Threatened pink dolphins enjoy brief respite

Source: NYT (4/5/21)
Off Hong Kong’s Shores, Threatened Pink Dolphins Enjoy Brief Respite
A cut in ferry service because of the pandemic means the animals, a Hong Kong icon, are getting a little peace and quiet in a favored habitat. But the break is temporary and the future not bright.
By Austin Ramzy

A Chinese white dolphin, with a signature pinkish hue, in the waters off Hong Kong last month. Credit…Lam Yik Fei for The New York Times

HONG KONG — The most popular reward for hiking to the top of Fu Shan, a hill near Hong Kong’s westernmost point, is a selfie backed by the setting sun, the gleaming new bridge across the Pearl River or a flight landing at the nearby airport.

But for those who look more closely, there is the chance of a rarer prize: a glimpse of Chinese white dolphins swimming among fishing boats and cargo ships in the milky jade water.

“It’s amazing that Hong Kong still has this kind of rare animal,” said Michelle Chan, as she watched from Fu Shan on a recent day.

On the water below, a half-dozen tourist boats from the nearby fishing village of Tai O surrounded a single white dolphin. People cheered as it breached. Continue reading

HK court convict democracy leaders

Source: NYT (3/31/21)
Hong Kong Court Convicts Democracy Leaders Over Protest March
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The defendants, including the media tycoon Jimmy Lai and the barristers Martin Lee and Margaret Ng, were some of the city’s most prominent activists.
By Austin Ramzy

Martin Lee, the 82-year-old barrister often called the “father of democracy” in Hong Kong, before the verdict on Thursday. Credit…Isaac Lawrence/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

HONG KONG — Seven of Hong Kong’s veteran pro-democracy leaders were found guilty on Thursday of unauthorized assembly, a verdict seen by their supporters as a severe assault on the freedom of speech and other civil liberties that once were core to the city’s identity.

Martin Lee, an 82-year-old barrister known as the “father of democracy” in Hong Kong; Jimmy Lai, 73, a media tycoon and founder of the staunchly pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper; and Margaret Ng, 73, a respected barrister and columnist, along with four others, were convicted of participating in and organizing an unauthorized march in 2019.

They each face up to five years in prison, and sentences will be handed down on April 16. A severe penalty would be seen by critics of the government as an attempt to muzzle some of the most prominent and internationally recognized figures in Hong Kong’s democracy movement. It would also send a strong message about how the courts may rule in several other trials this year on similar charges of illegal assembly. Continue reading

HK targets art deemed critical of China

Source: NYT (3/26/21)
‘Insult to the Country’: Hong Kong Targets Art Deemed Critical of China
Pro-Beijing lawmakers have called for work by the dissident artist Ai Weiwei to be removed from a new museum, and accused local arts groups of undermining national security.
By Vivian Wang

The M+ museum in Hong Kong is expected to open later this year, but it is already facing criticism from pro-Beijing lawmakers and newspapers for including works by dissident artists in its collection. Credit…Lam Yik Fei for The New York Times

HONG KONG — With its multibillion-dollar price tag and big-name artists, M+, the museum rising on Victoria Harbor, was meant to embody Hong Kong’s ambitions of becoming a global cultural hub. It was to be the city’s first world-class art museum, proof that Hong Kong could do high culture just as well as finance.

It may instead become the symbol of how the Chinese Communist Party is muzzling Hong Kong’s art world.

In recent days, the museum, which is scheduled to open later this year, has come under fierce attack from the city’s pro-Beijing politicians. State-owned newspapers have denounced the museum’s collection, which houses important works of contemporary Chinese art, including some by the dissident artist Ai Weiwei. Hong Kong’s chief executive has promised to be on “full alert” after a lawmaker called some works an “insult to the country.”

