July 30, 2016

Conspiracy & Steamrollering By Lam & Yuen to Ban Edward Leung from Contesting

Hong Kong Columns - Translated

Edward Leung from HK Indigenous has declared not to be involved in “HK Independence” and to support Basic Law bona fide, causing a dilemma for the government. Many politicians have learnt from internal sources from govt that this confirmation letter was brought up by Carrie Lam, Rimsky Yuen and Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Raymond Tam, and they told the returning officers this before the nomination period.

Pan-dems said if the govt still insisted to ban Edward Leung from contesting, while allowing those from Civic Passion bloc and Youngspiration to contest, this will further cause doubts from the public and the world, and might cause another riot as this form is said to target Leung.

Who’s who in the Electoral Affairs Commission


UPDATED : Saturday, 30 July, 2016, 1:41am

Mr Justice Barnabas Fung Wah, chairman of the Electoral Affairs Commission. Photo: Edward Wong

The Electoral Affairs Commission, the outfit at the centre of the controversial change of the electoral ground rules, was set up in 1997.

Headed by Mr Justice Barnabas Fung Wah and comprising two other members, the commission is responsible for overseeing the elections of the Legislative Council, district councils and the Election Committee that selects the chief executive.

According to its aims, the body seeks to ensure that the “elections are conducted openly, honestly and fairly”.

While the chairman of the commission and the two members are appointed by the chief executive, the commission maintains it is an “independent, impartial and apolitical body”.

For the Legco and district council elections, the commission draws the boundaries of the geographical constituencies and sets out election rules and guidelines.

With the recent decision to demand candidates sign an additional declaration, the role of the returning officers in the Legco elections has come under the spotlight.

Appointed by the commission, the returning officers are in charge of overseeing the election process, from processing candidates’ nominations to announcing the results.

For the upcoming Legco race, the returning officers in the five geographical constituencies are district officers under the Home Affairs Department.

July 28, 2016

Why subdivided flats are a necessary evil -Vera Yuen

Subdivided flat tenants urge the government to offer them shelter before evicting them for violation of the Building Ordinance. Photo: HKEJ

Subdivided flat tenants urge the government to offer them shelter before evicting them for violation of the Building Ordinance. Photo: HKEJ

The deadly fire that broke out at an industrial building in Kowloon Bay earlier this month has once again raised public concern about the safety of subdivided flats.

I already discussed this issue last year, suggesting that the government should improve the living conditions of these subdivided flats and allow occupants to continue to live in those units because of the huge demand for cheap homes.

However, my suggestion got mixed response. While many did not oppose my suggestion as they themselves were aware of the huge demand for these flats, they also did not dare to openly support my idea as subdivided flats in industrial buildings are illegal.

Some of them just put forward some middle-of-the-road counterproposals such as urging the government to build more Public Rental Housing (PRH) flats.

Yet the problem is, the pace in which PRH flats are built is lagging far behind the rising demand for homes among the grassroots population.

So how can we narrow that gap?

Like I said in one of my previous articles, many people, mainly the underprivileged and the working poor, are well aware that subdivided flats in industrial buildings are both dangerous and illegal.

These flats have no fire service installations and the occupants could get evicted at any time by the Buildings Department for violation of the Buildings Ordinance.

However, they are still willing to take the risk and rent these flats because these are the only kind of accommodation they can afford. Otherwise, they would have to sleep on the streets at night.

In other words, the demand for subdivided flats in industrial buildings continues to rise, despite the fact that they are illegal and often in poor condition, because poor people simply do not have any other choice.

Currently, the median waiting time for an eligible family to be allocated a PRH flat, if they are lucky, is at least three and a half years.

So where are these people supposed to live while waiting for their PRH flats?

These are low-income families which can’t even afford to rent a subdivided flat in residential apartments because they have become so expensive these days, and hence illegal subdivided flats in industrial buildings are their only option.

As we can see, if these people had other choices, they would definitely not risk their own lives living in makeshift subdivided flats in industrial buildings.

Therefore, in order to address the issue, the government must provide these people with more choices.

This might sound a bit crazy, but in my opinion the government should facilitate the supply of decent subdivided flats in residential apartment buildings that meet both building and fire safety standards.

Once there are plenty of these flats available on the market, their rent will certainly go down, thereby providing low-income families who are seeking a place to live a better and affordable option.

It is completely unrealistic to rely on PRH flats to solve our housing problem because the speed with which they are built can never catch up with the surge in demand for housing in our society.

That said, I strongly urge the government to think outside the box. In the short run, the administration should provide more incentives for residential property owners to convert their premises into affordable subdivided flats that are in good condition, thereby forcing illegal and run-down subdivided flats in industrial buildings out of the market.

Simply put, the government doesn’t have to take out illegal subdivided flats in industrial buildings one by one. All it needs to do is to let market forces do the job.

I believe it is important for the administration to come to terms with a harsh fact: subdivided flats are here to stay and, to a certain extent, they help to alleviate the demand for cheap housing in society.

It’s about time our decision-makers changed their mindset and started thinking about how to improve the condition of subdivided flats.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 27.

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Political impartiality of civil servants is on the line -Joseph Wong Wing-ping

Zhang Xiaoming, director of Beijing's Liaison Office, has stressed that allowing separatists to become lawmakers will constitute a violation of Hong Kong's Basic Law and 'One Country Two Systems'. Photo: HKEJ

Zhang Xiaoming, director of Beijing's Liaison Office, has stressed that allowing separatists to become lawmakers will constitute a violation of Hong Kong's Basic Law and 'One Country Two Systems'. Photo: HKEJ

The Electoral Affairs Commission (EAC) dropped a political bombshell this month by announcing that anyone intending to run in the upcoming Legco election must sign a declaration pledging allegiance to the Basic Law, especially the articles that stipulate that Hong Kong is an inseparable part of the People’s Republic of China.

This sudden and unexpected move indicates that Beijing is prepared to go to any length to crack down on separatism in Hong Kong.

Shortly after the EAC chairman Fung Wah had met with pan-democrats over the new measure, Zhang Xiaoming, director of Beijing’s Liaison Office, publicly weighed in on the issue by stressing that allowing separatists to become lawmakers would constitute an outright violation of the Basic Law and “One Country Two Systems”.

He added that it is a matter of principle and national unity, and hence there is absolutely no room for bargaining.

