Hong Kong Free Press HKFP https://www.hongkongfp.com Hong Kong's Independent English Language News Thu, 21 Feb 2019 15:49:08 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 ‘We dream of being free from violence & oppression’: Saudi sisters stuck in Hong Kong after fleeing kingdom https://www.hongkongfp.com/2019/02/21/dream-free-violence-oppression-saudi-sisters-stuck-hong-kong-fleeing-kingdom/ Thu, 21 Feb 2019 15:49:08 +0000 https://www.hongkongfp.com/?p=194935 Two young Saudi sisters in Hong Kong said Thursday they had been intercepted by kingdom officials at the city’s airport while attempting to escape to Australia, in the latest case of women fleeing the ultra-conservative country. The pair, who have adopted the aliases Reem and Rawan, said in a statement from their lawyer they had renounced Islam and […]

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Two young Saudi sisters in Hong Kong said Thursday they had been intercepted by kingdom officials at the city’s airport while attempting to escape to Australia, in the latest case of women fleeing the ultra-conservative country.

The pair, who have adopted the aliases Reem and Rawan, said in a statement from their lawyer they had renounced Islam and fear the death penalty if forced to return to Saudi Arabia.

Reem and Rawan

Reem and Rawan. Photo: CNN screenshot.

The sisters aged 20 and 18, whose representatives say they suffered violent abuse, fled to Hong Kong in September from a family holiday in Sri Lanka and were planning to fly on to Australia.

But they say they were obstructed by Saudi officials and have been living in hiding in the Chinese city for nearly six months since.

“We fled our home to ensure our safety. We hope that we can be given asylum in a country which recognises women’s rights and treats them as equals,” the pair said in the statement shared by prominent lawyer Michael Vidler.

Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s most restrictive countries for women.

The case has emerged a month after 18-year-old Saudi woman Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun drew global attention with her dramatic escape from an allegedly abusive family, gaining refugee status in Canada last month.

Justice Centre Hong Kong, a migrants’ rights group aiding Reem and Rawan, said the sisters had also fled “gender-based violence”.

According to the lawyer’s statement, they were intercepted during their stopover by unknown men who took their passports and “attempted to deceive the sisters” into boarding a flight back to Saudi Arabia.

They later learned one of the men was Saudi Arabia’s consul general in Hong Kong, and that their onward flight booking had been cancelled, it added.

The Saudi consulate in Hong Kong did not respond to requests for comment.

After failing to board a second flight and fearing they were about to be “forcibly abducted”, the sisters say they left Hong Kong airport to enter the city as visitors.

They have been forced to change locations 13 times for fear of their safety, their statement said, after police reportedly tried to take them to meet with male relatives and Saudi officials.

“We dream of being in a safe place where we can be normal young women, free from violence and oppression,” the sisters said.

They tweeted Thursday, using the account @hksisters6, to say their passports had been invalidated and they feared being forced to go to the Saudi consulate in Hong Kong.

“We do not want to face the same fate as Mr Jamal Khashoggi,” they wrote, referring to the prominent journalist and critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who was murdered at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul.

Hong Kong police told AFP the case is under investigation and confirmed they received a missing person report and a separate report made by “two expatriate women” in September.

Hong Kong’s Airport Authority declined to comment.

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Hong Kong’s ban on pro-independence National Party upheld, as gov’t rejects appeal https://www.hongkongfp.com/2019/02/21/breaking-hong-kongs-ban-pro-independence-national-party-upheld-govt-rejects-appeal/ Thu, 21 Feb 2019 13:40:51 +0000 https://www.hongkongfp.com/?p=194922 The government’s Executive Council has officially upheld a ban on the pro-independence Hong Kong National party, having rejected its appeal. Last September, the embattled political group was banned by the government, citing the Societies Ordinance on the grounds of national security. It remains the first party to have been banned under the ordinance since the 1997 Handover. […]

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The government’s Executive Council has officially upheld a ban on the pro-independence Hong Kong National party, having rejected its appeal.

Last September, the embattled political group was banned by the government, citing the Societies Ordinance on the grounds of national security. It remains the first party to have been banned under the ordinance since the 1997 Handover.

Andy Chan

Andy Chan. Photo: Kris Cheng/HKFP.

Its co-founder Andy Chan presented his case to a committee formed by Executive Council members last month at a closed-door meeting at government headquarters. Chief Executive Carrie Lam was reportedly present at the appeal.

‘Public safety’

In a three-page letter dated February 21, Chan was informed that the chief executive and her cabinet had upheld the ban on national security and public safety grounds: “The evidence shows that the actions of the HKNP did not stop at thoughts (or opinions) and words; it has actively and persistently pursued the independence of Hong Kong by taking different actions,” the letter read.