The arts sector broadly has endured a blizzard of attacks. A government funding body said last week that it has the power to end grants to artists who promoted “overthrowing” the authorities. A front-page editorial in a pro-Beijing newspaper accused six art groups of “anti-government” activities. Continue reading

HK charges 47 with violating security law

Source: NYT (2/28/21)
Hong Kong Charges 47 Democracy Supporters With Violating Security Law
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Before Sunday, only a handful of people had been formally charged with breaking the law that China imposed last year, which carries a potential sentence of life in prison.
By Austin Ramzy and Tiffany May

Benny Tai outside a Hong Kong police station on Sunday. He was among 47 pro-democracy figures charged with violating the city’s national security law. Credit…Anthony Kwan/Getty Images

HONG KONG — The Hong Kong authorities charged dozens of pro-democracy figures on Sunday with violating the Chinese territory’s harsh new national security law, the latest blow to the dwindling hopes for democracy in the former British colony.

It was the most forceful use yet of the wide-ranging security law, which has cemented Communist Party control over a territory long known for its individual freedoms, independent court system and rule of law.

Before Sunday, only a handful of people had been formally charged with violating the security law, though about 100 have been arrested on suspicion of doing so. Those convicted of violating the law can be sentenced to life in prison.

The police said that each of the 47 people had been charged with a single count of “conspiracy to commit subversion.” They include Benny Tai, a former University of Hong Kong law professor and leading strategist for the pro-democracy camp. Continue reading

HK rewrites history

Editors at the New York Times are incrementally making more accurate the headline to this story. The first online edition on Tues read, astonishingly, “Curates History”; yesterday’s print edition read, inadequately, “Edits History.” This one at least says “Rewrites History.” For its next appearance, perhaps they will use the more direct “Distorts History.”–Eva S. Chou

Source: NYT (2/24/21)
To Build Loyalty to China, Hong Kong Rewrites History
Through new lesson plans and expensive publishing projects, the government hopes to teach future generations a curated lesson about Hong Kong’s past.
By Vivian Wang

Golden Bauhinia Square, a symbol of Hong Kong’s return from British to Chinese rule in 1997. Credit…Lam Yik Fei for The New York Times

HONG KONG — The orders seemed innocuous, even obvious: Primary school students in Hong Kong should read picture books about Chinese traditions and learn about famous sites such as the Forbidden City in Beijing or the Great Wall.

But the goal was only partially to nurture an interest in the past. The central aim of the new curriculum guidelines, unveiled by the Hong Kong government this month, was much more ambitious: to use those historical stories to instill in the city’s youngest residents a deep-rooted affinity for mainland China — and, with it, an unwavering loyalty to its leaders and their strong-arm tactics.

Students, the guidelines said, should develop “a sense of belonging to the country, an affection for the Chinese people, a sense of national identity, as well as an awareness of and a sense of responsibility for safeguarding national security.”

The Chinese government, in its efforts to quash dissent, has imposed a strict set of restrictions on Hong Kong, including new rules this week to bar any candidates deemed disloyal to the Community Party from elected office. Continue reading

HK’s West Kowloon Cultural District

Source: SCMP (1/22/21)
What to know about the 4 venues defining Hong Kong’s West Kowloon Cultural District
Conceptualised as one of the world’s largest cultural hubs, the waterfront area comprises museums, performance stages and green space. Its new architectural landmarks have designs influenced by Chinese culture and distinctive features such as the huge LED screen atop M+ museum
By Morning Studio Editors

Hong Kong’s West Kowloon Cultural District (WKCD) occupies 40 hectares (99 acres) of land on the westernmost tip of the Kowloon peninsula. Fusing art, education and recreational activities amid a collection of impressively designed buildings, this new cultural hub aims to raise the bar for what the city can achieve in the world of modern and contemporary art.

