China’s Urge to Rule: The Hong Kong Protests

A series of steps by the Chinese and Hong Kong governments in recent years have prompted a growing uneasiness among Hong Kongers about their future, a concern that burst out in a protest by hundreds of thousands of people earlier this year.

The special status of Hong Kong

It was a British colony for more than 150 years – part of it, Hong Kong island, was ceded to the UK after a war in 1842. Later, China also leased the rest of Hong Kong to the British for 99 years.

It became a busy trading port, and its economy took off in the 1950s as it became a manufacturing hub. The territory was also popular with migrants and dissidents fleeing instability, poverty or persecution in mainland China.

Then, in the early 1980s, as the deadline for the 99-year-lease approached, Britain and China began talks on the future of Hong Kong with the communist government in China arguing that all of Hong Kong should be returned to Chinese rule.

The two sides reached a deal in 1984 and the former British colony was returned to China in 1997 under the framework, which guarantees it the right to retain its own social, legal and political systems for 50 years.

As a result, Hong Kong follows the rule of “one country, two systems” which allows it to have own legal system and borders, and rights including freedom of assembly and free speech.

The Issue

On 3 April, Hong Kong’s government introduced plans for changes to legislation that would allow for criminal suspects to potentially be extradited to China.

Critics warned the bill could undermine Hong Kong’s legal freedoms and might be used to intimidate or silence dissidents.

When Lam’s government introduced amendments to Hong Kong’s extradition laws that would allow criminal suspects to be extradited to China, there were large scale protests to this proposal. Critics feared that the changes would damage the territory’s legal independence and suspects would not be guaranteed fair trials. Hong Kong’s protests started in June against proposals to allow extradition to mainland China.

What started as demonstrations against an extradition bill took on a much wider scope with protesters demanding full democratic rights for Hong Kongers.

After more than a million people took to the streets on June 9 for a “last stand” for Hong Kong, the government accidentally sent protesters the message that radical actions work better than peaceful displays by suspending the extradition bill—but only after police and protesters clashed on June 12. By then, anger was already boiling at police, and the mass peaceful marches of June gave way to more intense confrontations with police all over the city. Following is a timeline of the key dates around the extradition bill and the protests it triggered.

  • February 2019 – Hong Kong’s Security Bureau submits a paper to the city’s legislature proposing amendments to extradition laws that would provide for case-by-case extraditions to countries, including mainland China, beyond the 20 states with which Hong Kong already has treaties.
  • March 31 – Thousands take to the streets of Hong Kong to protest against the proposed extradition bill.
  • April 3 – Lam’s government introduces amendments to Hong Kong’s extradition laws that would allow criminal suspects to be sent to mainland China for trial.
  • April 28 – Tens of thousands of people march on Hong Kong’s city assembly building, the Legislative Council, to demand the scrapping of the proposed amendments to the extradition laws.
  • May 11 – Scuffles break out in Hong Kong’s legislature between pro-democracy lawmakers and those loyal to Beijing over the extradition bill.
  • May 30 – Hong Kong introduces concessions to the extradition bill, including limiting the scope of extraditable offences. Critics say they are not enough.
  • June 6 – More than 3,000 Hong Kong lawyers take to the streets dressed in black in a rare protest march against the extradition law.

The first big protests

  • June 9 – An estimated one million people marched to the government headquarters to show they were against the proposed bill.

It was largely a peaceful rally, though some small skirmishes broke out.

  • June 12- A fresh demonstration took place at which police fired tear gas and rubber bullets. The stand-off developed into the worst violence Hong Kong had seen in decades.

Facebook and Twitter Say China Is Spreading Disinformation in Hong Kong

SAN FRANCISCO — China has adopted Russia’s playbook for spreading disinformation on Facebook and Twitter, deploying those tactics in its increasingly heated information war over the protests that have convulsed Hong Kong.

In recent weeks, Facebook and Twitter accounts that originated in China acted in a coordinated fashion to amplify messages and images that portrayed Hong Kong’s protesters as violent and extreme, the two social media companies said on Monday. On Facebook, one recent post from a China-linked account likened the protesters to ISIS fighters. And a Twitter message said, “We don’t want you radical people in Hong Kong. Just get out of here!”

Facebook and Twitter said they had now removed the accounts, the first time that the social media companies have had to take down accounts linked to disinformation in China.

June 15 – Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam issued a dramatic reversal, saying she would indefinitely delay the extradition bill. Lam expressed ‘deep sorrow’ over extradition law controversy.

June 16 – Despite this, an estimated two million people took to the streets the following day, demanding the bill be withdrawn completely and calling for Ms Lam’s resignation.

  • July 1 – on The anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover from the UK to China, the Legislative Council (LegCo) building was stormed by protesters who sprayed graffiti on the walls, displayed the colonial-era flag and defaced Hong Kong’s regional emblem.
  • July 9 – Lam says the extradition bill is “dead” and that government work on the legislation had been a “total failure”.
  • July 21 – Men, clad in white T-shirts and some armed with poles, flood into rural Yuen Long station and storm a train, attacking passengers and passers-by, including members of the media, after several thousand activists surrounded China’s representative office in the city earlier in the day, and clashed with police.
  • July 30 – Forty-four activists are charged with rioting, the first time this charge has been used during these protests.

Violent clashes become the norm

  • August 3- protests took place for the ninth consecutive weekend. Police again fired tear gas, rubber bullets and bean bag rounds at protesters, something many had now come to expect. By this time protesters were wearing masks and protective gear at every demonstration.
  • August 6 – China warned the protesters not to “play with fire,” not to “underestimate the firm resolve [of] the central government” and not to “mistake restraint for weakness”.It was one of the strongest warnings Beijing had issued over the protests.

Protests moved into a 10th week without showing signs of dying down.

  • August 11 – police stormed enclosed railway stations, firing tear gas at protesters, leading yet again to dramatic scenes of confrontation.
  • August 12 – protesters gathered at the airport, leading to hundreds of flights being cancelled.
  • August 14 – Police and protesters clash at Hong Kong’s international airport after flights were disrupted for a second day. The airport resumed operations later that day, rescheduling hundreds of flights.
  • Violence resumed the following weekend, with police using tear gas and water cannon against protesters, who returned fire with projectiles, including bricks and petrol bombs
  • Sept 2 – Lam says she has caused “unforgivable havoc” by igniting the political crisis engulfing the city and would quit if she had a choice, according to an audio recording obtained by Reuters of remarks she made to a group of businesspeople.
  • Sept 3 – Lam says she had never asked the Chinese government to let her resign to end the Chinese-ruled city’s political crisis, responding to the Reuters report.

Finally, the bill was withdrawn

How the protests escalated?

What started as peaceful protests with a of a few people, went on to take the shape of mass protests as millions of people took to the streets. Initial promise of delaying the bill could not hold back the people as they feared the bill could be revived, so demonstrations continued, calling for it to be withdrawn completely.

By then clashes between police and protesters had become more frequent and more violent, with injuries on both sides and scores of people arrested. There was also a lot of anger towards how the police had handled the situation, and their use of force.  A record amount of tear gas was fired, often in dense residential areas. On multiple occasions, armed thugs attacked civilians on train platforms and on the streets. Riot police had to beat people indiscriminately in train stations and in shopping malls. The Chinese flag had been stomped on, thrown into the sea, and set on fire. Meanwhile, as the number of Hong Kongers identifying as Chinese reached a record low, protesters composed an unofficial “national” anthem shortly ahead of China’s national day

What the protesters wanted?

The movement was largely leaderless and not everyone had the same end goals. Over the weeks, new demands had been added.

By a later point, here is what the protesters wanted:

  • The withdrawal of the “riot” description used about the 12 June protests.
  • An amnesty for all arrested protesters.
  • An independent inquiry into alleged police brutality.
  • Universal suffrage in elections for Hong Kong’s chief executive (the territory’s leader), and Legislative Council.

Viewpoint

After more than four months of protests, the 2019 movement completely reconfigured the daily life in Hong Kong and ushered in a new norm. Many in the city worried that the freedoms they enjoyed under a “one-country, two-systems” framework were being chipped away, as both governments used carrots and sticks to draw Hong Kong closer to China’s orbit.

Hong Kongers had always been proud, but there is something new: a feeling of hatred towards mainland China’s authoritarian leaders. Hong Kong’s eruption into months long protests was a result of Beijing’s overreach and its urge for total control.

