December 12, 2017

Legco chief aims to wrap up debate on house rules by Dec 18

EJ Insight》
Legco chief aims to wrap up debate on house rules by Dec 18
Today, 13:18

Legislative Council President Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen feels the tussle between pan-democratic lawmakers and the establishment camp in relation to a debate over proposed changes to the Legco’s rules of procedure cannot drag on endlessly.

Leung told reporters Monday that the debate on house rule changes will end no later than next Monday, with additional meetings set to be held for the purpose, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

The aim is to wrap up the debate by Dec. 18 so that rule changes can be passed before Christmas, he said.

The Legco meeting rule changes, involving 12 resolutions and 23 amendments, were proposed by the pro-establishment bloc in October in a bid to curb filibustering activities of the pan-democrats.

Opposition lawmakers are protesting the plan, arguing that the rule changes will help the government ram though controversial legislation such as a national security law.

When the debate began on Thursday last week, it was stalled by opposition lawmakers who resorted to multiple actions, including multiple roll calls and sit-in protests.

As Legco has arranged two-day meetings, on Wednesday and Thursday, this week for the debate to continue, Leung said he will demand additional meetings on Friday, Saturday and even Monday from 9 am to 8 pm if he has to in case democrats resort to more delaying tactics.

Legco Secretariat said on Monday that its survey showed 39 lawmakers agreed with such arrangement.

If that happens, the meetings of the Panel on Transport and the House Committee set for Friday, and a special meeting of the Finance Committee and six other meetings that had earlier been scheduled for Dec. 18, will have to be postponed.

Leung said he will try to have the resolutions and amendments of the proposed changes completed before the meetings adjourn.

Asked if lawmakers would burn the midnight oil to have the meetings, and if the upcoming Monday is a deadline, Leung did not give a straight answer but said he will make a decision based on the prevailing situation.

Pointing out that lawmakers have not passed any bill in the current Legco session, Leung urged the members to do their jobs properly keeping in mind the interests of Hong Kong people.

The Legco chief denied that he is acting under pressure from Beijing’s Liaison Office here and the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the central government.

Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun criticized Leung for aiming to force through the proposed changes, saying additional meetings should not be held recklessly.

Calling Leung’s meeting arrangement uncommon, lawmaker Charles Mok Nai-kwong, convenor of pan-democrats, said there is clearly some kind of political mission behind the move and that his camp unanimously condemns it.

Former Legco president Andrew Wong Wang-fat called on Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor to step forward and talk to both the pan-democrats and the pro-establishment camps and try to get the rival groups into resolving the current deadlock.

In related news, some people heeded calls from democrats and began to camp outside the Legco building Monday night to show their solidarity with the opposition and its views on the controversial Legco rule changes.

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Development chief dismisses talk of Lantau light rail plan

EJ Insight》
Development chief dismisses talk of Lantau light rail plan
Today, 14:20

Secretary for Development Michael Wong Wai-lun dismissed rumors that a light rail system will be built on Lantau Island, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

According to a media report, a government consultant has decided to focus its study on the feasibility of building a light rail route connecting Tung Chung and Tai O on Lantau Island, instead of building roads.

Reacting to the report, Wong said the Civil Engineering and Development Department did commission a consultancy study on how to further develop the island in July this year.

The consulting firm will study how to improve the island’s transportation system by looking at all sides of the issue and will not come up with its suggestions until 2019 at the earliest, Wong said.

As such, it is too early to say whether a light rail route will be built, he added.

Director of Civil Engineering and Development Lam Sai-hung said the study will focus on the island’s inward and outward connections, including land and sea-based systems.

The island’s transport needs and handling capacity will also be evaluated, Lam said.

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Don’t mess with Reg, pt 2

by biglychee / Today, 10:33

Today’s little amusement: columnist Simon Lee is suing lawmaker Regina Ip for defamation. This follows her claim that he conveyed a threat that Link Reit might ‘harass’ her party (presumably by evicting it from space at the landlord’s properties).

The story is now lost in the mists of time – but essentially Ip echoed commonly heard complaints about the Link’s property management practices, and Lee replied in some way. The latest development suggests that the strident lawmaker might have been careless with words when she accused Lee/Link of making a threat.

Those of us still suffering from tinnitus from Emily Lau’s performances in the Legislative Council many years ago will know that Regina would hardly be the first public figure in Hong Kong to exaggerate for effect. If she shoots from the hip in your direction, the calm and cool response would be to ignore her, or at most treat her allegation with mild (but of course strictly gender-neutral/non-ageist/etc) condescension.

Making a big issue over who said what looks petty and oversensitive. Taking legal action is possibly unwise because – to some shallow and cynical scumbags out there, unbelievable though it may seem – it raises the suspicion that you are in fact guilty and fooling no-one by overreacting.

Worst of all, however, is the risk to one’s own reputation: you could become The Man Who Took Regina Ip Seriously. I shudder at the very thought.

DRIVING THE MESSAGE HOME: Political Study for All

by Suzanne Pepper / Nov 30, 2017

The political scene in Hong Kong today, following President Xi’s 19th party congress confirmation of Beijing’s cross-border intentions, is reminiscent of events soon after the first big anti-Beijing protest march on July 1, 2003. That was when half-a-million people unexpectedly turned out to vent their anger over the government‘s proposed Article 23 national security legislation.  Article 23 of Hong Kong’s post-colonial Basic Law constitution stipulates that the Legislative Council must outlaw all acts of treason, secession, sedition, subversion, theft of state secrets, and foreign political interference.

The attempt was shelved after a few Legislative Councilors from the usually compliant pro-business Liberal Party lost their nerve and withdrew support for the government’s bill. Beijing officials by all later accounts were shocked at the size and anger of the July First crowd. Public celebrations afterward and a District Council election campaign kept the alarm bells ringing. Official decisions were made then that Hong Kong is still living with today in the form of previously undeclared restrictions on progress toward universal suffrage elections, while the Article 23 threat remains ever-present.

LOOKING BACK: The Guardians

At the time, in 2003, a favorite official refrain was “study the Basic Law.”  We have read it backwards and forwards, replied Hong Kong activists. We’re only demanding what we see written there. But what officials meant was: read it from our perspective, not yours.

In the midst of this standoff, several elderly gentlemen, collectively known as “Basic Law guardians” 【護法】, began arriving  from Beijing, in early 2004. They were all authorities on Hong Kong’s Basic Law and their message was based on the assumption that Hong Kong had not yet grasped the fundamentals: Beijing’s sovereignty, the Article 23 mandate, patriotic loyalty, and so on.