In other words, requiring candidates to sign that declaration is nothing more than a political decision sugarcoated in legal technicality. After a meeting with Fung, pan-democrats vowed that they will not sign the declaration, even though it might put their candidacy at risk, as they are against any form of political censorship.

Then on the next day the EAC reiterated that the returning officers (i.e. civil servants who oversee the process of election) have the legal authority to seek further information from any candidate who refuses to sign the declaration, and that the officers will seek legal advice from the Department of Justice and act accordingly.

The funny thing is, I went through the entire Legislative Council Ordinance and just couldn’t find a single clause that authorizes returning officers to do so.

The EAC’s decision suddenly puts returning officers in the forefront. At a public event Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said  the power to decide whether a candidate is eligible to run in the upcoming Legco election rests fully with the returning officers, not the SAR government nor the EAC.

It is apparent that the civil servants are once again being used as a tool to undertake a political task given by the government on Beijing’s orders. Doesn’t that constitute an outright infringement of the political impartiality of the civil service?

What is really outrageous here is that the civil servants are again left to their own devices on such highly sensitive issue as to deciding whether a person is eligible to run, while the political masters are sitting on the sidelines keeping away from any possible controversy.

That allows the civil servants to take the blame if the whole thing triggers a backlash among the public.

I am totally against the idea of secession from the mainland, but I am also against any attempt to put our civil servants in the line of political fire and undermine their long-standing political impartiality.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 27.

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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July 27, 2016

The real battleground is the main street, not Legco -Wong On-yin

A recent Chinese University survey showed 17 percent of Hong Kong people are in favor of independence. Photo: Internet

A recent Chinese University survey showed 17 percent of Hong Kong people are in favor of independence. Photo: Internet

Several young pro-independence candidates running in the Legislative Council election in September have reportedly succumbed to pressure from the Electoral Affairs Commission (EAC), and agreed to sign a declaration pledging allegiance to the Basic Law.

As expected, some political pundits immediately played quarterback and slammed these kids for not having the guts to stand by their convictions and beliefs.

I think all these criticisms are cheap shots. Like I said in my previous article, despite the fact that these young political rookies might one day turn into the same corrupt and decadent career politicians as those washed-up pan-democrats, I would still rather cast my vote for them than continue to rely on those pan-democratic thugs who have been cheating us out of our votes for the past 30 years.

So what if they signed that declaration? It could just have been a politically expedient tactic to fool the EAC.

Once their candidacy is confirmed after the nomination period, nobody can stop them from preaching the virtues of Hong Kong’s independence.

Only the most naïve and stupid bureaucrats would fondly believe that they could halt the momentum of the pro-independence movement in our city with a piece of paper.

Some might argue that it would amount to cheating if these pro-independence candidates agreed to sign that declaration and then continued to advocate independence during the campaign, which calls into question their integrity.

True, integrity is the cornerstone of a politician’s credibility. However, let’s not forget what we are dealing with here is the Communist Party, which is basically a bunch of ferocious bandits that can’t be reasoned with or trusted at all.

So what’s the point of insisting on integrity in front of bandits?

So will Beijing order the SAR government to prevent pro-independence candidates from running using drastic executive measures?

I suggest the pro-independence and indigenous factions go find out by sending some long-shots to test the waters to see if the EAC and the government really mean it.

If the government did play thought police and terminate their candidacy, it would definitely backfire because it would only create another firestorm of controversy and boost the election prospects of the entire pro-independence camp.

In the meantime, the young pro-independence candidates should also learn the lesson of the so-called “radical” faction in Legco, who achieved nothing tangible at all, and whose popularity is falling rapidly because the general public no longer buy into their tricks.

As such, it is very important for these young activists to note that the Legco is nothing more than an extension of the establishment, or a platform for publicity stunts, and therefore they can achieve absolutely nothing in the Legco chamber.

Instead, the mainstreet is the real battleground where they can truly spread their ideas and make a difference.

Therefore, it is crucial for them to look beyond their Legco seats and be careful not to get corrupted by party politics once they get elected.

At the City Forum last Sunday, some pro-independence student leaders vowed that once their fight for independence in the legislature by peaceful means has proven futile, they will take to the streets again and resort to violence to achieve their cause.

Leung Chun-ying and some pan-democratic buffoons might simply laugh at them. I won’t, and I bet Beijing won’t either.

It is because throughout history, revolutions always follow a very similar pattern: people only resort to violence after their peaceful movement has been suppressed.

One year ago, when I first raised the subject of Hong Kong’s independence at a public forum, I immediately came under fire from all sides.

However, one year on, the pro-independence discourse has not only become a legitimate subject for serious debate in mainstream media, but also gained considerable amount of public support.

It only takes a year for a once taboo subject to become a legitimate topic in mainstream society.

Given that, I believe it will just be a matter of time before our young pro-independence activists translate their slogans into action.

CY Leung’s suppression of pro-independence Legco candidates might turn out to be an own goal, because all it does is further fuel the pro-independence movement in our city, and throw the spotlight on the very parties he wanted to exclude from the Legco election.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 26.

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Is this another bid to turn HK people into Beijing loyalists? -SC Yeung

Two youngsters sing "Basic Dafa is Good" in this satirical video produced by Youngspiration. Photo: Facebook/Youngspiration

Two youngsters sing "Basic Dafa is Good" in this satirical video produced by Youngspiration. Photo: Facebook/Youngspiration

Who ever said our young democrats do not abide by the Basic Law?

Political party Youngspiration, which is fielding candidates in the Legislative Council elections this September, has produced a video in praise of the Basic Law, the mini-constitution that provides for China’s sovereignty over Hong Kong.

Beijing and its loyalists in the territory should be jumping for joy.

Here are the kids who have been accused of advocating independence for Hong Kong, but this video shows them describing the constitutional document as “good” and “great”.

So why should the government go to great lengths, even forcing would-be candidates to sign a form declaring their allegiance to the Basic Law, when it is very clear from this video that they subscribe to its provisions?

Oops … it turns out that the music video cum comic sketch is actually a satire, peppered with intentional grammatical lapses and Cantonese foul language.

The song “Basic Dafa is Good (The Great Basic Law is Good)” is a hilarious take on the theme song of Stephen Chow’s hit comedy flick “Shaolin Soccer”, with the lyrics changed to enjoin everyone to respect the Basic Law.

The song says: “The Basic Law is great, the Basic Law is Ging (勁)”, and Hong Kong people must abide by it without having to ask why.

Emerging from the Occupy Movement in late 2014, Youngspiration has been on the front line of the struggle against Beijing rule in Hong Kong.