Hong Kong police, under control of Beijing, have drawn severe flak for their handling of protesters, several of whom were shot in the head by rubber bullets , but the Chinese government continued to carry on with the violence. Accusations of police brutality surfaced as pictures and videos of bloodied protesters circulated on social media. The entire world saw these human rights violations happening everyday while China chose to remain tight lipped.

It is imperative to note here that China, who sides with its dear friend Pakistan,  in expressing concerns for the Human rights violation in Kashmir, feels no remorse when it comes to its own people. What the Chinese Government have triggered in Hong Kong may lead to a far deeper impact on the future generations of Hong Kong and yet it conveniently covers up the issue, pretending to be a supporter of human rights. With all this happening under its wings, with what face China stands to support Pakistan with Kashmir when it cannot resolve basic issues within in its own territory. It’s high time that China should be looking within its own glass walls first before throwing stones at others.

01 Oct 19/Tuesday                                                  Written by: Saima Ebrahim

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Facebook said it eliminated seven pages, three Facebook Groups and five accounts involved in the disinformation campaign about Hong Kong protesters. Twitter deleted 936 accounts and said it would ban state-backed media from promoting tweets after China Daily and other state-backed publications placed ads on its service that suggested the protesters were sponsored by Western interests and were becoming violent.

“These accounts were deliberately and specifically attempting to sow political discord in Hong Kong, including undermining the legitimacy and political positions of the protest movement on the ground,” Twitter said in a statement. “Based on our intensive investigations, we have reliable evidence to support that this is a coordinated state-backed operation.”

The removal of the China-backed accounts signal an escalation in the global disinformation wars. In 2015 and 2016, Russia pioneered disinformation techniques when it used Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media to disseminate inflammatory messages intended to divide Americans in the 2016 presidential election. Since then, governments in many other countries — including Bangladesh, Iran and Venezuela — have also used Facebook and Twitter to sow discord at home and abroad.

China has been less visible about using Facebook and Twitter to spread disinformation, researchers said. Both services are blocked in the country and people instead spend time on homegrown social media services and messaging apps like WeChat and Weibo. The Communist Party has largely not needed Western social media because it already exerts tight control over state-backed media and content inside the country’s so-called Great Firewall.

But the recent Facebook and Twitter activity over the Hong Kong protests suggests that Beijing will use those services to spread its messaging outside the Great Firewall when it deems it necessary. Facebook and Twitter are not blocked in Hong Kong and are widely used. Some 4.7 million people in the territory log into Facebook at least once a month, while 448,000 use Twitter, according to eMarketer.

“The Chinese have been watching what works and what doesn’t in the context of Russian information operations,” Mr. Brookie said. “China is testing the waters on what is effective and what they can get away with.”

The disinformation campaign against the Hong Kong protests also stands out because many of the tweets were written in English and targeted a global audience.

Screenshots from fake accounts on Facebook involved in coordinated inauthentic behavior. The translation in final panel is: Hong Kong cockroach chaos.Creditvia Facebook
 
A screenshot via Facebook of a fake account involved in coordinated inauthentic behavior. It says “Protesters. ISIS fighters. What’s the difference?”Creditvia Facebook
 
A screenshot via Twitter of a fake account that Twitter said originated within China as a state-backed operation to sow political discord.Creditvia Twitter

“I think they are trying to reach English speakers in Hong Kong and the larger audience of people watching,” said Adam Segal, director of the Digital and Cyberspace Policy Program at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Many of the Twitter accounts involved in the Hong Kong campaign were recently created and did not have large followings, said Renee DiResta, the Mozilla Fellow in media, misinformation and trust. “It reveals almost a lack of sophistication in terms of how China is thinking about developing this outward capability,” she said.

Officials at the Chinese embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment.

Since the Hong Kong protests began in June to demonstrate against an extradition bill, the movement has evolved. On Sunday, the city was the scene of another huge march, which organizers said brought out 1.7 million people — or nearly one in four of the total population of around seven million — who walked in defiance of a police ban.

China has aggressively stoked anti-Western and nationalist sentiments around the protests and begun branding the demonstrations as a prelude to terrorism. Hong Kong workers and billionaires have also jumped into the fray. In ads in several local newspapers, the tycoon Li Ka Shing recently pushed readers to “love China, love Hong Kong, love yourself” and “overcome anger with love.” And employees at accounting firms in Hong Kong have taken out ads supporting the demonstrations.

Twitter said it discovered the China-linked accounts during an investigation that spanned several weeks. The accounts worked together to blast out messages that could undermine the Hong Kong protests, with some of the accounts using Twitter from specific unblocked internet protocol addresses, the company said. Since Twitter is not permitted in China, an unblocked IP address is typically a telltale sign that the accounts were approved by the government, researchers said.

Although most of the disinformation was spread by the 936 accounts that Twitter eventually took down, the company said it also uncovered a broader group of 200,000 accounts. Those sprang up once Twitter began banning some of the earlier accounts; the majority of them were stopped before they were able to spread more messages, the company said.

Among the messages that the China-linked accounts posted was a tweet suggesting protesters were “taking benefits from the bad guys.” Another claimed the protesters had “ulterior motives.”

Twitter said it would give state-sponsored media a month to leave its advertising platform before its ban on promoted tweets from state-backed media goes into effect. The ban expands on the company’s efforts to combat Russian disinformation. In 2017, Twitter banned RT and Sputnik, international news outlets supported by the Kremlin, from advertising on its service.

Unlike Twitter, Facebook said it would not ban ads from state-owned media. The company said it would “continue to look at our policies as they relate to state-owned media” and also closely examine ads that were flagged to it so it could determine if they violated its policies. China’s government, through its state media agencies, has been a big buyer of ads on Facebook, The New York Times has reported.

Twitter alerted Facebook to the coordinated China-linked social media activity in July, a Facebook spokeswoman said. The Facebook pages that the company identified in its own investigation typically posed as news organizations and were followed by about 15,500 accounts. Most of the pages were created in 2018 or later, with the earliest page flagged in the investigation set up in 2016. While the people behind the activity tried to hide their identities, Facebook said it “found links to individuals associated with the Chinese government.”

“Protesters, ISIS fighters,” one of the Facebook posts said, “What’s the difference?” Another called the protesters “Hong Kong cockroaches.”

20 Aug 2019/ Tuesday                                              Source: nytimes.com 

HONG KONG FIGHTS BACK

Hats off to the Spirit of Hongkongers Who are Putting Up a Stiff Resistance to the Tyranny of the State 

China it seems is all set to have a tryst with destiny and Beijing is finding unable to comprehend the situation.  The situation in Hong Kong is becoming impenetrable as the Chinese communist party tends to behave in a quite orthodox manner. It is living in a fool’s paradise in assuming that brute suppression would have no consequences.

Dragon doesn’t appear to have a coherent strategy to deal with the development. The way ground realities are being ignored by the State machinery speaks volumes about the modus operandi (or lack of it) of the State authorities.

Hong Kong was never an internal matter for China. The system of governance ensures that the international community would have a stake in how the political system evolves in an autonomous territory of China that was once a British colony.

Echoes and Reverberations

The United Kingdom has finally reacted, warning China that it could face “serious consequences” over its treatment of protesters in Hong Kong. The foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, “condemned” the violence.

The Chinese ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, retaliated by saying that relations between China and the UK had been “damaged” by Hunt’s comments while the Chinese foreign ministry lambasted Hunt for “fantasizing in the faded glory of British colonialism and [for being] obsessed with the bad habit of criticizing and lecturing on other countries’ affairs condescendingly.”

Locus Standi of United Kingdom

For the UK it is important to be seen to defend a treaty it signed with China guaranteeing Hong Kong’s freedom and relative autonomy. In 1997, under the principle of ‘One Country, Two Systems’, Hong Kong became part of China with an understanding that it would enjoy a high degree of autonomy, except in foreign and defence affairs for 50 years.

This very principle is being challenged by the extradition law that would allow extradition from Hong Kong to mainland China. Thousands of Hongkongers have taken to the streets to protest against this proposed extradition bill which they fear would be used to target political dissidents.

Protesters stormed and briefly occupied the city’s legislature and were driven out by a major police operation after they caused widespread damage to the building. The protesters are demanding a complete withdrawal of the extradition bill and an unconditional release of the arrested demonstrators.