It was actually rather amusing to watch the guardians and read daily headlines proclaiming what was essentially the general public’s first encounter with a mainland-style city-wide political education campaign … complete with exemplary villains and long doctrinaire guides to correct political thinking. The guardians’ presentations were mainland-style for such occasions: stern, dogmatic, and angry when pestering reporters threw out unsolicited inconvenient questions.

A Beijing professor, Xiao Weiyun, arrived in January and set the tone with words that remain pertinent today. He said the Basic Law’s drafters had actually been thinking mid-21st century for a wholly elected Hong Kong government as the Basic Law promised. He also emphasized that it was for the central government to decide because “in one country with two systems, one country is prior and fundamental.” *

The public was the target because the public had rebelled against the national security legislation and persisted with their “power to the people” 【還政於民】slogan. The slogan itself was a violation of the whole concept of national sovereignty and the security required for its protection because power doesn’t belong to the people, explained the guardians. It belongs to Beijing. But the mainlanders had no power to enforce. Beijing abided by the Basic Law and did not intervene directly, so the public was free to do as it pleased.

Activists pushed back and the community as a whole essentially disregarded the guardians’ 2004 message. The result was Hong Kong’s Occupy rebellion a decade later, and the disillusionment that has grown as expectations for autonomy failed to materialize. They evolved instead from autonomy, to thoughts about self-determination, and on to independence.

Xi Jinping’s report to the 19th party congress is Beijing’s response to Hong Kong’s long season of dissent (Oct. 23 post).   Responding in turn, the concerned public is still pushing back. But everyone has more-or-less learned they can no longer ignore the implications. This subtle difference was reflected in a statement by Elsie Leung, a long-time member of Hong Kong’s patriotic community, who was Secretary for Justice in 2003.

She told an interviewer recently that society has moved on since then.   In 2003, she said, the public did not “understand” … now they do. She didn’t explain exactly what people now understand or what she meant by her use of the word. But like all such official statements that are now constantly pleading for “better understanding of the Basic Law,” what she actually seemed to be saying was: understand what we officials mean by what we are saying, accept it, and know there is no point in asking for anything more!

In any event, the Beijing officials who arrived to publicize President Xi’s new theoretical construct are behaving differently than their 2004 predecessors. This time it’s all much smoother. There have been no intemperate outbursts or condescending putdowns …  only measured, sternly worded declarations of facts that Hong Kongers are being told they should recognize as self-evident because they have no other choice.

There have been many official speeches to publicize its significance since the party congress ended in late October. The most important … in terms of speakers, messaging, and target audiences … were the presentations  by Beijing officials Li Fei 【李飛], Leng Rong 【冷溶 】,  and  the new head of Beijing’s representative Liaison Office here, Wang Zhimin 【王志民].  They and others have in effect been conducting another public political education exercise, with special emphasis targeting young people and Hong Kong government officials.


Li is well known here as the bearer of tidings that pro-democracy partisans do not want to hear. He heads the Basic Law Committee under the National People’s Congress Standing Committee and is best remembered for arriving from Beijing on August 31, 2014, to deliver in person Beijing’s restrictive verdict on electoral reform.

The verdict and his stern-faced delivery provoked a furious response from activists on that day itself, resulting in the city-wide student strike a few weeks later, and the 79-day Occupy Movement street blockades that followed. “8.31” has since become the code word for all that is wrong about Beijing’s response to Hong Kong’s democracy movement.

This time he came to preside over a seminar, held on November 16, for invited guests at the Convention Center in Wan Chai.**  Additionally, his speech was transmitted by video link to secondary schools throughout the city. All were invited to join the excise but not ordered to do so. Only 50 of Hong Kong’s 500 secondary schools took up the government’s offer of televised transmission.

Li Fei reiterated the main points of Xi Jinping’s party congress report emphasizing what it means for Hong Kong. In particular, he sought to explain the apparent contradiction in Xi’s declaration that the central government would exercise “comprehensive jurisdiction” over Hong Kong while permanently retaining the “one-country, two-systems” formula along with its old promises of “Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong” and a “high degree of autonomy.”  All this is to continue while Hong Kong is, in Xi’s words, melding and integrating to become part of the national economic development mainstream.

Li addressed this apparent contradiction directly. He explained it as a kind of division-of-labor. The central government will jointly govern Hong Kong along with its own local government, and Beijing will exercise direct control over important matters.   Local autonomy would be confined to local affairs and remain the responsibility of local officials, as delegated by Beijing.

Beijing has thus acknowledged, finally, what it means by “a high degree of autonomy.”  As a result, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region should be known henceforth as a semi-autonomous territory.  Since the conditions that authorize this design were all written into the Basic Law, as promulgated in 1990, it’s safe to assume this was Beijing’s intention all along … give or take a few contingencies.

Besides explaining this previouslyy unacknowledged evolution of Hong Kong’s status, Li Fei’s main concern was the lack of respect Hong Kongers and especially young people are displaying for China’s sovereignty and constitutional authority. They behave as though the Basic Law is an autonomous document in its own right, with authority deriving from the handover agreements negotiated between London and Beijing before 1997. In fact, the Basic Law’s authority derives solely from China’s national constitution, said Li, to which Hong Kong owes allegiance.

He was naturally dismissive of all the new talk about localism, self-determination and independence. He did not differentiate among them, lumped all together, and denounced these advocacies as slanderous and heretical. He also noted, ominously, that they are continuing to circulate due to the legal loophole deriving from Hong Kong’s continuing failure to implement Article 23 national security legislation.   He assumes that such examples of free speech will be outlawed once the Article 23 legislation is allowed to do what it was intended to do (Nov. 17: SCMP, Ming Pao, HKEconJournal, Wen Wei Po).

LENG RONG and WANG ZHIMIN: Hong Kong and National Development

Leng heads the Literature Research Office of the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee and was the featured guest speaker at an exclusive gathering of Hong Kong government officials on November 23. Liaison Office Director Wang Zhimin also spoke at the meeting, which was closed-door and reportedly the first such high-level briefing by Beijing officials for Hong Kong government counterparts. Chief Executive Carrie Lam sat in the front row flanked by members of her Executive Council. Also in the audience were department heads, political appointees, and other ranking members of the Hong Kong governing establishment … 240 attendees in all.