Not only will the district help elevate regional talent to new heights, but it is also contributing to Hong Kong’s expanding portfolio of architectural landmarks. Here are some of the unique features that define the four spaces at WKCD. Continue reading

HK move to overhaul RTHK fans fears

Source: NYT (2/19/21)
Hong Kong’s Move to Overhaul Broadcaster Fans Fears of Media Crackdown
The broadcaster, Radio Television Hong Kong, is known for independent reporting often critical of the government.
By Vivian Wang

Recording a Radio Television Hong Kong program last year. Credit…Lam Yik Fei for The New York Times

HONG KONG — The Hong Kong government on Friday called for the city’s public broadcaster to be more tightly supervised by government-appointed advisers, in what pro-democracy activists say is the authorities’ latest move to limit freedom of the press.

The government issued a 157-page report accusing Radio Television Hong Kong, an outlet that has often reported critically on officials, of lacking transparency and objectivity.

The report came hours after the government announced that the head of the public broadcaster would leave his post six months early. His replacement is a civil servant from outside the broadcasting service with no journalism experience.

For supporters of Hong Kong’s beleaguered pro-democracy movement, RTHK’s troubles signaled the fate of independent journalism under an intensifying crackdown on dissent. Often compared to the BBC, the broadcaster is government-funded but is promised editorial independence in its charter. Continue reading

HK oath-taking

Source: SCMP (2/10/21)
National security law: oath-taking Hong Kong district councillors face disqualification if investigations uncover past misconduct, lack of patriotism
Authorities to look into politicians’ pasts to ensure they do not pose national security risk and are genuine when pledging allegiance to the city, sources say. Insider insists breaching the oath will not be a criminal matter, district councillors have right of reply to allegations

An oath-taking ceremony of government officials last December. Photo: Handout

An oath-taking ceremony of government officials last December. Photo: Handout

Hong Kong district councillors, who could soon be required to take oaths of allegiance, face disqualification if they are found to be not patriotic enough or a threat to national security following official probes into their past conduct, the Post has learned.

But sources said any breach of the oath would carry no criminal consequences, while an “internal mechanism” was planned to allow district councillors to defend themselves against allegations before any potential unseating. The administration is expected after the Lunar New Year holiday to introduce an amendment to the Oaths and Declarations Ordinance, bringing it in line with the national security law by extending oath-taking requirements to district councillors.

While Article 104 of the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution, currently requires only the chief executive, principal officials, executive councillors, lawmakers, judges and members of the judiciary to take the oath before assuming office, Article 6 of the national security law requires any resident “who stands for election or assumes public office” to do the same. Continue reading

New party in HK calls for stability (and raises suspicions)

Source: NYT (1/16/21)
In Hong Kong, a New Party Calls for Stability (and Raises Suspicions)
Democracy advocates have called the Bauhinia Party a “Trojan horse” for the Chinese government. But Beijing’s local allies are wary of it, too.
By Keith Bradsher and Vivian Wang

Hong Kong’s Legislative Council in November. Businessmen in Hong Kong with ties to mainland China have created a new political party that some consider a “Trojan horse” for spreading mainland Chinese influence. Credit…Kin Cheung/Associated Press

BEIJING — They are businessmen, born in mainland China, who serve on top advisory committees to Beijing and profess patriotism for the motherland. One recently traveled to an obscure village in southeastern China to study Xi Jinping’s doctrine for guiding the country to greatness.

Now, they are seeking to bring that ardor to Hong Kong, as the founders of the city’s newest political party. They are calling for social stability to unify a deeply fractured society and mend a damaged economy.

“You cannot have a protest every day,” said Li Shan, the founder and chairman of the party.