Administrative Capabilities of Carrie Lam

Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, has been under enormous pressure because of her mishandling of the situation and for championing the bill earlier. Underlying the anger against the bill is widespread anxiety about the future political trajectory of Hong Kong, even as Beijing relentlessly pursues an agenda of diluting Hong Kong’s civil liberties. Lam has suggested that the bill is “dead”, but protests continue with no let up in sight. 

The Chinese president, Xi Jinping, has been quite particular about the need to increase China’s hold over Hong Kong. Beijing’s belligerence has grown to the point where even a murmur about political reforms is being silenced cruelly.  It is Beijing that decides who governs Hong Kong; only half of the seats in the legislature are filled by popular elections.

 Viewpoint 

It is unlikely that Beijing will buckle under the pressure. It is already raring to tackle the leadership of the protesters. China will make sure that the message goes out that challenging Beijing’s authority will entail significant costs. China has been following the same doctrine of repression towards its minorities in Tibet and Xinjiang.

There has been mass internment of ethnic Uighurs and Muslim minorities. Up to one million Uighurs and other Muslims are reportedly detained in Xinjiang, with extensive technology backed mass surveillance to crack down on the inhabitants’ will and morale.  

The repression has been continuing without any challenge from the international community, which is apprehensive about antagonizing China considering the might of its economy. Donald Trump has prioritized the trade dispute with China. Trump has apparently told Xi that the US would tone down its support for the anti-China protests in Hong Kong in exchange for re-opening the US-China trade talks.

The European Union is busy fighting its internal demons. The UK is unlikely to sacrifice its wider relationship with Beijing and Pakistan can’t afford to be on the wrong side of Dragon due to its precarious financial condition.  As a result, Hongkongers are left on their own.  Spirit ofHongkongers is truly adorable, who are fighting the fierce battle to uphold human rights and dignity with terrific grit, determination and never say die attitude.

 

16 Jul 19/Tuesday                                                                Written by Naphisa

 

UK SUMMONS CHINA AMBASSADOR IN ROW OVER HONG KONG PROTESTS

Dispute escalates after Jeremy Hunt’s call of not using protests as ‘pretext for repression’

China’s ambassador to the UK has been summoned to the Foreign Office accused of making unacceptable criticisms of the UK after a rare press conference in which he claimed that the British foreign secretary was backing law-breakers in Hong Kong.

Relations between the UK and China cooled sharply after Jeremy Hunt called on Beijing not to use the protests in Hong Kong as a “pretext for repression”.

On Wednesday, Liu Xiaoming said Hunt’s remarks represented gross and unacceptable interference, a claim that was dismissed by the Foreign Office as unacceptable and inaccurate.

In a bid to underline British displeasure at the ambassador’s remarks, the permanent under-secretary at the Foreign Office, Sir Simon McDonald, summoned the ambassador for a dressing down.

The sudden collapse in Sino-British relations – relative to the golden era hailed by David Cameron in 2013 – represents a personal test for Hunt as he makes his bid for the premiership, but it is also likely to have consequences for Hong Kong’s future relations with Chinese government.

Earlier this week, protesters stormed the legislative council building and raised the old British colonial flag on the 22nd anniversary of the territory’s return to Chinese rule on 1 July.

Liu told a press conference at the embassy: “I think it is totally wrong for Jeremy Hunt to talk about freedom – this is not a matter about freedom, it’s a matter about breaking laws in Hong Kong.

“It’s very disappointing when the senior officials of his calibre show support of these lawbreaking people. We all remember what Hong Kong was 22 years ago under British rule: there was no freedom, democracy, whatever.

“We all know that all governors were appointed by the British government, people had no right to elect officials, no right to demonstrate, certainly, and they did not even have a right to have an independent judicial power.”

Liu warned that Britain’s relationship with China would be damaged by what he described as the “interference” of the British government.

“If the British government goes further, it will cause further damages, so that is why I’m calling the British government to reflect the consequences of its words and deeds with regards to Hong Kong. I do hope the British government will realise the consequences and refrain from further interference from further damaging the relationship.”

Liu also complained that the British government had called on the Chinese government not to use the violence as an excuse for oppression when it was a matter for the independent judiciary in Hong Kong to punish the offenders, including those who had attacked the police with toxic powder.

While condemning all violence, Hunt refused to back away from the demonstrators’ cause after a minority of activists on Monday split from the main body of the protests to storm the legislative council.

China has promised heavy retribution, and said that the wrongdoers would face the full force of the law. Twelve people were arrested on Wednesday by Hong Kong police and charged with a variety of offences in the vicinity of the council building.

Responding to the ambassador’s criticisms, Hunt showed no signs of qualms over his stance, tweeting: “Message to Chinese govt: good relations between countries are based on mutual respect and honouring the legally binding agreements between them. That is the best way to preserve the great relationship between the UK and China.”

His defence of legally binding agreements is a reference to the joint declaration signed by the UK and China to maintain Hong Kong’s way of life for at least 50 years after the handover. The joint declaration, signed by Margaret Thatcher and the then Chinese premier Zhao Ziyang, set out how the rights of Hong Kong citizens should be protected in the territory’s basic law under Chinese rule.

Hong Kong has, since 1997, been run by China under a “one country, two systems” arrangement that guarantees it a level of economic autonomy and personal freedoms not permitted on the mainland.

Geng Shuang, a spokesman for Beijing’s ministry of foreign affairs, said Hunt appeared to be “basking in the faded glory of British colonialism and obsessed with lecturing others”.

“I need to re-emphasise that Hong Kong has now returned to its motherland.”

04 Jul 19/Thursday                                          Source theguardian

HONG KONG PROTESTS CONTINUES

Interpreting the Growing Unrest

A sea of humanity consisting of more than 1 million decided to march on the streets of Hong Kong on 9thJun 2019 to protest against a government bill that would open the door to criminal extraditions to mainland China.

A total of 1.03 million people participated in the protests.  These amount to roughly one-seventh of the total population of the autonomous city-state took to the streets. According to official sources, 240,000 were present at the “peak.” 

Statistically speaking, the turnout was the largest since the successful protest against a 2003 plan to amend national security law.  500,000 people attended that rally.  People from all walks of life came together, to register their protest.  The gathering against extradition included teachers, businesspeople, drivers, students, and even young children.

The protestors feel very strongly that the proposed law is dangerous, and not just for activists, They envision China eroding away their freedom through this law.  They have a strong conviction that this is the last fight for Hong Kong. The proposal is the most dangerous threat to their freedoms and way of life since the handover.

Hong Kong Protest 2.0

 Twenty-two years ago, on 1st July 1997, the United Kingdom handed Hong Kong back to China on the promise that China would allow the city-state to largely govern itself for another 50 years.  But many in Hong Kong see the controversial new extradition law as a sign that Beijing is trying to cut that timeline short, and they’re fighting back.

Lakhs of demonstrators have stormed the streets again on 1st July to protest against the bill that would allow Hong Kong authorities to arrest people and send them to places that don’t have formal extradition treaties with Hong Kong’s government, such as China.   It was their way to exhibit defiance to the Hong Kong government, which they perceive as overly subservient to and controlled by the authorities in Beijing.

Metamorphosis of the Demonstration

 Demonstrations have become a symbolism for a larger struggle.   The fight is to preserve the judicial and political independence of Hong Kong.  The swedge is to safeguard the freedoms of speech and protest.

Display of Vehemence

While tens of thousands marched peacefully, some protesters stormed the legislative building, breaking a glass and twisting metal to get inside. Once there, they spray-painted the walls. One message read,

HK Gov fucking disgrace.

Police eventually marched in to clear the protesters early morning of 2nd July 2019.   The crowd was subjected to tear gas to force them away from the government buildings.  At least 50 protesters were injured.

Significance of Hong Kong

Hong Kong is the abode to many of Asia’s biggest media players. It has a significant film industry.  It is also a fulcrum for broadcasting and publishing.  The territory has hitherto been successful in keeping its media free, unlike the rest of China.

There are no indications of widespread online censorship. Local news websites are an important source of independent information.  Of late voices of conscience have been expressing concerns about the increasing influence of mainland China. To understand appreciate in its totality it is necessary to be acquainted with the background of the issue and vital details of Hong Kong.