Each person received a collection of study materials that included videos on China’s economic, political, and diplomatic progress from China’s state broadcaster CCTV; plus a copy of the Chinese constitution and a copy of Hong Kong’s Basic Law; a copy of President Xi’s report to the 19th party congress; and a transcript of the widely publicized speech by Wang Zhimin first delivered at the BOAO Youth Forum for Asia in Hong Kong, in early November. ***

Leng reportedly elaborated on the spirit of the 19th party congress and emphasized the importance of integrating Hong Kong’s development with that of the mainland. He noted the basic fact, known to all, that Hong Kong’s economic growth is dependent on the mainland. Hence President Xi and state leaders had concluded that Hong Kong officials should adapt accordingly and coordinate  future plans  with mainland development strategies.

Wang Zhimin reportedly reiterated the main points of his earlier lecture focusing on the younger generation. These points he has organized into six relationships that must be managed well … as all have not been, given especially the proclivity of Hong Kong activists to “misunderstand” China.

The six relationships: (1) between Beijing and Hong Kong; (2) Beijing’s comprehensive jurisdiction and Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy; (3) one-country, two-systems; (4) the national constitution and Hong Kong’s Basic Law; (5) national development and that of Hong Kong;(6) differences between Hong Kongers and mainlanders in terms of thought and ideology (Nov. 24: SCMP, Ming Pao, HKEconJournal).

So if Hong Kongers still don’t get the 19th party congress message it won’t be for Beijing’s lack of trying. The problem with Beijing’s effort is that it’s still avoiding the main underlying reason for the “misunderstandings.”  In fact, Hong Kongers understand well enough.  That’s just the trouble.  It can probably be reduced to one simple principle: freedom of political expression.

When mainlanders are presented directly with the contradiction between Hong Kong and mainland ideas about this principle, and are reminded that Article 23 legislation will impact the simple intangibles that Hong Kongers value most: their freedom to read, write, speak, publish, demonstrate, and associate … mainlanders have no answer except to admit that yes, Article 23 legislation will affect that freedom.  Which is exactly why Beijing officials are so insistent that the legislation is essential to what they think the HK-mainland relationship should be.

* Ming Pao, Ta Kung Pao, both Jan. 17, 20, 2004; South China Morning Post, Jan. 17: quoted in S. Pepper, Keeping Democracy at Bay (Rowman and Littlefield, 2007/8), p. 372.


*** (English trans.); Wen Wei Po (Chinese), Nov. 3.

Posted by Suzanne Pepper on November 30, 2017

August 10, 2017

Chinese crackdown on dealmakers reflects Xi power play

August 9, 2017 4:03 pm by Lucy Hornby

Beijing aims for more control over the economy by curbing outbound M&A, while helping the president erode the support of rivals

For China’s ruling Communist party, its foreign exchange reserves are a symbol of national strength and are a crucial buffer against economic shocks. So the alarming announcement that forex reserves had fallen below $3tn in January marked a shift in political faultlines that is only being felt this summer.

As more than $1tn left the country over the previous 18 months amid a flurry of large overseas acquisitions, a sense of crisis grew within the party.

Technocrats in Beijing had already prepared the ground to take action. In December, they had managed to link the phrase “national security” to the concept of financial risk at the annual agenda-setting economic work conference. Backed with the reserves figures, they were poised to strike against what they saw as the leading culprit — the new generation of highly acquisitive private Chinese companies.

These tensions within the system have exploded into the open in the past two months with the humiliation of some of China’s best-known and most well-connected private companies, which in recent years have acquired high-profile foreign assets such as New York’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel and French leisure company Club Med.

In an abrupt turn, a group of businessmen once lauded as the international face of China are now derided in state media as the instruments of systemic financial risk. The private sector has been shaken by leaked documents, smears and the detention of China’s brashest businessman.

The seemingly technical issue of a drop in foreign exchange reserves has become a political weapon as President Xi Jinping tries to consolidate enough power to control his own succession. Attacks on private financiers have allowed him to pick off the support base of rival factions.

“Private capital is welcome as long as it’s in the service of the [Communist] party,” says Fraser Howie, co-author of Red Capitalism and an expert in Chinese regulation. This summer, “they’ve given a very, very strong tug on the leash that’s on everyone’s neck in China”.

The crackdown has allowed the technocrats to rein in some of the worst excesses of a mergers-and-acquisition boom that could have damaged China’s economy and reputation.

But it has also resulted in an arbitrary process that has left the private sector with no clear idea of what sort of activity is permitted and which has created mistrust among foreign companies looking to do deals with Chinese firms.

“In some sense, the ban [on outbound investment] probably makes sense from a financial stability perspective,” says Zhu Ning, professor at Tsinghua University’s PBC School of Finance. “However, such bans without fundamental reform will eventually be futile in reining in capital or adjusting the economic growth model.”

The crackdown on the private sector kicked off in June with the midnight detention of Wu Xiaohui, the cocky head of insurance newcomer Anbang Insurance who married the granddaughter of Deng Xiaoping, China’s former leader who launched market reforms. Mr Wu has not been heard from since.

China M&A leaders

Anbang Insurance Group

Wu Xiaohui, the chairman of Anbang Insurance Group
Anbang began as an auto insurer founded by car salesman Wu Xiaohui. It moved aggressively into land and insurance on the strength of Mr Wu’s marriage to a granddaughter of Deng Xiaoping, and was one of the flashiest among Chinese firms buying abroad

Dalian Wanda

Wang Jianlin of Dalian Wanda Group
Its signature shopping centres grace many large Chinese cities. Wanda expanded into entertainment, buying US cinema operator AMC and building the world’s largest (and still incomplete) film production complex in Qingdao. Since the crackdown Wang Jianlin’s group has shed its hotel business, financial services arm and theme parks

In the weeks following his detention, property giant Dalian Wanda and two other companies that personified China’s rapid capital outflow over the past two years — airline-to-banking group HNA and consumer conglomerate Fosun — have been targeted by well-placed leaks and state media innuendo. Together, the four accounted for nearly a fifth of China’s overseas purchases in 2016. HNA Group, Dalian Wanda and Anbang were among the top six buyers that year.

For the regulators, one of the specific concerns was that the money used for some of the overseas acquisitions had been raised through a number of potentially risky channels, such as high-interest shadow financing in China or overseas loans collateralised with domestic assets whose value might be artificially inflated. Officials worried that in the event of a default, there might be no assets to pay off domestic investors.

Front and centre among those concerns stood Anbang, the bold insurance company that had risen from seemingly nowhere to sixth in the Chinese out-bound M&A league tables in 2016. Anbang had raised money by selling life insurance products that could be considered investment products in disguise (a typical short-dated universal life policy might mature in two to five years).

