Society & Politics

Health & Environment

H&M responds to China boycott while slashed by state media

Swedish retailer H&M said it hoped to regain the trust of Chinese customers in a statement issued on Wednesday, after facing a boycott over the company’s refusal to use Xinjiang cotton for alleged human rights abuses. The embattled fast fashion company said they are working with colleagues in China to “do everything they can to manage the current challenges and find a way forward”.  “China will clearly continue to play an important role in further developing the entire industry,” the statement said. While the statement did not directly mention Xinjiang cotton or the boycott, it said that the company wants to “be a responsible buyer, in China and elsewhere, and are now building forward-looking strategies and actively working on next steps with regards to material sourcing.” The response comes as the Chinese backlash continues towards several Western brands including H&M, Nike and Burberry, which have expressed concerns about alleged forced labor in producing Xinjiang cotton and the decision by some to stop using cotton from the region. In a response to H&M’s statement, Chinese state media CCTV said on the Twitter-like social media platform Weibo that the statement was a “second-rate public relations essay”, deliberately avoiding the important issue and was lacking sincerity. It also said if the company wants to maintain its market position in China, it should show the stance. The world’s largest fashion retailer after Spanish clothing company Inditex, which owns Zara, has shut 20 stores in China, said the group’s Helena Helmersson during a conference to shareholders. The closure accounts for about 4% of the total 502 stores in China. Chinese e-commerce platforms including Taobao and JD.com also pulled the brand last week and people could not locate the stores from online maps. Chinese celebrities rushed to cut ties with the brand after the company’s statement issued …

Compulsory Covid testing at Hong Kong Baptist University

  • 2021-03-30

Hundreds of people at Hong Kong Baptist University have to undergo compulsory Covid-19 testing on Tuesday after a student tested positive for the coronavirus on Saturday. They include students and members of staff who visited three buildings on campus where the infected student had classes

Business

Chinese sportswear stocks jump after anti-Xinjiang cotton statement

Shares of Chinese sportswear makers extended gains on Friday in hopes of increased sales as leading foreign brands, including H&M and Adidas, faced backlash in China after western countries imposed sanction on the country amid a Xinjiang cotton row. Li-Ning (2331.HK) ended 2.9% higher at HK$51.45 after jumping nearly 11% on Thursday. Anta Sports (2020.HK) rose 5.61%, extending gains of 8.4% yesterday. Chinese consumers boycotted some foreign brands after the US along with the European Union, Canada and the UK announced a joint statement earlier this week for sanctions on Chinese officials over human rights violations in Xinjiang. Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in northwestern China produces about a fifth of the world’s cotton and supplies the material to many international brands. The anti-Xinjiang statement affected a number of fashion brands in China over Xinjiang cotton. Swedish fast-fashion retailer H&M products were removed from major Chinese e-commerce platforms including Alibaba and JD.com, following calls by state media for a boycott over the retailer's decision to stop buying cotton from Xinjiang, according to media reports. Several other international brands, including Nike and Adidas, were also targeted by social media in Mainland China this week. The People's Daily, a Chinese government-backed newspaper, shared an image with the hashtag “I support Xinjiang cotton” in Chinese. This post triggers a boycott on Adidas, News Balance, H&M, Nike and Burberry, brands, which expressed concern about the alleged use of Uighur forced labour in the production of Xinjiang cotton. Adidas, New Balance, H&M and Burberry and their stock prices were lower. Adidas was at $155.71 (HK$1209.7) and H&M $4.56 (HK$35.43), down 5.25% and 3.38% respectively overnight. Chinese celebrities cut ties with brands rejecting Xinjiang cotton. “Me and my company artist - Eason Chan Yick-shun resolutely boycott any action vilifying China, Therefore, we decided to terminate all collaboration …

Bail applications for 47 political activists under review for more than 20 hours

  • 2021-03-02

47 democratic politicians charged with conspiracy to commit subversion have waited for more than 20 hours as the West Kowloon Magistracy continues to consider their application for bail. As of 5 pm, 20 of them have yet to learn of the outcome. Lawyers of the defendants have asked for further details of the charges put forward by the prosecutors. But the prosecution side refused, saying they will produce evidence later in the trial. Dozens of people lined up outside West Kowloon Magistrates’ Court at 7 am, hoping to hear the proceedings. Some supporters of the 47 defendants arrived with banners.  “I also came to court yesterday. I stayed till 3 am last night nearby after the police chased us away. I don’t understand how an internal election breaches or threatens national security,” said Ms Chan who refused to give her full name. Alexandra Wong, also known as “Grandma Wong” came to West Kowloon Magistrates’ Court  both days to support the 47 democrat activists. She unfurled a British flag and yelled, “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong” outside the court building. She pledged to wait outside the court until the hearing is over.  More than 50 police were on guard outside the court.  Consideration for bail was suspended at 2 am last night after several politicians fell ill. Clarisse Yeung Suet-Ying, Leung Kwok-Hung, Roy Tam Hoi-Pong and Mike Lam were sent to hospital after 12 hours of hearing yesterday.   