Fact Sheet of Hong Kong

Hong Kong is Semi-autonomous, special administrative region of China

Geographical Disposition of Hong Kong

Population 7.2 million
Area  1,098 sq km (424 sq miles)
Major languages Chinese (mainly Cantonese), English (both official)
Major religions Buddhism, Taoism
Life expectancy 81 (men), 87 (women)
Currency Hong Kong dollar (1 Hong Kong Dollar= 0.88 Chinese Yuan

Chief executive of Hong Kong is Ms. Carrie Lam

Carrie Lam was sworn in as Hong Kong’s first female chief executive on 1 July 2017 on the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover from Britain to China.  Widely seen as Beijing’s preferred candidate, Lam secured 777 votes from the 1,194-member Election Committee which picks the city’s next chief and is believed to be dominated by Beijing loyalists. This was Hong Kong’s first leadership election since the 2014 pro-democracy protests.

Lam served as the city’s secretary for development before being appointed the chief secretary for administration in 2012, Hong Kong’s number two official.  She is said to have been a student activist and has earned herself sobriquets such as  “Iron Lady” and “the fighter”.

Hong Kong was once a British colony; following 150 years of British rule, the United Kingdom handed off control to the People’s Republic of China in 1997. Until 2047, Hong Kong is supposed to be able to govern itself under a policy known as “one country, two systems,” meaning the while Hong Kong is under Chinese sovereignty, it is supposed to be able to retain its own political and legal systems.

Important key dates in Hong Kong’s history in the chronological border are appended below in tabular format.

1842 China cedes Hong Kong island to Britain after the First Opium War.
1898 China leases the New Territories together with 235 islands to Britain for 99 years.
1941-45 Japan occupies Hong Kong during Second World War.
1970s Hong Kong is established as an “Asian Tiger” – one of the region’s economic powerhouses – with a thriving economy based on high-technology industries
1997 Hong Kong is handed back to the Chinese authorities after more than 150 years of British control.
2014  Pro-democracy demonstrators occupy the city centre for weeks in protest at the Chinese government’s decision to limit voters’ choices in the 2017 Hong Kong leadership election. More than 100,000 people took to the streets at the height of the Occupy Central protests.

Calculus of the extradition proposal

There is a widespread feeling that Chinese government has slowly, gradually but surely taken concrete measures to limit Hong Kong’s independence:  At China’s direction, the Hong Kong government in recent years has quashed the city’s democratic movement.  Opposition candidates were blocked from running for elected office over one pretext or the other.

The coercion Beijing has placed on Hong Kong’s leaders to pass new extradition legislation is the latest development in this continuing trend.  The legislation, sponsored by Hong Kong’s current pro-Beijing government, would empower officials to decide, on a case-by-case basis, whether to extradite wanted criminal suspects to stand trial in China itself.

Viewpoint

The extradition bill would require Hong Kong to repatriate suspects to jurisdictions of mainland China.   Although Government officials have promised that the new law would not be used against people facing religious or political persecution, residents of Hong Kong have their own apprehensions.

People of Hong Kong have strong reservations regarding the bill.  There is a strong possibility that citizens will suffer from arbitrary detention and would be subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques by Chinese officials.  Businesspeople further have concerns that should the proposal become law, foreign interest in investment in Hong Kong will veer off.  Some of the existing companies in Hong Kong may also contemplate leaving.

Hong Kong government has partially answered these concerns by raising the threshold for potential extradition to crimes that carry penalties of seven years imprisonment or more.  Also, they have stated that anyone facing the death penalty would not be extradited.

The chaos of 1st July 2019 protest depicted the frustration and the anger of populace targeted at Hong Kong’s leadership.  Sentiments, grit, and determination of one Hong Kong residents are amply evident in what a protester wrote over social media

“We have not come to an end game yet”

In a separate statement, a government spokesperson emphasized that despite the protests, the bill will continue its path to becoming law.  On the other hand, tone, tenor and posturing of people of Hong Kong indicate that they would not give up so easily.

03 Jul 19/Wednesday                                       Written by Naphisa

5G HEALTH RISKS; THE WAR BETWEEN TECHNOLOGY AND HUMAN BEINGS

Over 180 scientists and doctors in almost 40 countries are warning the world about 5G health risks. These scientists’ response to “Resolution 1815 of the Council of Europe” spells it out quite succinctly:

“We, the undersigned scientists, recommend a moratorium on the roll-out of the fifth generation, 5G, until potential hazards for human health and the environment have been fully investigated by scientists independent from industry. 5G will substantially increase exposure to radio frequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF)… and has been proven to be harmful for humans and the environment.”

If you’re not alarmed about 5G radiation dangers, you should be…

With download speeds up to 20 to 30X faster than 4G, 5G promises a new world, including becoming the foundation for self-driving cars while also causing a long list of potential health risks. “5G Cancer” is actually a thing. The cities of Brussels and Geneva have even blocked trials and banned upgrades to 5G out of this concern.

The difference between 4G and 5G in terms of gigahertz, the unit of alternating current (AC) or electromagnetic (EM) waves that affect the transmission speeds of devices, is significant. 5G technology promises radio millimeter bands in the 30 to 300 GHz range, while 4G tops out at around 6GHz. When applied to video latency, this translates to speeds up to 60 to 120 times faster.

Before 2G, 3G, and 4G, radio frequencies were benign. We never worried whether or not our drive-time radio shows would fry our brains. Sadly, once the concept of wireless “G” technology was initiated, we began exposing the global public to frequencies akin to microwaves at 1 billion cycles per second.

Humans, animals and the environment have all been at risk for years. While 4G was bad enough, 5G takes the game to a whole new level of insanity.

5G (or 5th Generation) refers to the latest advancement in wireless systems. 5G promises to bring larger channels, higher speeds, larger packets of data, exponential responsiveness, and the ability to connect a host of devices from a single location. At the start, 5G networks won’t all work the same. Some will be slow, and some of these networks will be super-fast, but with limited coverage. Eventually, they will form a global grid, unlike anything the Earth has seen.

While it would be fair to assume that 5G technology has been tested for risks, this is simply not the case. There is no compelling data on health risks. In fact, when 5G launches, it will be the first actual test on human beings ever performed. This is unprecedented for such a wide-scale, public tech launch.

While 4G’s wavelengths travel along the surface of the skin, 5G’s millimeter waves are more insidious. When 5G wavelengths are emitted, our skin will automatically absorb them, which will naturally cause the skin to rise in temperature.

Already live in three countries, 5G is the first global electromagnetic radiation test on human beings in the history of Planet Earth. While most wireless industry executives kibosh the long list of legitimate 5G health concerns, most scientists believe that the public is in danger and that further tests are needed.

Does 5G Cause Cancer?

Many scientists understand that the electromagnetic radiation leaking through the doors of our microwave ovens are carcinogenic, and therefore, can cause cancer. Most of these scientists also believe that these waves are mutagenic, meaning they change the DNA structure of living beings.

The launch of 5G will be similar to turning on your microwave, opening its door, and leaving it on for the rest of your life. There’s good reason why hundreds of scientists are taking action against the wireless industry.

Are 5G Towers Dangerous?

For the past ten years, 5G technology has been in development. Originally planned as a layer atop 3G and 4G, 5G is fast becoming a world of its own.

Every cell tower in your neighborhood emits radio frequency (RF) radiation. Radiation causes cancer. By 2021, every city will have 5G towers and cell stations. These devices will be on the top or side of millions of buildings throughout the world.

The wireless industry is not just building an infrastructure that provides faster downloads; it’s building a global microwave oven.

Yes, 5G towers and mini-stations are extremely dangerous. Not only are the shorter millimeter waves more hazardous to human beings, because of the intensity of the technology, it will require millions more mini cell towers than before, potentially one tower per 2 to 8 houses. This means a human being’s RF radiation exposure will not only increase, it will exponentially increase within months.

These towers are not only dangerous; they’re lethal – and should be considered a crime against humanity.

Health Risks Of 5G Technology

While there is a lot of chatter against the anti-5G community, there are also a lot of compelling discussions between scientists who are waging war against the untested technology.

In general, radiation does one major thing to human beings and animals – it destroys our DNA, either by forcing the DNA to mutate or by killing specific groups of cells, all of which lead to cancer.