The arrival of the Bauhinia Party has fueled furious speculation about the future of Hong Kong’s once-vibrant, at times unruly, political scene. The party, led by business executives who moved to Hong Kong from the mainland, is entering the fray amid forceful moves by the Chinese government to quash dissent, after huge pro-democracy protests in 2019 challenged its rule. Continue reading

Mass arrest of former HK opposition lawmakers

Source: SCMP (1/6/21)
Mass arrests of former Hong Kong opposition lawmakers, activists for alleged national security law violations
Occupy Central co-founder Benny Tai detained along with former legislators James To, Lam Cheuk-ting, Andrew Wan, Alvin Yeung and Wu Chi-wai. The pan-democratic camp held primary contests last July in five constituencies to determine who would run in the Legislative Council election in September
By Danny Lee

Democratic Party members (from left) Ted Hui Chi-fung, Helena Wong Pik-wan, Lam Cheuk-ting, Wu Chi-wai, James To Kun-sun, Andrew Wan Siu-kin and Kwong Chun-yu in August 2020. Photo: May Tse

Democratic Party members (from left) Ted Hui Chi-fung, Helena Wong Pik-wan, Lam Cheuk-ting, Wu Chi-wai, James To Kun-sun, Andrew Wan Siu-kin and Kwong Chun-yu in August 2020. Photo: May Tse

Around 50 former opposition lawmakers and activists were arrested on Wednesday morning on subversion charges over a primary election run-off, marking the biggest crackdown under the national security law since it took effect on June 30 last year.

Most of those detained either organised or took part in primary contests held by the pan-democratic camp last July as part of a “35-plus” strategy to maximise the camp’s chances of taking control of the 70-member legislature. Continue reading

Evans Chan films on Hong Kong pro-democracy movement

Source: Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA)

Due to popular demand, UC Berkeley’s online streaming of “We Have Boots” & “Raise the Umbrellas” — Evans Chan’s two companion films about Hong Kong’s pro-democratic movement between 2014-2019 — will be held over till January 5, 2021.

徇眾要求,陳耀成剖釋 2014-2019 年香港民主運動的兩部紀錄片 — 《我們有雨靴》及《撐傘》,由加州大學柏克萊分校人權中心及電影資料館的網上放映將延至 2021 年1 月 5 日

“Evans Chan did his best in his effort to picture an inflation of history happening right before our eyes, and to create an urgent and important documentary which “We Have Boots” certainly is.”

“Evan Chan’s powerful and comprehensive film puts us at the centre of these protests (a scary and chaotic place to be) and, moving forward to 2019, reminds us that Hong Kong’s battle for freedom and justice is far from over.
In addition to…powerful footage, We Have Boots also includes interviews with an impressive range of intellectuals, students, scholars, and artists – many of whom are facing imprisonment for their democratic activism.
It is incredible – and often very moving – to watch them wrangle with issues of personal safety and security while also remaining true to their passionate belief in democracy, in freedom of speech and in Hong Kong’s future.”
「這部全面,強而有力的電影把我們置身於抗爭之中…震撼的畫面之外,《我們有雨靴》訪問了不少人物,包括那些要面對牢獄之災的民運人士。而經常令人感動的是 —- 他們因面前自己的安穩,及他們對民主、言論自由、香港未來之信念,而產生的內心掙扎!」–

fwd by: Magnus Fiskesjö,

Joshua Wong and Agnes Chow sentenced to prison

Source: NYT (12/2/20)
Joshua Wong and Agnes Chow Are Sentenced to Prison Over Hong Kong Protest
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Activists denounced the prison terms for illegal assembly charges over a 2019 demonstration outside Police Headquarters.
By Austin Ramzy and 

Joshua Wong, center right, and Ivan Lam, center left, were led into a prison van before their court appearance in Hong Kong on Wednesday. Credit…Kin Cheung/Associated Press

HONG KONG — Joshua Wong, a prominent pro-democracy activist in Hong Kong, was sentenced on Wednesday to more than a year in prison for his role in a protest last year, the latest blow to the city’s embattled political opposition.

To critics of the government, Mr. Wong’s prison sentence is an attempt to muzzle one of the most globally recognized figures of the city’s resistance to Beijing’s encroachment. Mr. Wong, 24, rose to prominence nearly a decade ago as a skinny, bespectacled teenager who rallied students to oppose what he saw as the Chinese Communist Party’s indoctrination in schools. His persistent activism has made him a key target in Beijing’s drive to quash dissent in the territory.

