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".