Here’s What To Expect If You Experience Prolonged Exposure To Radiation:

  1. Nausea
  2. Swelling
  3. Hair Loss
  4. Decreased appetite
  5. Low energy
  6. Damaged bone marrow
  7. Damaged organs
  8. Deep depression
  9. Confusion
  10. Infections
  11. Incapacitation and Death

How To Protect Yourself From 5G

Besides moving to Mars or the Moon, we are limited in ways to protect ourselves from this dangerous technology. Cell tower radiation health effects are real. Because there will be thousands of these towers and stations in every city, it will be almost impossible to avoid them. Given how addicted we are to our devices, the general public will tend toward risking life and limb to support our screen-related addictions.

That said, there are some things we can do to protect ourselves from radiation. The more we focus on our health and diet, the more our immune systems can defend against the challenges related to 5G radiation.

Spirulina, Wheat Grass, Vitamin C, and similar supplements are consumable forms of sunlight, which will always improve our health and raise our vibrations. Yoga, meditation, chanting, mantras and other forms of prayer can also be beneficial in protecting our life-energies.

While fear can weaken our electromagnetic fields, love, intimacy and social vulnerability can strengthen them. The most important thing we can do is to focus on improving our health, states of mind and exposure to nature. We always have control of our future, even if the general public is headed in another direction.

Here are a few ideas to give you a fighting chance:

  1. Do not live near a cell tower or mini station.
  2. Purchase an EMF shield, and continue to measure the levels of radiation within 100 feet of your home.
  3. Eat healthily and take immune-boosting supplements.
  4. Spend lots of time in the forest.
  5. Refrain from using your cell phone for long periods, including never keeping your cell phone in your bedroom.
  6. When traveling with your cell phone, store it in an EMF protective bag.
  7. Consider purchasing some Orgonite, which reportedly scatters electromagnetic fields and turns them into beneficial ones. Dr. Wilhelm Reich developed this unique composite.
  8. Continually educate yourself about the wireless industry and the global government support of this insane endeavor.
  9. Remain strong, stay out of fear and continue to improve your vibration through positive thinking, forgiveness, and increased attention toward your mental, emotional and physical health.

27 Jun 19/Thursday                                                          Source Gaia.com

HONG KONG PROTESTS AGAINST CHINA’S EXTRADITION BILL

Anatomy of the issue

A sea of humanity consisting of more than 1 million decided to march on the streets of Hong Kong on 9thJun 2019 to protest against a government bill that would open the door to criminal extraditions to mainland China.

A total of 1.03 million people participated in the protests.  These amounts to roughly one-seventh of the total population of the autonomous city-state took to the streets.  According to official sources, 240,000 were present at the “peak.”

Statistically speaking, the turnout was the largest since the successful protest against a 2003 plan to amend national security law.  500,000 people attended that rally.  People from all walks of life came together, to register their protest.  The gathering against extradition included teachers, businesspeople, drivers, students, and even young children.

The protestors feel very strongly that the proposed law is dangerous, and not just for activists, They envision China eroding away their freedom through this law.  They have a strong conviction that this is the last fight for Hong Kong. The proposal is the most dangerous threat to their freedoms and way of life since the handover. 

Although protestors know that it would not be easy to change the mind of the Hong Kong government, yet they are hoping against all odds that the protest would attract international attention about it through the power of mass media.

Hong Kong is the abode to many of Asia’s biggest media players.  It has a significant film industry.  It is also a fulcrum for broadcasting and publishing.  The territory has hitherto been successful in keeping its media free, unlike the rest of China.

There are no indications of widespread online censorship.  Local news websites are an important source of independent information.  Of late voices of conscience have been expressing concerns about the increasing influence of mainland China.  To understand appreciate in its totality it is necessary to be acquainted with the background of the issue and vital details of Hong Kong.

Fact Sheet of Hong Kong

Hong Kong is Semi-autonomous, special administrative region of China

Geographical Disposition of Hong Kong

Population 7.2 million
Area  1,098 sq km (424 sq miles)
Major languages Chinese (mainly Cantonese), English (both official)
Major religions Buddhism, Taoism
Life expectancy 81 (men), 87 (women)
Currency Hong Kong dollar (1 Hong Kong Dollar= 0.88 Chinese Yuan

Chief executive of Hong Kong is Ms. Carrie Lam

Carrie Lam was sworn in as Hong Kong’s first female chief executive on 1 July 2017 on the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover from Britain to China.  Widely seen as Beijing’s preferred candidate, Lam secured 777 votes from the 1,194-member Election Committee which picks the city’s next chief and is believed to be dominated by Beijing loyalists.  This was Hong Kong’s first leadership election since the 2014 pro-democracy protests.

Lam served as the city’s secretary for development before being appointed the chief secretary for administration in 2012, Hong Kong’s number two official.  She is said to have been a student activist and has earned herself sobriquets such as  “Iron Lady” and “the fighter”.

Hong Kong was once a British colony; following 150 years of British rule, the United Kingdom handed off control to the People’s Republic of China in 1997. Until 2047, Hong Kong is supposed to be able to govern itself under a policy known as “one country, two systems,” meaning the while Hong Kong is under Chinese sovereignty, it is supposed to be able to retain its own political and legal systems.

Important key dates in Hong Kong’s history in the chronological border are appended below in tabular format.

1842 China cedes Hong Kong island to Britain after the First Opium War.
1898 China leases the New Territories together with 235 islands to Britain for 99 years.
1941-45  Japan occupies Hong Kong during the Second World War.
1970s Hong Kong is established as an “Asian Tiger” – one of the region’s economic powerhouses – with a thriving economy based on high-technology industries
1997 Hong Kong is handed back to the Chinese authorities after more than 150 years of British control.
2014  Pro-democracy demonstrators occupy the city centre for weeks in protest at the Chinese government’s decision to limit voters’ choices in the 2017 Hong Kong leadership election. More than 100,000 people took to the streets at the height of the Occupy Central protests.

Calculus of the extradition proposal

There is a widespread feeling that Chinese government has slowly, gradually but surely taken concrete measures to limit Hong Kong’s independence:  At China’s direction, the Hong Kong government in recent years has quashed the city’s democratic movement.  Opposition candidates were blocked from running for elected office over one pretext or the other. 

The coercion Beijing has placed on Hong Kong’s leaders to pass new extradition legislation is the latest development in this continuing trend.  The legislation, sponsored by Hong Kong’s current pro-Beijing government, would empower officials to decide, on a case-by-case basis, whether to extradite wanted criminal suspects to stand trial in China itself.

Viewpoint

The extradition bill would require Hong Kong to repatriate suspects to jurisdictions of mainland China.  Although Government officials have promised that the new law would not be used against people facing religious or political persecution, still residents of Hong Kong have their own apprehensions.

People of Hong Kong have strong reservations regarding the bill.  There is a strong possibility that citizens will suffer from arbitrary detention and would be subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques by Chinese officials.  Businesspeople further have concerns that should the proposal become law, foreign interest in investment in Hong Kong will veer off.  Some of the existing companies in Hong Kong may also contemplate leaving.

Hong Kong government has partially answered these concerns by raising the threshold for potential extradition to crimes that carry penalties of seven years imprisonment or more.  Also, they have stated that anyone facing the death penalty would not be extradited.

In a separate statement, a government spokesperson emphasized that despite the protests, the bill will continue its path to becoming law on 12th June 2019.  Whether people of Hong Kong would surrender meekly or would resist in a staunch manner only time will tell.

10 Jun 19/Monday                                                            Written by Naphisa

CLASH OF TITANS

Is Battle for Setting Up the 5G Network, the Latest Flash Point between the US and China?

A geopolitical confrontation between China and other western nations led by the US is highly likely, in the wake of the rollout of the 5G network, the next generation of global communications.  Huawei is the most prominent one amongst the few companies that are ready to deploy 5G on a large scale.  Huawei promises to provide the most affordable and technologically advanced alternative.  Having legal, political and economic concerns for sourcing the new communication infrastructure many countries have expressed their reservations.  Apart from security issues, western nations, particularly the US do not want China to gain global and economic clout as the pioneer of next-gen technology.  Thus is sown the seed of the latest flashpoint for geopolitical competition between the US and China.

