Politics

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

Hong Kong district councillors required to pledge allegiance to government or face a 5-year election ban

Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Erick Tsang announced that District Councillors may be required to pledge allegiance to the government, under a proposed amendment to the Public Offices (Candidacy and Taking Up Offices) (Miscellaneous) Ordinance.  Violators will be barred from running for office for five years.  Mr Tsang introduced a list of rules that disallow district councillors from running for office. The behaviours that are not allowed include committing acts which endanger national security such as refusing to recognise China’s sovereignty over Hong Kong, involving foreign government interference in the city and advocating for “Hong Kong independence” among others.  “I believe that, if according to the list, the individuals are sincere in upholding the Basic Law and swearing allegiance to the SAR government, they won’t have to be worried,” Mr Tsang said. Under Article 6 of the national security law, residents “who stand for election or assume public office shall confirm in writing or take an oath to uphold the Basic Law.” The ordinance also contains a clause that will remove any councillor who is “declared or decided” to have failed to fulfill the requirements of bearing allegiance to the city.  The first reading of the bill will commence on March 17. The second and third reading will be decided in the second quarter of 2021, according to the  LegCo document.  “If they disqualify a councillor, who came from the election, actually they are not only disqualifying us, but also disqualifying the citizens,” said Wong Tin-yan, a district councillor for the Lai King constituency.  The district councillors are also required to sing the national anthem of China as part of the proposed oath-taking requirement. Mr. Tsang said that four incumbent pro-democracy district council members --  Lester Shum, Tiffany Yuen, Tat Cheng and Fergus Leung --  would be expelled from …

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 …

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 …

Politics

BNO passports holders face uncertainty after China’s refusal to recognise the travel document

China announced on 29 Jan it will no longer recognise the British National Overseas passport for Hongkongers as a valid travel and identity document starting 31 Jan.  Britain announced earlier that it would offer BNO passports to some 300,000 Hongkongers. Successful applicants will have a pathway to British citizenship. Including those who already have the passports, the total of BNO holders in Hong Kong will add up to 5.2 million.  Previously, BNO holders could only visit the UK for up to six months with no right to work or settle. A British media factsheet said the UK now expects roughly 153,700 BNO holders and their dependents to migrate there in the next year.  The new BNO scheme is in retaliation to the imposition of the National Security Law that came into effect in July, a year after anti-government protests in Hong Kong.  “It is expected that the Chinese government would do something in response to the BNO issues,” said a 27-year-old BNO passport holder who did not want to be named.  “But I think the refusal to recognise the BNO passport is childish,” she added. She plans to settle in Taiwan where she’s been living for two-and-a-half years and keep her BNO passport.  However, some feel more personally affected by the change.  “We weren’t prepared for such a decision,” said Aalia Shah, 23, another BNO passport holder.  “I will have to apply for a HKSAR passport for now,” Ms Shah said. “Immigrating out of Hong Kong is not really on my mind.” The BNO scheme was a part of the 1997 handover of Hong Kong to China, marking the end of the British colony. 

Politics

Hong Kong Trump supporters urge US to be harsh on China as Biden takes office

Since immigrating to the United States from Hong Kong more than 20 years ago, Matthew, a 44-year-old actuary living in Virginia, has voted four times in the presidential election. Twice for Barack Obama and then for Hillary Clinton. In 2020, it was Donald Trump.  Pro-democracy Hongkongers, like Matthew, have seen government crackdowns on the city's autonomy and freedoms during the anti-extradition protests and after the passage of a draconian national security law. Feeling desperate, some projected their hope onto former President Mr. Trump, who they thought gave China a hard time.  But as that hope is extinguished when Joe Biden came to office as the 46th US President on Wednesday, Hong Kong Americans who sided with Mr. Trump wait and see how the country’s relationship with China may develop in a new era.   "I hope the new cabinet would understand the so-called 'cooperation with the CCP' and a 'win-win' will only make the CCP win twice and do no good to the US in the long term,” Matthew said in a text interview on the day of the inauguration. He did not want his surname to be shown for fear of being targeted by authorities.   Though Matthew recognised the Democrats' effort in pushing forward the Human Rights and Democracy Act last year -- a bill that requires the US to assess Hong Kong's autonomy and allows punishing officials violating human rights -- he found the tariffs imposed by Mr. Trump more effective in weakening China and doubted if Democrat Mr. Biden would endorse them.  Mr. Biden’s aide said in August that the president "would re-evaluate the tariffs upon taking office" but had not committed to lifting them, the Washington Post reported, after Mr. Biden blamed the taxes for harming America’s economy.  When asked if he would make China pay for …