“They are not a normal company, Anbang,” says one senior US insurance executive. “They were untouchable for political reasons so therefore they went into assets and investment practices that are anathema in the industry: long-term asset-liability mismatch, currency mismatch and unhedged.”

The regulators’ argument that shadow banking posed a national risk found an unlikely ally in China’s security apparatus. Ordinary people who had lost money in high-interest products have taken to the streets in every province over the past few years. Nothing captures the interest of the Communist party like a mass protest.

“Getting Xi’s attention on economic issues seems a matter of convincing him that they affect his core priority — national security,” says Jude Blanchette, who researches Chinese politics for The Conference Board. “This is just good old bureaucratic politics 101.”

The strategy worked. On April 25, Mr Xi told top party leaders that “financial security is an important part of national security and a key foundation for the stable and healthy development of the economy”. That has been echoed across the regulatory agencies and even by the minister of public security this summer.

“‘Financial security’ became a big issue,” says Zhao Xijin, deputy director of the School of Finance at Renmin University. “By this year there was a perception that it was infringing on national security. It wasn’t a question of a particular company but a national issue.”

In 1955, the few “capitalists” still left in Communist China banged gongs, staged jubilant parades and invited lion dancers to signing ceremonies that handed over to the state a direct share in their businesses, now rebranded as state-private enterprises. The events marked the end of private business in the country for the next quarter of a century.

Six decades later, private companies are still vulnerable to the state’s whims. In 2014, a debate at the China Entrepreneur Club featured two of China’s wealthiest men. Liu Chuanzhi, whose Legend Holdings is best known in the west for buying IBM’s PC business and naming it Lenovo, argued that businessmen in China were safest if they stayed out of politics. His opponent Wang Shi, founder of China’s largest real estate group Vanke, retorted that keeping your head down is not enough when the politicians come after the businessmen, according to an account of the debate by scholar Cheng Li.

Due Diligence

Keep up to date on M&A with the day’s top stories and analysis of global deals and dealmakers

Mr Wang was correct. His company was taken over by a state-backed group in June. Meanwhile, Mr Liu’s long-time associates and business partners are in the state’s cross-hairs. Wanda, Fosun and HNA all share connections to Mr Liu as well as to rich investors in Minsheng, China’s only sizeable privately owned bank. Their loans and deals with each other provide a web of mutual support in a country that is still structurally hostile to private enterprise.

Now under fire, the entrepreneurs formerly lauded as the face of China’s global soft-power push have rushed to embrace the new order. The normally unflappable Wang Jianlin, who has led Wanda into Hollywood, assured Chinese financial magazine Caixin that his company “has decided to keep its main investment within China”.

Guo Guangchang, the Fosun chairman who presided over its purchases of Club Med, Cirque de Soleil and a struggling state-owned Portuguese insurer, said in an open letter late last month: “The recent scrutiny on overseas investments and financial irregularities is necessary, timely and can eradicate a lot of irrational investment.” He added: “If we do not take measures, foreigners will see us as ‘silly money’.”

China M&A leaders

HNA Group

Chen Feng, founder of HNA Group © FT montage; Bloomberg
Chen Feng’s HNA began as a provincial airline that successfully challenged China’s state-owned carriers. It expanded into banking, financial services and peer-to-peer fundraising. Internationally it owns a smorgasbord of aviation and shipping services, airports and nearly 10 per cent of Deutsche Bank

Fosun Holdings

Guo Guangchang, chairman of Fosun Group
Fosun first invested in pharmaceuticals and gold mining. It expanded into leisure (buying Club Med and Cirque de Soleil) and insurance. Co-founder and chairman Guo Guangchang was briefly detained in late 2015

Smaller players are running for cover. Some private companies have volunteered to take over some of China’s most disastrous state-owned firms in order to gain political protection.

“The party gets nervous when too much activity flows outside the SOE [state-owned enterprise] channels,” says Arthur Kroeber, managing director at Gavekal Dragonomics. “Every so often they need to rein things in, and the people who get hit are the politically incautious ones with a lot of leverage.”

The crackdown has a second purpose: reining in potential challengers to Mr Xi’s consolidation of power. This week, leaders and party elders gathered in the seaside resort of Beidaihe to hammer out who will be nominated to top party jobs this autumn, when Mr Xi begins his second term.

Many successful businessmen have built close connections to members of elite Communist party families. Cracking down on private companies deprives these princeling factions of an independent support base and leaves them dependent on Mr Xi’s favour if they wish to maintain their status and fortune.

Trusted associates known as “white gloves” who help well-connected families move money out of China are prime targets. One of the most prominent, Xiao Jianhua, was kidnapped from the Four Seasons hotel in Hong Kong by mainland security agents in January, and has not resurfaced.

At the heart of the struggle is Mr Xi’s relationship with Wang Qishan, a fellow princeling with an intensely loyal following among financial technocrats. Mr Wang has wielded a four-year anti-corruption drive to purge rival factions on Mr Xi’s behalf.

Once financial interests were targeted the political crossfire became intense. When Mr Xiao was kidnapped in January, Guo Wengui, an exiled businessman with ties to the security apparatus, suddenly appeared in New York, firing accusations of corruption at Mr Wang.

He alleged that Mr Wang’s in-laws (a powerful princeling family) benefited from hidden shares in HNA, whose founder worked under Mr Wang in the 1980s. “They are going after us to attack him,” one HNA executive confided. But the executive denied that HNA had any untoward contact with Mr Wang.

As Mr Xi embraced the concept of financial risk as a national security issue, Anbang began chiming in on attacks against Mr Wang. But its ties to the Deng family and other influential princelings soon turned into a liability.

Wang Qishan has been instrumental in the anti-corruption drive which has targeted many of Xi Jinping's rivals © AFP
“Anbang was the one conglomerate clearly tied to political tendencies different than Xi Jinping’s,” says Victor Shih, a professor at the University of California, San Diego.

Two weeks later, bankers leaked the regulators’ crackdown on the four big companies and Mr Wang reappeared in state media after a long absence. He criticised corruption in poverty relief projects in Guizhou, where Wanda has a high-profile project.

The message was clear — it was time for private entrepreneurs to start banging the gongs and publicly welcome more “supervision” by the state.

This article was republished on August 9 to correct the title of a chart on forex reserves

Capital flows: Control over the economy is still the priority

The showdown between Beijing and private financing has been a long time coming. It dates back to the restructuring of China’s bankrupt state-owned enterprises and banks in the 1990s, when state planning looked like it was headed for the dustbin of history.