Features of 5G Network

Exciting features of 5G network include data speed, ultra-low latency and near instantaneous, high-speed communication.  It can also facilitate machine-to-machine communications and develop applications like driver-less cars, smart cities, and factory automation.  It is expected that the 5G network will support a steady stream of sensitive information data. Further operational aspects of 5G like its reliance on artificial intelligence, cloud networking, and greater integration of core and non- core network infrastructure will make it difficult to impose tight cyber security controls.  As 5G is all set to provide the backbone of the new digital revolution, there is a need to ensure that the network is not vulnerable to espionage and security breaches.

Resistance on Firm Grounds

“Five eyes” ie members of a cold war era intelligence alliance namely the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand have spearheaded the movement against Huawei’s 5G network.  Paradoxically measures taken by member countries have not been uniform.  Australia, for instance, has outrightly banned Huawei and has recently introduced the Telecommunications Sector Security Reforms (TSSR).  It has made mandatory for network carriers to adopt suitable measures to protect their networks and facilities from national security threats.  The United Kingdom, on the other hand, is mulling over restraining Huawei’s access to non-core networks.

The US, in particular, has approached the Huawei issue with unprecedented alacrity. It recently enacted a law to prohibit US government agencies from using or procuring Huawei equipment.  The US is also actively dissuading its allies from including Huawei in their 5G network by proclaiming it as an “Unreliable Vendor”, and has gone as far as to assert that it would reconsider intelligence understandings with them, should they choose to allow it.

 The Trump Administration perceives China’s thrust to reign the spectrum of emerging technologies from 5G and big data to robotics and artificial intelligence as a real challenge.  One, which will not only establish China’s rise as the pre-eminent power of this era but will also facilitate  Beijing to exercise influence beyond its borders to nations already in awe of its growing economic might. China regards its aspirations, regarding this technological sprint, as legitimate.  Many in the West view them as a façade for consolidating digital authoritarianism and cyber-war capabilities.

The concerns regarding security surrounding Huawei’s 5G network are not mere paranoia.   Although Huawei is a privately owned company, its founder Ren Zhengfei was an engineer with China’s military.  He is said to have close ties with China’s Communist Party. The political environment in China is well known for close collaboration between the government and the industry.  The recipe for possible industrial espionage is ready.

Other Factors

It is inherent in China’s framework of national security laws, such as the 2017 National Intelligence Law and the 2014 Counterintelligence law that companies, individuals and entities have to provide assistance and cooperation to national intelligence agencies. The situation is further complicated by the apprehensions that the network technology may be rigged with software contraptions which can bypass national security controls and access encrypted data.

China definitely stands to gain by playing a key role in not only setting standards for the network but also by securing required intellectual property rights for the use of 5G technology. The use of standard-essential patents (SEPs) to operationalize the network would mean that Huawei will receive royalties for licensing and will become a market leader in 5G technology. This will generate a steady revenue stream and further strengthen China’s economic rise and digital influence. It is also likely that the 5G network will form an important component of China’s proposed projects, such as the Digital Silk Road in Asian, African and Middle Eastern countries.

Washington’s actions so far seem to be driven by its larger design to contain China gaining the pioneer advantages with respect to this technology.  Information and communications technology has long played an important role in geopolitics. In the late 19th century, the United Kingdom was the first mover of telegraphy and submarine cable systems. By building these extensive communications network it was able to maintain channels of communication with its colonies abroad, and consolidate the erstwhile British Empire.

The subsequent development of radar technology by the UK gave it an edge over the German challenge during World War II. Post-1945.  British hegemony was directly challenged by the US as it made rapid advancements in telephony.  The US was one of the firsts to deploy satellite communications system. America’s extensive satellite networks were used by the US and its allies to intercept and decode information during the cold war period.

While China stands to gain significantly by being the pioneer of this technology, the US will continue its agenda and exhort its allies against accepting Huawei’s telecommunications equipment. Western nations are also likely to give renewed impetus to developing alternative 5G networks. This can lead to the development of two politically and geographically divided 5G networks which may not be inter-operable.

 Viewpoint

It is the 5G contestation that will shape not only the emergence of the next generation of technologies but also the course of global politics in the coming years.  As the world passes through a phase of unprecedented technological transformation, geopolitical competition among the world’s two most important powers is likely to become more evident.  Other nations including Pakistan should well be aware of this unfolding dynamic and prepare accordingly to meet the challenges of the emerging geopolitics of technology. 

09 May 19/Thursday                                                              Written by Naphisa

WILL US REWARD CHINA FOR ‘SACRIFICING’ PAKISTAN TERRORIST MASOOD AZHAR?

Beijing’s support for UN sanctions on the Jaish-e-Mohammed leader has cleared the way for better relations with both Washington and New Delhi. It is in Beijing’s interest to keep its channels of communication open with both New Delhi and Washington. 

 

China’s decision to support Pakistan-based terror chief Masood Azhar being sanctioned by the United Nations has been attributed to various factors, including Beijing’s concerns about being isolated diplomatically as fears of global terrorism rise.

But it also reflects the strong push on the issue by the United States, both openly and behind closed doors.

Masood, the leader of Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed that bombed and killed 40 Indian troops in the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir on February 14 this year, had been a free agent, with a UN proposal to subject him to an assets freeze and travel ban, among other things, put on hold by Beijing.

But after the incident that brought India and Pakistan dangerously close to war, the US, UK, and France moved a draft resolution in the UNSC (United Nations Security Council) to blacklist Masood.

China, which had not wanted to anger its long-time ally Pakistan, was put in a difficult spot since it would have to place on record its objections at the UNSC.

With the US-China trade war raging and uncertainty in the continuing trade talks, Beijing may have thought it prudent to yield some space to Washington on the Masood issue for the sake of mending fences.

In other words, “sacrificing” Masood would not cost Beijing much.

Beijing has also been watching closely the Trump administration’s emphasis on India, the neighbour with which it shares a border, in its Indo-Pacific strategy. The US strategy aims at raising America’s profile in the region and includes India as a key partner.

In the aftermath of the Pulwama terror attack of February 14, the US National Security Adviser John Bolton publicly announced that the US supported “India’s right to self-defence” while Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted “we stand with India as it confronts terrorism. Pakistan must not provide a safe haven for terrorists to threaten international security”.

New Delhi and Washington are already coming closer than ever and this is certainly not what Beijing would want. India has drastically increased its purchase of US-made weaponry, the induction of the US-made heavy lift CH-47F (I) Chinook helicopters by the Indian Air Force being a recent example. Meanwhile, American defence sales to India are expected to reach an estimated US$18 billion this year while American civilian manufacturers are also eyeing the Indian domestic aviation market.

Beijing stands to gain from lifting its hold on the UN proposal. In the aftermath of the US decision to end waivers for countries buying Iranian oil, it would be in China’s interests to join ranks with India on this issue as it is unlikely either country will completely stop importing Iranian oil.

In addition, Beijing has realised that Pakistan is on a sticky wicket when it comes to terrorism. China has already invested a lot of money in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and would be wary of its investments going up in smoke if India-Pakistan skirmishes continue. The fact that India upped the ante with air strikes deep inside Pakistan after the Pulwama attack has made China sit up and take notice. It is worth noting here that China did not overtly criticise New Delhi after the air strikes. 

 

The visit by the Indian foreign secretary to China last month has also made it clear that China-India relations would not be held hostage by New Delhi’s refusal to join the Belt and Road Initiative. India did not attend the second Belt and Road Forum held late last month in Beijing just like the inaugural one in Beijing in 2017. In addition, Beijing will not want to tick off the new incoming administration in India which will take office later this month.

Washington has not hidden its discomfiture with Pakistan ever since the Trump administration took over. Although Pakistan is an important factor as Washington negotiates a pull-out from Afghanistan, Washington has made it clear it will not be held hostage by Pakistan’s “blackmail” on this issue. The Pakistani ambassador to Kabul had earlier threatened that if India attacked Pakistan in the aftermath of the Pulwama attacks, the Afghanistan talks may be jeopardised. However, his bluff has already been called.

In the recent Masood Azhar saga, the US’ influence was clearly seen. However, this is not the end of the story. New Delhi is also piling on the pressure to have Pakistan blacklisted at the FATF (Financial Action Task Force), the next meeting of which will be held in June in Washington. US-India ties have been clearly on the upswing and on the Masood issue, Beijing clearly saw the writing on the wall. However, it will be worth watching whether Beijing’s gamble to lift its chokehold on Masood’s blacklisting will pay off in its ties with Washington.