The Executive Council also said that “there is no reasonable guarantee that the HKNP would not resort to violence or advocate violence.”

The letter described one of HKNP’s goals as “the establishment of a free and independent ‘Republic of Hong Kong,’” which the Executive Council found to be unconstitutional.

Chan had raised six issues of procedural unfairness but all were dismissed.

Hong Kong National Party

Hong Kong National Party’s Andy Chan and Jason Chow at a street booth. Photo: Facebook/Hong Kong National Party.

Chan could now file a judicial review to challenge the council’s decision. But he told reporters late on Thursday that he needed to consult his lawyers before deciding on the next move.

Under the Societies Ordinance, anyone who manages or assists in the management of an unlawful society may be subject to a HK$100,000 fine and three years in prison.

More to follow.

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Singapore activist sentenced to jail after refusing to pay HK$11,600 fine for hosting Joshua Wong Skype talk https://www.hongkongfp.com/2019/02/21/singapore-activist-sentenced-jail-refusing-pay-hk11600-fine-hosting-joshua-wong-skype-talk/ Thu, 21 Feb 2019 10:52:02 +0000 https://www.hongkongfp.com/?p=194870 Singaporean activist Jolovan Wham has been handed a 16-day jail sentence for refusing to pay a fine after he hosted a public talk with Hong Kong democracy activist Joshua Wong via Skype. He is out on bail pending appeal. Last month, Wham was convicted of illegal assembly over a forum he held in November 2016 on […]

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Singaporean activist Jolovan Wham has been handed a 16-day jail sentence for refusing to pay a fine after he hosted a public talk with Hong Kong democracy activist Joshua Wong via Skype. He is out on bail pending appeal.

Last month, Wham was convicted of illegal assembly over a forum he held in November 2016 on the topic of “civil disobedience and social movements.” Wham was told by police that he needed a permit for Wong to speak, but he went ahead without one.

On Thursday, the court fined Wham S$2,000 (HK$11,603) for organising a public assembly without a police permit. He also received a fine of S$1,200 (HK$6,961) for failing to sign a police statement.

Jolovan Wham

Jolovan Wham. Photo: Jolovan Wham, via Twitter.

Singaporean media reported that Wham chose not to pay the fine, which led the court to sentence him to 16 days in prison for defaulting on the fine.

Wham is to appeal the judge’s decision, and is out on a bail of S$8,000 (HK$46,340), according to media reports.

The forum in question was organised by Community Action Network, a non-governmental group concerned with freedom of expression in the city-state. According to Wham, the police told him it was compulsory to get a work permit and police permit if any of the participating speakers were not from Singapore – even if they spoke remotely via video link.

After the event, Wham was later questioned by police for 45 minutes and was charged in November 2017.

Aside from illegal assembly, Wham was also charged after refusing to sign his police witness statement. He said at the time that he chose not to sign because he was not given a copy.

Joshua Wong

Joshua Wong. Photo: HKFP.

Joshua Wong told HKFP that Wham’s prosecution was “an embarrassment and a terrible injustice,” and that he deeply regretted the judgment.

“Jolovan generously invited me to share and exchange my experience in Hong Kong’s fight for freedom and justice with the Singaporean community – the irony is not missed here that Jolovan has become a subject of injustice as a result.”

“I’d like to express my respect and admiration for Jolovan’s perseverance of his values, and my wish for the Singaporean people to one day be able to enjoy true freedom and democracy.

‘Stretching of the law’

Kirsten Han, a Singaporean journalist who was also a guest speaker at Wham’s forum, decried the sentence as “outrageous.”

“[The forum] posed no threat to public order whatsoever, and the stretching of the law to declare a forum illegal simply because a non-Singaporean Skyped in shows how broad Singapore’s public order laws are, and how they can be used to restrict Singaporean’s civil liberties,” Han told HKFP.“There’s no sentence that I’d consider fair, because he should never have been charged.”

Han also disputed the prosecution’s account of events. According to Channel NewsAsia, the prosecution argued in court that “thousands” were invited to the forum and 366 people indicated they were interested in attending.

However, Han said the event only had slightly more than 60 attendees and was “pretty standard.” “The venue wasn’t that big anyway,” she added.