Politics

My day in Chungking Mansions: Disconnected "country" in Hong Kong

The elevator in this 17-storey behemoth of a building with more than 4,000 residents and hundreds of small businesses, can only hold five people. Waiting for an uncrowded one needs both patience and luck.  After 10 minutes, I give up and enter the stairwell to walk six numbers of flights downstairs. The walls are covered with graffiti. Through the window, I can see nothing but pipes with black stains.  Nearly half a century ago, Chungking Mansions was one of the most upscale buildings in Tsim Sha Tsui. But now, this complex has become a low-priced gathering place for minority groups and asylum seekers.  Before the pandemic, it used to see about 10,000 visitors every day. They come here for authentic food, affordable rooms, drugs, and prostitutes. For decades, some local people have viewed the complex filled with crimes and violence, as another "Kowloon Walled City," which was known for its high density and lawlessness. But fewer visitors amid the pandemic have made this building further disconnected from the outside world. I'm here to spend 24 hours, to get inside the look of this building and its people.  It's 5 pm on Sunday. Outside the stairwell on the ground floor, about 10 Africans are drinking beer and watching football on the television with loud music. I feel nervous in this unfamiliar place with so many corners and aisles, which are like scattered puzzle pieces. So I choose to stand still and look around to figure out the direction.  Luckily, someone is waving at me. I tell him that it is my first-time visit and ask for his advice. This 37-year-old Indian grocery shop owner, Muddassar Ahmed, is keen to give me an introduction. This five-block complex has more than 3 hundred stores. Most are run by African and Indian migrants and …

Politics

Hong Kong's enhanced coronavirus control in the restaurant industry draws controversy

On December 8, Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced that dining regulations are to be more stringent as the fourth-wave of coronavirus fast approaches Hong Kong.  In addition to maintaining the two-person gathering limit, the dining time at the restaurant was further shortened to 6 pm Fitness centres, sports premises, beauty salons, massage parlours and other places that are normally open were also required to be closed. These measures take effect on December 10. These measures were taken in response to the consecutive rise in triple-digit confirmed new cases of coronavirus since December. "We experienced this before," said Percy Lam Kwok-Ming, the manager at Brotziet, a German cuisine restaurant in Tsim Sha Tsui. He referred to the third wave of Covid-19 and said that they lost around 30% of their business during that time. The food and beverage sector saw a 35.3% decrease in sales during the third quarter of 2020, according to government statistics.  "We had to take a lot of no-pay leaves so it affects our salary," said Pujan Rai, a staff at Brotzeit. She said that since part of her salary goes to supporting her family, whose income is also affected during covid, "it is a bit of a struggle every time a new wave hits Hong Kong." Ms Rai thinks it's too much to ask the restaurant to close at 6 pm as they can't get more revenue from the sale of alcohol or drinks, even have to rush customers to eat as soon as possible. She found the 6 PM limit to be excessive, since Brotziet is a restaurant and bar, closing at 6 pm means they sell fewer drinks and have to rush dining customers as well since the restaurant originally opens till 2 am, "pushing the closing time back to 8 or 9 pm …

Politics

Masses gather at Prince Edward despite police banning placing flowers

Hongkongers mourned with flowers outside Prince Edward MTR station Monday evening - the 15-month anniversary of the 831 incident - despite police warning that those laid flowers might face prosecution.   Three people were fined for littering after presenting flowers near the exit around 4 pm, said Mong Kok East constituency District Councillor Ben Lam Siu-pan. "We just peacefully give flowers at the Prince Edward station. The police still crack down on us. It is ridiculous," Mr Lam said.  Mr Lam and other pan-democracy district councillors used to collect flowers left by protesters on the last day of every month outside the station. This year, they moved the paper boxes to Mr Lam's nearby office so that the ceremony could continue.  "The spirit still lives. We do not forget the 831 incident," he added.  Police have been accused of indiscriminately beating up passengers with batons and using pepper spray inside train compartments amid arrests of anti-extradition protesters in the railway station in August last year.  Rumours claimed someone died in the raid while officials declined. At least seven people were injured in the incident.  The city's protester Alexandra Wong Fung-yiu, nicknamed "Grandma Wong," appeared on the scene with white flowers and a yellow umbrella that had logos of the Union Flag on it. In October, she alleged that the Chinese authorities had detained her for 14 months in the mainland after she joined nearly every anti-extradition protest.  Mrs Lam, 58, only wants her surname to be shown for fear of being targeted by authorities, held a white flower in hands while facing the Prince Edward station across the street. She said she had stood there for one and a half hour to commemorate the "deaths" Mrs Lam said she joined the memorial at least five times. The recent surge of COVID-19 …

Politics

Policy Address 20/21: The government is drawing up plans to strengthen national security education in the city

Young people will be educated in the rule of law, the Chief Executive said in her fourth policy address on Wednesday, as part of a 10-year initiative called "Vision 2030 for Rule of Law." "Targeted public education activities will be carried out to promote law-abiding awareness, while research and related data compilation will be conducted through collaboration with various stakeholders," she said. It is important to "enhance moral, civic and national education," including the constitution, the basic law and national security, she said, adding that citizens need a "sense of social responsibility and national identity, as well as an affection for Hong Kong and international perspective."  Part of the plan includes reforming the controversial Liberal Studies in public secondary schools, though no details on the reform were given, and having stricter regulation on teachers. A task force of locally and internationally renowned "experts" has been set up to advise the government on the plan, which was announced last year. The Financial Secretary earmarked about HK$450 million in the budget plan last year for the Department of Justice to implement the project. The Democratic Party responded in the afternoon criticising Mrs Lam for overthrowing the liberal studies system, which has been implemented for ten years in Hong Kong, saying that the government will promote "brainwashing national education" in the future. "The Democratic Party calls on all of our teachers and Hong Kongers to stick with our positions, letting our students be able to access comprehensive knowledge from different aspects, building up their ability of thinking critically and independently," Wong Pik-wan, spokesperson of the Democratic Party said at a press conference. "Anti brainwashing is becoming an important point for us in the coming future." In the past few months, the government has jumped into education to assess the professionalism of teachers, the …