The youthful political party believes that independence is an option that Hong Kong people must discuss for the future of the city.

Their song “Basic Dafa is Good” is their reaction to a requirement by the Electoral Affairs Commission for candidates to the Legco election to sign a form declaring their allegiance to the Basic Law.

At least three Legco candidates have received emails from election officials asking them if they accept Hong Kong as an inseparable part of China and if they won’t express any contrary view.

They are Edward Leung Tin-kei of Hong Kong Indigenous, Andy Chan Ho-tin of Hong Kong National Party, and Alvin Cheng Kam-mun of Civic Passion, three activists who support Hong Kong’s independence from China.

These inquiries being made by the election officials are undermining existing election rules because new requirements are being issued to ensure that only candidates who accept Beijing’s rule over Hong Kong will run in the election.

These impositions are a form of political censorship designed to muzzle those who hold views that challenge the current regime.

From the perspective of common law, anything that is not expressly provided in the law cannot be considered as illegal unless there is a court judgment that says so.

These candidates have shown that they have sufficient public nomination and met the basic requirements to be qualified as candidates.

That should be enough to consider them as legitimate candidates for the upcoming elections.

Why do the election officials have to check the background of the candidates, such as the speeches they made in the past, in a bid to determine their political stance?

That is no different from a screening mechanism that will ban candidates who believe in Hong Kong independence from running in the elections.

The SAR government led by Leung Chun-ying is once again using the city’s legal system to achieve Beijing’s political goals.

But it’s a political issue and it should be settled by the government rather than shift the responsibility to the judicial system.

Once again, the courts are caught between the interests of Hong Kong and China.

While the court may be an appropriate venue for the general public to seek for justice in the face government abuse of power, the government shouldn’t leave it to the courts to settle a political deadlock between Hong Kong and China.

The government should act to bridge the gap by reaching a consensus on the democracy roadmap for Hong Kong.

A consensus is far better than limiting the freedom of expression of Hong Kong people and banning those who are opposed to Communist Party rule from participating in the elections.

The introduction of the “declaration form” to prove a candidate’s loyalty to Beijing authorities marks a significant shift from the “one country, two systems” principle.

Hong Kong people used to take for granted their freedom to think independently as the have enjoyed it since the British colonial rule.

However, the “declaration” requirement has opened the door for authorities to check on the political loyalties of Hong Kong people, putting it on top of professional qualifications and capabilities.

That would make Hong Kong a city of politically blind loyalists, and drive away talents and outperformers who are not Communist supporters.

The Legco used to be the last bastion of hope for Hong Kong people who want democrats and members of the opposition camp to speak for them and strictly monitor government abuse of power, as well as to defend the core values of Hong Kong.

However, the new requirement is setting another bar for the entry of legislators.  

It is clear that the government will not tolerate candidates who are supporting Hong Kong independence, even if they are not doing any action – other than talk – to promote their cause.

Some quarters believe that Beijing is taking a softer stance toward Hong Kong democrats before the election, as shown during the visit of Zhang Dejiang visit in May.

But the other side is actually the truth.

Most Hong Kong people accept “one country, two systems” because of realistic considerations.

But don’t forget many Hong Kong people fled China to escape the Communist Party rule in 1949 and the Cultural Revolution in the ’60s and ’70s.

Should all of them confirm their loyalty to China before they could continue enjoying social welfare in Hong Kong?

If the SAR government can ban Edward Leung from running in the Legco elections simply because he voiced out his belief in Hong Kong independence, even if he has not pursued any action in furtherance of his belief, can it also ban ordinary Hong Kong people from voting because they don’t like the Communist Party?

If this thing goes on, can we honestly say that “one country, two systems” is being implemented in Hong Kong? Do we really have “two systems”?

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Where in the world is Pokemon Go like this? -Ben Kwok

A year or two from now, when we look back at how Pokemon took over our lives, we will be laughing at ourselves and feeling silly. Photo: Bloomberg

A year or two from now, when we look back at how Pokemon took over our lives, we will be laughing at ourselves and feeling silly. Photo: Bloomberg

Nothing is more popular in Hong Kong right now than Pokemon. Not even democracy.

Think Occupy Central was a big deal? Think again.

Sure, the student-led 2014 democracy movement occupied entire streets, even crippled whole districts.

But Pokemon Go trumps it in sheer breadth and scope. People of all ages and persuasions are preoccupied with it.

It’s hard to predict where Pokemon will show up next.

You’re as likely to encounter it in some dark corner in Tamar (remember the scene of that infamous police beating?) as in Beijing’s Liaison Office in Sai Ying Pun.

Civic Square is probably off limits to the yellow creature but who knows? The government might reopen it and see what happens.

If you see groups of people absorbed in their handsets, giggling and generally going in one direction, chances are you’ve encountered a Pokemon posse.

You might bump into them in Victoria Park, even Tai Mo Shan (remember the snow-fueled winter rush that left dozens stranded on the mountain?).

If you are eating out, you might be seated next to people trying to catch the digital Japanese characters.

Mind you, this is not happening only in a small city like Hong Kong.

We are only the second Asian city to debut Pokemon. It was launched in its native Japan on Friday after taking the United States and Europe by storm.

Virtual reality has become reality.

The frenzy reminds us of the scramble for the iPhone 4 and the ice bucket challenge two years ago.

Only this one is more viral. 

A year or two from now, when we look back at how Pokemon took over our lives, we will be laughing at ourselves and feeling silly.

But as long as it’s here, we will keep telling ourselves that it’s a good thing for a whole lot of reasons.

First and foremost, it gets stay-at-home kids to go out and have fun. No one does that better than Pokemon in this stifling heat and oppressive humidity.

Now imagine how many pounds would be lost collectively if people went out and walked and how many extra bottles of drinks could be sold.

People moving about makes any city look vibrant. Shopping malls and restaurants, long deserted by mainland tourists, will hum again.

Think about the hordes of young mainlanders who would come to Hong Kong to join the party because Google map is not available in China.

And finally, we once fell for Tamagotchi, the little digital pet we nursed 20 years ago. Diehards organized their lives around it. 

Yes, despite technology and politics — or more precisely the limitations they impose on us — our love for fun things remains.

Thank you Pokemon Go. I hope you will be around for a year.