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Hong Kong’s Carrie Lam hails southern China integration plan, but says city ‘will not be assimilated’ https://www.hongkongfp.com/2019/02/21/hong-kongs-carrie-lam-hails-southern-china-integration-plan-says-city-will-not-assimilated/ Thu, 21 Feb 2019 08:51:27 +0000 https://www.hongkongfp.com/?p=194761 Top officials from Hong Kong, Macau, Guangdong and the central government gathered on Thursday to promote the Greater Bay Area, a wide-ranging development plan unveiled earlier this week. Chief Executive Carrie Lam said at the symposium that Hong Kong is facing “increasingly serious challenges,” but the Greater Bay Area blueprint offers the city new impetus for […]

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Top officials from Hong Kong, Macau, Guangdong and the central government gathered on Thursday to promote the Greater Bay Area, a wide-ranging development plan unveiled earlier this week.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam said at the symposium that Hong Kong is facing “increasingly serious challenges,” but the Greater Bay Area blueprint offers the city new impetus for development. Hong Kong needs to become a proactive participant in regional affairs instead of just a “connector,” she added.

carrie lam

Carrie Lam. Photo: GovHK.

Lam said the One Country, Two Systems principle will still be upheld: “[The Greater Bay Area] will not, as some people worry, blur the boundaries between the ‘Two Systems’, nor will it weaken Hong Kong’s status as a separate customs territory.”

“It certainly will not lead to the assimilation of Hong Kong into the Mainland either.”

On Tuesday, China’s State Council released a 56-page outline on the Greater Bay Area, which lists Hong Kong as one of four “core cities” that are meant to drive development of the seven Chinese municipalities.

Lam said her administration will focus on consolidating and enhancing Hong Kong’s status as an international financial, transportation and trade centre – as well as a global hub for aviation, innovation and technology. Other goals include strengthening infrastructural connectivity and fostering youth innovation and entrepreneurship.

“Through co-operation with subvented and non-governmental organisations, the [Hong Kong government] will provide young people starting their businesses in various Greater Bay Area cities with start-up grants, support, counselling, guidance, and incubation services,” she said by way of example.

‘Resolve deep-seated problems’

Two officials from the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) – Vice Chairman Lin Nianxiu and Director General of the Department of Regional Economy Guo Lanfeng – also spoke at the symposium on Thursday.

greater bay area guests carrie lam tung chee-hwa

From left: Carrie Lam, Tung Chee-hwa, Ma Xingrui, Wang Zhimin, Huang Liuquan, Guo Lanfeng. Photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

Lin said that the Greater Bay Area will help mitigate the “bottleneck problems” faced by cities in the region.

“Currently Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau face many challenges and issues, and the Greater Bay Area outline development plan provided new solutions to deal with deep-seated problems,” he said.

Guo, who gave a briefing on the development plan, said the Greater Bay Area had three special features: “First, it maintains the implementation of One Country, Two Systems… Second, the outline exhibits high-quality development ideas, which are based on fulfilling the needs of the people. Third, it identifies the functions and roles of each city, so they can play to their strengths.”

The Governor of Guangdong Province Ma Xingrui and Macau’s Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai-on also gave speeches in support of the plan.

Ma said he will “commit the resources of the whole province” to the Greater Bay Area plan, making it easier for people from Hong Kong and Macau to live and work in Guangdong. Chui said his government will align his policies with the Greater Bay Area plan over the next five years.

May lead to ‘conflict’

The symposium, which was held at the newly opened Hong Kong Ocean Park Marriott Hotel, lasted for 90 minutes with no question-and-answer session.

Tam Yiu-chung.

Tam Yiu-chung. Photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

Speaking after the event, Tam Yiu-chung – a member of China’s top legislature and a pro-Beijing veteran – said the public will warm to the Greater Bay Area once there are policies that bring practical convenience.

“The two members of [the NDRC] stressed that One Country, Two Systems will still be upheld under the Greater Bay Area development… that left a deep impression on me,” he added.

Lawmaker Michael Tien told reporters that overall it was better for Hong Kong to be a part of the Greater Bay Area than not. However, Tien expressed reservations over the potential effect upon Hong Kong’s labour market and legal system.

Tien said that Hong Kong is currently home to more skilled labour, but the Greater Bay Area may cause a manpower drain. “For things with a limited supply – such as talent in certain fields – the [Greater Bay Area] may lead to a conflict, and we need to be careful,” he said.

It would also require a lot of “wisdom” to manage the intersection of different legal systems, such as the recent extradition case, Tien added.

league of social democrats lsd protest greater bay area

The League of Social Democrats protest the Greater Bay Area outside the symposium venue. Photo: LSD handout.

During the symposium, members of the League of Social Democrats staged a protest outside the hotel, criticising Lam as becoming “a pawn of Beijing” in terms of economic development.

Around 30 people also held a separate protest, claiming to be investors who lost money on the Guangbohui property in Jiangmen, China. They said that Macau’s Chief Executive Chui had recommended investing in the property, but the construction work was held up and some investors lost as much as HK$2 million.

