By: Sara ChengEdited by: Editor

Politics

Court charges 47 pro-democracy figures with "conspiracy to commit subversion” under national security law

47 people from the pro-democracy camp attended a hearing at West Kowloon Magistrates Court today in connection with their participation in holding primary polls ahead of the planned Legislative Council election last year. They face charges of "conspiracy to commit subversion" under the National Security Law. Former lawmaker Claudia Mo Man-ching, convener of Civil Human Rights Front Jimmy Sham Tsz-kit and others sitting on the bench waved at those in the dock, including Gwyneth Ho Kwai-lam and Lam Cheuk Ting. Before the hearing began, one of the accused, Ms Ho stood up and shouted that she had not met her lawyer. The first defendant, former legal academic, Benny Tai, 56, was accused of promoting “an agenda to obtain a controlling majority” in the Legislative Council. The prosecution argued that Tai’s '35+' campaign aimed to paralyse the government by getting Legco to indiscriminately refuse to pass the budget and ultimately to cause the dissolution of the Council and the resignation of the Chief Executive. Tai’s “mutual destruction” agenda, the prosecution said, was a conspiracy to “seriously interfere in, disrupt or undermine the performance of duties and functions of the government”. Mr Tai, along with ex-lawmaker Au Nok-hin and members of the now-disbanded group, People for Democracy including Chiu Ka-yin Andrew, Chung Kam-lun and Ng Gordon Ching-hang, allegedly conspired with the rest of the defendants who participated in the primaries. More than 600,000 people voted in the primaries held last July, but the Legislative Council election was postponed for a year because of the Covid pandemic. The police also alleged that Gordon Ng, 41, initiated a 'Say No to Primary Dodgers' movement, which directed readers of their articles to vote in favour of their stance in the primaries. The defendants’ activities such as crowdfunding, nomination and holding press conferences are cited as …

Society

Budget Address 2021: No cash handout amid recession; $5,000 e-vouchers for eligible residents

Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po announced in his budget speech Wednesday there will be no cash handout for this financial year. But electronic vouchers of HK$5,000 will be issued in instalments to each Hong Kong permanent resident and new arrival aged 18 or above to encourage local consumption. The measure, which involves about HK$36 billion, is expected to benefit more than 7.2 million people, Mr Chan said.  The government has not said yet where the vouchers can be spent or how they will be given out. “The HK$5,000 e-voucher cannot tackle the current situation and provides limited support to citizens who have been struggling throughout the pandemic,” said Owan Li, Tai Kok Tsui North district councilor.  The numbers have been grim. Under the global sweep of the coronavirus, Hong Kong’s economy has shrunk by 6.1% for two consecutive years, hitting the highest annual decline on record.  The unemployment rate surged to 7% in the fourth quarter of 2020, reaching a 17-year high.  Tourism-related sectors are hard hit as they reached the highest jobless rate since SARS in 2003.  Retail, accommodation and food services sectors have suffered a surge in the unemployment rate to 11.3%. Tourism sectors have frozen with extensive global travel restrictions, and the export travel service plummeted by 90.5% “I actually agree with the government decision to not launch another cash handout since it has not been effective,” said Angus Chan, an employee dismissed from the InterContinental Hotel during the pandemic and now works in the Rosewood Hotel.  He has one to two no-pay leave days per week at the new job, and some of his shifts are cut, he said.  As the world continues to restrict travel, the hospitality industry is uncertain about when it will recuperate from the pandemic. Small and medium enterprises are hoping the …