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What Beijing needs to understand about separatists -Joseph Lian Yizheng

Edward Leung from the nativist group Hong Kong Indigenous could run foul of the loyalty test. Photo: Reuters
Edward Leung from the nativist group Hong Kong Indigenous could run foul of the loyalty test. Photo: Reuters

Edward Leung and his Occupy Movement peers are on course to win in the coming Legislative Council elections, unless they run foul of a requirement to pledge allegiance to the Basic Law.

The measure was inserted by the Electoral Affairs Commission (EAC), presumably under Beijing’s direction, to screen out separatists who have been a thorn in its side.

It’s a panicked admission by the authorities that the separatist movement has gained so much momentum it must be stopped.

But the move could backfire.

It could drive voters toward Edward Leung or win sympathy for young activists.

This administration has only itself to blame for the rise of pro-independence forces.

The very idea of an independent Hong Kong has no legal basis.

Article One of the Basic Law stipulates that Hong Kong is an “inalienable part of the People’s Republic of China”.

But if we had a stay-or-split vote, just like in the Scottish referendum, I bet many will opt to leave.

There’s no denying that the separatists — those calling for self-determination, a city state status with full autonomy, an alliance with Taiwan, full independence or a return to British rule — have their eyes on 2047 when the Basic Law expires.

No one wants independence today. The idea is empty talk.

Demosistō’s Joshua Wong and Nathan Law want a referendum before 2047. Hong Kong Indigenous wants a discussion of Hong Kong’s post-2047 future.

Still, this does not make them troublemakers. Neither are they in breach of the EAC requirement on the Basic Law.

In fact, the entire separatist movement poses no imminent threat to Beijing or the SAR government.

I said in a previous column that under certain extreme circumstances, such as if the Communist Party collapses and China plunges into anarchy, Hong Kong could justifiably secede for its own sake.

Another scenario is if the governing authority falls apart and causes the constitution to cease functioning.

An independent Hong Kong might be in Beijing’s best interest and a peaceful divorce is not implausible and would be a win-win situation.

Beijing officials like to say that most Hongkongers are patriotic.

But privately, because of their long colonial history, they are seen by Beijing as running dogs for foreign powers and are easily manipulated.

Beijing’s response is to nip any such tendencies in the bud. The loyalty declaration requirement for Legco candidates is an example of that approach.

Old-school democrats think most Hongkongers genuinely love China but not as well as they should.

They blame the three post-handover leaders for that. They say Beijing must do its part to win their hearts and minds. 

The irony is that Beijing might be right. Hongkongers, by virtue of their own history, have nativism in their blood. They care about their way of life more than they do about the country.

This is something Beijing needs to understand.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 25.

Translation by Frank Chen

[Chinese version 中文版]

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The Electoral Affairs Commission wants Legco candidates to sign a loyalty pledge. Those who refused are still waiting for the result of their appllication for candidacy. Photo: RTHK

Candidates from the pan-democratic camp say they will not sign a loyalty declaration, calling the requirement illegal. Photo: Now TV

July 26, 2016

In echo of missing booksellers case, Shenzhen court jails two Hong Kong journalists for running illegal business

Publisher Wang Jianmin, 62, and editor-in-chief Guo Zhongxiao, 40, published two political affairs magazines in city


UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 July, 2016, 2:09pm

Wang Jianmin was jailed five years and three months. Photo: SCMP Pictures

A pair of Hong Kong journalists behind two political affairs magazines were jailed in Shenzhen for running an illegal business, the same charge that landed five booksellers from Causeway Bay Books in trouble last year.

The duo’s imprisonment came a month after one of the five Hong Kong booksellers, Lam Wing-kee, made explosive revelations after returning from mainland custody, claiming he had been kidnapped at the border and put through eight months of mental torture.

Publisher Wang Jianmin, 62, was jailed five years and three months, while editor-in-chief Guo Zhongxiao, 40, was jailed two years and three months. They had pleaded guilty in Shenzhen’s Nanshan District Court last year.

Guo’s lawyer Xia Qianhai said his client would be released next month, since the pair were arrested in May 2014.

Wang and Guo are Hong Kong ID card holders, but were living in Shenzhen when they were nabbed.

Prosecutors said that their company, National Affairs Limited, which was registered in Hong Kong, had earned HK$7 million through the publication of two magazines, New-Way Monthly and Multiple Face, with mainland readers accounting for 66,000 yuan (HK$80,600) in total revenue.

But the defence said the publications were printed in Hong Kong, and copies were sent to only eight people on the mainland, all friends of the publisher.

Multiple Face magazine, one of two magazines targeted by mainland authorities. Image: supplied

Wang’s wife, Xu Zhongyuan, who helped send copies of the magazines in the mail, as well as a freelance contributor, Liu Haitao, from Henan province, also pleaded guilty to operating an illegal business before the same court.

Xu was sentenced to a year in jail, suspended for two years. Liu was sentenced to two years in jail, suspended for three years.

Xu’s lawyer said on Tuesday that the four defendants said they “accepted the court’s verdict and would not appeal”.

Guo’s lawyer Xia said the prosecution originally recommended at least five years in jail for his client.

“It was reduced because the judge accepted that Guo was only an accomplice, not the mastermind,” he said.

Without further elaboration, Xia added that the prosecution’s accusation about Guo’s “illegal earning” was also rejected.

Under mainland Chinese law, if an illegal business operation involves less than 250,000 yuan, then the jail term will be below five years.

The law also states that if the quantity of banned books in question is 2,000 or more, then the sentence will be five years or below. For 5,000 or more books, the penalty is more than five years’ jail.

Mighty Current publishing house’s co-owner, Gui Minhai, one of the five Hong Kong booksellers who went missing last year, has been accused of running an illegal business in the mainland by ordering his associates to deliver about 4,000 books banned on the mainland across the border since October 2014.

Gui and all of his four associates, including Lam Wing-kee, have confessed to their role in the illegal business on state media. But Lam turned up in Hong Kong last month and said he was forced to make those confessions.

The case of the five booksellers sparked fears that the “one country, two systems” principle was under threat.

In October last year, Gui went mysteriously missing while in Thailand. In the same month, Lam, Lui Por and Cheung Chi-ping vanished while on the mainland. Lee Po disappeared from Hong Kong in December. Lee’s case in particular roused speculation that mainland agents were operating in the city.

Mighty Current and its Causeway Bay Books store specialised in publications critical of the Chinese Communist Party.