“Invest in the Greater Bay Area and you’ll lose all your hard-earned savings,” one of their banners read.

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Taiwan gov’t approves draft same-sex marriage bill following referendum https://www.hongkongfp.com/2019/02/21/taiwan-govt-approves-draft-sex-marriage-bill-following-referendum/ Thu, 21 Feb 2019 06:40:45 +0000 https://www.hongkongfp.com/?p=194762 Taiwan’s government has put forward a draft same-sex marriage bill in response to the results of a referendum last year which rejected amendments to the country’s current marriage laws. The new bill, titled “The Enforcement Act of Judicial Yuan Interpretation No. 748,” was introduced by the Executive Yuan on Wednesday evening, according to state media. Su Tseng-chang, […]

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Taiwan’s government has put forward a draft same-sex marriage bill in response to the results of a referendum last year which rejected amendments to the country’s current marriage laws.

The new bill, titled “The Enforcement Act of Judicial Yuan Interpretation No. 748,” was introduced by the Executive Yuan on Wednesday evening, according to state media. Su Tseng-chang, premier of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, invited lawmakers at a cabinet meeting to discuss the draft, which includes stipulations on the conditions of child adoption and medical rights. The Executive Yuan approved the proposed bill on Thursday.

taiwan lgbt gay flag

File photo: Taiwan Scenery Gallery.

Over 72 per cent of voters of a multi-question referendum in November upheld restricting marriage to a man and a woman under the Civil Code – one of the country’s five main laws in addition to the Constitution – which would mean separate marriage legislation for same-sex couples would be required. The results dealt a blow to LGBT+ activists across the island, which had built up a reputation as one of the most progressive nations in Asia.

In 2017, Taiwan’s top court ruled it unconstitutional to prevent same-sex marriage and gave the government until May 24 2019 to either revise the existing Civil Code or introduce a new law to legislate marriage equality. If legislation is not completed before the deadline, same-sex couples will automatically be able to register their marriage under current law.

In a Facebook post, Madeleine Majorenko, head of the European Economic and Trade Office, said the office welcomed the proposal and “looks forward to the continuous advancement of LGBTI rights in Taiwan.”

The government will submit the draft bill to the Legislative Yuan for review before March 1, after which parliament is expected to vote on the proposed legislation by May.

Flag raising ceremony Taiwan Presidential Office

Flag raising ceremony outside Taiwan Presidential Office on January 1, 2019. Photo: Flickr/presidentialoffice.

An attempt to derail marriage equality last August by a coalition of anti-gay marriage groups stymied efforts to push through legislation. The groups put forward three referendum proposals: restricting marriage to a man and a woman under the Civil Code; preventing “homosexual-related education” in schools; protecting “the rights of same-sex couples” outside of the Civil Code.

All three proposals were upheld by voters.

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Hong Kong Labour Tribunal allows foreign domestic workers to testify by video when seeking compensation https://www.hongkongfp.com/2019/02/21/hong-kong-labour-tribunal-allows-foreign-domestic-workers-testify-video-seeking-compensation/ Thu, 21 Feb 2019 06:23:27 +0000 https://www.hongkongfp.com/?p=194757 The Hong Kong Labour Tribunal will allow foreign domestic workers to testify by video when seeking compensation, even if they have left Hong Kong. The new development came after a High Court decision last year. On Tuesday, the Labour Tribunal allowed former domestic worker Joenalyn Mallorca to testify from the Philippines. Mallorca lodged the case in 2016 at the […]

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The Hong Kong Labour Tribunal will allow foreign domestic workers to testify by video when seeking compensation, even if they have left Hong Kong.

The new development came after a High Court decision last year. On Tuesday, the Labour Tribunal allowed former domestic worker Joenalyn Mallorca to testify from the Philippines.

Mallorca lodged the case in 2016 at the tribunal seeking compensation from her former employer. She alleged that she was physically assaulted and was summarily dismissed from her employment without proper grounds.

labour tribunal

Photo: inmediahk.net.

But she was forced to return to the Philippines to care for a parent who suddenly fell gravely ill, and the tribunal’s presiding officer rejected her application to appear via video link.

Justice Without Borders, a regional charity which assisted her, welcomed the “groundbreaking” new arrangement at the tribunal, saying that Mallorca would not have been able to travel to Hong Kong owing to her small salary. Plus, she would have been unable to get time off work from her current job, they said in a press release.

The group said Mallorca’s case was not unique, and many foreign domestic workers have been forced to decide whether to stay in Hong Kong for potentially years in order to pursue their cases, or give up their claim and return home.