Those reforms recapitalised China’s state banks and listed state-owned industrial “champions” in Hong Kong. Armed with capital, the state set out to wrest back control over the economy. By the mid-2000s, the most influential entrepreneurs began warning about guojin mintui, meaning “the state advances, the private retreats”.

A public outcry over a housing price bubble provided an excuse to cut off bank loans to housing developers and other private companies. But there were still opportunities to make money for private businesses that could access enough capital. The high-interest shadow banking market blossomed.

Soon everyone was involved. SOEs could flip low-interest state loans to private borrowers, at a profit; banks could reroute private customers to higher-interest trust products; and loan sharks and other private financiers could channel funds to borrowers willing to pay high interest rates.

A cash crunch hit companies in around 2012. Fosun raised money that year through a three-year trust product promising annual interest of 22-35 per cent. The slowdown in growth from 2012-16 took its toll. Private businesses folded, financing chains crumbled and pyramid schemes failed.

Debt-laden companies running out of ways to borrow at home found that big overseas acquisitions could open the taps. Speculators rushed to buy European football clubs and anything that could be tagged to the “One Belt, One Road” initiative.

The large deals enabled capital flight and in some cases, foreign exchange speculation, making it harder for Beijing to stabilise markets and setting the stage for this summer’s crackdown.

July 23, 2017

Hong Kong people don’t need any history lessons from mainland China, thanks

Shen Jian SCMP
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 Jul 2017, 6:39PM

Shen Jian says the story of Hong Kong is not a story of humiliation, and it doesn’t start with the Treaty of Nanking – even if that’s what Beijing and its supporters want us to believe

Many of Hong Kong’s oldest temples, built in the 17th and 18th centuries, are consecrated in the name of Hau Wong. It is the honorary title bestowed upon Yang Liangjie, a general who defended the last emperor of the Song dynasty until his, and the dynasty’s, dying breath in 1279, not far from what is now Kowloon City. No one remembers that the Song dynasty made its last stand in Hong Kong.

Because there is one thing the British and Chinese have both always got wrong: the story of Hong Kong does not start with the signing of the Treaty of Nanking in 1842. That moment aboard Her Majesty’s Ship Cornwallis has long been the convenient first page of both British and Chinese histories of Hong Kong, but only because it feeds the two countries’ preferred narratives: the British Empire as benevolent colonial power that transformed a barren rock into a global financial centre, and theCommunist Party as liberator of the Chinese people from a century of humiliation.

I am sick of both narratives, but at least the British one sailed away with Chris Patten on Her Majesty’s Yacht Britannia 20 years ago. Only the Chinese version still tries to infiltrate our memories, whether it is the president during hishandover anniversary speech or law professors from aeronautical universities writing in these pages this month. We are reminded, without end or irony, that “China’s modern history is one of humiliation and suffering” so that our “youth develop, gradually, an understanding of history from the perspective of love for the nation and Hong Kong”.

Hongkongers should heed Xi Jinping’s words and re-educate themselves on Chinese history

Spare us the history lesson. We can tell our own history, thank you very much. And ours is not one of pathetic humiliation at the hands of imperialist running dogs, even though our self-appointed tutors always neglect to mention it was they who threw us to the dogs in the first place.

I am sick of both narratives, but at least the British one sailed away with Chris Patten

Long before China the drug addict gave us away to her British dealers, Hong Kong had been valiantly fighting off would-be conquerors since Tuen Mun was fortified as a naval base in the eighth century. It was on our hills and in our bays that Yang Liangjie and the Song dynasty held out that one final time against Mongol invaders, and we do not wallow in the misery of that defeat, or of our surrender to the Imperial Japanese Army on Christmas Day, 1941. No, we embrace even the fights we lost – we build temples to them – because at least we fought.

Beijing treats us like we have Stockholm syndrome, like because we don’t buy into the nation’s collective self-pity, we are somehow “stalling the process of decolonialisation”. But it was China that was too high on opioid to defend Hong Kong from colonialism in 1842, then so wasted from withdrawal it gave more of us away in 1898. So we fended for ourselves, waging a six-day resistance against the British occupation of the New Territories in April 1899. Hundreds of local villagers perished in a battle we were never going to win, and the tombstone of their mass grave in Kam Tin still bears the Chinese character for justice and loyalty. Their sacrifice may have been misguided, but hardly humiliating.

Hong Kong is still paying the political price for British colonial rule

Even when China’s humiliation and suffering were self-inflicted, through the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution, and the victims came in droves to Hong Kong, we complained little. We took some of the refugees in and made them our own. The mainland unloaded its unwanted baggage on us, and not only did we take it, we sent back money, and food, and medicine.

Now that China is finally sober again, demanding our fealty, expecting us to run to her bosom; now we are the ungrateful ones? We are told to feel like we were given new life in 1997, when it was China that left us for dead in 1842?

When the president celebrates “the coming of age of the Hong Kong SAR”, or academics write that “Hong Kong people still have some way to go in learning to think like an adult”, it is everything wrong about the way the central government sees Hong Kong, and why Beijing is losing the campaign for our hearts and minds as badly as it lost the opium wars. Stop treating us like children. You tell me who’s still stuck in a juvenile, colonial mindset: the one who accepts bad stuff happens and just gets on with it; or the one who never stops talking about all the ways they have been wronged by others, but never openly discusses the errors of their own ways.

Chinese history can open the eyes of Hong Kong students, just don’t try to doctor it

History does teach us lessons, but not only about days gone by. How we tell history to ourselves, how we impose it on others, what we keep and what we delete, is as much a reflection of our present selves as it is a recounting of our past. The “historical consensus” we are being told to accept in Hong Kong is one that writes off all we accomplished before 1997 as window dressing for our former Western masters. It is one in which our parents and grandparents were never persecuted on the mainland, never felt their only choice was to risk the swim across the Shenzhen River. In this history, no one of importance died in Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989, or in a Shenyang hospital last week.

We’re not buying it. You can tell us foreign elements organised Occupy Central, or try to pretend five of our publishers were never arbitrarily spirited away to the mainland. But every time you erase another line of our past, you push us another mile away.

Shen Jian is a lawyer in Hong Kong

February 02, 2017

US slaps duties on washing machines made in China

American manufacturers such as Whirlpool Corp have been harmed by products imported from China at below fair value. (Whirlpool Corporation)

Updated: Jan 11, 2017 01:38 IST

Reuters, Washington

US regulators on Tuesday moved to impose hefty tariffs on certain large residential washing machines made in China, saying American manufacturers such as Whirlpool Corp have been harmed by products imported from China at below fair value.