Tony Cheung is reporting from Shenzhen

Additional reporting by Phila Siu

Woman claims her 3-year-old son was targeted by a kidnapper

A picture posted on Facebook shows a suspect (inset) in a purported child kidnapping attempt last weekend. Photos:, Facebook

A picture posted on Facebook shows a suspect (inset) in a purported child kidnapping attempt last weekend. Photos:, Facebook

A Hong Kong woman has claimed that her three-year-old son was targeted in a kidnapping attempt in the Admiralty area last weekend.

In a social media post that has gone viral, the woman wrote that a masked lady tried to snatch her child Saturday afternoon in an area near Queensway Plaza, but was foiled in the attempt.

According to her account, the incident happened as the woman and her husband were taking a stroll along with their two small children.

The mother was carrying in her arms a baby who was just a few months old son while her husband was holding the arm of the other child, who was a three-year-old boy. 

As they were walking, a lady wearing a face mask suddenly grabbed the 3-year-old boy from behind and tried to pull him away from his father.

But the mother noticed the attempt and gave a loud shout, prompting the masked woman to let go of the toddler.

As the couple confronted the woman and threatened to call the police, the suspected child abductor quickly fled from the scene.

The mother later wrote a Facebook post, warning women to be careful when taking their kids out, Metro Daily reported.  

Along with her message the mother posted a picture of the suspected female kidnapper, who was believed to be in her forties.

The picture, purportedly taken at the footbridge connecting Queensway Plaza and Pacific Place, showed a slender masked woman in short straight hair and wearing at least two cardigans and carrying a large handbag.

The post has generated a lot of comments on social media, with netizens reminding parents to beware of potential child kidnappers.

A police spokesperson, meanwhile, told Headline Daily that they haven’t received any report of a child kidnapping attempt over the weekend.

If anyone has any solid information, they should contact the police, he said.

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Concern grows over recruitment of mainland-trained nurses

Ths recruitment ad (inset) by Quality HealthCare Nursing Agency, advertises positions for mainland-trained nurses, offering high pay and eight to 12-hour shifts. Photos:, internet

Ths recruitment ad (inset) by Quality HealthCare Nursing Agency, advertises positions for mainland-trained nurses, offering high pay and eight to 12-hour shifts. Photos:, internet

A major Hong Kong clinic has been hiring mainland-trained nurses who might be underqualified to provide healthcare services.

Apple Daily is reporting that the practice is raising concern about loopholes in government regulations.

Quality HealthCare Nursing Agency, a unit of Quality HealthCare Medical Services Ltd., one of Hong Kong’s largest providers of corporate healthcare services, said in an online ad that it needs “a large number” of certified nurses from the mainland.

They will work as leave reserves in hospitals and residential care facilities and as private caregivers, the agency said in an online post.

It promised high pay but did not elaborate.

The agency said has 10 mainland-trained nurses working as private caregivers but do not provide nursing care.

The recruitment comes amid growing concern over potential loopholes amid a planned overhaul of the Medical Council of Hong Kong.

Some reports say mainland doctors and other medical professionals have been hired locally but without a Hong Kong certification.

Another nursing agency, Professional Private Nursing Care Ltd. in Kwun Tong, is engaged in similar hiring practices, according to news website

The reports are stirring up online discussion groups, with netizens saying Hong Kong could be swamped with underqualified doctors and nurses.

The government is considering allowing more mainland-trained medical professionals, including doctors and nurses, to work in Hong Kong under a planned reform of the medical council, reports.

The Nursing Council of Hong Kong did not respond to inquiries.

Lawmaker Joseph Lee, who chairs the Association of Hong Kong Nursing Staff, said the agency’s practice has exposed serious loopholes in current regulations.

Fellow lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki, a medical doctor by profession, accused the government of doing little to clarify its policy on nurses.

He said caretakers provided by private companies are unregulated, unlike registered and enrolled nurses.

Some nursing agencies said there is great demand for private caregivers given the high cost of hiring a registered nurse.

A private caregiver costs HK$1,045 for 12 hours compared with HK$2,450 for a registered nurse, according to Quality HealthCare Nursing Agency.

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July 25, 2016

CCP loses HK youth (but you knew that already)

Posted on  by biglychee

Academics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong have followed Hong Kong U in conducting politically sensitive public-opinion surveys. Newspapers report that the latest shows that Hong Kong people do not want independence, or that they do – depending on taste, editorial judgment and selective use of the data…


The poll results are pretty much what you would expect. Most Hong Kong people are realistic/resigned enough to accept the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ relationship between the city and the PRC. At the same time they oppose direct control by Beijing.

The traditional reading of ‘1C2S’ was that these were compatible, indeed much the same thing. However, Chinese officials have changed their stance in recent years, stressing that Hong Kong’s autonomy is limited and conditional. This is a reaction to/cause of the emergence of a loose localist/independence movement among the young. Which brings us to the angle: the younger generation are heavily more pro-independence than anti-…


The professor running the survey is coy about the possible reasons why, 20 years after the handover, young people oppose Chinese sovereignty. Perhaps he thought it provocative to list the ways Beijing has mishandled Hong Kong since 1997 – appointing administrations that primarily serve property tycoons and make housing unaffordable, breaking promises of democratization, flooding the place with Mainland visitors, clumsily trying to imposeSCMP-ButLau‘patriotic’ education, undermining public institutions and the media, threatening rights and freedoms, intimidating and smearing critics, abducting book-sellers, etc, etc.*

A recent addition to this list would be the imposition of the entertainingly desperate requirement that Legislative Council election candidates sign a ‘loyalty test’. Even pro-Beijing think-tank guy Lau Siu-kai thinks it’s stupid,pointing out that it could backfire by concentrating voter support for a smaller range of radical candidates. In other words, the test will do what the pan-dem camp cannot manage by itself – trim the current bewildering array of opposition parties cannibalizing each other’s votes.

Lau patriotically explains that the geniuses behind this policy have no doubt considered this and concluded that it is worth the risk for the sake of national security. He also says it will win Hong Kong’s government brownie points in Beijing. The poor guy has always struggled to sound convincing. The fact that he is speaking about it at all suggests that he can see what is already obvious to those of us less attached to Leninist tyranny – that Beijing’s local Liaison Office is, idiotically, actually nurturing Hong Kong’s once unthinkable pro-independence sentiment.

*For anyone who missed it: a markets-related aspect of the Communist Party’s growing influence in Hong Kong here, with background here.