“Until now, migrant workers who have been victimised by bad employers have had to remain in Hong Kong, living in shelters and staying unemployed while pursuing their cases. Many have had to make the difficult choice of missing out on salary while pursuing claims, or returning home and giving up their rights altogether,” said Douglas MacLean, executive director of Justice Without Borders.

“Now, going home does not need to mean going without,” he added.

Foreign domestic workers

Foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong. Photo: Citizen News.

The Labour Tribunal’s Presiding Officer Timon Shum Kei-Leong also approved Mallorca’s request to have a union officer represent her at her trial, marking another first.

The tribunal does not allow lawyers to represent claimants.

Shiella Grace Estrada, the union officer representing Mallorca, said she was “really happy” about the change.

She said there were a lot of migrant victims seeking justice and many will request help from union officers.

Mallorca will appear via video conference during one day of trial, since she cannot take five full days off work for the hearings. Her union representative will handle the rest of the hearings.

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‘The party will go wherever the people are.’: Xi Jinping ‘cult’ app is China’s red hot hit https://www.hongkongfp.com/2019/02/21/party-will-go-wherever-people-xi-jinping-cult-app-chinas-red-hot-hit/ Thu, 21 Feb 2019 06:10:19 +0000 https://www.hongkongfp.com/?p=194824 by Poornima Weerasekara A propaganda app that puts China’s powerful President Xi Jinping in anyone’s pockets has become a hit in the country — with a helpful nudge from Communist Party officials. Millions have downloaded the app, which tracks the amount of time users spend browsing inspirational quotes from the Chinese leader and watching short videos […]

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by Poornima Weerasekara

A propaganda app that puts China’s powerful President Xi Jinping in anyone’s pockets has become a hit in the country — with a helpful nudge from Communist Party officials.

Millions have downloaded the app, which tracks the amount of time users spend browsing inspirational quotes from the Chinese leader and watching short videos of his speeches and travels.

Xuexi Qiangguo xi jinping app alibaba

Xuexi Qiangguo. Photo: HKFP remix.

People are rewarded with points for sharing articles or answering quizzes on Communist heroes, and one day they may be able to redeem their scores for gifts such as pastries and tablets.

But it’s not all fun and games. Some people say they felt pressured to download it, others hope it can help their careers, and local government officials have been heavily promoting it.

The app’s name — “Xuexi Qiangguo” or “Study to Make China strong” — is a pun as the Chinese word for studying, Xuexi, can also be read as “Study Xi”.

It has been downloaded nearly 44 million times on Apple and Android devices since its launch in January, according to Beijing-based statistics provider Qimai Technology.

“It’s a perfect example of propaganda in the Xi era… that appeals to China’s large online population,” said Manya Koetse, who tracks social trends in China as editor of What’s on Weibo.

“The party will go wherever the people are.”

 ‘Xi cult’ 

Xi, who could rule indefinitely after parliament lifted presidential term limits last year, has enjoyed a level of officially stoked adulation unseen since Communist China’s founder Mao.

The party’s propaganda arm has become tech-savvy in its battle for the country’s hearts and minds, delivering its message through rap songs, comics and stickers on popular messaging app WeChat.

Xi Jinping

Xi Jinping. File photo: S.Africa Gov’t.

Last May, it launched another free app called “Learn about China”, featuring Xi’s first book along with academic papers analysing his views.

The new app gives users access to thousands of books, magazines, newspapers, university publications and TV serials and movies.

Users must register with their mobile phone number and name their employer.

An employee at a state media company said she posts her scores on her WeChat social media account because she is in line for a promotion and hopes her bosses will see she has “the right mindset”.

“It’s a way to get some brownie points,” she told AFP.

One state worker said she felt under pressure to use the app, although it was not officially mandatory for civil servants.

A doctor at a state hospital in Beijing, who only gave her last name Xu, said she had her parents use the app to take quizzes and read articles on her behalf.

“Our scores are valid for two years and I am not sure whether they’ll be useful (for my career) later,” she added.

Li Xin, who works for a state-run oil company, said it promotes a “Xi cult”.

Bad reviews 

Dozens of provincial and county governments across the country have held workshops to promote the app in recent weeks, local media reports showed.

Beijing’s municipal propaganda department chief Du Feijin told a workshop last week that the app was a “powerful starting point for implementing the spirit of the important instructions of General Secretary Xi”, state-run newspaper Beijing News reported.

Even China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba, whose founder Jack Ma is a Communist Party member, is making a contribution: job ads on the company’s website shows it has been hiring software developers to work on the app.

Alibaba

Alibaba File Photo: Wikicommons.