The US International Trade Commission voted to impose final duties on the products of up to 52.5% following a Commerce Department probe last year.

Whirlpool had sought the investigation over imports of washers manufactured in China by two South Korean companies, Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and LG Electronics Inc.

In a statement, the Michigan-based manufacturer praised the decision as a win for US workers.

“This is a gratifying win for American manufacturing, particularly our more than 3,000 employees at our factory in Clyde, Ohio, who make clothes washers for American consumers,” said Whirlpool Chairman and CEO Jeff Fettig said.

Samsung must now pay a tariff of about 52%, while LG products face a roughly 32% duty, according to Whirlpool.

ITC officials did not offer any more details on their vote, but said the agency would issue a fuller statement later on Tuesday.

The Commerce Department probe last year stemmed from a petition by Whirlpool Corp over imports of washers manufactured in China. In 2015, imports of such washers from China were valued at an estimated $1.1 billion.

February 01, 2017

United States consulate insists Hong Kong people will not be hit by Trump immigration ban

Members of the League of Social Democrats and other groups protest against Donald Trump's immigration ban. Photo: Sam Tsang

Assurance given after Hong Kong mother discloses warning from US college that overseas students should not leave the country

Elizabeth Cheung
UPDATED : Wednesday, 1 Feb 2017, 9:06PM

The United States consulate dismissed fears that Hongkongers would be affected by the country’s controversial immigration banafter a US institution issued letters to international students not to leave the US.

The concern came after a local parent revealed that her son, who is studying in a community college in Seattle, received a letter from the school relating to President Donald Trump’s newly issued executive order banning nationals from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days.

“The college is advising international students not to travel outside the United States, including trips to Canada,” the letter stated.

Kristin Haworth, spokeswoman for the US consulate, told the Post that Hong Kong residents would not be affected by the executive order.

She said that embassies and consulates around the world would process and issue visas to “eligible visa applicants who apply with a passport from an unrestricted country, even if they hold dual nationality from one of the seven restricted countries.”

Protesters make their views known on Donald Trump outside the US consulate in Central. Photo: Sam Tsang

She added that there was no indication that fewer Hongkongers would apply for US visas.

The worried mother, who was identified as Mrs Chau and declined to name the college which issued the letter, wondered whether her 21-year-old son, a Hong Kong resident who would graduate this summer and planned to apply to study in a US university, would be affected 90 days later.

“Could we be told that there won’t be further actions stopping people from other countries entering the US?” she said.

Chau is also worried because her elder daughter is working in the US and her visa will expire around October.

“Her work visa might not be extended as the [current government] seems to be unwelcoming to foreigners working there,” she said.

While the US consulate gave an assurance that Hongkongers would not be affected, an education consultant with Access Academic Consultancy, who chose to be identified only as Ms Lo, told the Post that fewer local students might choose the US for further studies.

“The order itself won’t have much influence on Hong Kong students, but the [welcoming] atmosphere would not be as good as Australia or Britain,” said Lo, who has not noted additional inquiries from parents regarding the latest US policy.

Hong Kong ranked 21st for the number of international students in the US. Around 8,000 Hong Kong students were in the country in the 2015-16 academic year.

Meanwhile, the League of Social Democrats and other concern groups staged a protest on Wednesday against Trump’s immigration ban. The protesters, who marched to the US consulate in Central, said no one should be discriminated against on the basis of religion or race.

Protester Eni Lestari, chairwoman of the International Migrants Alliance, said she was angry with Trump’s order and worried if her home country Indonesia, which had the world’s largest Muslim population, would one day be affected.

Mystery as Chinese-born tycoon vanishes in Hong Kong

A view of the Four Seasons Hotel (right) and adjoining luxury serviced apartment complex Four Seasons Place (center) in ...more


Kelvin Chan | Associated Press4:00 a.m. ET Feb. 1, 2017

HONG KONG - Mystery surrounds the whereabouts of a Chinese-born Canadian billionaire reportedly taken away from his Hong Kong hotel by mainland police, in a case that could rekindle concerns about overreach by Chinese law enforcement in the semiautonomous city.

Xiao Jianhua is on mainland China, according to a report by Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post on Wednesday, citing an anonymous source close to the tycoon. Overseas Chinese news sites said earlier that Chinese police officers escorted Xiao from his suite at the luxury Four Seasons Hotel last Friday. Such news sites carry reports of political gossip and corruption scandals that can be difficult to verify in tightly controlled China.

Xiao is the founder of Beijing-based Tomorrow Group, a well-connected financial services company, and is worth nearly $6 billion, according to the Hurun Report, China’s version of the Forbes Rich List.

It’s unclear why Xiao was targeted, but his case has parallels with that of five Hong Kong booksellers, who disappeared in 2015 only to turn up under control of the mainland authorities, sparking fears that Beijing was eroding Hong Kong’s wide autonomy and rule of law. The five sold gossipy books about China’s communist leaders that were banned on the mainland but popular with Chinese visitors.

China’s Ministry of Public Security and Foreign Ministry did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday, a public holiday in China. Mainland Chinese law enforcement agencies are not authorized to enforce the law in Hong Kong, the city’s security bureau said. The Hong Kong police said it has asked Chinese authorities for help in following up on the case.

Hong Kong unsettled by strange case of missing booksellers

In response to an inquiry about Xiao, Hong Kong police said initial investigations showed the “subject” crossed into the mainland at a border checkpoint Friday. They had launched the investigation after receiving a request for assistance from a family member on Saturday but a day later, the relative asked to withdraw the report after getting word that he was safe.

Xiao is reported to have built his fortune in part because of close connections with the families of Communist Party leaders. In 2014, reports said he fled to Hong Kong following rumors he was the target of a graft investigation — reports he denied at the time.

A wide-reaching anti-corruption crackdown led by Chinese President Xi Jinping has snared dozens of executives at state companies. Chinese state media said in 2013 that Xiao controlled nine publicly listed companies and had stakes in more than 30 financial institutions.

The New York Times reported in 2014 that a company Xiao co-founded paid $2.4 million to buy shares in an investment firm held by Xi’s sister and brother-in-law.

Hong Kong’s Ming Pao newspaper carried a front-page ad purportedly from Xiao, which said he was out of the country for medical treatment and denied he had been kidnapped. It followed similar statements the company posted this week on its Twitter-like Sina Weibo account, which have since been deleted.