Mr. Wong was sentenced to 13 and a half months in prison, while Agnes Chow, a fellow activist, received 10 months. Ivan Lam, a third member of their disbanded political group, Demosisto, was sentenced to seven months. All three had faced up to three years in prison. Continue reading

HK courts

Source: NYT (11/30/20)
Hong Kong’s Courts Are Still Independent. Some Want to Rein Them In
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The judiciary is crucial to the city’s status as a global hub for trade and finance. But the Chinese Communist Party has been gaining more authority over it.
By Austin Ramzy

Hong Kong judges at a ceremony in January. Credit…Philip Fong/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

HONG KONG — They were arrested on one of the most violent days in Hong Kong last year, when protesters threw firebombs at the main government offices and set a barrier aflame outside Police Headquarters. But last month, a judge quickly dismantled the prosecutors’ case against them.

In his ruling, District Judge Sham Siu-man said that police officers had given unreliable testimony, and that they appeared to have gone against their training by using batons to subdue one protester. He found all eight defendants not guilty, saying one had merely been asking the police to do their job when she used a loudspeaker to urge restraint.

The next day, a Chinese government-owned newspaper in Hong Kong splashed a photo of the judge, wearing his court wig and robes, on its front page beside images of protesters and burning barriers. “Strange opinion issued by the court,” the headline read. The judge, it continued, says the protesters “were actually the ones wronged.” Continue reading

Making Hong Kong China

Making Hong Kong China: The Rollback of Human Rights and the Rule of Law
Tuesday, November 17, 2020
7:00-8:15 PM Eastern Time
Register Here

How can one of the world’s most free-wheeling cities transition from a vibrant global center of culture and finance into a subject of authoritarian control? Law scholar Michael C. Davis takes up this question in his new book, Making Hong Kong China: The Rollback of Human Rights and the Rule of Law, the latest title in the Asia Shorts series published by the Association for Asian Studies. In this AAS Digital Dialogue session, Davis will be joined by Mary Hui (journalist at Quartz), Maggie Lewis (Seton Hall University), and Shui-yin Sharon Yam (University of Kentucky) to discuss recent events in Hong Kong. Covering protest, politics, law, identity, and international relations, roundtable participants will assess Hong Kong’s present situation and what might lie ahead for the city and its residents. Moderated by AAS Digital Media Manager Maura Elizabeth Cunningham, registration for this Digital Dialogue is open to all current AAS Members.

A recording of the session will be posted on the AAS website for public viewing following the event.

China targets HK lawmakers

Source: NYT (11/11/20)
China Targets Hong Kong’s Lawmakers as It Squelches Dissent
Four pro-democracy figures were forced out of the legislature, prompting another 15 to vow to resign in solidarity, as Beijing cracks down on one of the city’s few remaining venues for political opposition.
By Austin RamzyTiffany May and Elaine Yu

Four lawmakers, from left, Dennis Kwok, Kenneth Leung, Kwok Ka-ki and Alvin Yeung, were ousted from the Hong Kong Legislative Council on Wednesday. Credit…Vincent Yu/Associated Press

HONG KONG — China moved on Wednesday to quash one of the last vestiges of democracy and dissent in Hong Kong, forcing the ouster of four pro-democracy lawmakers from their elected offices in a purge that prompted the rest of the opposition to vow to resign en masse.

The departures will reshape the city’s political landscape, which has been upended since China imposed a sweeping national security law on Hong Kong this summer that gave the authorities broad powers to crack down on resistance. They mark the intensification of a campaign that has damaged Hong Kong’s global reputation as a bastion for freedom of speech and rule of law.

The targeting of the democratically elected lawmakers comes at a time when the United States — which has recently protested China’s treatment of Hong Kong and imposed sanctions — is distracted by its own struggles over the American presidential election. Continue reading