While “Study Xi” became the top app in Apple’s China app store last month, it only managed to get an average rating of 2.4 stars out of five. Ratings and reviews for the app were disabled last week.

But analytics firm App Annie has preserved nearly 500 reviews — many with a hint of sarcasm — submitted by Apple users in previous weeks.

“It’s totally voluntary,” quipped one reviewer who gave the app one star.

“My employer wants us to learn enough to get 35 credits every day… So we have no choice but to carry our children with one hand and our phones with the other and chase points with no life,” wrote another.

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‘No time to waste’: Hong Kong gov’t to take back 32 hectares of Fanling golf course for public housing https://www.hongkongfp.com/2019/02/21/no-time-waste-hong-kong-govt-take-back-32-hectares-fanling-golf-course-public-housing/ Thu, 21 Feb 2019 03:15:22 +0000 https://www.hongkongfp.com/?p=194707 The government has accepted suggestions from its Task Force on Land Supply, including a plan to take back 32 hectares of Fanling golf course in 2023 for public housing. Secretary for Development Michael Wong said at a press conference on Wednesday that a government study on using the historic golf course will be completed by […]

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The government has accepted suggestions from its Task Force on Land Supply, including a plan to take back 32 hectares of Fanling golf course in 2023 for public housing.

Secretary for Development Michael Wong said at a press conference on Wednesday that a government study on using the historic golf course will be completed by mid-2021.

The Hong Kong Golf Club’s lease will end in August 2020. The government, which owns the land, will then establish a transitional arrangement with the club over the three years that follow.

Fanling golf course

Fanling golf course. File Photo: Citizen News.

The lease on the remaining 140 hectares will be extended to June 2027.

“The lack of land supply today is the result of the government not producing land at any large scale over a long period of time – we have no time to waste,” Wong said. “We want to reduce our reliance on particular and singular sources of land supply, so that we have enough land supply for the development needs of different periods.”

The Task Force, commissioned by Chief Executive Carrie Lam, submitted its report to the government at the end of last year after five months of consultation. Wong said that Lam and the Executive Council have decided to adopt the Task Force’s suggestions entirely.

Reclamation studies

Wong also said that the government will not build housing on the perimeter of country parks, after it previously suggested doing so. It will also suspend land reclamation plans near Ma Liu Shui and the southwestern side of Tsing Yi.

lantau island

Lantau Island. Photo: Ching Ching Tsui, via Flickr.

Wong said the government will focus on studying the reclamation of 1,000 hectares around the outlying island of Kau Yi Chau, near the eastern coast of Lantau Island. Technical information about potential reclamation of 700 hectares near the island of Hei Ling Chau would also be gained in the process, though there is no timetable for development.

The public consultation carried out by the Task Force only asked about plans around Kau Yi Chau, but did not mention the Hei Ling Chau proposal which was included in Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s Lantau Tomorrow Vision development plan.

Wong was asked whether the government was using the Task Force report to support options it wished to implement, such as reclamation around Hei Ling Chau. However, Wong said they did not oppose government plans for reclamation around the island of up to 1,700 hectares.

“If the government has a new large-scale reclamation project, there will be another public consultation process,” Wong said.

Michael Wong

Michael Wong. Photo: Apple Daily.

The government will also study reclamation near southern Cheung Chau for the potential relocation of container terminals. Other options for study include reclamation near Lung Kwu Tang, Sunny Bay and Siu Ho Wan, Wong said.

Commenting on other suggestions in the report, Wong said the government will speed up the development of brownfield land, including 340 hectares in areas already undergoing development.

He said the Development Bureau was looking into the details of developing privately-owned farmland in the form of private-public sector cooperation, in accordance with the report from the Task Force and the policy address issued by the chief executive last year.

Brownfield site

A brownfield site. Photo: Bauhinia Foundation Research Centre.

The government will focus on new development areas such Kwu Tung North, Fanling North, Yuen Long South, and Hung Shui Kiu.

Other studies include the development of caverns, underground spaces, as well as the River Trade Terminal in Tuen Mun.

Stanley Wong, chair of the Task Force, said in response that he welcomed the government accepting their suggestions

He said it was understandable that the government may have to adjust some of the suggestions ahead of implementation, as the Task Force lacked time to consider all technical details.

“We have spent a lot of time in considering a holistic approach to land supply. I am happy that the government accepted our suggestions, responding to the large numbers of opinions and data we obtained from the community,” he said.

Stanley Wong

Stanley Wong. File Photo: inmediahk.net.

But Democratic Party lawmaker Andrew Wan said he did not believe that the government had accepted their suggestions entirely.