Xiao is a Canadian citizen and a Hong Kong permanent resident, and had an unspecified diplomatic passport, the ad said. Xiao was named ambassador-at-large for Antigua and Barbuda in 2015, according to the Antigua government’s website.

The ad cited Xiao as saying he was a patriotic Chinese businessman who “has always loved the party and the nation, and has never participated in anything that would hurt the country’s interests or the government’s image, let alone support any opposition forces or groups.”

It’s not unusual for officials, executives and other individuals detained by Chinese security to be pressured into releasing messages to their relatives or on their social media accounts claiming that all is well. Such messaging, coupled with censorship of reporting online by domestic media, has been seen as part of the Chinese authorities’ efforts to tamp down concerns about the safety of the individuals concerned.

The Canadian Consulate said it was aware of the reports and had contacted authorities “to gather additional information and provide assistance.”

Jean-Francois Harvey, a Hong Kong-based lawyer, said he expected the case would further alarm mainland Chinese investors and businesspeople who have closely watched Beijing’s anti-corruption crackdown and the country’s economic slowdown.

In the wake of the booksellers’ incident, Xiao’s disappearance is likely to further degrade the perception that Hong Kong, unlike China, has an independent judiciary that operates outside of the political system, he said.

“People will be questioning whether Hong Kong is a safe haven,” Harvey said. “I think the answer to that question is very, very clear now, sadly.”


Associated Press writer Nomaan Merchant and researcher Henry Hou in Beijing contributed to this report.

Joshua, the Hong Kong teen taking on the might of China

Wednesday, February 1, 2017 - 13:36

A scrawny millennial with gaunt features and a studious frown, Joshua Wong looks like he'd struggle to take on a large steak, let alone the might of Communist China. 


[LOS ANGELES] A scrawny millennial with gaunt features and a studious frown, Joshua Wong looks like he'd struggle to take on a large steak, let alone the might of Communist China.

Yet the bespectacled activist is the unlikely hero to a generation in Hong Kong, where he led a movement inspiring hundreds of thousands to join his cause for elections free from Beijing's interference.

At the age of just 17, he spearheaded mass blockades that brought parts of the Asian financial centre to a standstill in 2014, sparked by restrictions from Beijing on how Hong Kong's next leader will be chosen.

Hailed as one of the world's most influential figures by Time, Fortune and Foreign Policy magazines, he is now the focus of an award-winning Netflix documentary due for release later this year.

"We hope people around the world recognise that social movements can make things happen. They can make things change," Mr Wong, now 20, told AFP by telephone from Hong Kong.

SEE ALSO: 'Abduction' of China tycoon sparks fear in Hong Kong

"People may be depressed or downhearted with the political situation in their own country, but it's still optimistic to see hope and seek change by street activism."

Joshua: Teenager vs Superpower tells the story of how Mr Wong became one of China's most notorious dissidents after the mainland Communist Party backtracked on its promise of autonomy to Hong Kong.

Critics say the 79-minute documentary could not have picked a better moment, with political engagement piqued in the West as protesters take to the streets to decry the policies of new US leader Donald Trump.

"You have a lone teenager taking on China and it's one of the things that attracted me to the story. The odds don't get much bigger. Talk about David and Goliath," Los Angeles-based director Joe Piscatella said in an interview.

At the age of just 14, Mr Wong campaigned successfully for Hong Kong to drop a pro-China "National Education" programme, rallying a crowd of 120,000 to his cause.

He was one of the 78 people arrested in Sept 2014 during another giant pro-democracy protest after China reneged on a pledge made during the handover to give Hong Kongers the right to choose their next leader.

Umbrellas were used to shield activists from waves of police pepper spray, giving the nascent "Umbrella Movement" its banal yet iconic symbol of resistance.

Galvanised by Mr Wong's passion, the Umbrella Movement made headlines around the world, but was ultimately unable to shake up Hong Kong politics after weeks of protest.

Mr Wong continues to campaign under the banner of a new political party, Demosisto, for a referendum to determine who will rule Hong Kong after the "one party, two systems" principle codified in Chinese agreements with Britain expires in 30 years.

"I'm still hopeful for the young generation here. In Hong Kong, more young people may be legislators in the future. I would say that this is just a starting point," Mr Wong said.

Born to middle class Christian parents Grace and Roger Wong in 1996, Mr Wong began his life of activism at age 13 with a protest against plans for a high-speed rail link between Hong Kong and the mainland.

It was here that Mr Piscatella's producer, documentary filmmaker Matthew Torne, first encountered Mr Wong and, seeing something extraordinary in the youngster, started his camera rolling.

"The first time I met Joshua, I was in awe... He's kind of a conundrum in that, when he walks into a room, he's not somebody you notice right away," Mr Piscatella said.

"You give him a microphone and a bullhorn and there's a change in him where suddenly he just becomes this other person where he's passionate and has this ability to connect with a large group of people."

Joshua: Teenager vs Superpower was picked up by Netflix and awarded the audience prize at this year's Sundance Film Festival, where Mr Wong attended screenings, describing the support for the film as "unbelievable".

Since the end of the Umbrella Movement, Mr Wong has been denied entry into Malaysia and Thailand, attacked in the street and abused by pro-China protesters in Taiwan. But he takes it all in his stride.

"That's my life," he shrugs, describing the drawbacks of his high profile, with a quiet insouciance, as "inconvenient" and vowing to fight on.

"We didn't win in the last battle," he said, "but I'm still optimistic for winning in the final war".


The Resident: Cordelia and Christoph Noe’s Hong Kong


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Christoph and Cordelia Noe

Hong Kong is one of those cities that everyone associates with art due to the teeming presence of quality galleries, anticipated spaces like M+, and top art fairs. But the active diversity of this city means that no two people probably experience it in the same way.

Last week, BLOUIN Culture+Travel shared Alan Lo’s guide to the city, and this week we view Hong Kong through the eyes of art entrepreneurs Christoph and Cordelia Noe, who have lived there for more than five years and whose work is richly involved with the fabric of the city’s art scene.

Christoph Noe is the founder ofTHE MINISTRY OF ART, and also co-founded LARRY’S LIST, a leading art market knowledge company that published the Art Collector Report in 2015 as well as the Private Museum Report in 2016. His area of interest and specialization is Chinese artists of the post-70s and 80s, and he has edited several books on emerging artists in China and Hong Kong. As an art advisor, Christoph also works with a number of international fashion and automotive brands on their art engagements in Greater China. Having formerly lived in Beijing for many years, he says that the move to Hong Kong was “a very rational choice,” with one of the most unique things about Hong Kong being the ease of establishing and doing business.