Masood Azhar was a key issue dominating India’s ties with China. Now that he is out of the way, the neighbours can focus on those areas where they might be able to work together. At the end of the day, it is in Beijing’s interest to keep its channels of communication open with both New Delhi and Washington.

10 May 19/Friday                                                                       Source: THIS WEEK IN ASIA

WHY DO MULTINATIONAL COMPANIES WANT TO SHIFT MANUFACTURING BASE FROM CHINA TO INDIA?

All Inclusive Approach of India

The  Government of India has solved the jigsaw puzzle and have successfully put India among the world’s top-100 most business-friendly nations. At number 77 on the World Bank’s 2018 global ranking of 190 countries, India made tremendous improvements to its reputation for global business. India is now the most highly ranked country in South Asia, and the World Bank credits its progress to sustained business reforms, which are transforming the country into a sought-after investment destination. India is one of the top-10 improvers and the only large country in South Asia to have achieved such a magnificent shift.  Although China still is a manufacturing giant and has earned the sobriquet of being the “World’s Factory” however, China is now perceived as not as cost competitive as it was in the past. Companies in the U.S. and Europe are looking at long-term options to build supply chain capabilities in India as an alternative to China. There is generally a move to obviate risk.  The fact that U.S. and European firms are looking at options away from China is a compliment to India.

They are also considering creating a manufacturing hub in India, recreating what they did in China in the past. India and China appear to have arrived in the global economic scene. For long, India was considered to be lagging behind China. But now, as the dust settles down, India is beginning to look the better off compared to China and more lucrative for the multinationals to come calling. In the FDI stake, China is still ahead of India but India is catching up slowly and for the MNCs, India is beginning to matter more than China. Boston Consulting Groups Janmejaya Sinha, after researching the performance of the MNCs in India, discovered that “ About half the MNCs earn higher returns in India than their global average. In banking, the bigger foreign banks, Citibank, Standard Chartered, ABN Amro and Bank of America (except HSBC) are all more profitable in India than their global average.

A Phenomenon called “India”

 Why banking alone, look at automobiles, mobile handsets, color televisions, air conditioners, footwear. India is now among the fastest growing markets in the world. For MNCs operating here, this has turned India into a critical market for their global growth platforms. The growth rate (which has been 20 percent-plus month-on-month right through fiscal 2003) put India among the top growth markets for MNCs like Suzuki, Hyundai, Honda, and Toyota, alongside the 1.9-million unit Chinese market which is almost double the Indian vehicle population. India’s cellular growth is currently four times faster than China’s. In percentage terms, India is the fastest growing market in Asia, followed by Indonesia and the Philippines. The domestic color TV market, for instance, has grown 50 percent in just three years from five million units in 2000. The growth rate on average has been in the region of 10-15 percent against five to 10 percent in China and three to five percent in Europe and North America.  A holistic analysis of the situation led us to the following reasons.

Reason No. 1: When it comes to MNCs setting up manufacturing bases in India and China, one of the biggest differences lies in the fact that while the Indian center manufactures for the Indian market, the Chinese center is geared for the American market. It is simply too difficult for multinationals to sell and make a profit in the Chinese market. They simply can’t compete with the state-backed Chinese manufacturers, who often compete with each other, selling at a deep discount. 

Reason No. 2: India appeals to companies because it is easier to enforce contracts there than in China.  Executive of a renowned company said that the company had a contract in 2002 with a Shenzhen company to supply many of the components for a new toaster oven, only to have the supplier raise the price sharply. The company switched production to India. 

Reason No. 3: India’s economy has been growing nearly as quickly as China’s in recent years. By dismantling barriers to foreign investment, the Indian government has made the country an increasingly attractive market for MNCs. Marketing is also easy through thousands of privately owned retailers, from department stores to corner shops. 

Reason No.4:  China’s political prospects look uncertain compared to India’s stable political and economic outlook.

Reason No. 5:  India’s combination of duties on imports and complex regulations on manufacturing start-ups has tended to benefit companies with factories in the country.

Viewpoint

So long, India has been the proverbial tortoise to China’s hare when it came to economic growth. Maybe, now the tortoise is all set to overtake the hare. 

30 Apr 19/Tuesday                              Written by Naphisa

BELT AND ROAD INITIATIVE: IS THE PROPOSAL REALLY SO SOLEMN?

India Abstains from BRI Summit

India has decided to stay away from the second Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) summit which began in Beijing on 25th 

April 2019.  37 leaders, including Russian president Vladimir Putin, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, UK Chancellor Philip Hammond Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan and the heads of state of the 10 ASEAN (Association of South-east Asian Nation) states are attending the event. The US has reportedly sent low-level delegates, and India is not attending.

From a high moral ground Wang Yi, China’s Foreign Minister stated in 2018: “ Belt and Road is  not a ‘geostrategic concept’  but a part of efforts to build a community with a shared future for mankind together with countries around the globe.” The initiative was unveiled by Chinese paramount leader Xi Jinping in September and October 2013 during visits to Kazakhstan and Indonesia. Subsequently, it was promoted by Premier Li Keqiang during state visits to Asia and Europe.  The initiative was given intensive coverage by Chinese state media. He said “Indeed, B&R is the connectivity of system and mechanism. To construct a unified large market and make full use of both international and domestic markets, through cultural and integration, to enhance mutual understanding and trust of member nations, ending up in an innovative pattern with capital inflows, talent pool, and technology database.”

India has not joined BRI on impeccable grounds. Countries like Turkey, Poland, Spain, Fiji, Sri Lanka, and Argentina have decided not to attend BRI summit this time owing to contentious concerns.   The concerns are regarding the funding pattern and objectives of the plan. India has the guts to call a spade, a spade.  It does not mince its words in bringing about the fact that big Chinese loans under BRI are coercing countries towards a debt trap.

Attractive Trap: Would All Borrowing Countries Meet the Same Fate as That of Sri Lanka?

The Hambantota port on Sri Lanka’s southern coast. China has been shoring up its presence in the Indian Ocean

Countries which would be benefitting from the project are turning more cautious.  Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and the Maldives have genuine concerns about the programme. Recipient countries are perturbed about debt accumulation and increased Chinese influence.  Sri Lanka has been particularly affected – it had to hand over control over of Hambantota port to China in 2017 to help repay foreign loans.

Tom Rafferty, the China economist at The Economist Intelligence Unit, commented  China is using this week’s summit to “reposition and, it hopes, revive the initiative after it lost its way in 2018 amid project delays and a slowdown in associated lending.”  He further stressed that the Chinese government “wants to convince the international community that the Belt and Road Initiative is inclusive and policy concessions in areas such as debt sustainability” are likely.

 

 

 

China’s finance minister tried on April 25, 2019, to dispel complaints that its Belt and Road infrastructure-building initiative leaves developing countries with too much debt, promising “sustainable financing” as leaders gathered to celebrate the project.  Although many developing nations have welcomed the initiative to increase trade by building ports and other facilities in a region the Asian Development Bank says it needs $26 trillion of investment by 2030 to keep economies growing. On the other hand countries including Malaysia and Thailand have either canceled or scaled back projects due to high costs.  Some other countries are struggling to repay Chinese loans.  Beijing will pursue “stable and sustainable financing,” said the finance minister, Liu Kun, at an event held ahead of the start of the second Belt and Road Forum.  Chinese regulators will work with banks and multinational institutions to “build a high-quality, high-standard, sustainable financing system,” said Liu Kun.

US$440 billion have been provided by Chinese lenders in financing.  Though details of how much has been repaid or how much is deemed to be at risk of possible default are not known.  In addition, some 500 billion Yuan ($75 billion) has been raised in Chinese bond markets, according to Yi, who spoke at the event with Liu.  On April 24, 2019, Ethiopia expressed its elation on having being forgiven interest owed through the end of 2018 on Belt and Road loans to the northeast African country.  Little did it realize that it is that the carrot being shown and offered, is just a caveat to lure the gullible country into debt whirlpool.  Chinese-led projects are also alleged to cause environmental harm or/and allow corruption.

Taking a holistic view BRI is expected to bring the following benefits to China:

(a)      New export markets

(b)      Tariff reduction

(c)      Promotion of Chinese currency

(d)      Access to new trade routes

(e)      Political influence

Although all the above reasons deserve attention, the third and fifth items should be of utmost concern to the world in general and the US in particular.