“The Task Force said very clearly that [Fanling golf course] should be developed entirely,” he said. “The government is only using this small area of 32-hectares to superficially respond to public demand.”

The Hong Kong Alliance of Golfers, a group formed of golf players, sports teams and celebrities, said there was not enough reason to take back part of the Fanling golf course.

“The government did not reclaim land over the past decade, and now they are sacrificing the sports sector again. It is unfair to the golf and sports sector now that we are being used to fix the problem,” the Alliance’s convener Kenneth Lau told RTHK.

The post ‘No time to waste’: Hong Kong gov’t to take back 32 hectares of Fanling golf course for public housing appeared first on Hong Kong Free Press HKFP. Author: Kris Cheng.

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No peace deal with China unless force is ruled out, says Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen https://www.hongkongfp.com/2019/02/21/no-peace-deal-china-unless-force-ruled-says-taiwan-president-tsai-ing-wen/ Thu, 21 Feb 2019 02:46:17 +0000 https://www.hongkongfp.com/?p=194750 President Tsai Ing-wen on Wednesday said no formal peace deal could be signed with China until leaders in Beijing rule out using force against the island. Tsai was speaking a day after she confirmed she would run for re-election in early 2020 despite falling ratings and an increasingly strained relationship with China. Beijing still sees democratic Taiwan as […]

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President Tsai Ing-wen on Wednesday said no formal peace deal could be signed with China until leaders in Beijing rule out using force against the island.

Tsai was speaking a day after she confirmed she would run for re-election in early 2020 despite falling ratings and an increasingly strained relationship with China.

Tsai Ing-wen.

Tsai Ing-wen. File photo: Taiwan Gov’t.

Beijing still sees democratic Taiwan as part of its territory to be reunified, despite the two sides being ruled separately since the end of a civil war in 1949.

Tsai was responding to recent comments by Wu Den-yih, head of the main opposition Kuomintang (KMT), that his party would pursue a peace treaty with Beijing if it were to regain power next year.

“There would be no so-called negotiation on equal footing and no real peace as China refuses to give up the use of force against Taiwan and forcefully pushes the ‘one country, two systems’ framework,” she said in a media briefing.

“China’s military intentions and its refusal to give up the use of force against Taiwan is a real source of regional instability and a threat to regional peace,” she added.

Wu Den-yih

Wu Den-yih. Photo: Wikicommons.

“One country, two systems” is China’s proposal to absorb Taiwan into the mainland but allow it to keep some of its freedoms.

Beijing has made its dislike of Tsai and her independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party clear.

After her election in 2016, it cut communication with her administration, stepped up military drills and poached several of Taiwan’s dwindling diplomatic allies.

President Xi Jinping reiterated in a speech last month that China would not renounce the option of using military force to bring Taiwan into the fold, describing unification with the mainland as “inevitable.”

A KMT win in 2020 would likely please leaders in Beijing given the much closer relationship it forged with the previous administration of Ma Ying-jeou.

taiwan flag protest july 1

Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

Ma suggested in 2011 that Taiwan should consider a peace treaty with China within the coming decade, to formally bring an end to a civil war that has actually been over for seventy years.

The proposal sparked criticism from detractors that it would be tantamount to a unification or surrender treaty.

Ma later stressed that he would only move ahead for a peace agreement with the approval of both the parliament and the public, and the issue had been shelved since.

The KMT’s drubbing at the 2016 election partly stemmed from voter unease over the party’s perceived cosiness to the mainland.

Ma Ying-jeou

Ma Ying-jeou. Photo: Wikicommons.

But Wu – a former vice president under Ma – has resurrected the issue ahead of next year’s polls. He is among the KMT bigwigs who have been tipped to run for president.

Tsai said she believed voters would baulk at the proposal unless Beijing withdrew its threats.

“I believe Taiwanese society would not accept any political agreement that could harm or eliminate our sovereignty or eliminate Taiwan’s democracy,” she said.

The post No peace deal with China unless force is ruled out, says Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen appeared first on Hong Kong Free Press HKFP. Author: AFP.

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Int’l Mother Language Day: Dear Xi Jinping, embrace cultural and linguistic diversity https://www.hongkongfp.com/2019/02/21/intl-mother-language-day-dear-xi-jinping-embrace-cultural-linguistic-diversity/ Thu, 21 Feb 2019 01:00:16 +0000 https://www.hongkongfp.com/?p=194688 Dear Chairman Xi Jinping, We are writing to you on International Mother Language Day, a day to embrace and enjoy cultural and linguistic diversity and multilingualism. Every year since 2000, this day has been marked around the world with the aim of promoting peace and preserving mother tongues, one of the most deeply precious aspects […]

The post Int’l Mother Language Day: Dear Xi Jinping, embrace cultural and linguistic diversity appeared first on Hong Kong Free Press HKFP. Author: International Tibet Network.