Cordelia Noe has been involved in the art world since 2006, with experience in both Europe and Asia. She is the founder and CEO of TheArtGorgeous, which explores the engagement of art with fashion and luxury, and will launch its first print issue during the art fair season in March.

The area in Sheung Wan in the north-west of Hong Kong Island, especially around Tai Ping Shan, is one of their favorite parts of Hong Kong — which is why they decided to set up their office here. Historically, the area marks early colonial history, being one of the first places where the British settled; today, it is a contemporary art street with many pop-up galleries, vivid street art, and specialty retailers.

Specifically, Christoph and Cordelia recommend 88 Gallery at 5 Upper Station, which showcases unique design objects including Turquoise Cabinets, as well as Lucie Chang Fine Arts a few meters up the street, which is one of the must-visit galleries to see local emerging artists. They also highlight the Liang Yi Museum on Hollywood, an interactive museum of design, craftsmanship and heritage — and the largest private museum in Hong Kong — referring to it as “a beautiful hidden gem if you want to connect with local Hong Kong art.”

Their involvement with the local art scene resulted in the publication of “20 Hong Kong Artists” a few years ago, which featured emerging artists of the time. “So far all the artists that have been selected to represent Hong Kong at the Venice Biennale (Lee Kit, Tsang Kin-Wah, Samson Young), we had already featured in our publication a few years back,” says Christoph. “We had a good feeling!”

For Cordelia, William Lim's Living Collection is probably the best place “if you want to get a rather comprehensive overview on the local art scene.” She adds that they are “also always excited about the shows which Empty Gallery in Tin Wan puts up. They are very original and often beyond what a typical gallery would show.”

For local cuisine, Cordelia recommends Dim Sum Square, which she claims is a slightly odd name but offers Hong Kong cuisine at its best. “Our favorite dish is called Springroll (inside): the outside is soft and inside crispy — molecular cuisine. The restaurant must have been featured in a local Korean tourist guide because recently it has been filled with the Gangnam crowd!”

She also suggests trying Cafe de Coral — the Hong Kong version of McDonald’s — for a local fast food experience. “We sometimes go there for a quick breakfast, like probably a quarter of the population of Hong Kong: milk tea, eggs, pineapple bun, and macaroni soup.”  

Finally, one of their most inspiring getaways in Hong Kong is the beautiful hike on Lantau Island, from Discovery Bay to Mui Wo, passing by a small monastery and offering amazing views of all of Hong Kong. “Sometimes you need a break from all the art,” they say.

HK protesters criticise Donald Trump's travel ban

LSD and other groups march to the US Consulate from Chater Garden. Photo: RTHK

LSD and other groups march to the US Consulate from Chater Garden. Photo: RTHK
Hong Kong protesters on Wednesday joined calls around the world to denounce American President Donald Trump’s executive order banning citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.

About two dozen people from various groups, including the League of Social Democrats (LSD) and International Migrant Alliance, marched from Chater Garden to the US Consulate in Central.

Holding placards that read "A Disgrace to Humanity" and "Make America Hate Again", the protesters said the ban "does no good to humanity".

LSD chairman, Avery Ng, said "within days of Donald Trump’s presidency, he managed to challenge the American constitution, challenge basic human rights and values that we all, as global citizens, uphold".

"If this continues, the divide between religions, ethnicities and nationalities will be wider and wider", he said.

Trump’s executive order affects people who have nationality or dual nationality of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Citizens of the seven countries will not be allowed to enter the US for the coming three months.

'HK's freedoms waned amid meddling from Beijing'

  • Hong Kong's 'freedom score' dropped from 63 to 61 as the US think tank concluded that Beijing has been tightening its grip over the city. Graphic: Courtesy of Freedom House
    Hong Kong's 'freedom score' dropped from 63 to 61 as the US think tank concluded that Beijing has been tightening its grip over the city. Graphic: Courtesy of Freedom House
A US government-funded think tank has concluded that Hong Kong is now slightly less free than it was a year ago, because the mainland has been tightening its grip on the city’s affairs.

In the latest annual report by Freedom House, published on Wednesday, Hong Kong was again rated as "partly free", though its overall score for political rights and civil liberties dipped from 63 to 61 out of 100.

The report said "Beijing's encroachment on freedoms in the territory" is reflected in, among other things, its recent interpretation of the Basic Law aimed at barring independence advocates from the legislature.

It also cited the detention by mainland authorities of five booksellers from a Causeway Bay book store, and said there were setbacks for both journalistic and academic independence.

China scored 15 out of 100 on the think tank’s freedom index, which puts it into the "not-free" category, and below countries such as Iran, Russia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The non-governmental organisation said the Chinese communist party has tightened its grip on various aspects of governance on the mainland as President Xi Jinping consolidates his power.

It warned that China was on a downward trend, reflecting "the chilling effect generated by cybersecurity and foreign NGO laws, increased internet surveillance, and lengthy prison sentences for human rights lawyers, activists, and religious believers".

Globally, the think tank said 2016 marked the 11th consecutive year of decline in freedoms around the world, with "populist and nationalist forces making significant gains in democratic states".

Of the 195 countries assessed, 87 were rated "free", 59 "partly free", and the remaining quarter "not free".

January 30, 2017

Chris Patten: UK risks 'selling its honour' on Hong Kong - BBC Newsnight

2017年1月26日The former governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten, says the UK risks not meeting its promises to the territory and "selling its honour" in an attempt to reach trade deals with China. Speaking to Emily Maitlis, he said the UK had let down "a generation" of democracy activists.

Newsnight is the BBC's flagship news and current affairs TV programme - with analysis, debate, exclusives, and robust interviews.

Is democracy under threat in Hong Kong? BBC Newsnight -BBC Newsnight

2017年1月26日It is 20 years since Hong Kong was returned to China after more than a century of British rule. Two decades on, what is the state of democracy in the country? And is the so-called "one country, two systems" principle working? Danny Vincent reports. The UK government says it takes its commitments to Hong Kong seriously. A Foreign Office spokesperson said: "We believe that 'one country, two systems' continues to be the best arrangement for Hong Kong's long term stability and prosperity, as it has been for nearly 20 years. We hope and expect that 'One Country Two Systems' will be respected and successful long into the future."

Newsnight is the BBC's flagship news and current affairs TV programme - with analysis, debate, exclusives, and robust interviews.