Is Hong Kong better off now than it was four years ago? -Chris Yeung

Voice of Hong Kong | One Hong Kong, Many Voices

All eyes are on the upcoming Legislative Council election scheduled for September 4. The usual suspects and fresh faces lining up to join the contest have grabbed the limelight. But what happens behind the scenes in Beijing later this month is perhaps more important than the outcome of the Legco election.

Speculation is rife that key mainland officials involved with Hong Kong policies will hold a high-level meeting in Beijing by the end of this month. The Leading Group on Hong Kong and Macau Affairs under the Communist Party’s Central Committee will review the Hong Kong situation and map out strategies in the short- and medium-term. Although the upcoming Legco election looks certain to figure prominently at the meeting, the next Chief Executive election scheduled for March is set to top the agenda. The issue boils down to the question of whether Beijing should give their blessing to Leung Chun-ying for him to run the city for five more years. And if Beijing decides not to do so or is still unsure, the question to be contemplated is who should be allowed to vie for the top post and who they prefer to be the next chief executive.

But before deciding the fate of Leung, Beijing must form a view on the overall verdict of his governance in the past four years. Or seen from the perspective of ordinary citizens, Beijing needs to answer a simple question as many Hongkongers have been asking: is Hong Kong better off now than it was four years ago before Leung took power? CY and his team will no doubt say yes. They might genuinely believe they have made no small achievements in many arenas, in particular livelihood, despite the difficult circumstances.

Enough is enough

The truth is most men and women in the street are unhappy with the past four years. Some felt enough is enough. Then comes the ABC campaign, which reads as Anyone But CY. Feelings of discontent and disenchantment about the Leung administration have permeated different segments of the society. Politically, conflicts turned into hostilities and sharp confrontation. Socially, the feelings of injustice and inequality among the low and lower-middle layer of the society have lingered. Economically, doubts about our long-term competitiveness grew deep. It may be unfair to lay the blame on one person, namely CY Leung. But Beijing cannot turn deaf ears to criticism from different walks of life – including the pro-establishment camp – against Leung’s failure to ease the conflicts, or to put it satirically, his success in aggravating the socio-political conflicts.

Labour unions demanded making in law a standard working hours being fixed at 44 hours per week. They stage a rally on July 24, criticising Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying for failing to honour his promise four years ago.

Labour unions demanded making in law a standard working hours being fixed at 44 hours per week. They stage a rally on July 24, criticising Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying for failing to honour his promise four years ago.

If Beijing’s verdict on Leung’s governance is negative, the second question that follows is whether they believe things will get better if Leung is given more time, say, five more years. Even the most sanguine pundits, however, will come to the conclusion that the city will only turn for the worse unless Leung changes, is being asked to change or given the boot.

The answer to the question of whether Leung is eagerly keen to change his tact and style and, if yes, whether he will be able to do so is apparently clear. Many will say it’s a No. He did not seem to have made any effort to adopt a softer approach to make him more likeable in the past four years. Nor he has taken major initiatives to lessen the tension inside and outside Legco. Not even in the recent months after the visit of National People’s Congress chairman Zhang Dejiang in May. During his visit, Zhang had held an unprecedented meeting with pan-democratic legislators representing mainstream political parties. That was widely, and rightly, interpreted as an initiative, albeit more in symbolic term, made by Beijing to moderate the political atmosphere ahead of the Legco election.

Hardball tactic proved counterproductive

There is no denying it may be just a tactical play of soft hand. But there are reasons to believe Beijing may now realise Leung’s hardball tactic and combative style have proved to be counter-productive. And if a change of tact is needed, the question to ask is: will CY be able to execute the new game plan?

The third and indeed most important question is: can Hong Kong people trust CY and give him the benefit of doubt? The answer seems to be another “No”. Public faith in him has worn thin. Several prominent figures who threw their weight behind Leung four years ago have said sorry recently for their misjudgement. Meanwhile, while some of his fans are distancing from him, CY does not seem to have won new friends. Beijing officials have said publicly the Chief Executive must gain public support. Now that CY has failed to do so, Beijing will have to think seriously whether they should stop him from seeking re-election.

Those are the important issues relating to the key question of whether or not CY Leung should be given another term that Beijing needs to find an answer – whatever the outcome of the Legco election is.

Barring unexpected surprises, the broad share of seats between the pro-establishment camp and the pan-democratic opposition force is expected to remain largely unchanged. The pro-government camp holds 43 seats now, the pan-democrats 27. Both scenarios of the pan-democrat opposition gaining a majority or losing its critical minority of one-third of total number of seats look remote.

CY faces uphill re-election battle

If that is the case, whether the pro-establishment camp does well or does poorly on September 4 arguably makes no substantive difference on the chance of Leung’s re-election bid. Whatever the election outcome, Leung still faces an uphill battle, if not mission impossible, to regain the lost faith in him among the populace.

Some pro-establishment figures remain adamant CY is the leading horse in the race. There are growing signs, however, that Beijing will allow serious contender/s to compete with CY. If Beijing gives a free hand to the 1,200 elites in the Election Committee for them to choose among Leung and some heavyweights such as John Tsang and Tsang Yok-sing, Leung will face enormous difficulty in getting a majority, not to mention keeping his tally of 689 in the 2012 chief executive election.

Chris Yeung is founder and editor of the Voice of Hong Kong website. He is a veteran journalist formerly worked with the South China Morning Post and the Hong Kong Economic Journal. He writes on Greater China issues.

This is the speech broadcast at RTHK’s Letter to Hong Kong on July 24.

Photo: VOHK pictures

Seen and Heard: Zhang Xiaoming, Wong Kwok-hing, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor -Benny Kwok

Seen and Heard: Zhang Xiaoming, Wong Kwok-hing, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor

Our selection of the previous week’s most politically charged and controversial soundbites.

“If we were to choose between Leung Chun-ying and Albert Ho Chun-yan, or between Leung Chun-ying and Leung Kwok-hung, of course we [Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions] would go for Leung Chun-ying!” – Wong Kwok-hing

Wong Kwok-hing of HKFTU is seeking re-election, albeit not in his usual Hong Kong Island constituency He is standing in the upcoming ‘super seat’ race. At his campaign on 21 July at Star Ferry Pier, Tsim Sha Tsui, the press asked whether he would support the re-election of the Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, Wong replied indirectly by claiming that HKFTU would support Leung Chun-ying if Albert Ho Chun-yan or Leung ‘long hair’ Kwok-hung stand in the coming CE election.