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Dear Chairman Xi Jinping,

We are writing to you on International Mother Language Day, a day to embrace and enjoy cultural and linguistic diversity and multilingualism. Every year since 2000, this day has been marked around the world with the aim of promoting peace and preserving mother tongues, one of the most deeply precious aspects of every peoples’ cultural heritage. The theme of International Mother Language Day 2019 is “Indigenous languages matter for development, peacebuilding and reconciliation.”

The right of peoples under Chinese Communist Party rule to learn, develop and preserve their native languages is protected under China’s own constitution: Article 4, provides that “[e]thnic minorities’ right to learn, use and develop their own spoken and written languages is guaranteed in accordance with the law”; Article 35 states that “[c]itizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy the freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association,” and minority languages are protected under a range of other laws and regulations. They are also protected in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which your government ratified in 2001, most specifically in Article 13 on the right to education and Article 15, which protects the right to “take part in cultural life.”

tibetan script

File photo: kychan, via Unsplash.

Furthermore the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, adopted by all Member States in 2015, call for a strong and binding commitment to inclusive and equitable quality education for all,  as well as a reduction in inequality within and among countries and the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies, the provision of access to justice for all.

Despite these agreements and protections, Tibetans continue to have their language rights systematically violated, as Chinese authorities increasingly marginalize the Tibetan language. The mother tongue of the Tibetan people is predominantly absent from numerous aspects of day to day life, including in local governance, the judicial system and educational institutions, and learning in the Tibetan language has been removed from the curriculum in schools posing serious risks to the rich tapestry of Tibet’s unique culture, and fundamentally undermining the human rights of the Tibetan people.

Perhaps most damagingly, your government has overseen a policy of prohibiting Tibet’s monasteries from providing Tibetan language instruction to the surrounding communities. Tibet’s monasteries have historically played a key role in providing children with both a religious and secular education. The policy of shutting down these language classes risks causing irreparable damage to the Tibetan language and has been met with dismay and frustration by Tibetans who see their culture being eroded.

Among them is Tibetan shopkeeper Tashi Wangchuk, who has been in detention since 2016 and is currently serving a five-year prison sentence for “inciting separatism” despite the fact that he has committed no crime. In 2015, Tashi Wangchuk attempted to file a lawsuit in Beijing to ensure that local authorities guarantee the provision of Tibetan language education. Tashi began voicing concern publicly about the lack of Tibetan-language education after the authorities in Kyegundo stopped local monasteries and a private school in the area from teaching Tibetan to laypeople. 

In 2015, Tashi gave an interview to The New York Times about his attempts to promote the teaching of Tibetan. His efforts to persuade the Chinese government to guarantee Tibetan language instruction were conducted through official channels and he made it clear that he was not advocating Tibetan independence. Instead, his focus was ending the destruction of the Tibetan language and culture.

Tashi Wangchuk.

Tashi Wangchuk. Photo: NYT screenshot.

Despite taking these precautions, Tashi Wangchuk was arrested on 27 January 2016, held in an unknown location, tortured and later charged with inciting separatism. It took a full two years for him to stand trial and, when he finally did, it was in a closed session, to which journalists and visiting diplomats were denied access.

The appalling treatment of Tashi Wangchuk demands immediate action. As organisations dedicated to freedom of expression and human rights, we join the calls from around the world, from the United Nations and many of your trading partners, including the United States and the European Union, urging you to immediately and unconditionally release Tashi Wangchuk.

Wider action is also required to redress the harm done to the Tibetan language. We call on you to comply with international law and the Chinese Constitution and reverse the effective ban on the teaching of Tibetan. If the Chinese Communist Party’s stated commitment to minority rights is to be taken seriously, Tibetans must be allowed to learn and promote their language and be able to use it in their day to day lives.

Free Tibet Tashi Wangchuk

File photo: Free Tibet.

We call on you to ensure that the Chinese government complies with its international obligations to respect the cultural and linguistic rights of the Tibetan people and demand the immediate and unconditional release of Tashi Wangchuk.

See full list of signatories - click to view
English PEN

Free Tibet

Human Rights in China

International Campaign for Tibet

International Service for Human Rights

International Tibet Network

PEN America

Safeguard Defenders

Students for a Free Tibet

Tibet Society UK

Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization

The post Int’l Mother Language Day: Dear Xi Jinping, embrace cultural and linguistic diversity appeared first on Hong Kong Free Press HKFP. Author: International Tibet Network.

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