade surplus widened.

Figures from China’s General Administration of Customs show that exports, traditionally an important growth engine for the economy, slid 11.2% last month from a year earlier following a drop of 1.4% in December. Imports in January fell 18.8% from a year earlier, compared with a 7.6% drop in December, suggesting that cooling demand in China may continue to affect economies in Asia. Both figures missed expectation by a significant margin.

Following are excerpts from economists’ views on Monday’s trade data, edited for style and length:


The Chinese economy will probably slow further from last quarter’s 6.8% expansion in the first quarter of this year, judging from today’s much softer-than-expected foreign trade data. The figures should be better than December based on seasonal factors and base effects but today’s data turned out to be much worse than our expectations. Exports to emerging markets were particularly bad, and apart from weak demand, competitive weakening of currencies by these countries may have also played a role. –Ma Xiaoping, HSBC

China’s international trade outlook remained weak, suggesting there’s little prospect of a major upturn in the near future. Imports were affected by soft commodity prices, while trade in both directions was hurt by weak demand. It’s definitely weaker than the market expected.  There’s still no improvement from the trade account. –Ding Shuang, Standard Chartered

At face value, the weak trade data seem to suggest a marked weakening of both external and domestic demand going into 2016, butthere are a few reasons to treat these latest figures with a degree of caution. The seasonal distortions due to the Lunar New Year made the trade growth notoriously volatile. Moreover, the recent government crack-down on trade disguised capital flow may also be a reason for the weak trade data. It is arguably too early to jump to conclusions and we’ll have to wait until we get the February data and can iron out some of the seasonal volatility before we can get a clearer idea of how trade is performing. –Julian Evans-Pritchard, Capital Economics

In general, January trade numbers indicate that the recovery in December’s figures is largely due to a front-loading effect, rather than an improving demand. Imports surprised the market by a large margin, suggesting  that the demand for commodities is still falling. Notably, import numbers are in line with the “supply-side economics,” with a focus on cutting outdated overcapacity. They also imply that domestic investment is likely to remain weak. Today’s numbers hint that the Chinese currency is still under pressure to weaken. That said, recent strength in the yuan is largely due to the central bank’s effort to dampen speculative positions. –Zhou Hao, Commerzbank AG

China’s trade surplus rose to a record high of $63.3 billion in January, indicating that the world’s second-largest economy continued to run a large current-account surplus. This should help offset some of the capital outflow and alleviate some depreciation pressure on the yuan. There were signs of doctored transactions in January to mask capital flight and circumvent China’s capital restrictions, as China’s trade with Hong Kong continued to outpace its trade with other economies. While China’s exports to Hong Kong fell 2.6% year on year, imports surged 108.1% in January, suggesting that imports channels could have been used for some financial arbitrage activities. –Li-Gang Liu and Louis Lam, ANZ Research

–Pei Li

Meet You at the Corner of Liu Xiaobo Plaza and Oppose Revisionism Street

China Real Time ReportToday, 16:02

Signs and portraits of jailed Chinese Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo and his wife Liu Xia are seen in front of the national emblem of China during a protest outside the Chinese liaison office in Hong Kong, China December 25, 2015.

An effort in the U.S. Congress to rename the street outside the Chinese Embassy in Washington after a jailed dissident has drawn a sharp rebuke from China’s state-run media.

But it wasn’t too long ago that China’s newspapers were vocal fans of making political points through the bestowing of new names — not only on streets outside embassies, but also on entire cities.

In a Valentine’s Day editorial, the Global Times–a nationalistic tabloid run by the People’s Daily newspaper, the Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece–spurned a congressional proposal to rename the street outside the Chinese Embassy in Washington “Liu Xiaobo Plaza” after the imprisoned pro-democracy activist and 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner. The street is currently called International Place NW.


“The apparently provocative move intends to outrage and unsettle China,” the Global Times wrote on Sunday. “But this is no big deal. In addition to anger, it will enable us to learn more about the U.S. from another perspective: The U.S. has big problems in abiding by the rules and keeping self-respect and its Congress acts so rashly.”

A White House spokesman has said President Obama’s advisers would urge him to veto the measure, which was introduced by Ted Cruz, the Republican senator and presidential contender,and approved by the Senate on Friday. The House Appropriations Committeeearlier included its own version of the measure in a State Department funding bill.

The Global Times lashed out at the move as “petty” in both its English and Chinese versions. But the Chinese-language editorial contained an extra bit of history that for some reason didn’t appear in its English-language counterpart.

“During the Cultural Revolution, the Red Guards in Beijing changed the name of the street in front of the Soviet Embassy to ‘Oppose Revisionism Street,’” the Chinese-language version states, referring to the period of political tumult led by Mao Zedong from 1966 to 1976. “After the Cultural Revolution, the government changed it back.”

As the Christian Science Monitor detailed in a report at the time, Oppose Revisionism Street’s name was unceremoniously revised back by the Chinese government in 1980, years after the violent movement against all things deemed “imperialist” or “antirevolutionary” had died down. The Russian Embassy now stands at No. 4 Dongzhimen Beizhongjie, just a short stroll up the street from The Wall Street Journal’s Beijing office.

The Soviet Embassy was far from the only building to suddenly find itself with a creative new mailing address courtesy of the Red Guards. One road in the foreign legation quarter not far from Tiananmen Square was renamed “Anti-Imperialist Street.”

The People’s Daily and other state-run media hailed such moves, as China scholars Roderick MacFarquhar and Michael Schoenhals document in their book “Mao’s Last Revolution.”China’s official Xinhua News Agency even went so far as to proclaim victory after Hong Kong’s colonial spokesman reportedly declared that postal authorities would deliver any mail addressed to “Expel-the-Imperialists-City,” the new name conferred on the then-British colony by Red Guards in Guangdong province, they write.

Despite the efforts of some members of Congress, the chances of “Liu Xiaobo Plaza” seeing the light of day remain distant. But China’s not-too-distant history is a reminder that Beijing always has options. Who knows? A U.S. Embassy on “Expel the Americans Street” could end up catching on.

–Felicia Sonmez. Follow her on Twitter@feliciasonmez.