“…If [Hong Kong separatists] are allowed to use Legco elections as a platform to propagate their ‘Hong Kong separatist’ agenda and participate in ‘Hong Kong separatist’ activities, or furthermore, if such ‘Hong Kong separatists’ are allowed to be part of the legislature of HKSAR, People’s Republic of China, is that acceptable by the ‘One Country Two Systems’ principle? Is that acceptable by the Basic Law?…” – Zhang Xiaoming

At a preparation committee meeting on 20 July for the 67th anniversary celebration of the founding of PRC coming 1 Oct, Zhang Xiaoming, Director of the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in Hong Kong, pointed out that Hong Kong separatists standing in Legco election is going against ‘One Country Two Systems’ and Basic Law. The Electoral Affairs Commission required all candidates to declare allegiance to HKSAR and Basic Law by signing on a declaration form, but the legality of practise was under question.

“…a strip of land west of the West Kowloon Cultural District is designated for building a big performance arena and an exhibition centre, known as the Mega Performance Venue Exhibition Centre in English. However, the project is excluded in our budget…” – Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor

After a West Kowloon Cultural District Authority board meeting on 20 July, the Chief Secretary for Administration Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor announced that the board would reconsider the planning for the vacant lot west of the District. It was designated for building a big performance arena and an exhibition centre, says Lam, but since the future Kai Tak Sports Park is also expected to be a performance venue, the Authority would rethink how to utilise the vacant lot.

The curtain has risen on the 2017 chief executive race -Albert Cheng

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying (second from left) is flanked in this file picture by possible candidates for his post, (from left) Financial Secretary John Tsang, Legco head Jasper Tsang and Chief Secretary Carrie Lam.  Photo: HKEJ

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying (second from left) is flanked in this file picture by possible candidates for his post, (from left) Financial Secretary John Tsang, Legco head Jasper Tsang and Chief Secretary Carrie Lam. Photo: HKEJ

That the Electoral Affairs Commission suddenly demanded that those intending to run in the Legislative Council election sign a declaration pledging allegiance to the Basic Law is by no means a coincidence.

It could be a part of Leung Chun-ying’s plot to shift the major theme of this election from candidates’ stance on whether or not to support his re-election to their stance on Hong Kong independence.

Apparently, after getting rid of the deputy commissioner of the Independent Commission Against Corruption Rebecca Li Bo-lan, Leung is now working aggressively to seek a second term.

Unless Beijing stops him, it is almost a foregone conclusion that Leung will seek his re-election.

According to recent news reports his think tank has already moved into a bigger office in Kowloon, and some of his former election campaign staff are already back to work.

Among the known front-runners in the chief executive contest, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah are definitely Leung’s biggest rivals.

According to unconfirmed reports, both were summoned to Shenzhen recently to meet with high-ranking Beijing officials, who encouraged them to run for their boss’s post.

When asked by reporters whether that was true, both of them neither acknowledged nor denied it.

That Lam plans to run has become increasingly apparent over the past several months.

Not only did she take the liberty of making donations to the national giant panda sanctuary in Sichuan province using public money to please Beijing, Lam also met with leaders of pro-establishment parties in Legco, putting forward her grand plans to tackle three major issues, namely the unchecked MTR fare hikes, the dominance of the Link REIT, and the problem-ridden MPF scheme.

In contrast, Tsang has been keeping a much lower profile.

Even though he has the highest approval ratings among the three, it seems he still hasn’t made up his mind yet on whether he would run.

If Tsang decides not to run, then perhaps the Hong Kong Monetary Authority’s chief executive, Norman Chan Tak-lam, is likely to be his substitute.

Recently there was talk that Chan hired a PR consultant firm earlier this year to help him with election planning.

And then there is outgoing Legco president Jasper Tsang Yuk-sing.

Widely regarded as probably the most experienced, profound and resourceful leader in the pro-establishment camp, the Legco chief’s ambition to become the next chief executive might not be as great as CY Leung and Carrie Lam’s.

However, as a steadfast party stalwart, he will definitely run if Beijing orders him to do so.

Besides, Jasper Tsang is an ideal choice for Beijing, which always prefers a communist party member to run Hong Kong.

Former financial secretary Antony Leung Kam-chung is another potential front-runner in the race.

Rumor has it that he has privately expressed interest in running but is worried about ending up like Henry Tang Ying-yen once the contest gets ugly.

Last but not least, lawmaker and former secretary for security Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee already expressed strong eagerness to run even during the run-up to the 2012 election.

She is widely considered a long shot in the race for the next CE and she has remained relatively quiet recently, but it doesn’t necessarily mean she has given up hope on next year’s election.

It is very likely that the race is going to be a neck-and-neck one, therefore the 200 votes the pan-democrats are holding in the election committee might in the end prove decisive in determining who is going to be our next CE.

That said, perhaps it’s time for the pan-democrats to seriously think about how to cast their votes strategically and smartly.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 22.

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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July 19, 2016

Inevitable? Unstoppable?

Posted on  by biglychee

Ten years ago, Hong Kong’s then-Secretary for Justice delivered a ‘keynote speech’ to a conference. Attendees probably dozed through the standard cut-and-paste phrases about taken-for-granted rights and freedoms – government officials always recited them on such occasions. Those paying attention would have heard Wong Yan Lung list ‘minimum rights of those suspected or accused in criminal cases’…

protection from unreasonable search and seizure

protection from arbitrary arrest or detention

protection from unfair interrogation

protection from irregular trial.

Speaking at the symposium organized by the Independent Commission Against Corruption, Wong went on to say…

…corruption erodes basic public functions.  Places exist where the national wealth … ha[s] been embezzled by the corrupt, and the people in consequence have been left to fend for themselves in often appalling circumstances.  People are clearly deprived of basic rights if corrupt acts diminish the quality of that which is provided to them, or if the pool of available resources is improperly diminished, or if one person enjoys an unfair advantage over another.

People snored through such pleasantries in 2006. But today’s Justice Secretary, Rimsky Yuen, or a colleague like Chief Secretary Carrie Lam, would probably shy away from standing up in public and being this specific. In 2016, such pointed comments would awkwardly suggest criticism of the Chinese government’s assaults on the city’s rule of law.

Read that list of suspect’s rights to Lee Bo, snatched (there is no other explanation) from the streets, taken illegally over the border by Chinese security agents and – as with the other book-sellers – deprived of those exact same rights.