Politics

Peaceful protests and strike sweep Myanmar despite deadly police violence

Protesters across Myanmar staged one of its largest anti-coup protests on Monday since the military overthrew democratically-elected Aung San Suu Kyi's government and arrested members of the National League for Democracy three weeks ago.  In Mandalay, the country’s second-largest city where two protesters were shot dead on Saturday, hundreds of thousands rallied peacefully, among them medical workers, lawyers, engineers, monks and grocery shop keepers, said Aung San Thein, 22, a Mandalay protester in a phone interview.  Mr Thein went into exile with his family as a child due to political prosecution. He returned home after the National League for Democracy won a landslide victory in the 2015 election.  "We’re not taking any violent action,” Mr Thein said. Demonstrators gathered in front of the central railroad station, passed boiled eggs and snacks to one another and listened to speeches, he said, adding all the shops he saw were closed. "Protesters at the front shouted: ‘What do we want,’ and the crowd behind chanted: ‘We want democracy," he said. "Everything is in order. There is no chaos in the country that [the military] has to declare a national emergency. The only chaos that we are having right now is because of the military," Mr Thein said. "That's what we want to show."  A one-year state of emergency has been imposed on Feb. 1 after the coup, during which the military chief Min Aung Hlaing will remain in power. The strike defied the junta’s warning on Sunday that protesters, who they blamed for “inciting emotional teenagers and youths,” could "suffer a loss of life." Three protesters have been killed by live bullets during clashes with police, including a 16-year-old boy and Mya Thwate Thwate Khaing, a 20-year-old who was shot in the head on Feb. 9 in the capital Nay Pyi Taw and …

Society

A third of pupils back in classes after schools agree to COVID rules

Students from about 2000 schools can now resume half-day classes while schools can have a full half-day resumption if all members of staff have the COVID-19 test every 2 weeks. But The Professional Teachers Union doubts if the frequent testing is needed for teachers.  

Society

China’s online college cheats offer Zoom babysitting during pandemic

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Cai Zhiling、Chen Wantong、Dong Shuer、Wang HeyuEdited by: Sara Cheng
  • 2021-02-17

China’s academic cheating agencies that write college essays for a fee are cashing in by offering Zoom babysitting services. Ghostwriters would attend online classes and write the exams so that customers don’t have to do anything at all.  Search “ghost-writing” on any Chinese social media platform and you will likely end up with a bunch of commercials for so-called ghostwriters. These are companies or self-organised teams which charge a fee for writing academic papers and assignments. Customers only need to provide information about subject requirements and the due date of the work. The ghostwriters then do the work but get none of the credit. We contacted agencies that do virtual exams for students via text messages. One agency, Giant GPA, for example, comes up with a package price of $1699 US dollars for writing essays, attending Zoom sessions and writing the exam with the camera switched on. That works out at more than $13,000 Hong Kong dollars, about a third of the annual fee for an undergraduate degree in Hong Kong.  Another essay mill, TOP gave a quote of  6,500 to 7,500 yuan (HK$7,780 to HK$8,977), with a guaranteed 60 marks in exams and a B-, or 80 marks for online classes. If the online exam is under invigilation, the client would have to take pictures of the questions and send them to the tutor, who will stand by and respond simultaneously. "Make sure you pay attention to the angle ( at which the photo is taken)," the agent reminded The Young Reporter. He added that TOP would generally not attend Zoom classes for clients.  Another agency, Finger would charge 1500 to 2200 yuan (HK$1,795 to HK$2,633) for a group project, two written assignments plus a final exam. The same ghostwriter would do all the work for the course. Clients, …

Politics

‘It’s either them or us’: desperate protestors take to Myanmar streets as junta uses arrests, violence to keep power

It was April 2007, right in the middle of a school day, when 8-year-old Aung San Thein's mother came to take him home. His luggage was packed and ready. His mother rushed out again to pick up his older sister and told him to wait.  Escape was imminent. Mr Thein's father and uncle had already left the country. His uncle, a member of the pro-democracy National League for Democracy party and an elected representative in the 1990 multiparty election, had fled to Thailand after the military junta annulled the election results. He helped establish the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma, which declared itself Myanmar’s government in exile.  Mr Thein eventually ended up in a place he called "hell" – Mae La, a refugee camp of around 35,000 mostly ethnic Karens on the Thai-Myanmar border. He lived there for almost ten years until the NLD won the 2015 elections and he was able to return to Myanmar.  Now, Mr Thein, 22, is living in Maymyo, a hill town east of Mandalay and is one of hundreds of thousands in Myanmar protesting the military coup on Feb. 1 that seized power and detained elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi along with other NLD officials. The civil disobedience movement is in full swing in Myanmar, a Southeast Asian nation of 54 million. Demonstrators have filled streets across the country, among them medical staff, bank workers and civil servants on strike, as well as students and monks. They dress in red, the colour of the NLD’s flag and flash the three-finger salute, a symbol of resistance. 100,000 people joined the demonstration in its largest city Yangon on Wednesday, the Guardian reported.  Protestors, like Mr Thein, are peacefully and creatively trying to topple a military dictatorship that has haunted the nation for …