A subtle, gradual but sure effort to make Renminbi the dominant currency of the world

China is following a recipe of what it takes to become a dominant currency. Although currently, the Yuan remains far behind the US dollar in international financial transactions one cannot ignore the fact that Renminbi has already surpassed the Euro as the second most widely used currency in global trade finance.  China is insisting it’s trading partners to invoice in Renminbi, the official Chinese currency. Although at present US Dollar is the numero uno currency of the world, yet in the longer run, if the gap between the U.S. and one of these other economies widens far enough, the dollar may potentially fall on‚ the world stage to a very substantial extent, much as the British pound sterling did in the early part of the 20th century.  Though presently there is no imminent threat to US dollar as a world currency, however, in the longer run, if the gap between Chinese and the US shares in the world exports widens far enough, we could eventually get to a point where a renminbi-dominant equilibrium becomes inevitable.

De-dollarization, if it succeeds will have a major impact on US currency value.This will, in turn, devalue the US dollar position which will dethrone the ‘petrodollar’ (means for settling international trading in oil). China intends to weaken the petrodollar by promoting the use of their own currencies for trading oil and for other commercial transactions which will come in the form of bilateral currency agreements. For example, the $400 billion Russia/China natural gas deal of 2014 was actually a zero dollar agreement. Payment for the gas was settled in Roubles and Yuan, thus avoiding transactions in US currency.  In fact, there are already murmurs of Yuan replacing Pakistani Rupee as dominant currency as a fall out of CPEC projects in Pakistan.  This brings us to a highly relevant question:

          Does China have a hidden agenda of replacing the US Dollar with the Chinese Yuan as the world currency?

26 Apr 19/Friday                      Written by Naphisa

CHINA INSULTED PAKISTANI PRIME MINISTER: IMRAN KHAN RECEIVED BY DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL, BEIJING MUNICIPAL COMMITTEE

It is not hidden from anyone, what is the diplomatic status of Pakistan in the world. But even the all-weather friend of Pakistan has shown it what status Pakistan has. It is important to note here that on the arrival of any special foreign guests, the host country makes the protocol of reception according to their status. It is a kind of sign that shows how important is the diplomatic position of the President of the host country has and how important his visit is for both the countries.

 

 

When Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan arrived in Beijing to take part in a meeting related to the Belt and Road Forum, the Chinese government did not appoint any minister or national level leader to welcome him. Surprisingly, the junior officer in the Municipal Committee of Beijing City i.e. Ms. Li Lifeng, Deputy Secretary-General, Beijing Municipal Committee of CPPCC, welcomed him, which is not less than a diplomatic joke in itself.

According to the International Protocol Practice, if the mayor of Islamabad or Karachi City went onto the official tour to China then, according to the practice, the junior officers, i.e. deputy secretary Lee Lifeng, may be sent to receive them. But, perhaps the Chinese government probably wants to tell Pakistan that the relations between the two countries have not been equal rather it is like the lender and the lender.

We must tell here that this is the third tour of Imran Kahn to China in the last 8 months. Earlier in the month of November, Imran went to China for seeking a loan. But despite having a one-week marathon tour, China did not provide any immediate relief, of any kind, to him. Since then it was indicated that China is not in the mood to spend more dollars indiscriminately on Pakistan. Pakistan will now have to give account for every dollar. Only then China will help Pakistan. China knows that there is currently no country other than China that will help Pakistan. Clearly, in such a situation, China will take advantage of it.

 

26 Apr 19/Friday                                     Source:JKNOW

ROADBLOCKS FOR OBOR

     

The Chinese dream of selling OBOR as a mega project met with roadblocks from many nations including its long-time strategic partner Pakistan. Will these roadblocks for OBOR mean a win for its arch-rival India is a matter to be seen in the near future. A series of setbacks recently have dampened the spirit in the Chinese camp especially their policymakers.

Delinking Daimer-Bhasa Project by Pakistan

One of the biggest setbacks came in the form of cancellation Daimer-Bhasa hydro-electric project by Pakistan at a total cost of $14 billion. This was the result of strict conditions which were to be satisfied by the Pakistani side for ownership of the project. According to Muzammil Hussain, Chairman of Pakistani Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA), the project is not doable as it is not viable, and is against the national interests of Pakistan. He had given his remarks in Public Accounts Committee on the status of Daimer-Bhasa Hydro-Electric Project, which is being considered by Pakistani Government as one of the mega projects undertaken by it.Earlier the Government of Pakistan had approached various global financial bodies for financing the project. However, as the project fell in disputed territory these financial bodies showed their reluctance and refused to finance the project, as India had serious objections to the project.

A detailed report about WAPDA – Public Accounts Committee incident is here.

Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice.

It may be noted that Chinese may consider granting few concessions to ensure that OBOR rolls out smoothly. Pakistan has already made it clear by publicizing its displeasure so that it can cash into the home turf advantage. By the statements Mr Hussain it is clear that Pakistan already considers the project is against its national interests and is just short of portraying it as Shylock, the merchant of Venice. China tried to short-change Pakistan by trying to take its pound of flesh from the meatiest part i.e. the securitisation of this project by pledging of another operational project in Pakistan and taking charge of the entire operational and maintenance cost. There seems to be a serious misunderstanding or crack between erstwhile all weather friends.

 

Cancellation of Budhi Gandhak Project

 

On 12 November 2017 the Deputy Prime-Minister of Nepal, Kamal Thapa tweeted that Nepal has scrapped Budhi Gandhaki hydro-electric project, $2.5 billion contract with China’s Gezhouba Group. “The project was concluded in an irregular and thoughtless manner and rejected under the direction of Parliamentary Committee,” he said. This was a bilateral deal – the MOU which was signed in June 2017 – covered the building of a 1200 MW hydro-electric project at a distance of 80kms from Kathmandu if Nepal agreed to join OROB. This project is presently being awarded to India.

Cancellation of Myitsone Dam 

Before Nepal’s scrapping of the Budhi Gandhaki hydro-electric project, the $3.6 billion Myitsone dam, in Myanmar to tame river Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwady River) was scrapped by the then President of Myanmar Thein Sein on 30 Sept 2011. However, China is still continuing its efforts with Myanmar quite persuasively to revive this project. The Myanmar Government of date, has quite obviously seen how Sri Lankans Government was short-changed by China with respect to the Hambantota port project. Had the project been completed as planned in 2017, it would have been the fifth largest hydroelectric project in the world producing 6000MW of power.

Chinese Capitalism

The Chinese cunning ways to secure regional hegemony has now been superseded by its more important economic imperative. Its slowing economy which bloated till recently has slowed unable to maintain its momentum has internally started crumbling. The Chinese Polity is aware of the same, thus is not able to concentrate in the same vigor as in the past. Based on this 19th party Congress had recently emphasised on a market-based allocation of resources and a shifting towards greater rewards to risk the overall profile of investments.

Indian Pro-activeness

Chinese are encountering these issues at a time when Indian is trying to vigorously reach out towards its neighbours after a change in the regime in India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. When the Indian PM visited Philippines, he reiterated a need for need and commitment for a free and open Indo-Pacific region. He joined the Japanese initiative which was a strategic initiative by the Quad, i.e. the US, Japan, India and Australia, that was being resisted by previous Indian regime under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. This is to ensure freedom of navigation and overflight and lawful commerce in international waters and overall maritime security and infrastructure development and rule of law in the Indo-Pacific. The regional reference “Indo-Pacific” instead of “Asia Pacific” has added significance and changed perceptions.

It clearly shows Indian concern on increased Chinese influence in the common neighbourhood of India and China, which was not previously appreciated by Indians. This also shows that the concern of these countries is not the South China Sea but to the South of South China Sea and thus not require Chinese in their fold. Thus, in a way limiting if not eliminating the Chinese influence.

Our Detailed report on Indo-Pacific Quad is here.

Indian diplomatic corps can surely pat themselves as they have been able to convince most of their neighbourhood countries that their commercial and non-commercial engagements with India can rejuvenate their economies more securely than engaging with the Chinese. In the time Indian economy has been growing slowly and sturdily inspite of world economy showing a negative trend. This indeed has been a feather in its cap which attracted most of the world economies to welcome their preferential offers to Chinese offers.

It’s now for the Pakistan as a nation to think what course of action it will take such that its future is secure and sound. Hope the Pakistani leadership keeps the national interest on top.

29 Nov 2017/wednesday