Read the description of the evils of corruption to millions of Mainland Chinese victimized by unaccountable power-holders, and to the lawyers and activists persecuted for trying to defend them. Or read it out to Hongkongers wondering what is happening to the ICAC.

The apparent ejection of the ICAC’s top investigator is part of a pattern in which China’s EJ-AnotherBastionCommunist one-party state is taking control of Hong Kong’s supposedly independent institutions. This includes: the politicization of government functions like the police, prosecution services and (now) electoral governance; the appointment of stooges onto governing bodies of universities, the police complaints authority and the ICAC; and informal intimidation and smearing of government opponents, and increasingly blatant media bias.

One commentator writes ‘none of this is inevitable, nor is it unstoppable’. However, he gives no evidence.

It probably is inevitable. Before the handover, there was a nagging fear that the Chinese Communist Party would not be able to resist clamping down on Hong Kong’s pluralism. But the biggest worriers emigrated, and the opinion-formers assured everyone left behind that China would become more like free Hong Kong over time, so the need to resolve the contradiction would ease.

Clearly, under its present leadership, the Communist Party is digging in. Survival of the one-party regime is all that matters. In order to retain absolute control, economic reform will slow, stop or be reversed, and the media, the Internet, NGOs, academia, religions, lawyers and any other possible source of opposition must be shackled. The ruling elite are paranoid about enemies and plots, and Hong Kong, with its tradition of ‘impartial’ public institutions, is riddled with hiding places for hostile forces. Turning the city’s police, universities and media into tools of the government is a matter of basic state security. In a Leninist system, you can’tnot do it.

The ICAC is clearly no exception. Its independent structure, with deliberate internal separation of powers, allows it to investigate (search, arrest, detain and prosecute) Beijing’s appointed and approved Hong Kong government officials or local personnel of state-owned or -linked enterprises. In other words, it can challenge the Chinese regime’s monopoly of power – which cannot be allowed. Enough mutteringabout British infiltration of the ICAC: time to act and bring it into line.

Beijing already has the right to overrule our judiciary and courts, thanks to the mechanism allowing it to ‘interpret’ the Basic Law to mean anything it wants. But this veto is SCMP-HK-Justiceremoved and delayed, and in practice Hong Kong courts can, and do, override the Beijing-appointed government. Nothing can stop them from, say, releasing arrested pro-independence agitators on free-speech grounds. A paranoid Communist regime must instinctively see such bodies as a potential source of challenge to state power, and hands-on management of the judicial system (also infiltrated by the British, of course) is logically only a matter of time.

Barring a ‘Zhongnanhai Spring’ of enlightenment and liberalization, the long-awaited clampdown in Hong Kong does indeed seem ‘inevitable’. Whether it is ‘unstoppable’ is another matter. Can Hong Kong be so stubborn, uncooperative and resistant that Beijing decides it’s not worth the trouble?

July 18, 2016

Another bastion of Hong Kong’s way of life is under attack

Recent developments at the Independent Commission Against Corruption raise questions over the independence and integrity of the institution. Photo: Bloomberg

Recent developments at the Independent Commission Against Corruption raise questions over the independence and integrity of the institution. Photo: Bloomberg

Hong Kong-based journalist, broadcaster and book author

The pace at which the defenses of Hong Kong’s way of life are crumbling is quite terrifying.

Now yet another bastion of the defense mechanism is under threat as questions grow over the independence and integrity of the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

The degree of unease within the ICAC has been underlined by the silent but telling demonstration by some 80 percent of the organizations’ staff who were planning to boycott an anniversary dinner which was later canceled.

This flows from the abrupt demotion and subsequent resignation of Rebecca Li Bo-lan, the well-regarded acting head of operations.

Li’s resignation was followed by that of principal investigator Dale Ko, for undisclosed reasons.

The ICAC boss, Simon Peh Yun-lu, swears blind that it was his independent decision to demote Li based on her unsatisfactory performance.

However, after telling the public how unsuitable Li was for the job, Peh self-righteously declared that he could not go into further details as this meant going into “matters of assessment or staff changes”.

ICAC sources, quoted elsewhere in the media, say they were unaware that Li’s competence was ever in question; on the contrary, she has a reputation for dedication to her work and was well respected in many quarters.

It is being suggested that she fell under a cloud for trying to pursue the investigation into the HK$50m payment to Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying by UGL, an investigation that appears to be stalled for a suspiciously long period of time.

Peh denies that the Chief Executive had any direct role in Li’s demotion but, interestingly, did not directly deny that he received any pressure from the Central Liaison office, which is said to have raised questions over her FBI training course.

Mainland officials are famously paranoid over the idea of foreign intelligence agency’s infiltration.

Were this an isolated case involving one of the pillars of Hong Kong’s way of life it would be easy to dismiss the rumors and assert that the defenders of “one country, two systems” are nothing less than paranoid themselves.

However, this comes at the end of a long line of disturbing indications over mainland pressure to dismantle the very foundations of the system separating Hong Kong from the one-party dictatorship.

Top of the “worry list” is the continuing booksellers’ saga, demonstrating that Hong Kong people conducting perfectly legal activity in the SAR are liable to be seized and detained on the mainland.

Then there has been the rapid politicization of the police force and its deployment in a manner edging closer to the way that security organizations on the mainland deal with protests and opposition figures.

Buzzing in the background have been ominous warnings issued to the judiciary by mainland media, reminding them to bear in mind patriotic considerations in making court rulings.

More generally we have seen a swathe of acts of retaliation against pro-democracy figures ranging from the absurd attempt at censorship by a cosmetics company to the more substantial targeting of pro-democracy activists in universities, and then there is the mounting evidence of exclusion of dissident voices from the mainstream media.

As ever each and every one of these assaults on the “two countries” part of the system is shrouded in bureaucratic-sounding excuses or simply provokes a wall of silence.

Those wishing to undermine liberty rarely, if ever, have the courage to simply state that this is their aim.

Only the most myopic of observers can ignore these developments. Yet, even those who cling tenaciously to the view that there must be a limit to the undermining of Hong Kong’s way of life did not guess that a body like the ICAC, which has a stellar record of pursuing corruption without fear or favor, would become a target of external meddling.

It is hard to exaggerate the importance of this development because it demonstrates that there are no barriers to the assault on Hong Kong’s institutions.

Silence and sullen acceptance of fate are the worst possible responses to this assault.

The enemies of freedom work in the dark and strive to shut out the noise that undermines their work.

Yet none of this inevitable, nor is it unstoppable.

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