Supporters shout banned slogans as pro-democracy defendants face trial

  • 2021-03-01

Hundreds of people dressed in black shouted slogans outside Western Magistracy today as 47 pro-democracy activists faced “conspiracy to commit subversion” charges. They belted out slogans such as "five demands, not one less," "no rioters, only tyranny," and "liberate Hong Kong, revolutions of our times," all of which were used during the 2019 protest but have since been outlawed under the national security law.    The defendants inside faced charges in connection with participation in the primary elections held last July, ahead of the Legislative Council polls.  “The DAB [and] pro-Beijing parties organised the primary election too. It is very common in Hong Kong and other places, how can that be a crime?” said Emily Lau, a former legislator. “I didn’t feel lucky at all for not participating in the primary election. I prefer to be one of the 47 arrested,” said Herber Chow, a pro-democracy activist as well as the CEO of the children clothing brand, ChickeeDuck. “It’s the most ridiculous case in Hong Kong. We should be here to witness history,” Mr Chow told The Young Reporter. He said some of those in the trial were his high school friends. A 64-year-old woman, Alexandra Wong held a British flag outside the court building. “I hope the whole world will stand together with us for freedom. One dream, one world,”  she said. Among those waiting was 89-year-old Catholic cardinal, Joseph Zen. Like hundreds of others, he was unable to get into the building. Trade unionists and members of the Civic Party held up the three finger salute in support of pro-democracy protesters in Myanmar. A large number of police vans lined the street. Officers held up the purple flag this afternoon to warn the crowd that their slogans were in contravention of the national security law. They also raised the blue …

Society

Privacy concerns drive people away from evening dine-in

Despite relaxed social distancing rules and resumed dinner service, some Hongkongers still won’t eat out over the fear of personal data collected by the authority as the government requires all diners to record their detailed information for potential virus tracing. Eateries can resume dine-in service until 10pm with a maximum four people per table from Thursday, as long as they fulfill prerequisites, including staff getting Covid-19 tests every two weeks and diners recording personal information by scanning a QR code through the official “Leave Home Safe” app or by other means. The government’s controversial contact-tracing app has raised public concerns over privacy issues and abuse of data, as it will access user phone storage. Despite some online calls for boycotting the app, as of Thursday, the app download has surged to over 1 million since its launch in mid-November and seized the top position in the App Store.  “I see no reason for customers leaving personal information when eating out,” said restaurant operator Ryan Lo Tsz-yeung. “Our restaurants also have no right to ask for diners’ information.” Health officials have said on separate occasions that the virus-exposure app will only let the government know “who was present at the venues at a specific time” for potential tracing, while the encrypted data will only be stored in user phones for 31 days. Hong Kong Baptist University’s “BU-Trace,” launched last October and led by Xu Jianliang, Associate Head of the Department of Computer Science, is an alternative to the official app, Prof Xu said. “People can use other apps to check whether their information has been transferred to servers if they are skeptical of the government,” Prof Xu said.  Prof Xu also said the government could make their app open source, meaning publishing the software code for people to inspect the operating …

Society

City's Lunar New Year flower markets head into their last night with smaller crowds and less stock

The city's Lunar New Year flower markets, initially cancelled due to the fourth coronavirus wave, gear up for their final night of the holiday season today after the government U-turn allowing them to open just three weeks ago. Stall owners said they lost out on business because of the government's back and forth decision to cancel and reopen markets again, and crowds this year were much smaller than usual. "As the government announced the closure of the flower markets earlier, we did not purchase much flowers and our supply is not quite enough," said Au Chun-yuen, 29, a stall owner at the Victoria Park market, adding that he had 30% less stock than last year. Mr Au said he has been offering discounts to compensate for the loss of business from shortened market hours. "Selling prices are already reduced by 10% to 20%.  But as my ultimate goal is to sell all the flowers, I am willing to offer an extra discount if the customers bargain with me," Mr Au added.   The decision to open the markets was made after careful consideration and listening to the comments of the flower farmers, Food and Health Secretary Sophia Chan Shiu-chee said at a press conference on Jan. 19. The government's virus control measures included closing the market for two hours each day 1:30 pm and 6:30 pm for cleaning and disinfection. Visitors in the market can stay during disinfection sessions, but Mr Au said that opening hours are shortened as people waiting outside the market can only enter after the cleaning sessions end. Chris Jones, 67, a customer at the flower market, questioned the government's decision. "1:30 pm is in the middle of people's lunch break and 6:30 pm is when people want to come here after work, so it is impossible …

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 …